The Holiness of God

Taken and adapted from, “A Body of Divinity”
Written by Thomas Watson (c.1620 – 1686)


God is ‘Glorious in Holiness.’

Exodus 15:51.

Holiness is the most sparkling jewel of God’s crown; it is the name by which God is known. Psalms 111:1. ‘Holy and reverend is his name.’ He is ‘the holy One.’ Job 6:60. Seraphim cry, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of his glory.’ Isaiah 6:6. His power makes him mighty, his holiness makes him glorious. God’s holiness consists in his perfect love of righteousness, and abhorrence of evil. ‘Of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on iniquity.’ Habakkuk 1:13.

I.    God is holy intrinsically. He is holy in his nature; his very being is made up of holiness, as light is of the essence of the sun. He is holy in his Word. The Word bears a stamp of his holiness upon it, as the wax bears an impression of the seal. ‘Thy Word is very pure.’ Psalms 119:940. It is compared to silver refined seven times. Psalms 12:2. Every line in the Word breathes sanctity, it encourages nothing but holiness. God is holy in his operations. All he does is holy; he cannot act but like himself; he can no more do an unrighteous action than the sun can darken. ‘The Lord is holy in all his works.’ Psalms 145:17.

II.    God is holy primarily. He is the original and pattern of holiness. Holiness began with him who is the Ancient of Days.

III. God is holy efficiently. He is the cause of all that is holiness in others. ‘Every good and perfect gift comes from above.’ James 1:17. He made the angels holy. He infused all holiness into Christ’s human nature. All the holiness we have is but a crystal stream from this fountain. We borrow all our holiness from God. As the lights of the sanctuary were lighted from the middle lamp, so all the holiness of others is a lamp lighted from heaven. ‘I am the Lord which sanctify you.’ Leviticus 20:8. God is not only a pattern of holiness, but he is a principle of holiness: his spring feeds all our cisterns, he drops his holy oil of grace upon us.

IV.    God is holy transcendently. ‘There is none holy as the Lord.’ I Sam 2:2. No angel in heaven can take the just dimensions of God’s holiness. The highest seraphim is too low of stature to measure these pyramids; holiness in God is far above holiness in saints or angels.

[1] It is above holiness in saints. It is a pure holiness. The saints, holiness is like gold in the ore, imperfect; their humility is stained with pride; he that has most faith needs pray, ‘Lord, help my unbelief:’ but the holiness of God is pure, like wine from the grape; it has not the least dash or tincture of impurity mixed with it. It is a more unchangeable holiness. Though the saints cannot lose the habit of holiness (for the seed of God remains), yet they may lose some degrees of their holiness. ‘Thou hast left thy first love.’ Revelation 2:2. Grace cannot die, yet the flame of it may go out.

Holiness in the saints is subject to ebbing, but holiness in God is unchangeable; he never lost a drop of his holiness; as he cannot have more holiness, because he is perfectly holy; so he cannot have less holiness, because he is unchangeably holy.

[2] The holiness of God is above the holiness of angels. Holiness in the angels is only a quality, which may be lost, as we see in the fallen angels; but holiness in God is his essence, he is all over holy, and he can as well lose his Godhead as his holiness. But is he not privy to all the sins of men? How can he behold their impurities, and not be defiled? God sees all the sins of men, but is no more defiled with them than the sun is defiled with the vapors that rise from the earth. God sees sin, not as a patron to approve it, but as a judge to punish it.

Use one: Is God so infinitely holy? Then see how unlike to God sin is. Sin is an unclean thing, it is hyperbolically evil. Romans 1:13. It is called an abomination. Deuteronomy 7:75. God has no mixture of evil in him; sin has no mixture of good, it is the spirit and quintessence of evil, it turns good into evil; it has deflowered the virgin soul, made it red with guilt, and black with filth; it is called the accursed thing. Josh 7:71. No wonder, therefore, that God hates sin, being so unlike to him, nay, so contrary to him: it strikes at his holiness; it does all it can to spite God; if sin could help it, God should be God no longer.

Use two: Is God the Holy One, and is holiness his glory? How impious are they that are haters of holiness! As the vulture hates perfumes, so they hate the sweet perfume of holiness in the saints; their hearts rise against holiness; as a man’s stomach at a dish he has an antipathy against. There is not a greater sign of a person devoted to hell, than to hate one for the thing wherein he is most like God. Others are despisers of holiness. They despise the glory of the Godhead. ‘Glorious in holiness.’ The despising holiness is seen in deriding it; and is it not sad that men should deride that which should save them? Sure that patient will die who derides the physic. Deriding the grace of the Spirit comes near to despising the Spirit of grace. Scoffing Ishmael was cast out of Abraham’s house. Genesis 21:1. Such as scoff at holiness shall be cast out of heaven.

Use three: Is God so infinitely holy? Then let us endeavor to imitate God in holiness. ‘Be ye holy, for I am holy.’ I Pet 1:16. There is a twofold holiness; a holiness of equality, and a holiness of similitude. A holiness of equality no man or angel can reach to. Who can be equally holy with God? Who can parallel him in sanctity? But there is a holiness of similitude, and that we must aspire after, to have some analogy and resemblance of God’s holiness in us, to be as like him in holiness as we can. Though a taper does not give so much light as the sun, yet it resembles it. We must imitate God in holiness.

If we must be like God in holiness, wherein does our holiness consist?

In two things. In our suitableness to God’s nature, and in our subjection to his will. Our holiness consists in our suitableness to the nature of God. Hence the saints are said to partake of the divine nature, which is not partaking of his essence, but his image. 2 Peter 1:1. Herein is the saints’ holiness, when they are the lively pictures of God. They bear the image of God’s meekness, mercifulness, heavenliness; they are of the same judgement with God, of the same disposition; they love what he loves, and hate what he hates.

Our holiness consists also in our subjection to the will of God. As God’s nature is the pattern of holiness, so his will is the rule of holiness. It is our holiness when we do his will, Acts 13:32; when we bear his will, Micah 7:7; when what he inflicts wisely we suffer willingly. Our great care should be, to be like God in holiness. Our holiness should be qualified as God’s; as his is a real holiness, so ours should be ‘Righteousness and true holiness.’ Ephesians 4:44.

Our holiness should not be the paint of holiness, but the life; it should not be like the Egyptian temples, beautified without merely, but like Solomon’s temple, gold within, Psalms 45:13. ‘The king’s daughter is all glorious within.’ That I may press you to resemble God in holiness consider,

(I.) How illustrious every holy person is. He is a fair glass in which some of the beams of God’s holiness shine forth. We read that Aaron put on his garments for glory and beauty. Exodus 28:8. When we wear the embroidered garment of holiness, it is for glory and beauty. A good Christian is ruddy, being sprinkled with Christ’s blood; and white, being adorned with holiness. As the diamond to a ring, so is holiness to the soul; that, as Chrysostom says, they that oppose it cannot but admire it.

(2.) It is the great design God carries on in the world, to make a people like himself in holiness. What are all the showers of ordinances for, but to rain down righteousness upon us, and make us holy? What are the promises for, but to encourage holiness? What is the sending of the Spirit into the world for, but to anoint us with the holy unction? I John 2:20. What are all afflictions for, but to make us partakers of God’s holiness? Hebrews 12:20. What are mercies for, but loadstones to draw us to holiness? What is the end of Christ’s dying, but that his blood might wash away our unholiness? ‘Who gave himself for us, to purify unto himself a peculiar people.’ Titus 2:14. So that if we are not holy, we cross God’s great design in the world.

(3.) Our holiness draws God’s heart to us. Holiness is God’s image; and God cannot choose but love his image where he sees it. A king loves to see his effigies upon a piece of coin. ‘Thou lovest righteousness.’ Psalms 45:5. And where does righteousness grow, but in a holy heart? Isaiah 62:2. ‘Thou shalt be called Hephzibah, for the Lord delighteth in thee.’ It was her holiness that drew God’s love to her. ‘They shall call them the holy people.’ Verse 12. God values not any by their high birth, but their holiness.

(4.) Holiness is the only thing that distinguishes us from the reprobate part of the world. God’s people have his seal upon them. ‘The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, the Lord knoweth them that are his. And let all that name the name of Christ depart from iniquity. ‘2 Timothy 2:19. The people of God are sealed with a double seal. Election, ‘The Lord knows who are his:’ and Sanctification, ‘Let everyone depart from iniquity.’ As a nobleman is distinguished from another by his silver star; as a virtuous woman is distinguished from a harlot by her chastity; so holiness distinguishes between the two seeds. All that are of God have Christ for their captain, and holiness is the white color they wear. Hebrews 2:20.

(5.) Holiness is our honor. Holiness and honor are put together. I Thessalonians 4:4. Dignity goes along with sanctification. ‘He has washed us from our sins in his blood, and has made us kings unto God.’ Revelation 1:1. When we are washed and made holy, then we are kings and priests to God. The saints are called vessels of honor; they are called jewels, for the sparkling of their holiness, because filled with wine of the Spirit. This makes them earthly angels.

(6.) Holiness gives us boldness with God. ‘Thou shalt put away iniquity far from thy tabernacles, and shalt lift up thy face unto God.’ Job 22:23, 26. Lifting up the face is an emblem of boldness. Nothing can make us so ashamed to go to God as sin. A wicked man in prayer may lift up his hands, but he cannot lift up his face. When Adam had lost his holiness, he lost his confidence; he hid himself. But the holy person goes to God as a child to its father; his conscience does not upbraid him with allowing any sin, therefore he can go boldly to the throne of grace, and have mercy to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16.

(7.) Holiness gives peace. Sin raises a storm in the conscience; ubi peccatum ibi procella [where there is sin, there is tumult]. ‘There is no peace to the wicked.’ Isaiah 57:21. Righteousness and peace are put together. Holiness is the root which bears this sweet fruit of peace; righteousness and peace kiss each other.

(8.) Holiness leads to heaven. It is the King of heaven’s highway. ‘An highway shall be there, and it shall be called the way of holiness.’ Isaiah 35:5. At Rome there were temples of virtue and honor, and all were to go through the temple of virtue to the temple of honor; so we must go through the temple of holiness to the temple of heaven. Glory begins in virtue. ‘Who has called us to glory and virtue.’ 2 Peter 1:1. Happiness is nothing else but the quintessence of holiness; holiness is glory militant, and happiness holiness triumphant.

What shall we do to resemble God in holiness?

(1.) Have recourse to Christ’s blood by faith. This is lavacrum animae [the washing of the soul]. Legal purifications were types and emblems of it. I John 1:1. The Word is a glass to show us our spots, and Christ’s blood is a fountain to wash them away.

(2.) Pray for a holy heart. ‘Create in me a clean heart, O God.’ Psalms 51:10. Lay thy heart before the Lord, and say, Lord, my heart is full of leprosy; it defiles all it touches; Lord, I am not fit to live with such a heart, for I cannot honor thee; nor die with such a heart, for I cannot see thee. Oh create in me a clean heart; send thy Spirit into me, to refine and purify me, that I may be a temple fit for thee the holy God to inhabit.

(3.) Walk with them that are holy. ‘He that walketh with the wise shall be wise.’ Proverbs 13:30. Be among the spices and you will smell of them. Association begets assimilation. Nothing has a greater power and energy to effect holiness than the communion of saints.

The Doctrine of the Apostle James Concerning Faith and Works

Taken and adapted from, The Works of John Owen, Edited by William H Goold, Volume 5“The Doctrine of Justification by Faith Through the Imputation of the Righteousness of Christ; Explained, Confirmed, and Vindicated”
Written by John Owen, 1677
Modernized by, William H. Gross, May 2003,
James Concerning Faith and Works


Many take advantage of the seeming difference that exists between the apostles Paul and James concerning faith, works, and justification.

This requires our consideration of it.

Some of the words and expressions used by James seem to directly oppose the doctrine fully and plainly declared by Paul. But whatever appears to do so, has already been so satisfactorily answered and removed by others, that there is no great need to repeat them. Although I suppose there will be no end of contending and writing about these things, the doctrine has not been in the least impeached, nor has any new difficulty arisen in any recent discourses to that purpose. While we “know in part, and prophesy in part,” I must say that, in my judgment, there is no problem in securing the doctrine of justification by faith, through the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, from any concern or contradiction in the discourse of James, chap. 2:14, to the end.

To this purpose it may be observed that,

1     It is taken for granted, on all hands, that there is no real inconsistency or contradiction between what is delivered by these two apostles. If there were, the writings of one of them must be pseudepistolae, or falsely ascribed to those whose names they bear, and uncanonical. Some have highly but rashly questioned the authority of the Epistle of James historically and of late. Therefore, their words are certainly capable of a just reconciliation. The only reasons why any of us might not agree to this, is because of the darkness of our own minds, the weakness of our understandings, and with too many, the power of prejudices.

2     It is also taken for granted, when there is an appearance of contradiction in any passages of Scripture, that if any of them treat the contradicted matter directly, designedly, and extensively, while others speak of the same things only occasionally, transiently, or for other purposes, then the truth is to be determined from the former. The interpretation of those passages where any truth is mentioned only occasionally, with reference to other things or purposes, is to be taken from and accommodated to those other passages whose design and purpose is directed to that truth. It guides the faith of the church in that truth. There is no more rational and natural rule of the interpretation of Scripture agreed upon by common consent.

3     According to this rule, it is unquestionable that the doctrine of justification before God is to be learned from the writings of the apostle Paul. Light is to be taken from them to all the other places of Scripture where it is occasionally mentioned. This is especially true considering how exactly this doctrine represents the whole scope of the Scripture. It is affirmed numerous times by particular testimonies speaking to the same truth. It must be acknowledged that Paul wrote about our justification before God on purpose, to declare it for its own sake, and for its use in the church. He does that fully, extensively, and frequently, in a constant harmony of expressions. And he acknowledges the reasons that pressed him to fullness and accuracy in this:

(1.) The importance of the doctrine itself. He declares that our salvation immediately depends on it, and that it is the hinge on which the whole doctrine of the gospel turns, Galatians 2:16-21; 5:4, 5.

(2.) The plausible and dangerous arguments made against it. They were presented with such specious pretenses, that very many were turned from the truth by it (as were the Galatians). Many others were detained from the faith of the gospel by their dislike for it, Romans 10:3, 4. Anyone who declares truth knows the care and diligence it requires. The zeal, care, and circumspection it stirred up in the apostle is obvious in all his writings.

(3.) The abuse that the corrupt nature of man is apt to heap on this doctrine of grace. He takes notice of this, and thoroughly vindicates the doctrine from giving the least countenance to such distortions and unfair demands. Certainly, there was never a greater necessity incumbent on anyone to fully and plainly teach and declare a doctrine of truth, than was on Paul at that time, considering the place and duty that he was called to. There is no imaginable reason why we should not learn the truth of it principally from his declaration and vindication of it, especially if we believe that he was divinely inspired and guided to reveal its truth to the church.

As for what was delivered by the apostle James regarding our justification, things are quite different. He does not undertake a declaration of the doctrine of our justification before God.

He had another purpose in mind, as we will see immediately. He vindicates the doctrine from the abuse that some had put it to in those days, as they did with other doctrines of the grace of God. They turned it into licentiousness. We primarily learn the truth in this matter from the writings of the apostle Paul. And he plainly declares how the interpretation of other passages is to be accommodated.

4     Some recently are not of this mind. They earnestly contend that Paul is to be interpreted by James, and not the contrary. To this end, they tell us that the writings of Paul are obscure. They tell us that various ancients agree, and that many find errors in them, or things of a similar nature that are scandalous to Christian religion. Because James is writing after Paul, they say he is presumed to give an interpretation to Paul’s sayings. Therefore, Paul is to be understood by that interpretation.

In Answer to this:

First, there is no need to vindicate the writings of St. Paul, which are beginning to be criticized. This is one effect of the secret prevalence of Atheism today. That will be left for a more proper place. I do not know how anyone, who pretends to have the least acquaintance with antiquity, can take a passage out of Irenaeus, in which he was obviously mistaken, or a rash word from Origen or the like, to derogate the perspicuity of the writings of this apostle. They must know how easy it is to overwhelm their charges with testimonies to the contrary from all the famous writers of the church in several ages. For example, there are forty places in which Chrysostom explains why some men did not understand Paul’s writings, which were so gloriously evident and perspicuous. So for their satisfaction, I refer them only to the preface to his exposition of Paul’s epistles, and to similar evidence in due season. But Paul does not need the testimony of men, nor of the combined church, whose safety and security is built on the doctrine which he taught. In the meantime, it would not be unpleasant to consider how those who have the same purpose agree in their conception of his writings. Most of his epistles were written against the Gnostics, to refute their error. Others point out that the Gnostics were mistaken in their understanding of his writings. Men are so bold to use divine things to satisfy their present interest.

Secondly, this criticism was not the judgment of the ancient church for three or four hundred years. Because the epistles of Paul were always esteemed the principal treasure of the church, the great guide and rule of the Christian faith, this epistle of James was scarcely accepted as canonical by many, and doubted by most, as both Eusebius and Jerome testify.

Thirdly, the purpose of the apostle James was not at all to explain the meaning of Paul in his epistles, as some pretend. It was only to vindicate the doctrine of the gospel from its abuse by those who used their liberty to cloak maliciousness, and who turned the grace of God into lasciviousness. They continued in their sin under a pretence that grace had abounded to that end.

Fourthly, the apostle Paul vindicates his own doctrine from the exceptions and abuses that men turned it into. There is no other doctrine in his epistles than what he preached the world over, and by which he laid the foundation of Christian religion, especially among the Gentiles. These things being said, I will briefly show there is not the least inconsistency or contradiction between what is declared by these two apostles as to our justification or its causes. And this I will do,
1. By some general considerations of the nature and purpose of both their discourses.
2. By a particular explication of the context of James.

Under the first I will show,
(1.) That they do not have the same scope, design, or purpose in their discourses. They do not
consider the same question, state the same case, or determine the same inquiry. Thus, they are
not speaking “ad idem,” to the same thing, and do not contradict one another.
(2.) That because faith has various meanings in the Scripture, and denotes various kinds of
things, they are not speaking of the same kind of faith.
Therefore, there can be no contradiction in what the one ascribes to it and the other takes from it.

(3.) That they do not speak of justification in the same sense, or to the same ends.
(4.) That by works, they both mean works done in obedience to the moral law.

As to the scope and design of the apostle Paul: the question which he answers, and the case which he presents, are manifest in all his writings, especially in his Epistles to the Romans and Galatians. His whole purpose is to declare how a guilty, convinced sinner comes to be accepted by God. He says it is through faith in the blood of Christ. Hereby he has all his sins pardoned, and he obtains a right to the heavenly inheritance; that is, he is acquitted and justified in the sight of God. This doctrine belonged eminently to the gospel. Its revelation and declaration to the Gentiles was uniquely committed to Paul. As we have newly observed, he had a special reason to insist on it because of the opposition that was made to it by the Jews and Judaizing Christians. They ascribed this privilege to the law, and to our own works of obedience done in compliance with the law. This is the case that he states. This is the question that he determines in all his discourses about justification. And in its explication, he declares the nature and causes of our justification, and vindicates it from all exceptions.

All men naturally desire what God has made eternally inconsistent. They want to live in sin here, and come to blessedness hereafter. Men of corrupt minds, who are willing to indulge their lusts, might conclude that if we are justified freely, through the grace of God, by the imputation of a righteousness that originally and inherently is not our own, then no more is required of us. There is no need to relinquish sin, no need to attend to the duties of righteousness and holiness. Paul obviates such impious suggestions, and shows they are not a necessary consequence of the doctrine that he taught. But he does not do this by intimating or granting that our own works of obedience or righteousness are necessary to our justification before God, nor that they cause it. If such were true, it would be inconsistent with the whole of his doctrine, and destructive of it. He would not have omitted such an assertion, as we have shown. It is foolish and impious to suppose that it was necessary for anyone else, like James, to explain Paul’s doctrine, or to defend it against the same exceptions that Paul identifies, using a plea that he would not make himself, a plea which indeed he rejects.

The apostle James, on the other hand, had no such scope or design, nor did he have any such occasion for what he wrote in this matter. He does not inquire about it, or intimate any such
inquiry. He does not state the case for how a guilty, convinced sinner, whose mouth is stopped as to any plea or excuse for himself, may come to be justified in the sight of God. He does not address how he may receive the pardon of sins and the gift of righteousness to life. To resolve this question through our own works, is to overthrow the whole gospel. Instead, he had in mind a business of quite another nature. As we have said, there were many in those days who professed faith in the gospel, presuming that because they were already justified, there was nothing more needed to be saved. They thought they had attained a desirable estate, suited to all the interests of the flesh. They thought they might live in sin, neglecting all their duties of obedience, and yet be eternally saved. Some believe they imbibed this pernicious conceit from the poisonous opinions that some then espoused. The apostle Paul foretold that this would come to pass in 2 Timothy 4:1-4. It is generally agreed that, by this time, Simon Magus and his followers had infected the minds of many with their abominations. Among them was that faith meant a liberty from the law and a freedom to sin. It took away all difference between good and evil.

Or it may be that it was only the corruption of men’s hearts and lives that prompted them to seek after such a countenance to sin. I judge that this was their motivation. Among professed Christians then, were those who assumed that their faith, or whatever religion they professed, would save them. And it would do so even though they lived in flagrant wickedness, utterly devoid of good works or duties of obedience. There is no other occasion intimated in the epistle. Paul makes no mention of seducers, as John expressly and frequently does some time later. Against these sorts of people, to convict them, James designs two things:

First, to prove the necessity of works for all those who profess the gospel and thereby faith in Christ.

Second, to evidence the vanity and folly of their pretenses to being justified, and that they should be saved by a faith that was so far from being fruitful in good works, as to countenance their sin. These are the purposes of all his arguments, and no other. He effectively proves that faith which is completely barren and fruitless as to obedience, and which men pretend can countenance their sins, is not that faith by which we are justified, and by which we may be saved. It is a dead carcass, of no use or benefit, as James declares by the conclusion of his whole dispute in the last verse of chapter 2. “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”

He does not tell anyone how to be justified before God, but convinces some that they are not justified by trusting to such a dead faith. He declares how anyone may evidence and display that he is justified indeed. His design is so plain that nothing can be more evident. Therefore, the principal design of these two apostles being so distant from each other, there is no inconsistency in their assertions, despite the appearance of their words. They do not speak of the same things in the same respect. James does not once inquire how a guilty, convinced sinner, condemned by the law, may come to be justified before God; and Paul speaks of nothing else. Therefore, we must apply each of their declarations to their proper design and scope, or we will depart from sober rules of interpretation, and render it impossible to correctly understand either of them. There is no disagreement, or appearance of it, between them.

(2.) They do not speak of the same faith. Therefore, there can be no discrepancy in what one ascribes to faith and the other denies concerning it. If one person says he is talking about a real fire, and another says he is talking about a painting of a fire, there is no contradiction between them if the first says that his fire will burn and the other denies that his own will. We proved before that there are two sorts of faith, one by which men are said to believe the gospel, and another by which they make a profession of it. What belongs to one does not belong to the other. I do not believe that anyone will deny that the kind of “faith” necessary to our justification is what St. Paul properly calls “kurios.” The only kind he means is the “faith of God’s elect,” “precious faith,” “more precious than gold,” “the faith that purifies the heart, and works by love,” “the faith by which Christ dwells in us, and we abide in him, by which we live to God,” “a living faith.” He ascribes all these things and more to the faith that he insists is the only means on our part to obtain our justification before God. But the faith meant by the apostle James has none of this assigned to it. What he means is what he calls it: a dead faith, a carcass without breath, the faith of devils, a wordy faith. It is no more truly faith than sending away naked and hungry people without relief would be truly charity. He may well deny that any justification results from this kind of faith, whatever the boasting; and yet justification may properly be ascribed to the kind of faith that Paul speaks of.

Bellarmine uses several arguments to prove that the faith meant by James here is justifying faith when considered in itself. But these arguments are contemptibly weak, being built on the assumption that true justifying faith is nothing but an assent to catholic doctrine, or divine revelation: De Justificat. lib. 1 cap. 15.

His first argument is that, “James calls it ‘faith’ absolutely, by which the Scripture always means true faith.”

1. James calls it a dead faith, the faith of devils; and he casts all manner of reproach on it. He would not have done that if he meant any duty or grace that was truly evangelical.
2. Not every faith that is true, as to the reality of the assent it gives to the truth, is living, justifying, or saving faith, as has been proved.
3. There are those who are said to have faith absolutely, or who absolutely believe, who never had true and saving faith; John 2:23 (they believed in his name, but Jesus did not commit himself to them); Acts 8:13, 21 (Simon Magus believed, but had neither part nor portion in the kingdom).

Secondly, Bellarmine urges that, “in the same place and chapter that he addresses the faith of Abraham, James affirms that it was wrought with his works, James 2:22, 23; a vain shadow of faith does not do this. Therefore, it was true faith that the apostle meant, and it is most properly called so.”

This presence is ridiculous. The apostle does not give the faith of Abraham as an instance of the kind of faith that he treated so severely, but what is directly contrary to it. By this faith he planned to prove that the other faith was of no use or advantage to those who had it; for this faith of Abraham produced good works, which the other faith did not.

Thirdly, he urges verse 24, “‘You see then how a man is justified by works, and not by faith only;’ for the faith that James speaks of justifies with works, but a false faith, the shadow of a faith, does not. Therefore, it is true, saving faith of which the apostle speaks.”

Bellarmine is utterly mistaken. The apostle does not ascribe justification partly to works, and partly to faith. In the sense he meant it, he ascribes justification entirely to works, in opposition to the faith he speaks of. There is a plain antithesis between works and faith as they relate to justification, in the sense he meant. A dead faith, a faith without works, the faith of devils, is excluded from having any influence on justification.

Fourthly, Bellarmine adds that, “the apostle compares this faith without works to a rich man that gives nothing to the poor, verse 16; and a body without a spirit, verse 26. Therefore, just as a rich man’s knowledge of the wants of the poor is true and real, and a dead body is still a true body; so faith without works is still true faith, and is considered as such by St. James.”

These things clearly destroy what they are produced to confirm, except that the cardinal helps them out with a little sophistry. Because the apostle compares this faith to the charity of a man that gives nothing to the poor, he suggests that this man has knowledge of their poverty. And his knowledge may be true. But more true and certain it is, the false and feigned is his pretended charity expressed in these words, “Go, and be fed and clothed.” Such is the faith that the apostle speaks of. And although a dead body is a true body in being a carcass, it is not the essence of a living man. A carcass does not have the same nature as the body of a living man in being prepared and fitted for all vital acts. And we assert no other difference between the faith spoken of by the apostle and justifying faith, then the difference that exists between a dead, breathless carcass, and a living animated body.

Therefore, it is evident beyond all contradiction, unless we want to be contentious, that the faith which the apostle James refers to here is only a dead, barren, lifeless faith. It is the kind usually pretended by ungodly men to countenance their sins. And this is not the kind of faith asserted by Paul.

(3.) They do not speak of justification in the same sense or for the same purpose. The apostle Paul addresses our absolute justification before God, including our acceptance with God, and the grant of a right to the heavenly inheritance, and that alone. He declares all the causes of that justification, all that is involved on the part of God, and on our part. He does not address the evidence, knowledge, sense, fruit, or manifestation of it in our own consciences, in the church, or to others that profess the faith. He speaks of those things separately on other occasions. There is only one justification he speaks of, that is at once accomplished before God, changing the relative state of the person who is justified. It is capable of being evidenced various ways, to the glory of God and the consolation of those who truly believe.

The apostle James does not address this at all. His whole inquiry is about the nature of that faith by which we are justified, and the only way by which it may be evidenced as the right kind, or one that a man may safely trust to. Therefore, he addresses justification only as to its evidence and manifestation. He had no reason to do otherwise, and this is apparent from both instances he uses to confirm his purpose. The first is that of Abraham, verse 21-23. He says that, by Abraham’s being justified by works, in the way James asserts, “the Scripture was fulfilled which says, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed to him for righteousness.” If his intention was to prove that we are justified before God by works, and not by faith, because Abraham was justified that way, then the testimony he uses directly contradicts what it should prove.

Accordingly, it is left to Paul to prove that Abraham was justified by faith without works, as the words plainly signify. No one can declare how the proposition that, “Abraham was justified by works,” (meaning absolute justification before God,) could fulfill this Scripture, “Abraham believed God, and it was imputed to him for righteousness.” This is especially true considering the opposition that is made both here and elsewhere between faith and works in this matter of justification.

Besides, Bellarmine asserts that Abraham was justified by works when he offered his son on the altar (Genesis 22:12). We believe the same thing, but we ask in what sense he was justified by that. For the testimony of Scripture is that this was thirty years or so after “he believed God, and it was imputed to him for righteousness” (Genesis 15:6). And when righteousness was imputed to him, he was justified. He was not justified twice in the same sense, in the same way, and with the same kind of justification. How, then, was he justified by works when he offered his son on the altar? It was only that, by his work in offering his son, he evidenced and declared in the sight of God and man that he was already justified long before. This is unquestionable and confessed by all. He was justified in the sight of God as declared in Genesis 22:12, and he gave a signal testimony to the sincerity of his faith and trust in God, which manifested the truth of the Scripture that, “He believed God, and it was imputed to him for righteousness.” In quoting this testimony, the apostle James openly acknowledges that he was truly accounted righteous, had righteousness imputed to him, and was justified before God, long before the justification that he ascribes to his works. Therefore, his works can only be the evidencing, proving, and manifesting his justification. Hence, it also becomes apparent what the nature of faith is that justifies us, the declaration of which is the principal design of the apostle. In brief, Bellarmine alleges that the Scripture, “Abraham believed, and it was imputed to him for righteousness,” was fulfilled when he was justified by works as he offered his son on the altar. This was done either by imputing righteousness to him, or by a real efficacious righteousness inherent in him, or by manifesting and evidencing his former justification, or by some other way that must be found out.

First, it is plain in the text that it was not by imputation, because it was imputed to him long before, and in a way by which James proves that righteousness is imputed without works.

Secondly, it is also plain that he was not justified by inherent righteousness, because he was righteous in that sense long before his justification; he abounded in works of righteousness to the praise of God. It remains, therefore, that he was justified to evidence and manifest his prior faith and justification.

James’ other instance is Rahab. He asserts she was “justified by works, when she received the messengers, and sent them away.” But she received the spies “by faith,” as the holy Ghost witnesses in Hebrews 11:31. And therefore she had true faith before they came. If so, she was really justified then, for no one can be a true believer and not be justified; that would destroy the foundation of the gospel. In this condition, she received the messengers and made a full declaration of her faith to them, Joshua 2:9-11. After believing, and being justified based on that, and after the confession she made of her faith, she endangered her life by concealing and sending them away. Hereby she justified the sincerity of her faith and confession. In that sense alone, she is said to be “justified by works.” In no other sense does the apostle James mention justification in this passage.

(4.) As to the “works” that are mentioned by both apostles, they mean the same works. There is no disagreement in the least about them. The apostle James means works of obedience to God according to the law. This is evident from the whole first part of the chapter which discusses faith and works. The same is meant by the apostle Paul, as we proved before. And as to their necessity in all believers as evidence of their faith and justification, it is no less pressed by one than the other; as has been declared.

These things being premised; we may observe some things in particular from the discourse of the apostle James. They sufficiently evidence that there is no contradiction in what is delivered by the apostle Paul concerning our justification by faith, the imputation of righteousness without works, and the doctrine we have learned from him and declared.

  1. He makes no compromise or mixture between faith and works in our justification, but
    opposes one to the other, affirming the one and rejecting the other as to our justification.
  2. He makes no distinction between a first and second justification, or the beginning and continuation of justification. He speaks of only one justification, which is our first personal justification before God. Nor are we concerned with any other justification.
  3. He ascribes this justification entirely to works, in contradistinction to faith in that sense of justification which he meant, and the faith which he discussed. Therefore,
  4. He does not inquire or determine how a sinner is justified before God at all. Instead, he is concerned with how those who profess the gospel can prove or demonstrate that they are believers, so that they do not deceive themselves by trusting in a lifeless and barren faith. All these things will be further evidenced in a brief consideration of the context itself, by which I will close this discourse.

From the beginning of chapter 2 to verse 14, he reproves those to whom he wrote for their many sins against the law, the rule of their sins and obedience, or at least he warns them of them. Having shown them the danger they were in, he reveals the root and principal cause of it in verse 14. This was none other than a vain and deceptive presumption that the faith required in the gospel was nothing but a bare assent to its doctrine. They presumed that they were delivered from all obligation to moral obedience or good works, and that they might, without any danger to their eternal state, live in whatever sins their lusts inclined them to, chap. 4:1-4; 5:1-6. The whole topic he addresses is the state of such people, and it defines and measures the interpretation of all his future arguments: “What does it profit, my brethren, though a man say he has faith, and have not works? Can faith save him?” (2:14).

Suppose someone is guilty of the sins charged in the foregoing verses, and yet he boasts that he has faith. He makes a profession of the gospel. He has left either Judaism or Paganism, and committed himself to the faith of the gospel. Therefore, although he is destitute of good works and lives in sin, he believes he is accepted with God, and will be saved. Will this faith indeed save him? This is the question. The gospel says plainly that, “he who believes shall be saved.”

The issue is whether faith that indulges sin, and neglects duties of obedience, is that faith to which the promise of life and salvation is annexed? How may any man, who says he has faith, prove and evidence that he has that faith which will secure his salvation? The apostle denies that this faith can exist without works, or that any man can evidence himself to have true faith without works of obedience. His whole ensuing discourse consists of the proof of this. Not once does he consider the means and causes of the justification of a convinced sinner before God, nor had he any reason to do so. His words are openly twisted when applied to any such intention. The faith that he means and describes is altogether useless to attain salvation. He proves this by comparing it with love or charity of a like nature in verses 15 and 16. “If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Depart in peace, be you warmed and filled,’ despite you not giving them those things which are needful to the body; what does it profit?” This love or charity is not that gospel grace which is required of us; for the love of God does not dwells in him he who behaves thus towards the poor, 1 John 3:17. Whatever name it may have, whatever it may pretend to be, whatever it may be professed for, it is not love, nor does it have any of the effects of love. It is neither useful nor profitable. Hence, the apostle infers in verse 17, “Even so faith, if it has not works, is dead, being alone.” He did not undertake to prove that we are justified before God by faith alone, without works. He undertook to prove that faith which is alone, without works, is dead, useless, and unprofitable.

Having given this first evidence to prove his thesis, he resumes the question and states it as a hypothesis in verse 18, “Yea, a man may say, ‘You have faith, and I have works: show me your faith which is without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”

It is undeniably plain, that the apostle here again proposes his main question, but on an assumption that there is a dead, useless faith, which he proved before. For now, the only inquiry remaining is how true faith, of the right gospel kind, may be shown, evidenced, or demonstrated, so that it exposes the folly of trusting any other faith. “Deixon moi ten pistin sou,” meaning “Evidence or demonstrate your faith to be true by its only means, which is works.” He says, “You have faith, and I have works” or, “You profess and boast that you have that faith by which you may be saved, and I have works.” What he does not say is, “Show me your faith by your works, and I will show you my works by my faith,” which would be the antithesis. Instead he says, “I will show you my faith by my works.” The whole question concerns evidencing faith, not works.

He further proves that this alleged faith is not the faith that will justify or save us. Faith cannot be evidenced by works which it does not produce.

It consists only in a bare assent to the truth of divine revelation. This is no different than what the devils themselves have. No man can think or hope to be saved by what he has in common with devils, and in which he exceeds them. Verse 19, “You believe there is one God; you do well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” The belief in one God is not the whole of what the devils believe, but it is singled out as the principal, fundamental truth. Once conceded, an assent to all divine revelation necessarily ensues. And this is the second argument by which he proves an empty, barren faith is dead and useless.

The second confirmation being given to his principal assertion, he restates it again in a way that will lead to his final confirmation: “But will you know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” verse 20.

Consider the words. First, he calls the person with whom he deals a vain man. This is not in general, because every man living is vain. He is someone who especially puffed up in his own vanity and fleshly mind. He is someone who has entertained vain dreams of being saved by an empty profession of the gospel, without any fruit of obedience.

Secondly, what he plans to do is convict this vain man. It is a conviction of that foolish and pernicious error that he imbibed: “Will you know, O vain man?” Thirdly, what he planned to convince him of alone is that “faith without works is dead;” that is, faith without works is barren and unfruitful; it is dead and useless. This is all that he undertakes to prove by his following examples and arguments. To twist his words for any other purpose, when they are all proper and suited to what he expresses as his only design, is to do violence to them.

He proves this thesis by considering the faith of Abraham, verse 21, “Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?” Some things must be observed to clarify the mind of the apostle in this:

  1. It is certain that Abraham was justified many years before the work referred to was performed. And long before, this testimony was given concerning him, “He believed in the LORD, and he counted it to him for righteousness.” The imputation of righteousness upon believing is all the justification we inquire or contend about.
  2. It is certain that, in relating the story repeated here by the apostle, not one word is spoken of Abraham being justified before God by that or any other work.
  3. It is plain and evident that, in the place referred to, Abraham was declared to be justified by a sincere and open attestation to his faith and fear of God, and that he evidenced these in the sight of God himself. God condescends to assume human affections in Genesis 22:12, “Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” It cannot be denied that this is the justification which the apostle means; and this was the manifestation and declaration of the truth and sincerity of his faith by which he was justified before God. Hereby the apostle directly and undeniably proves what he produces this example for: that “faith without works is dead.”
  4. It is just as evident that the apostle had not said anything before as to our justification and its means. It is therefore absurd to introduce this passage as the proof of what he had asserted before, that we are justified by works, which it does not prove at all.
  5. The only safe rule of interpreting the apostle’s meaning, next to the scope and design of his present discourse, is the scope and circumstances of the passages which he takes his proof from. They were plainly these, and no other: Abraham had long been a justified believer, for there were thirty years or so between the testimony given to this in Genesis 15, and the story of sacrificing his son in Genesis 22. All the time he walked with God, he was upright in holy and fruitful obedience. Yet after many others, it pleased God to put his faith to his greatest and last trial. It is God’s way, in the covenant of grace, to try the faith of those who believe by such ways as seem appropriate to him. Hereby he manifests how precious the trial of our faith is, making it “more precious than gold,” 1 Peter 1:7. It raises up glory to himself; which it is the nature of faith to give him, Romans 4:20.

This is the case proposed by the apostle: how to determine whether the faith which men profess is genuine, precious, and of the same nature as that to which the gospel promise of salvation is annexed.

Secondly, this trial was based on works, by one signal duty of obedience that was prescribed to him for that very purpose. For Abraham was to be a pattern to all who would afterwards believe.

And God provided a signal way for the trial of his faith, which was by an act of obedience. This was so far from being commanded by the moral law, that it seemed contrary to it. If he is a pattern for us of justification by works, then these must be works that God has not required in the moral law, because they seem to be contrary to it.

Nor can anyone be encouraged to expect justification by works, by telling him that Abraham was justified by works when he offered up his only son to God. For it will be easy for him to say, that because no such work was ever performed by him, none was ever required of him.

But, Thirdly, upon Abraham’s compliance with the command of God, given to him as a trial, God himself ajnqrwpopaqw~v “anthropopathoos” [as if a man] declares the sincerity of Abraham’s faith, and graciously accepts and justifies him based on that. This is the whole design of the passage which the apostle fits to his purpose. It contains the whole of what he was to prove, and no more. Plainly, it grants that we are not justified by our works before God, because he only gives one instance of a work that was performed by a justified believer many years after he was absolutely justified before God. But this manifestly proves that “faith without works is dead.”

This is because justifying faith alone produces works of obedience, as is evident in the case of Abraham. On such a faith alone, a man is evidenced, declared, and pronounced to be justified or accepted with God. Abraham was not first justified at this point. He was declared to be previously justified by this work. This is the whole of what the apostle meant to prove. There is, therefore, no appearance of the least contradiction between Paul and this apostle.

Paul asserts that Abraham was not justified by works. James only declares that the works which he performed after he was justified manifested and declared him to be justified. In the next verse 22, he indicates that this was his whole design, “See how faith was wrought with his works, and by works his faith was made perfect?” He reinforces two things concerning the conviction of Abraham:

  1. That true faith operates by works; it is effective in obedience.
  2. That faith is made perfect by works; that is, it is evidenced as faith –nowhere in the Scripture does the word “teleios, teleioumai,” signify the internal, formal perfecting of anything. It only indicates its external complement or perfection, its manifestation. It was complete when he was first justified; and that was now manifested. See Matthew 5:48; Colossians 4:12; 2 Corinthians 12:9. The apostle says, “This I have proved in the instance of Abraham, namely, that it is works of obedience alone that can prove a man is justified, or to have that faith by which he may be so.” To confirm this affirmation, he adds, “And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was imputed to him for righteousness, and he was called The friend of God.’” (James. 2:23). The apostle affirms two things in this:

1    The Scripture mentioned was fulfilled. It was fulfilled in the justification by works which he ascribes to Abraham. But the only way to explain how this Scripture was fulfilled in this, either as to its timing or as to the justification itself, is that it was evidenced and declared. What the Scripture affirmed about Abraham so long before, was then evidenced to be true by the works which his faith produced; thus this Scripture was accomplished. Otherwise, taking into account the distinction he made between faith and works, and adding the sense of this passage given by the apostle Paul, nothing can be more contradictory to his design than quoting this Scripture if he meant to prove our justification is by works. Therefore, this quoted Scripture was not, and cannot be, fulfilled by Abraham’s justification by works. It is only that, by his works, Abraham was manifested to be justified.

2     He adds that, because of this, Abraham was called the friend of God, see also Isaiah 41:8; 2 Chronicles 20:7. This has the same importance as his being justified by works. For he was not called God’s friend merely as a justified person, but as one who received unique privileges from God, and responded to them walking holy before him. Therefore, his being called “The friend of God,” was God’s approval of his faith and obedience. This is the justification by works that the apostle asserts. Based on this, he makes a double conclusion (Rahab’s example is the same kind, so I will not repeat it here):

His first conclusion is, “That by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.” Essentially, he is saying, “You, whom I intend to convince of the vanity of your imagination, dream that you are justified by a dead faith, a breathless carcass of faith, a mere assent to the truth of the gospel, and profession of it, while you continue in all kinds of impiety, wholly destitute of good fruits. Let me show you what kind of faith is required for justification and salvation. For Abraham was declared to be righteous, to be justified, on that faith which is wrought by works, and not at all by the kind of faith you pretend to have.” A man is justified by works, as Abraham was justified when he offered up his son to God. That is, what he really was by faith long before, as the Scripture testifies, was then and thereby evidenced and declared. And, therefore, let no one suppose that he can be justified by the faith which these people boasted of, seeing that the faith by which Abraham was declared to be justified, evidenced itself by its fruits.

He lays down that great conclusion which he planned to confirm, and proved, by his whole argument, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (2:26). A breathless carcass and an unworking faith are alike, as to all the outcomes of natural or
spiritual life.

This was what the apostle designed from the beginning to convict vain and barren professors of faith. Accordingly, this is what he gave sufficient reason and testimony for.

I will pray with the Spirit

Taken, adapted, and modernized from, “I WILL PRAY WITH THE SPIRIT AND WITH THE
Written by, John Bunyan
Written from prison in 1662


Now to pray with the Spirit…

…for that is the praying man, and none else, who is to be accepted of God —it is for a man, as aforesaid, sincerely and sensibly, with affection, to come to God through Christ, etc.; which sincere, sensible, and affectionate coming must be by the working of God’s Spirit.

There is no man nor church in the world that can come to God in prayer, but by the assistance of the Holy Spirit.

“For through Christ we all have access by one Spirit unto the Father” (Ephesians 2:18). Therefore, Paul says, “For we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit itself makes intercession for us with groaning which cannot be uttered. And he that searches the hearts, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because he makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26,27). And because there is in this scripture so full a discovery of the spirit of prayer, and of man’s inability to pray without it; therefore, I shall in a few words comment upon it.

“For we.” Consider first the person speaking, even Paul, and, in his person, all the apostles. We apostles, we extraordinary officers, the wise master-builders, that have some of us been caught up into paradise (Romans 15:16; I Corinthians 3:10; II Corinthians 12:4). “We know not what we should pray for.” Surely there is no man but will confess, that Paul and his companions were as able to have done any work for God, as any pope or proud prelate in the church of Rome, and could as well have made a Common Prayer Book as those who at first composed this; as being not a whit behind them either in grace or gifts.

“For we know not what we should pray for.” We know not the matter of the things for which we should pray, neither the object to whom we pray, nor the medium by or through whom we pray; none of these things know we, but by the help and assistance of the Spirit. Should we pray for communion with God through Christ? should we pray for faith, for justification by grace, and a truly sanctified heart? none of these things know we. “For what man knows the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God know no man, but the Spirit of God” (I Corinthians 2:11). But here, alas! The apostles speak of inward and spiritual things, which the world knows not (Isaiah 29:11).

Again, as they know not the matter, etc., of prayer, without the help of the Spirit; so neither know they the manner thereof without the same; and therefore he adds, “We know not what we should pray for as we ought”; but the Spirit helps our infirmities, with sighs and groans which cannot be uttered. Mark here, they could not so well and so fully come off in the manner of performing this duty, as these in our days think they can. The apostles, when they were at the best, yea, when the Holy Spirit assisted them, yet then they were fain to come off with sighs and groans, falling short of expressing their mind, but with sighs and groans which cannot be uttered.

But here now, the wise men of our days are so well skilled as that they have both the manner and matter of their prayers at their finger-tips; setting such a prayer for such a day, and that twenty years before it comes. One for Christmas, another for Easter, and six days after that. They have also bounded how many syllables must be said in every one of them at their public exercises. For each saint’s day, also, they have them ready for the generations yet unborn to say. They can tell you, also, when you shall kneel, when you shall stand, when you should abide in your seats, when you should go up into the chancel, and what you should do when you come there. All which the apostles came short of, as not being able to compose so profound a manner; and that for this reason included in this scripture, because the fear of God tied them to pray as they ought.

“For we know not what we should pray for as we ought.” Mark this, “as we ought.” For the not thinking of this word, or at least the not understanding it in the spirit and truth of it, has occasioned these men to devise, as Jeroboam did, another way of worship, both for matter and manner, then is revealed in the Word of God (I Kings 12:26-33). But, says Paul, we must pray as we ought; and this WE cannot do by all the are, skill, and cunning device of men or angels. “For we know not what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit”; no, further, it must be “the Spirit ITSELF” that helps our infirmities; not the Spirit and man’s lusts; what man of his own brain may imagine and devise, is one thing, and what they are commanded, and ought to do, is another. Many ask and have not, because they ask amiss; and so are never the nearer the enjoying of those things they petition for (James 4:3). It is not to pray at random that will put off God, or cause him to answer. While prayer is making, God is searching the heart, to see from what root and spirit it does arise (I John 5:14). “And he that searches the heart knows,” that is, approves only, the meaning “of the Spirit, because he makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” For in that which is according to his will only, he hears us, and in nothing else. And it is the Spirit only that can teach us so to ask; it only being able to search out all things, even the deep things of God. Without which Spirit, though we had a thousand Common Prayer Books, yet we know not what we should pray for as we ought, being accompanied with those infirmities that make us absolutely incapable of such a work. Which infirmities, although it is a hard thing to name them all, yet some of them are these that follow.


Without the Spirit man is so infirm that he cannot, with all other means whatsoever, be enabled to think one right saving thought of God, of Christ, or of his blessed things; and therefore he says of the wicked, “God is not in all his thoughts,” (Psalms 10:4); unless it be that they imagine him altogether such a one as themselves (Psalms 50:21). For “every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil,” and that “continually” (Gen 6:5; 8:21). They then not being able to conceive aright of God to whom they pray, of Christ through whom they pray, nor of the things for which they pray, as is before showed, how shall they be able to address themselves to God, without the Spirit help this infirmity? Peradventure you will say, By the help of the Common Prayer Book; but that cannot do it, unless it can open the eyes, and reveal to the soul all these things before touched. Which that it cannot, it is evident; because that is the work of the Spirit only. The Spirit itself is the revealer of these things to poor souls, and that which does give us to understand them; wherefore Christ tells his disciples, when he promised to send the Spirit, the Comforter, “He shall take of mine and show unto you”; as if he had said, I know you are naturally dark and ignorant as to the understanding any of my things; though ye try this course and the other, yet your ignorance will still remain, the veil is spread over your heart, and there is none can take away the same, nor give you spiritual understanding but the Spirit. The Common Prayer Book will not do it, neither can any man expect that it should be instrumental that way, it being none of God’s ordinances; but a thing since the Scriptures were written, patched together one piece at one time, and another at another; a mere human invention and institution, which God is so far from owning of, that he expressly forbids it, with any other such like, and that by manifold sayings in his most holy and blessed Word. (See Mark 7:7, 8, and Colossians 2:16-23; Deuteronomy 12:30-32; Proverbs 30:6; Deuteronomy 4:2; Revelation 22:18). For right prayer must, as well in the outward part of it, in the outward expression, as in the inward intention, come from what the soul does apprehend in the light of the Spirit; otherwise it is condemned as vain and an abomination, because the heart and tongue do not go along jointly in the same, neither indeed can they, unless the Spirit help our infirmities (Mark 7; Proverbs 28:9; Isaiah 29:13). And this David knew full well, which did make him cry, “Lord, open you my lips, and my mouth shall show forth your praise” (Psalms 51:15). I suppose there is none can imagine but that David could speak and express himself as well as others, no, as any in our generation, as is clearly manifested by his word and his works. Nevertheless, when this good man, this prophet, comes into God’s worship, then the Lord must help, or he can do nothing. “Lord, open you my lips, and” then “my mouth shall show forth your praise.” He could not speak one right word, except the Spirit itself gave utterance. “For we know not what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit itself helps our infirmities.” But,


It must be a praying with the Spirit, that is, the effectual praying; because without that, as men are senseless, so hypocritical, cold, and unseemly in their prayers; and so they, with their prayers, are both rendered abominable to God (Matthew 23:14; Mark 12:40; Luke 18:11, 12; Isaiah 58:2, 3). It is not the excellency of the voice, nor the seeming affection, and earnestness of him that prays, that is anything regarded of God without it. For man, as man, is so full of all manner of wickedness, that as he cannot keep a word, or thought, so much less a piece of prayer clean, and acceptable to God through Christ; and for this cause the Pharisees, with their prayers, were rejected. No question but they were excellently able to express themselves in words, and also for length of time, too, they were very notable; but they had not the Spirit of Jesus Christ to help them, and therefore they did what they did with their infirmities or weaknesses only, and so fell short of a sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of their souls to God, through the strength of the Spirit. That is the prayer that goes to heaven, that is sent thither in the strength of the Spirit. For,


Nothing but the Spirit can show a man clearly his misery by nature, and so put a man into a posture of prayer. Talk is but talk, as we use to say, and so it is but mouth-worship, if there be not a sense of misery, and that effectually too. O the cursed hypocrisy that is in most hearts, and that accompanies many thousands of praying men that would be so looked upon in this day, and all for want of a sense of their misery! But now the Spirit, that will sweetly show the soul its misery, where it is, and what is like to become of it, also the intolerableness of that condition. For it is the Spirit that does effectually convince of sin and misery, without the Lord Jesus, and so puts the soul into a sweet, sensible, affectionate way of praying to God according to his word (John 16:7-9).


If men did see their sins, yet without the help of the Spirit they would not pray. For they would run away from God, with Cain and Judas, and utterly despair of mercy, were it not for the Spirit. When a man is indeed sensible of his sin, and God’s curse, then it is a hard thing to persuade him to pray; for, says his heart, “There is no hope,” it is in vain to seek God (Jer 2:25; 18:12). I am so vile, so wretched, and so cursed a creature, that I shall never be regarded! Now here comes the Spirit, and stays the soul, helps it to hold up its face to God, by letting into the heart some small sense of mercy to encourage it to go to God, and hence it is called “the Comforter” (John 14:26).


It must be in or with the Spirit; for without that no man can know how he should come to God the right way. Men may easily say they come to God in his Son: but it is the hardest thing of a thousand to come to God aright and in his own way, without the Spirit. It is “the Spirit” that “searches all things, yea, the deep things of God” (I Corinthians 2:10). It is the Spirit that must show us the way of coming to God, and also what there is in God that makes him desirable: “I pray you,” says Moses, “show me now your way, that I may know you” (Exodus 33:13). And, He shall take of mine, and “show it unto you” (John 16:14).


Because without the Spirit, though a man did see his misery, and also the way to come to God; yet he would never be able to claim a share in either God, Christ, or mercy, with God’s approbation. O how great a task is it, for a poor soul that becomes sensible of sin and the wrath of God, to say in faith, but this one word, “Father!” I tell you, however hypocrites think, yet the Christian that is so indeed finds all the difficulty in this very thing, it cannot say God is its Father. O! says he, I dare not call him Father; and hence it is that the Spirit must be sent into the hearts of God’s people for this very thing, to cry Father: it being too great a work for any man to do knowingly and believingly without it (Galatians 4:6). When I say knowingly, I mean, knowing what it is to be a child of God, and to be born again. And when I say believingly, I mean, for the soul to believe, and that from good experience, that the work of grace is wrought in him. This is the right calling of God Father; and not as many do, to say in a babbling way, the Lord’s prayer (so-called) by heart, as it lies in the words of the book. No, here is the life of prayer, when in or with the Spirit, a man being made sensible of sin, and how to come to the Lord for mercy; he comes, I say, in the strength of the Spirit, and cries Father.

That one word spoken in faith, is better than a thousand prayers, as men call them, written and read, in a formal, cold, lukewarm way.

O how far short are those people of being sensible of this, who count it enough to teach themselves and children to say the Lord’s prayer, the creed, with other sayings; when, as God knows, they are senseless of themselves, their misery, or what it is to be brought to God through Christ! Ah, poor soul! Study your misery, and cry to God to show you your confused blindness and ignorance, before you be so rife in calling God your Father, or teaching your children either so to say.

And know, that to say God is your Father, in a way of prayer or conference, without any experiment of the work of grace on your souls, it is to say you are Jews and are not, and so to lie.

You say, Our Father; God says, “You blaspheme!” You say you are Jew, that is, true Christians; God says, “You lie!” “Behold I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie” (Revelation 3:9). “And I know the blasphemy of them that say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan” (Revelation 2:9). And so much the greater the sin is, by how much the more the sinner boasts it with a pretended sanctity, as the Jews did to Christ, in the 8th of John, which made Christ, even in plain terms, to tell them their doom, for all their hypocritical pretenses (John 8:41-45). And yet forsooth every cursed whoremaster, thief, and drunkard, swearer, and perjured person; they that have not only been such in times past, but are even so still: these I say, by some must be counted the only honest men, and all because with their blasphemous throats, and hypocritical hearts, they will come to church, and say, “Our Father!” No further, these men, though every time they say to God, Our Father, do most abominably blaspheme, yet they must be compelled thus to do. And because others that are of more sober principles, scruple the truth of such vain traditions; therefore they must be looked upon to be the only enemies of God and the nation: when as it is their own cursed superstition that does set the great God against them, and cause him to count them for his enemies (Isaiah 53:10). And yet just like to Bonner, that blood-red persecutor, they commend, I say, these wretches, although never so vile, if they close in with their traditions, to be good churchmen, the honest subjects; while God’s people are, as it has always been, looked upon to be a turbulent, seditious, and factious people (Ezra 4:12-16).

Therefore, give me leave a little to reason with you, you poor, blind, ignorant sot.

(1.) It may be your great prayer is to say, “Our Father which are in heaven,” etc. Do you know the meaning of the very first words of this prayer? Can you indeed, with the rest of the saints, cry, Our Father? Are you truly born again? Have you received the spirit of adoption? Do you see yourself in Christ, and can you come to God as a member of him? Or are you ignorant of these things, and yet dare you say, Our Father? Is not the devil your father? (John 8:44). And do you not do the deeds of the flesh? And yet dare you say to God, Our Father? No, are you not a desperate persecutor of the children of God? Have you not cursed them in your heart many a time? And yet do you out of your blasphemous throat suffer these words to come, even “our Father?” He is their Father whom you hate and persecute. But as the devil presented himself amongst the sons of God, (Job 1), when they were to present themselves before the Father, even our Father, so is it now; because the saints were commanded to say, Our Father, therefore all the blind ignorant rabble in the world, they must also use the same words, Our Father.

(2.) And do you indeed say, “Hallowed be your name” with your heart? Do you study, by all honest and lawful ways, to advance the name, holiness, and majesty of God? Does your heart and conversation agree with this passage? Do you strive to imitate Christ in all the works of righteousness, which God does command of you, and prompt you forward to?

It is so, if you be one that can truly with God’s allowance cry, “Our Father.” Or is God not the least of your thoughts all the day? And do you not clearly make it appear, that you are a cursed hypocrite, by condemning that with your daily practice, which you pretend in your praying with your dissembling tongue?

(3.) Wouldst you have the kingdom of God come indeed, and also his will to be done in earth as it is in heaven? No, notwithstanding, you according to the form, say, “Your kingdom come,” yet would it not make you ready to run mad, to hear the trumpet sound, to see the dead arise, and yourself just now to go and appear before God, to account for all the deeds you have done in the body? No, are not the very thoughts of it altogether displeasing to you? And if God’s will should be done on earth as it is in heaven, must it not be your ruin? There is never a rebel in heaven against God, and if he should so deal on earth, must it not whirl you down to hell? And so of the rest of the petitions. Ah! How sadly would even those men look, and with what terror would they walk up and down the world, if they did but know the lying and blaspheming that proceeds out of their mouth, even in their most pretended sanctity? The Lord awaken you, and teach you, poor souls, in all humility, to take heed that you be not rash and unadvised with your heart, and much more with your mouth! When you appear before God, as the wise man says, “Be not rash with your mouth, and let not your heart be hasty to utter anything, (Eccl 5:2); especially to call God Father, without some blessed experience when you come before God. But I pass this.


It must be a praying with the Spirit if it be accepted, because there is nothing but the Spirit that can lift up the soul or heart to God in prayer: “The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the Lord” (Proverbs 16:1). That is, in every work for God, and especially in prayer, if the heart run with the tongue, it must be prepared by the Spirit of God. Indeed, the tongue is very apt, of itself, to run without either fear or wisdom: but when it is the answer of the heart, and that such a heart as is prepared by the Spirit of God, then it speaks so as God commands and does desire.

They are mighty words of David, where he says, that he lifts his heart and his soul to God (Psalms 25:1). It is a great work for any man without the strength of the Spirit, and therefore I conceive that this is one of the great reasons why the Spirit of God is called a Spirit of supplications, (Zechariah 12:10), because it is that which helps the heart when it supplicates indeed to do it; and therefore says Paul, “Praying with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:18). And so in my text, “I will pray with the Spirit.” Prayer, without the heart being in it, is like a sound without life; and a heart, without it be lifted up of the Spirit, will never pray to God.


As the heart must be lifted up by the Spirit, if it pray aright, so also it must be held up by the Spirit when it is up, if the heart continue to pray aright. I do not know what, or how it is with others’ hearts, whether they be lifted up by the Spirit of God, and so continued, or no: but this I am sure of,

First, That it is impossible that all the prayer-books that men have made in the world, should lift up, or prepare the heart; that is the work of the great God himself. And, in the second place, I am sure that they are as far from keeping it up, when it is up. And indeed here is the life of prayer, to have the heart kept with God in the duty. It was a great matter for Moses to keep his hands lifted up to God in prayer; but how much more then to keep the heart in it! (Exodus 17:12). The want of this is that which God complains of; that they draw nigh to him with their mouth, and honor him with their lips, but their hearts were far from him (Isaiah 29:13; Ezekiel 33), but chiefly that they walk after the commandments and traditions of men, as the scope of Matthew 15:8, 9 does testify. And verily, may I but speak my own experience, and from that tell you the difficulty of praying to God as I ought, it is enough to make your poor, blind, carnal men to entertain strange thoughts of me. For, as for my heart, when I go to pray, I find it so loth to go to God, and when it is with him, so loth to stay with him, that many times I am forced in my prayers, first to beg of God that he would take mine heart, and set it on himself in Christ, and when it is there, that he would keep it there. No, many times I know not what to pray for, I am so blind, nor how to pray, I am so ignorant; only, blessed be grace, the Spirit helps our infirmities (Psalms 86:11).

O! the starting-holes that the heart has in the time of prayer; none knows how many byways the heart has, and back-lanes, to slip away from the presence of God. How much pride also, if enabled with expressions. How much hypocrisy, if before others. And how little conscience is there made of prayer between God and the soul in secret, unless the Spirit of supplication be there to help? When the Spirit gets into the heart, then there is prayer indeed, and not till then.


The soul that does rightly pray, it must be in and with the help and strength of the Spirit; because it is impossible that a man should express himself in prayer without it. When I say, it is impossible for a man to express himself in prayer without it, I mean, that it is impossible that the heart, in a sincere and sensible affectionate way, should pour out itself before God, with those groans and sighs that come from a truly praying heart, without the assistance of the Spirit. It is not the mouth that is the main thing to be looked at in prayer, but whether the heart is so full of affection and earnestness in prayer with God, that it is impossible to express their sense and desire; for then a man desires indeed, when his desires are so strong, many, and mighty, that all the words, tears, and groans that can come from the heart, cannot utter them: “The Spirit – helps our infirmities, – and makes intercession for us with [sighs and] groanings which cannot be uttered” (Romans 8:26).

That is but poor prayer which is only discovered in so many words. A man that truly prays one prayer, shall after that never be able to express with his mouth or pen the unutterable desires, sense, affection, and longing that went to God in that prayer.

The best prayers have often more groans than words: and those words that it has are but a lean and shallow representation of the heart, life, and spirit of that prayer.

You do not find any words of prayer, that we read of, come out of the mouth of Moses, when he was going out of Egypt, and was followed by Pharaoh, and yet he made heaven ring again with his cry (Exodus 14:15). But it was inexpressible and unsearchable groans and cryings of his soul in and with the Spirit. God is the God of spirits, and his eyes look further than at the outside of any duty whatsoever (Numbers 16:22). I doubt this is but little thought on by the most of them that would be looked upon as a praying people (I Samuel 16:7).

The nearer a man comes in any work that God commands him to the doing of it according to his will, so much the more hard and difficult it is; and the reason is, because man, as man, is not able to do it. But prayer, as aforesaid, is not only a duty, but one of the most eminent duties, and therefore so much the more difficult: Therefore, Paul knew what he said, when he said, “I will pray with the Spirit.” He knew well it was not what others writ or said that could make him a praying person; nothing less than the Spirit could do it.


It must be with the Spirit, or else as there will be a failing in the act itself, so there will be a failing, yea, a fainting, in the prosecution of the work. Prayer is an ordinance of God, that must continue with a soul so long as it is on this side glory. But, as I said before, it is not possible for a man to get up his heart to God in prayer; so it is as difficult to keep it there, without the assistance of the Spirit. And if so, then for a man to continue from time to time in prayer with God, it must of necessity be with the Spirit.

Christ tells us, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint (Luke 18:1). And again tells us, that this is one definition of a hypocrite, that either he will not continue in prayer, or else if he do it, it will not be in the power, that is, in the spirit of prayer, but in the form, for a pretense only (Job 27:10; Matthew 23:14). It is the easiest thing of a hundred to fall from the power to the form, but it is the hardest thing of many to keep in the life, spirit, and power of any one duty, especially prayer; that is such a work, that a man without the help of the Spirit cannot so much as pray once, much less continue, without it, in a sweet praying frame, and in praying, so to pray as to have his prayers ascend into the ears of the Lord God of Sabaoth.

Jacob did not only begin, but held it: “I will not let you go, unless you bless me” (Gen 32). So did the rest of the godly (Hosea 12:4). But this could not be without the spirit of prayer. It is through the Spirit that we have access to the Father (Ephesians 2:18).

The same is a remarkable place in Jude, when he stirred up the saints by the judgment of God upon the wicked to stand fast, and continue to hold out in the faith of the gospel, as one excellent means thereto, without which he knew they would never be able to do it. Says he, “Building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit” (Jude 20). As if he had said, Brethren, as eternal life is laid up for the persons that hold out only, so you cannot hold out unless you continue praying in the Spirit.

The great cheat that the devil and antichrist delude the world withal, it is to make them continue in the form of any duty, the form of preaching, of hearing, or praying, etc. These are they that have “a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof; from such turn away” (II Timothy 3:5).


Taken, adapted, and modernized from, “I WILL PRAY WITH THE SPIRIT AND WITH THE
Written by, John Bunyan
Written from prison in 1662

FIRST, What [true] prayer is. Prayer is a sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of the heart or soul to God, through Christ, in the strength and assistance of the Holy Spirit, for such things as God has promised, or according to the Word, for the good of the church, with submission, in faith, to the will of God.

In this description are these seven things.

First, It is a sincere; Second, A sensible; Third, An affectionate, pouring out of the soul to God, through Christ; Fourth, By the strength or assistance of the Spirit; Fifth, For such things as God has promised, or, according to his word; Sixth, For the good of the church; Seventh, With submission in faith to the will of God.

First. For the first of these, it is a SINCERE pouring out of the soul to God. Sincerity is such a grace as runs through all the graces of God in us, and through all the actions of a Christian, and has the sway in them too, or else their actions are not anything regarded of God, and so of and in prayer, of which particularly David speaks, when he mentions prayer. “I cried unto him,” the Lord “with my mouth, and he was extolled with my tongue. If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear” my prayer (Psalms 66:17,18). Part of the exercise of prayer is sincerity, without which God looks not upon it as prayer in a good sense (Psalms 16:1-4). Then “ye shall seek me and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:12-13). The want of this made the Lord reject their prayers in Hosea 7:14, where he says, “They have not cried unto me with their heart,” that is, in sincerity, “when they howled upon their beds.” But for a pretense, for a show in hypocrisy, to be seen of men, and applauded for the same, they prayed. Sincerity was that which Christ commended in Nathaniel, when he was under the fig tree. “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile.” Probably this good man was pouring out of his soul to God in prayer under the fig tree, and that in a sincere and unfeigned spirit before the Lord. The prayer that has this in it as one of the principal ingredients, is the prayer that God looks at. Thus, “The prayer of the upright is his delight” (Proverbs 15:8).

And why must sincerity be one of the essentials of prayer which is accepted of God, but because sincerity carries the soul in all simplicity to open its heart to God, and to tell him the case plainly, without equivocation; to condemn itself plainly, without dissembling; to cry to God heartily, without complimenting. “I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus; Thou has chastised me, and I was chastised, as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke” (Jeremiah 31:18). Sincerity is the same in a corner alone, as it is before the face of the world. It knows not how to wear two masks, one for an appearance before men, and another for a short snatch in a corner; but it must have God, and be with him in the duty of prayer. It is not lip-labor that it does regard, for it is the heart that God looks at, and that which sincerity looks at, and that which prayer comes from, if it be that prayer which is accompanied with sincerity.

Second. It is a sincere and SENSIBLE pouring out of the heart or soul. It is not, as many take it to be, even a few babbling, prating, complimentary expressions, but a sensible feeling there is in the heart. Prayer has in it a sensibleness of diverse things; sometimes sense of sin, sometimes of mercy received, sometimes of the readiness of God to give mercy, etc.

1     A sense of the want of mercy, by reason of the danger of sin. The soul, I say, feels, and from feeling sighs, groans, and breaks at the heart. For right prayer bubbles out of the heart when it is overpressed with grief and bitterness, as blood is forced out of the flesh by reason of some heavy burden that lies upon it (I Samuel 1:10; Psalms 69:3). David roars, cries, weeps, faints at heart, fails at the eyes, loses his moisture, etc., (Psalms 38:8-10). Hezekiah mourns like a dove (Isaiah 38:14). Ephraim bemoans himself (Jeremiah 31:18). Peter weeps bitterly (Matthew 26:75). Christ has strong crying and tears (Hebrews 5:7). And all this from a sense of the justice of God, the guilt of sin, the pains of hell and destruction. “The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow.” Then cried I unto the Lord (Psalms 116:3,4). And in another place, “My sore ran in the night” (Psalms 77:2). Again, “I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long” (Psalms 38:6). In all these instances, and in hundreds more that might be named, you may see that prayer carries in it a sensible feeling disposition, and that first from a sense of sin.

2    Sometimes there is a sweet sense of mercy received; encouraging, comforting, strengthening, enlivening, enlightening mercy, etc. Thus David pours out his soul, to bless, and praise, and admire the great God for his lovingkindness to such poor vile wretches. “Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits. Who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases; who redeems your life from destruction; who crowns you with loving-kindness and tender mercies; who satisfies your mouth with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s” (Psalms 103:1-5). And thus is the prayer of saints sometimes turned into praise and thanksgiving, and yet are prayers still. This is a mystery; God’s people pray with their praises, as it is written, “Be careful for nothing, but in everything by prayer, and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your request be made known unto God” (Philippians 4:6). A sensible thanksgiving, for mercies received, is a mighty prayer in the sight of God; it prevails with him unspeakably.

3    In prayer there is sometimes in the soul a sense of mercy to be received. This again sets the soul all on a flame. “Thou, O lord of hosts,” says David, “has revealed to your servant, saying I will build you a house; therefore has your servant found in his heart to pray – unto you” (II Samuel 7:27). This provoked Jacob, David, Daniel, with others—even a sense of mercies to be received—which caused them, not by fits and starts, nor yet in a foolish frothy way, to babble over a few words written in a paper; but mightily, fervently, and continually, to groan out their conditions before the Lord, as being sensible, sensible, I say, of their wants, their misery, and the willingness of God to show mercy (Genesis 32:10,11; Daniel 9:3,4).  A good sense of sin, and the wrath of God, with some encouragement from God to come unto him, is a better Common-prayer-book than that which is taken out of the Papistical mass-book, being the scraps and fragments of the devices of some popes, some friars, and I know not what.

Third. Prayer is a sincere, sensible, and an AFFECTIONATE pouring out of the soul to God. O! the heat, strength, life, vigor, and affection, that is in right prayer! “As the hart pants after the water-brooks, so pants my soul after you, O God” (Psalms 42:1). “I have longed after your precepts” (Psalms 119:40). “I have longed for your salvation” (verse 174). “My soul longs, yes, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cries out for the living God” (Psalms 84:2). “My soul breaks for the longing that it has unto your judgments at all times” (Psalms 119:20). Mark ye here, “My soul longs,” it longs, it longs, etc. O what affection is here discovered in prayer! The like you have in Daniel. “O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for your own sake, O my God” (Daniel 9:19). Every syllable carries a mighty vehemence in it. This is called the fervent, or the working prayer, by James. And so again, “And being in an agony, he prayed more earnestly” (Luke 22:44). Or had his affections more and more drawn out after God for his helping hand. O! How wide are the most of men with their prayers from this prayer, that is, PRAYER in God’s account!

Alas! The greatest part of men make no conscience at all of the duty; and as for them that do, it is to be feared that many of them are very great strangers to a sincere, sensible, and affectionate pouring out their hearts or souls to God; but even content themselves with a little lip-labor and bodily exercise, mumbling over a few imaginary prayers. When the affections are indeed engaged in prayer, then, then the whole man is engaged, and that in such sort, that the soul will spend itself to nothing, as it were, rather than it will go without that good desired, even communion and solace with Christ. And hence it is that the saints have spent their strengths, and lost their lives, rather than go without the blessing (Psalms 69:3; 38:9,10; Genesis 32:24,26).

All this is too, too evident by the ignorance, profaneness, and spirit of envy, that reign in the hearts of those men that are so hot for the forms, and not the power of praying. Scarce one of forty among them know what it is to be born again, to have communion with the Father through the Son; to feel the power of grace sanctifying their hearts: but for all their prayers, they still live cursed, drunken, whorish, and abominable lives, full of malice, envy, deceit, persecuting of the dear children of God. O what a dreadful after-clap is coming upon them! –which all their hypocritical assembling themselves together, with all their prayers, shall never be able to help them against, or shelter them from.

Again, It is a pouring out of the heart or soul. There is in prayer an unbosoming of a man’s self, an opening of the heart to God, an affectionate pouring out of the soul in requests, sighs, and groans. “All my desire is before you,” says David, “and my groaning is not hid from you” (Psalms 38:9). And again, “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? When I remember these things, I pour out my soul in me” (Psalms 42:2,4). Mark, “I pour out my soul.” It is an expression signifying, that in prayer there goes the very life and whole strength to God. As in another place, “Trust in him at all times; ye people, – pour out your heart before him” (Psalms 62:8). This is the prayer to which the promise is made, for the delivering of a poor creature out of captivity and thralldom. “If from thence you shalt seek the Lord your God, you shalt find him, if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 4:29).

Again, It is a pouring out of the heart or soul TO GOD. This shows also the excellency of the spirit of prayer. It is the great God to which it retires. “When shall I come and appear before God?” And it argues, that the soul that thus prays indeed, sees an emptiness in all things under heaven; that in God alone there is rest and satisfaction for the soul. “Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusts in God” (I Timothy 5:5). So says David, “In you, O Lord, do I put my trust; let me never be put to confusion. Deliver me in your righteousness, and cause me to escape; incline your ear to me, and save me. Be you my strong habitation, whereunto I may continually resort: – for you are my rock and my fortress; deliver me, O my God, – out of the hand of the unrighteous and cruel man. For you are my hope, O Lord God, you are my trust from my youth” (Psalms 71:1-5). Many in a wording way speak of God; but right prayer makes God his hope, stay, and all. Right prayer sees nothing substantial, and worth the looking after, but God. And that, as I said before, it does in a sincere, sensible, and affectionate way.

Again, It is a sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of the heart or soul to God, THROUGH CHRIST. This through Christ must needs be added, or else it is to be questioned, whether it be prayer, though in appearance it be never so eminent or eloquent. Christ is the way through whom the soul has admittance to God, and without whom it is impossible that so much as one desire should come into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth (John 14:6). “If ye shall ask anything in my name”; “whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, I will do it” (John 14:13,14). This was Daniel’s way in praying for the people of God; he did it in the name of Christ. “Now therefore, O our God, hear the prayer of your servant, and his supplications, and cause your face to shine upon your sanctuary that is desolate, for the Lord’s sake” (Daniel 9:17). And so David, “For your name’s sake,” that is, for your Christ’s sake, “pardon mine iniquity, for it is great” (Psalms 25:11). But now, it is not every one that makes mention of Christ’s name in prayer, that does indeed, and in truth, effectually pray to God in the name of Christ, or through him. This coming to God through Christ is the hardest part that is found in prayer. A man may more easily be sensible of his works, yes, and sincerely too desire mercy, and yet not be able to come to God by Christ. That man that comes to God by Christ, he must first have the knowledge of him; “for he that cometh to God, must believe that he is” (Hebrews 11:6). And so he that comes to God through Christ, must be enabled to know Christ. Lord, says Moses, “show me now your way, that I may know you” (Exodus 33:13).

This Christ, none but the Father can reveal (Matthew 11:27). And to come through Christ, is for the soul to be enabled of God to shroud itself under the shadow of the Lord Jesus, as a man covers himself under a something for safeguard (Matthew 16:16). Hence it is that David so often terms Christ his shield, buckler, tower, fortress, rock of defense, etc., (Psalms 18:2; 27:1; 28:1). Not only because by him he overcame his enemies, but because through him he found favor with God the Father. And so he says to Abraham, “Fear not, I am your shield,” etc., (Genesis 15:1). The man then that comes to God through Christ, must have faith, by which he puts on Christ, and in him appears before God. Now he that has faith is born of God, born again, and so becomes one of the sons of God; by virtue of which he is joined to Christ, and made a member of him (John 3:5,7; 1:12). And therefore, secondly he, as a member of Christ, comes to God; I say, as a member of him, so that God looks on that man as a part of Christ, part of his body, flesh, and bones, united to him by election, conversion, illumination, the Spirit being conveyed into the heart of that poor man by God (Ephesians 5:30). So that now he comes to God in Christ’s merits, in his blood, righteousness, victory, intercession, and so stands before him, being “accepted in his Beloved” (Ephesians 1:6). And because this poor creature is thus a member of the Lord Jesus, and under this consideration has admittance to come to God; therefore, by virtue of this union also, is the Holy Spirit conveyed into him, whereby he is able to pour out himself, that is his soul, before God, with his audience. And this leads me to the next, or fourth particular.

Fourth. Prayer is a sincere, sensible, affectionate, pouring out of the heart or soul to God through Christ, by the strength or ASSISTANCE OF THE SPIRIT. For these things do so depend one upon another, that it is impossible that it should be prayer, without there be a joint concurrence of them; for though it be never so famous, yet without these things, it is only such prayer as is rejected of God. For without a sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of the heart to God, it is but lip-labor; and if it be not through Christ, it falls far short of ever sounding well in the ears of God. So also, if it be not in the strength and assistance of the Spirit, it is but like the sons of Aaron, offering with strange fire (Lev 10:1,2). But I shall speak more to this under the second head; and therefore in the meantime, that which is not petitioned through the teaching and assistance of the Spirit, it is not possible that it should be “according to the will of God (Rom 8:26,27).

Fifth. Prayer is a sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of the heart, or soul, to God, through Christ, in the strength and assistance of the Spirit, FOR SUCH THINGS AS GOD HATH PROMISED, etc., (Matthew 6:6-8). Prayer it is, when it is within the compass of God’s Word; and it is blasphemy, or at best vain babbling, when the petition is beside the book. David therefore still in his prayer kept his eye on the Word of God. “My soul,” says he, “cleaves to the dust; make me alive me according to your word.” And again, “My soul melts for heaviness, strengthen you me according unto your word” (Psalms 119:25-28; see also 41, 42, 58, 65, 74, 81, 82, 107, 147, 154, 169, 170). And, “remember your word unto your servant, upon which you have caused me to hope” (verse 49). And indeed the Holy Ghost does not immediately make me alive and stir up the heart of the Christian without, but by, with, and through the Word, by bringing that to the heart, and by opening of that, whereby the man is provoked to go to the Lord, and to tell him how it is with him, and also to argue, and supplicate, according to the Word; thus it was with Daniel, that mighty prophet of the Lord. He understanding by books that the captivity of the children of Israel was hard at an end; then, according unto that word, he makes his prayer to God. “I Daniel,” says he, “understood by books,” namely, the writings of Jeremiah, “the number of the years where the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, – that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem. And I set my face to the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes” (Daniel 9:2, 3). So that I say, as the Spirit is the helper and the governor of the soul, when it prays according to the will of God; so it guided by and according to, the Word of God and his promise. Hence it is that our Lord Jesus Christ himself did make a stop, although his life lay at stake for it. I could now pray to my Father, and he should give me more than twelve legions of angels; but how then must the scripture be fulfilled that thus it must be? (Matthew 26:53,54). As who should say, were there but a word for it in the scripture, I should soon be out of the hands of mine enemies, I should be helped by angels; but the scripture will not warrant this kind of praying, for that says otherwise. It is a praying then according to the Word and promise. The Spirit by the Word must direct, as well in the manner, as in the matter of prayer. “I will pray with the Spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also” (I Corinthians 14:15). But there is no understanding without the Word. For if they reject the word of the Lord, “what wisdom is in them?” (Jeremiah 8:9).

Sixth. FOR THE GOOD OF THE CHURCH. This clause reaches in whatsoever tends either to the honor of God, Christ’s advancement, or his people’s benefit. For God, and Christ, and his people are so linked together that if the good of the one be prayed for, to this purpose, the church, the glory of God, and advancement of Christ, must needs be included. For as Christ is in the Father, so the saints are in Christ; and he that touches the saints, touches the apple of God’s eye; and therefore pray for the peace of Jerusalem, and you pray for all that is required of you. For Jerusalem will never be in perfect peace until she be in heaven; and there is nothing that Christ does more desire than to have her there. That also is the place that God through Christ has given to her. He then that prays for the peace and good of Zion, or the church, does ask that in prayer which Christ has purchased with his blood; and also that which the Father has given to him as the price thereof. Now he that prays for this, must pray for abundance of grace for the church, for help against all its temptations; that God would let nothing be too hard for it; and that all things might work together for its good, that God would keep them blameless and harmless, the sons of God, to his glory, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation. And this is the substance of Christ’s own prayer in John 17. And all Paul’s prayers did run that way, as one of his prayers does eminently show. “And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge, and in all judgment; that ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere, and without offence, till the day of Christ. Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ unto the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:9-11). But a short prayer, you see, and yet full of good desires for the church, from the beginning to the end; that it may stand and go on, and that in the most excellent frame of spirit, even without blame, sincere, and without offence, until the day of Christ, let its temptations or persecutions be what they will (Ephesians 1:16-21; 3:14-19; Col 1:9-13).

Seventh. And because, as I said, prayer does SUBMIT TO THE WILL OF GOD, and say, ‘Thy will be done,’ as Christ has taught us (Matthew 6:10); therefore, the people of the Lord in humility are to lay themselves and their prayers, and all that they have, at the foot of their God, to be disposed of by him as he in his heavenly wisdom sees best. Yet not doubting but God will answer the desire of his people that way that shall be most for their advantage and his glory. When the saints therefore do pray with submission to the will of God, it does not argue that they are to doubt or question God’s love and kindness to them. But because they at all times are not so wise, but that sometimes Satan may get that advantage of them, as to tempt them to pray for that which, if they had it, would neither prove to God’s glory nor his people’s good. “Yet this is the confidence that we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us; and if we know that he hears us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him,” that is, we asking in the Spirit of grace and supplication (I John 5:14,15). For, as I said before, that petition that is not put up in and through the Spirit, it is not to be answered, because it is beside the will of God. For the Spirit only knows that, and so consequently knows how to pray according to that will of God. “For what man knows the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God know no man but the Spirit of God” (I Corinthians 2:11).

But more of this hereafter.

If you have taken Christ as your Savior but not as Lord, you have deluded yourself !

Written by Arthur W. Pink


We do not ask, Is Christ your “Savior,” but is He, really and truly, your Lord?

If He be not your Lord, then most certainly He is not your “Savior.” Those who have not received Christ Jesus as their “Lord,” and yet suppose Him to be their “Savior,” are deluded, and their hope rests on a foundation of sand. Multitudes are deceived on this vital point, and therefore, if the reader values his or her soul, we implore you to give a most careful reading to this little tract.

When we ask: “Is Christ your LORD?”, we do not inquire, Do you believe in the Godhood of Jesus of Nazareth? The demons do that (Matt. 8:28, 29) and yet perish notwithstanding!

You may be firmly convinced of the Deity of Christ, and yet be in your sins. You may speak of Him with the utmost reverence, accord Him His Divine titles in your prayers, and yet be unsaved. You may abominate those who traduce His person and deny His Divinity, and yet have no spiritual love for Him at all.

When we ask, “Is Christ your LORD?” we mean, does He in very deed occupy the throne of your heart, does He actually rule over your life?

“We have turned every one to his own way” (Isa. 53:6), describes the course which all follow by nature. Before conversion every soul lives to please self. Of old it was written, “every man did that which was right in his own eyes”, and why? “In those days there was no king in Israel” (Judges 21:25). Ah! that is the point we desire to make clear to the reader. Until Christ becomes your King (1 Tim. 1:17; Rev. 15:3), until you bow to his sceptre, until His will becomes the rule of your life, SELF dominates, and thus Christ is disowned.

When the Holy Spirit begins His work of grace in a soul, He first convicts of sin. He shows me the real and awful nature of sin. He makes me realize that it is a species of insurrection, a defying of God’s authority, a setting of my will against His. He shows me that in going my “own way” (Isa. 53:6), in pleasing myself, I have been fighting against God. As my eyes are opened to see what a lifelong rebel I have been, how indifferent to God’s honor, how unconcerned about His will, I am filled with anguish and horror, and made to marvel that the thrice Holy One has not long since cast me into Hell. Reader, have you ever gone through this experience? If not, there is very grave reason to fear you are yet spiritually dead!

Conversion, true conversion, saving conversion, is a turning from sin to God in Christ.

It is a throwing down the weapons of my warfare against Him, a ceasing to despise or ignore His authority. New Testament conversion is described thus: “Ye turned to God from idols to serve (be in subjection to, obey) the living and true God” (1 Thess. 1:9). An “idol” is any object to which we give what is due alone unto God–the supreme place in our affections, the moulding influence of our hearts, the dominating power of our lives. Conversion is a right-about-face, the heart and will repudiating sin, self, and the world. Genuine conversion is always evidenced by “Lord. what wilt Thou have me to do?” (Acts 9:6). It is an unreserved surrendering of ourselves to His holy will. Have you yielded yourself to Him (Rom. 6:13)?

There are many people who would like to be saved from Hell, but who do not want to be saved from self-will, from having their own way, from a life of (some form of) worldliness.

But God will not save them on their terms. To be saved, we must submit to HIS terms. Listen to His terms. “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him” (Isa. 55:7). Said Christ, “Whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:33). Men must be turned “from darkness to light, and the power of Satan unto God” before they can “receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified” (Acts 26:18).

“As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk ye in Him” (Col. 2:6). That is an exhortation to Christians, and its force is, Continue as you begin. But how had they “begun” By receiving “Christ Jesus the Lord”; by surrendering to Him, by subjecting themselves to His will, by ceasing to please themselves. His authority was now owned. His commands now became their rule of life, His love constrained them to a glad and unreserved obedience. They “gave their own selves to the Lord” (2 Cor. 8:5). Have you, my reader, done this? Have you? Do the details of your life evidence it? Can those with whom you come into contact see that you are no more living to please self (2 Cor. 5:15)?

O my reader, make no mistake upon this point: a conversion which the Holy Spirit produces is a very radical thing. It is a miracle of grace. It is the enthroning of Christ in the life.

And such conversions are rare indeed. Multitudes of people have just sufficient “religion” to make them miserable. They refuse to forsake every known sin–and there is no true peace for any soul until he does. They have never “received Christ Jesus the Lord” (Col. 2:6). Had they done so, “the joy of the Lord” would be their strength (Neh. 8:10). But the language of their hearts and lives (not their “lips”) is, “We will not have this Man to reign over us” (Luke 1.9:14). Is that your case?

The great miracle of grace consists in changing a lawless rebel into a loving and loyal subject.

It is a “renewing” of the heart, so that the favored subject of it has come to loathe what he loved, and the things he once found irksome are now winsome (2 Cor. 5:17). He delights “in the law of God after the inward man” (Rom. 7:22). He discovers that Christ’s “commandments are not grievous” (1 John 5:3), and that “in keeping of them there is great reward” (Psa. 19:11). Is this your experience? It would be if you received Christ Jesus THE LORD!

But to receive Christ Jesus the Lord is altogether beyond unaided human power. That is the last thing which the unrenewed heart wants to do. There must be a supernatural change of heart before there is even the desire for Christ to occupy its throne. And that change, none but God can work (1 Cor. 12:3). Therefore, “Seek ye the Lord while He may be found” (Isa. 55:6). “Search” for Him “with all your heart” (Jer. 29:13).

Reader, you may have been a professing Christian for years past and you may have been quite sincere in your profession. But if God has condescended to show you that you have never really and truly “received Christ Jesus the Lord”, if now in your own soul and conscience you realize that SELF has ruled you hitherto, will you not now get down on your knees and confess to God your self-will, your rebellion against Him, and beg Him to so work in you that, without further delay, you may be enabled to yield yourself completely to His will and become His subject, His servant, His loving slave, in deed and in truth?

What is it to glorify God?

Taken and adapted by,  A Body of Divinity”
Written by,  Thomas Watson


What is it to glorify God?

Glorifying God consists in four things: 1: Appreciation, 2. Adoration, 3. Affection, 4. Subjection.

I.    Appreciation. To glorify God is to set God highest in our thoughts, and to have a venerable esteem of him. Psalms 92:2. ‘Thou, Lord, art most high for evermore.’ Psalms 97:7. ‘Thou art exalted far above all gods.’ There is in God all that may draw forth both wonder and delight; there is a constellation of all beauties; he is prima causa, the original and springhead of being, who sheds a glory upon the creature. We glorify God, when we are God-admirers; admire his attributes, which are the glistering beams by which the divine nature shines forth; his promises which are the charter of free grace, and the spiritual cabinet where the pearl of price is hid; the noble effects of his power and wisdom in making the world, which is called ‘the work of his fingers.’ Psalms 8:8. To glorify God is to have God-admiring thoughts; to esteem him most excellent, and search for diamonds in this rock only.

II.    Glorifying God consists in adoration, or worship. Psalms 29:9. ‘Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.’ There is a twofold worship

1    A civil reverence which we give to persons of honor. Genesis 23:3. ‘Abraham stood up and bowed himself to the children of Heth.’ Piety is no enemy to courtesy.

2   A divine worship which we give to God as his royal prerogative. Nehemiah 8:8. ‘They bowed their heads, and worshipped the Lord with their faces towards the ground.’ This divine worship God is very jealous of; it is the apple of his eye, the pearl of his crown; which he guards, as he did the tree of life, with cherubims and a flaming sword, that no man may come near it to violate it. Divine worship must be such as God himself has appointed, else it is offering strange fire. Leviticus 10:0: The Lord would have Moses make the tabernacle, ‘according to the pattern in the mount.’ Exodus 25:50. He must not leave out anything in the pattern, nor add to it. If God was so exact and curious about the place of worship, how exact will he be about the matter of his worship! Surely here everything must be according to the pattern prescribed in his word.

3     Affection. This is part of the glory we give to God, who counts himself glorified when he is loved. Deuteronomy 6:6. ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul.’ There is a twofold love:

A    Amor concupiscentiae, a love of concupiscence, which is self-love; as when we love another, because he does us a good turn. A wicked man may be said to love God, because he has given him a good harvest, or filled his cup with wine. This is rather to love God’s blessing than to love God.

B   Amor amicitiae, a love of delight, as a man takes delight in a friend. This is to love God indeed; the heart is set upon God, as a man’s heart is set upon his treasure. This love is exuberant, not a few drops, but a stream. It is superlative; we give God the best of our love, the cream of it. Song of Soloon 8:8. ‘I would cause thee to drink of spiced wine of the juice of my pomegranate.’ If the spouse had a cup more juicy and spiced, Christ must drink of it. It is intense and ardent. True saints are seraphims, burning in holy love to God. The spouse was amore perculsa, in fainting fits, ‘sick of love.’ Song of Solomon 2:2. Thus to love God is to glorify him. He who is the chief of our happiness has the chief of our affections.

4    Subjection. This is when we dedicate ourselves to God, and stand ready dressed for his service. Thus the angels in heaven glorify him; they wait on his throne, and are ready to take a commission from him; therefore, they are represented by the cherubim with wings displayed, to show how swift they are in their obedience. We glorify God when we are devoted to his service; our head studies for him, our tongue pleads for him, and our hands relieve his members. The wise men that came to Christ did not only bow the knee to him, but presented him with gold and myrrh. Matt 2:2: So we must not only bow the knee, give God worship, but bring presents of golden obedience. We glorify God when we stick at no service, when we fight under the banner of his gospel against an enemy, and say to him as David to King Saul, ‘Thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine.’ I Samuel 17:72.

A good Christian is like the sun, which not only sends forth heat, but goes its circuit round the world. Thus, he who glorifies God, has not only his affections heated with love to God, but he goes his circuit too; he moves vigorously in the sphere of obedience.

Why must we glorify God?

1    Because he gives us our being. Psalms 100:3. ‘It is he that made us.’ We think it a great kindness in a man to spare our life, but what kindness is it in God to give us our life! We draw our breath from him; and as life, so all the comforts of life are from him. He gives us health, which is the sauce to sweeten our life; and food, which is the oil that nourishes the lamp of life. If all we receive is from his bounty, is it not reasonable we should glorify him? Should we not live to him, seeing we live by him? Romans 11:16. ‘For of him, and through him, are all things.’ All we have is of his fullness, all we have is through his free grace; and therefore to him should be all. It follows, therefore, ‘To him be glory forever.’ God is not our benefactor only, but our founder, as rivers that come from the sea empty their silver streams into the sea again.

2   Because God has made all things for his own glory. Proverbs 16:6. ‘The Lord has made all things for himself:’ that is, ‘for his glory.’ As a king has excise out of commodities, so God will have glory out of everything. He will have glory out of the wicked. If they will not give him glory, he will get glory upon them. Exodus 14:17. ‘I will get me honor upon Pharaoh.’ But especially has he made the godly for his glory; they are the lively organs of his praise. Isaiah 43: 21. ‘This people have I formed for myself, and they shall shew forth my praise.’ It is true, they cannot add to his glory, but they may exalt it; they cannot raise him in heaven, but they may raise him in the esteem of others here. God has adopted the saints into his family, and made them a royal priesthood, that they should show forth the praise of him who has called them. I Peter 2:2.

3    Because the glory of God has intrinsic value and excellence; it transcends the thoughts of men, and the tongues of angels. His glory is his treasure, all his riches lie here; as Micah said. Judges 18:84. ‘What have I more?’ So, what has God more? God’s glory is more worth than heaven, and more worth than the salvation of all men’s souls. Better kingdoms be thrown down, better men and angels be annihilated, than God should lose one jewel of his crown, one beam of his glory.

4    Creatures below us, and above us, bring glory to God; and do we think to sit rent free? Shall everything glorify God but man? It is a pity then that man was ever made.

A   Creatures below us glorify God, the inanimate creatures and the heavens glorify God. ‘The heavens declare the glory of God.’ Psalms 19:9: The curious workmanship of heaven sets forth the glory of its Maker; the firmament is beautified and penciled out in blue and azure colors, where the power and wisdom of God may be clearly seen. ‘The heavens declare his glory, we may see the glory of God blazing in the sun, and twinkling in the stars. Look into the air, the birds, with their chirping music, sing hymns of praise to God. Every beast in its kind glorifies God. Isaiah 43:30. ‘The beast of the field shall honor me.’

B    Creatures above us glorify God: ‘the angels are ministering spirits.’ Hebrews 1:14. They are still waiting on God’s throne, and bring some revenues of glory into the exchequer of heaven. Surely man should be much more studious of God’s glory than the angels; for God has honored him more than the angels, in that Christ took man’s nature upon him, and not the angels, Though, in regard of creation, God made man ‘a little lower than the angels,’ Hebrews 2:2, yet in regard of redemption, God has set him higher than the angels. He has married mankind to himself; the angels are Christ’s friends, not his spouse. He has covered us with the purple robe of righteousness, which is a better righteousness than the angels have. 2 Corinthians 5:5. If then the angels bring glory to God, much more should we, being dignified with honor above angelic spirits.

5     We must bring glory to God, because all our hopes hang upon him. Psalms 39:9. ‘My hope is in thee.’ And Psalms 62:2. ‘My expectation is from him;’ I expect a kingdom from him. A child that is good-natured will honor his parent, by expecting all he needs from him. Psalms 87:7. ‘All my springs are in thee.’ The silver springs of grace, and the golden springs of glory are in him.

In how many ways may we glorify God?

1    It is glorifying God when we aim purely at his glory. It is one thing to advance God’s glory, another thing to aim at it. God must be the Terminus ad quem, the ultimate end of all actions. Thus Christ, John 8:80, ’I seek not mine own glory, but the glory of him that sent me.’ A hypocrite has a squint eye, for he looks more to his own glory than God’s. Our Savior deciphers such, and gives a caveat against them in Matthew 6: 2, ‘When thou givest alms, do not sound a trumpet.’ A stranger would ask, ‘What means the noise of this trumpet?’ It was answered, ‘They are going to give to the poor.’ And so they did not give alms, but sell them for honor and applause, that they might have glory of men; the breath of men was the wind that blew the sails of their charity; ‘verily they have their reward.’ The hypocrite may make his acquittance [letter of receipt] and write, ‘received in full payment.’

Chrysostom calls vain-glory one of the devil’s great nets to catch men. And Cyprian says, ‘Whom Satan cannot prevail against by intemperance, those he prevails against by pride and vainglory.’ Oh let us take heed of self-worshipping! Aim purely at God’s glory. We do this,

2    When we prefer God’s glory above all other things; above credit, estate, relations; when the glory of God coming in competition with them, we prefer his glory before them. If relations lie in our way to heaven, we must either leap over them, or tread upon them. A child must un-child himself, and forget he is a child; he must know neither father nor mother in God’s cause. Deuteronomy 33:3. ‘Who said unto his father and mother, I have not seen him; neither did he acknowledge his brethren.’

This is to aim at God’s glory.

3    We aim at God’s glory, when we are content that God’s will should take place, though it may cross ours. Lord, I am content to be a loser, if thou be a gainer; to have less health, if I have more grace, and thou more glory. Let it be food or bitter physic if thou givest it me. Lord, I desire that which may be most for thy glory. Our blessed Savior said, ‘Not as I will, but as thou wilt.’ Matthew 26:69. If God might have more glory by his sufferings, he was content to suffer. John 12:28.

‘Father, glorify thy name.’

4   We aim at God’s glory when we are content to be outshined by others in gifts and esteem, so that his glory may be increased. A man that has God in his heart, and God’s glory in his eye, desires that God should be exalted; and if this be effected, let who will be the instrument, he rejoices. Philippians 1:15. ‘Some preach Christ of envy: notwithstanding, Christ is preached, and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice’; they preached Christ of envy, they envied Paul that concourse of people, and they preached that they might outshine him in gifts, and get away some of his hearers: well, says Paul, Christ is preached, and God is like to have the glory, therefore I rejoice; let my candle go out, if the Sun of Righteousness may but shine.

5     We glorify God by an ingenuous confession of sin. The thief on the cross had dishonored God in his life, but at his death he brought glory to God by confession of sin. Luke 23:3I. ‘We indeed suffer justly.’ He acknowledged he deserved not only crucifixion, but damnation. Joshua 7:19. ‘My son, give, I pray thee, glory to God, and make confession unto him.’ A humble confession exalts God. How is God’s free grace magnified in crowning those who deserve to be condemned!

The excusing and mincing of sin casts a reproach upon God.

Adam denied not that he tasted the forbidden fruit, but, instead of a full confession, he taxed God. Genesis 3:32. ‘The woman whom thou gavest me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat;’ if thou hadst not given me the woman to be a tempter, I had not sinned. Confession glorifies God, because it clears him; it acknowledges that he is holy and righteous, whatever he does. Nehemiah vindicates God’s righteousness; chap 9:93. ‘Thou art just in all that is brought upon us.’ A confession is ingenuous when it is free, not forced. Luke 15:58. ‘I have sinned against heaven and before thee.’ The prodigal charged himself with sin before his father charged him with it.

1     We glorify God by believing. Romans 4:40. ‘Abraham was strong in faith, giving glory to God.’  Unbelief affronts God, it gives him the lie; ‘he that believes not, makes God a liar.’ I John 5:50. But faith brings glory to God; it sets to its seal that God is true. John 3:33. He that believes flies to God’s mercy and truth, as to an altar of refuge; he engarrisons himself in the promises, and trusts all he has with God. Psalms 31:1. ‘Into thy hands I commit my spirit.’ This is a great way of bringing glory to God, and God honors faith, because faith honors him. It is a great honor we do to a man when we trust him with all we have, when we put our lives and estates into his hand; it is a sign we have a good opinion of him. The three children glorified God by believing. ‘The God whom we serve is able to deliver us, and will deliver us.’ Daniel 3:17. Faith knows there are no impossibilities with God, and will trust him where it cannot trace him.

2    We glorify God, by being tender of his glory. God’s glory is dear to him as the apple of his eye. An ingenuous child weeps to see a disgrace done to his father. Psalms 69:9. ‘The reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me.’ When we hear God reproached, it is as if we were reproached; when God’s glory suffers, it is as if we suffered. This is to be tender of God’s glory.

3    We glorify God by fruitfulness. John 15:5. ‘Hereby is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit.’ As it is dishonoring God to be barren, so fruitfulness honors him. Philippians 1:1: ‘Filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are to the praise of his glory.’ We must not be like the fig tree in the gospel, which had nothing but leaves, but like the pomecitron [A citron apple], that is continually either mellowing or blossoming, and is never without fruit. It is not profession, but fruit that glorifies God. God expects to have his glory from us in this way. I Corinthians 9: 7. ‘Who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit of it?’ Trees in the forest may be barren, but trees in the garden are fruitful. We must bring forth the fruits of love and good works. Matt 5:16. ‘Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.’ Faith sanctifies our works, and works testify our faith; to be doing good to others, to be eyes to the blind, feet to the lame, much glorifies God. Thus Christ glorified his Father; ‘he went about doing good.’ Acts 10:08.

By being fruitful, we are fair in God’s eyes. Jeremiah 11:16. ‘The Lord called thy name a green olive-tree, fair and of goodly fruit.’ And we must bear much fruit; it is muchness of fruit that glorifies God: ‘if ye bear much fruit.’ The spouse’s breasts are compared to clusters of grapes, to show how fertile she was. Song of Solomon 7:7. Though the lowest degree of grace may bring salvation to you, yet it will not bring much glory to God. It was not a spark of love Christ commended in Mary, but much love; ‘she loved much.’ Luke 7:77.

4    We glorify God, by being contented in that state in which Providence has placed us. We give God the glory of his wisdom, when we rest satisfied with what he carves out to us. Thus Paul glorified God. The Lord cast him into as great variety of conditions as any man, ‘in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft,’ 2 Corinthians 11:13, yet he had learned to be content. Paul could sail either in a storm or a calm; he could be anything that God would have him; he could either want or abound. Phil 4:13. A good Christian argues thus: It is God that has put me in this condition; he could have raised me higher, if he pleased, but that might have been a snare to me: he has done it in wisdom and love; therefore, I will sit down satisfied with my condition. Surely this glorifies God much; God counts himself much honored by such a Christian. Here, says God, is one after mine own heart; let me do what I will with him, I hear no murmuring, he is content. This shows abundance of grace.

When grace is crowning, it is not so much to be content; but when grace is conflicting with inconveniences, then to be content is a glorious thing indeed.

For one to be content when he is in heaven is no wonder; but to be content under the cross is like a Christian. This man must needs bring glory to God; for he shows to all the world, that though he has little meal in his barrel, yet he has enough in God to make him content: he says, as David, Psalms 16: 5,’The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance; the lines are fallen to me in pleasant places.’

5     We glorify God by working out our own salvation. God has twisted together his glory and our good. We glorify him by promoting our own salvation. It is a glory to God to have multitudes of converts; now, his design of free grace takes, and God has the glory of his mercy; so that, while we are endeavoring our salvation, we are honoring God. What an encouragement is this to the service of God, to think, while I am hearing and praying, I am glorifying God; while I am furthering my own glory in heaven, I am increasing God’s glory. Would it not be an encouragement to a subject, to hear his prince say to him, You will honor and please me very much, if you will go to yonder mine of gold, and dig as much gold for yourself as you can carry away? So, for God to say, “Go to the ordinances, get as much grace as you can, dig out as much salvation as you can; and the more happiness you have, the more I shall count myself glorified.”

6    We glorify God by living to God. 2 Corinthians 5:55. ‘That they which live should not live to themselves, but unto him who died for them.’ Rom 14:4. ‘Whether we live, we live unto the Lord.’ The Mammonist lives to his money, the Epicure lives to his belly; the design of a sinner’s life is to gratify lust, but we glorify God when we live to God. We live to God when we live to his service, and lay ourselves out wholly for God. The Lord has sent us into the world, as a merchant sends his factor beyond the seas to trade for him.

We live to God when we trade for his interest, and propagate his gospel.

God has given every man a talent; and when a man does not hide it in a napkin, but improves it for God, he lives to God. When a master in a family, by counsel and good example, labors to bring his servants to Christ; when a minister spends himself, and is spent, that he may win souls to Christ, and make the crown flourish upon Christ’s head; when the magistrate does not wear the sword in vain, but labors to cut down sin, and to suppress vice; this is to live to God, and this is glorifying God. Philippians 1:10. ‘That Christ might be magnified, whether by life or by death.’

Three wishes Paul had, and they were all about Christ; that he might be found in Christ, be with Christ, and magnify Christ.

7    We glorify God by walking cheerfully. It brings glory to God, when the world sees a Christian has that within him that can make him cheerful in the worst times; that can enable him, with the nightingale, to sing with a thorn at his breast. The people of God have ground for cheerfulness.

They are justified and adopted, and this creates inward peace; it makes music within, whatever storms are without. 2 Corinthians 1:1. I Thessalonians 1:1. If we consider what Christ has wrought for us by his blood, and wrought in us by his Spirit, it is a ground of great cheerfulness, and this cheerfulness glorifies God. It reflects upon a master when the servant is always drooping and sad; sure he is kept to hard commons, his master does not give him what is fitting; so, when God’s people hang their heads, it looks as if they did not serve a good master, or repented of their choice, which reflects dishonor on God. As the gross sins of the wicked bring a scandal on the gospel, so do the uncheerful lives of the godly. Ps 100:2. ‘Serve the Lord with gladness.’ Your serving him does not glorify him, unless it be with gladness. A Christian’s cheerful looks glorify God; religion does not take away our joy, but refines it; it does not break our viol, but tunes it, and makes the music sweeter.

8     We glorify God, by standing up for his truths. Much of God’s glory lies in his truth. God has entrusted us with his truth, as a master entrusts his servant with his purse to keep. We have not a richer jewel to trust God with than our souls, nor has God a richer jewel to trust us with than his truth. Truth is a beam that shines from God. Much of his glory lies in his truth. When we are advocates for truth we glorify God. Jude 3. ‘That ye should contend earnestly for the truth.’ The Greek word to contend signifies great contending, as one would contend for his land, and not suffer his right to be taken from him; so we should contend for the truth. Were there more of this holy contention God would have more glory. Some contend earnestly for trifles and ceremonies, but not for the truth. We should count him indiscreet that would contend more for a picture than for his inheritance; for a box of counters than for his box of title deeds.

9   We glorify God, by praising him. Doxology, or praise, is a God-exalting work. Psalms 1:23. ‘Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me.’ The Hebrew word Bara, to create, and Barak, to praise, are little different, because the end of creation is to praise God. David was called the sweet singer of Israel, and his praising God was called glorifying God. Psalms 86:12. ‘I will praise thee, O Lord my God, and I will glorify thy name.’ Though nothing can add to God’s essential glory, yet praise exalts him in the eyes of others. When we praise God, we spread his fame and renown, we display the trophies of his excellency. In this manner the angels glorify him; they are the choristers of heaven, and do trumpet forth his praise. Praising God is one of the highest and purest acts of religion.

In prayer we act like men; in praise we act like angels.

Believers are called ‘temples of God.’ I Corinthians 3:16. When our tongues praise, then the organs in God’s spiritual temple are sounding. How sad is it that God has no more glory from us in this way! Many are full of murmuring and discontent, but seldom bring glory to God, by giving him the praise due to his name. We read of the saints having harps in their hands, the emblems of praise. Many have tears in their eyes, and complaints in their mouth, but few have harps in their hand, blessing and glorifying God. Let us honor God this way. Praise is the quit-rent we pay to God: while God renews our lease, we must renew our rent.

1    We glorify God, by being zealous for his name. Numbers 25:5: ‘Phinehas has turned my wrath away, while he was zealous for my sake.’ Zeal is a mixed affection, a compound of love and anger; it carries forth our love to God, and our anger against sin in an intense degree. Zeal is impatient of God’s dishonor; a Christian fired with zeal, takes a dishonor done to God worse than an injury done to himself. Revelation 2:2. ‘Thou canst not bear them that are evil.’ Our Savior Christ thus glorified his Father; he, being baptized with a spirit of zeal, drove the money-changers out of the temple. John 2:14-17. ‘The zeal of thine house has eaten me up.

2   We glorify God, when we have an eye to God in our natural and in our civil actions. In our natural actions; in eating and drinking. I Cor 10:0I. ‘Whether therefore ye eat or drink, do all to the glory of God.’ A gracious person holds the golden bridle of temperance; he takes his meat as a medicine to heal the decays of nature, that he may be the fitter, by the strength he receives, for the service of God; he makes his food, not fuel for lust, but help to duty. In buying and selling, we do all to the glory of God. The wicked live upon unjust gain, by falsifying the balances, as in Hosea 12:2. ‘The balances of deceit are in his hands;’ and thus while men make their weights lighter, they make their sins heavier, when by exacting more than the commodity is worth, they do not for fourscore write down fifty, but for fifty four-score; when they exact double the price that a thing is worth. We buy and sell to the glory of God, when we observe that golden maxim, ‘To do to others as we would have them do to us;’ so that when we sell our commodities, we do not sell our consciences also. Acts 24:16. ‘Herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence towards God, and towards men.’ We glorify God, when we have an eye to God in all our civil and natural actions, and do nothing that may reflect any blemish on religion.

3   We glorify God by laboring to draw others to God; by seeking to convert others, and so make them instruments of glorifying God. We should be both diamonds and loadstones; diamonds for the lustre of grace, and loadstones for attractive virtue in drawing others to Christ. Galatians 4:19. ‘My little children, of whom I travail,’ It is a great way of glorifying God, when we break open the devil’s prison, and turn men from the power of Satan to God.

4   We glorify God in a high degree when we suffer for God, and seal the gospel with our blood. John 21:18, 19. ‘When thou shalt be old, another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou would not: this spoke he, signifying by what death he should glorify God.’ God’s glory shines in the ashes of his martyrs. Isaiah 24:15. ‘Wherefore glorify the Lord in the fires.’ Micaiah was in the prison, Isaiah was sawn asunder, Paul beheaded, Luke hanged on an olive tree; thus did they, by their death, glorify God. The sufferings of the primitive saints did honor to God, and made the gospel famous in the world. What would others say? See what a good master they serve, and how they love him, that they will venture the loss of all in his service. The glory of Christ’s kingdom does not stand in worldly pomp and grandeur, as other kings’; but it is seen in the cheerful sufferings of his people. The saints of old ‘loved not their lives to the death.’ Revelations 12:2: They embraced torments as so many crowns. God grant we may thus glorify him, if he calls us to it. Many pray, ‘Let this cup pass away,’ but few, ‘Thy will be done.’

5    We glorify God, when we give God the glory of all that we do. When Herod had made an oration, and the people gave a shout, saying, ‘It is the voice of a God, and not of a man,’ he took the glory to himself; the text says, ‘Immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory, and he was eaten of worms.’ Acts 12:23. We glorify God, when we sacrifice the praise and glory of all to God. I Corinthians 15:50. ‘I labored more abundantly than they all,’ a speech, one would think, savored of pride; but the apostle pulls the crown from his own head, and sets it upon the head of free grace: ‘yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.’ As Joab, when he fought against Rabbah, sent for King David, that he might carry away the crown of the victory, 2 Samuel 12:28, so a Christian, when he has gotten power over any corruption or temptation, sends for Christ, that he may carry away the crown of the victory. As the silkworm, when she weaves her curious work, hides herself under the silk, and is not seen; so when we have done anything praiseworthy, we must hide ourselves under the veil of humility, and transfer the glory of all we have done to God. As Constantine used to write the name of Christ over his door, so should we write the name of Christ over our duties. Let him wear the garland of praise.

6   We glorify God by a holy life. A bad life dishonors God. I Peter 2:2. ‘Ye are an holy nation, that ye should shew forth the praises of him that has called you.’ Romans 2:24. ‘The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you.’ Epiphanius says, ‘That the looseness of some Christians in his time made many of the heathens shun their company, and would not be drawn to hear their sermons.’ By our exact Bible-conversation we glorify God. Though the main work of religion lies in the heart, yet our light must so shine that others may behold it.

The safety of a building is the foundation, but the glory of it is in the frontispiece; so the beauty of faith is in the conversation.

When the saints, who are called jewels, cast a sparkling luster of holiness in the eyes of the world, then they ‘walk as Christ walked.’ I John 2:6. When they live as if they had seen the Lord with bodily eyes, and been with him upon the mount, they adorn religion, and bring revenues of glory to the crown of heaven.

When you are driven by your sins, and feel that there is no hope…

Written by John Bunyan


“…Sin sometimes is most afflicting to the conscience,

Even while the soul is beholding the overspreading nature of it power. But yet even here our conscience doesn’t stop the sin, but oft-times through the power and prevalence of its malignancy, the soul is driven with it, as a ship by a mighty tempest, or as a rolling thing before the whirlwind: driven, I say, from God, and from all hopes of his mercy, as far as the east is from the west, or as the ends of the world are asunder. Hence it is supposed by the prophet, that for and by sin they may be driven from God to the utmost part of heaven (Deuteronomy 30:4); and that is a sad thing, a sad thing, I say, to a gracious man. “Why,” says the prophet to God, “Are you so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?” (Psalms 22:1).

Sometimes a man, yes, even a man of God, is, as he believes, so far off from God, that he believes that God can neither help him, nor hear him, in his is a dismal state. “And you Have removed my soul,” “far off from peace: I forgot prosperity” (Lamentations 3:17). This is the state sometimes of the godly, and that not only with reference to their being removed by persecutions, or from the good times and the gospel-seasons, which are their delight, and the desire of their eyes; –but also with reference to their faith and hope in their God. They think themselves beyond the reach of his mercy.

Wherefore in answer to this conceit the Lord asks, saying, “Is my hand shortened at all that it cannot redeem?” (Isaiah 50:2). And again, “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear” (Isaiah 59:1). Wherefore God says again, “If any of them be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven, from thence will the Lord your God gather you, and from thence will he fetch you” (Deuteronomy 30:4).

God has a long arm, and he can reach a great way further than we can conceive (Nehemiah 1:9): When we think his mercy is clean gone, and that ourselves are free among the dead, and of the number that he remembers no more, even then he can reach us, and cause us to stand before him. He could reach Jonah, though in the belly of hell (Jonah 2); and he can reach you, even when you think your way is hid from the Lord, and your judgment passed on from God.

But what a reach there is in the mercy of God, how far it can extend itself.If I take the wings of the morning,” said David, “and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall your hand lead me, and your right hand shall hold me” (Psalms 139:9,10). I will gather them from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, says he: That is, from the utmost corners.

This therefore should encourage them that for the present cannot stand, but that do fly before their guilt and sin: Them that feel no help nor stay from sin and their just guilt, but who go on in their thinking, every day driven by the power of temptation, and feeling yet driven farther off from God, and from the hope of obtaining of his mercy to their salvation…

Poor creature, I will not now ask you how you came into this condition, or how long this has been your state; but I will say before you, and I beg you to hear me, “O the length of the saving arm of God!” As yet you are still within the reach;

But do not go about to measure arms with God, as some good men are apt to do: I mean, don’t you conclude, that because you canst not reach God by your short stump, that he therefore cannot reach you with his long arm.

Look again, “Have you an arm like God” (Job 40:9), an arm like his for length and strength?

It becomes you, when you cannot perceive that God is within the reach of your arm, then to believe that you are within the reach of his; for it is a long arm, and none knows how long.