The Sovereignty of God and the Spiritual Birthrights of Jacob and Esau

Taken and adapted from, “THE HEROES OF FAITH”
Written by, A.W. Pink


By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning the future. 
–Hebrews 11:20

Though Isaac lived the longest of the four great patriarchs, yet less is recorded about him than any of the others…

…some twelve chapters are devoted to the biography of Abraham, and a similar number each to Jacob and Joseph, but excepting for one or two brief mentionings before and after, the history of Isaac is condensed into two chapters, Genesis 26 and 27. Contrasting his character with those of his father and of his son, we may assume that there is noted less of Abraham’s triumphs of faith, and less of Jacob’s failures. Taking it on the whole, the life of Isaac is a disappointing one: it begins brightly, but ends amid the shadows-like that of so many, it failed to fulfill its early promise.

The one act in Isaac’s life which the Holy Spirit selected for mention in the Scroll of Faith takes us back to Genesis 27, where, as the Puritan, John Owen well said, “There is none (other story) in the Scripture filled with more intricacies and difficulties as unto a right judgment of the things related, though the matter of fact be clearly and distinctly set down. The whole represents unto us Divine sovereignty, wisdom and faithfulness, working effectually through the frailties, infirmities and sins of all the persons concerned in the matter.”

Genesis 27 opens by presenting unto us Isaac in his old age, and declares that “his eyes were dim, so that he could not see” (v. 1). It ought not to need saying that we have there something more than a mere reference to the state of his physical eyes, yet in these days when so many glory in their understanding the Word “literally,” God’s servants need to dwell upon the most elementary spiritual truths. Everything in Holy Writ has a deeper significance than the “literal,” and we are greatly the losers when we limit ourselves to the “letter” of any verse. Let us contrast this statement concerning Isaac’s defective vision with what is recorded of another servant of God at the same advanced age: “And Moses was an hundred and twenty years old when he died: his eye was not dim” (Deut. 34:7). 

Genesis 27 shows us the low state into which a child of God may get. Isaac presents unto us a solemn warning of the evil consequences which follow failure to judge and refuse our natural appetites. If we do not mortify our members which are upon the earth, if we do not abstain from fleshly lusts that war against the soul, then the fine edge of our spiritual life will be blunted, and the fine gold will become dim. If we live to eat, instead of eating to live, our spiritual vision is bound to be defective. Discernment is a by-product, the fruit and result of the denying of self, and following of Christ (John 8:12). It was this self-abnegation which was so conspicuous in Moses: he learned to refuse that which appealed to the flesh-a position of honor as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; that is why his “eye was not dim.” He saw that the brickmaking Hebrews were the people of God, the objects of His sovereign favor, and following his spiritual promptings, threw in his lot with them.

How different was the case with poor Isaac! Instead of keeping his body in subjection, he indulged it. More than a hint of this is given in Genesis 25:28, “And Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of his venison”: this brought him under the influence of one who could be of no help to him spiritually, and he loved him because he ministered unto his fleshly appetites. And now in Genesis 27, when he thought that the end of his days was near, and he desired to bestow the patriarchal blessing upon his son, instead of giving himself to fasting and prayer, and then acting in accord with the revealed will of God, we are told that he called for Esau, and said, “Now therefore take, I pray thee, thy weapons, thy quiver and thy bow, and go out to the field, and take me some venison; and make me savory meat, such as I love, and bring it to me, that I may eat; that my soul may bless thee before I die” (Gen. 27:3, 4). This is what furnishes the key to the immediate sequel.

“And the LORD said unto her (viz., Rebekah), Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger” (Gen. 25:23). This is the Scripture which supplies the second key to the whole incident recorded in Genesis 27 and opens for us Hebrews 11:20. Here we find God making known the destiny of Jacob and Esau: observe that this revelation was made unto the mother (who had “inquired of the Lord”: Gen. 25:22), and not to their father. That, later on, Isaac himself became acquainted with its terms, is clear, but as to how far he really apprehended their meaning, is not easy to say. 

The word that the Lord had spoken unto her, Rebekah believed; yet she failed to exercise full confidence in Him. When she saw Isaac’s marked partiality for Esau, and learned that her husband was about to perform the last religious act of a patriarchal priest and pronounce blessing on his sons, she became fearful. When she heard Isaac bid Esau make him some “savory meat”-evidently desiring to enkindle or intensify his affections for Esau, so that he might bless him with all his heart-she imagined that the purpose of God was about to be thwarted, and resorted unto measures which ill become a daughter of Jehovah, and which can by no means be justified. We will not dwell upon the deception which she prompted Jacob to adopt, but would point out that it supplies a solemn example of real faith being resolutely fixed on the Divine promises, but employing irregular ways and wrong means for the obtaining of them. 

In what follows we see how Isaac was deceived by Jacob posing as Esau. Though uneasy and suspicious at first, his fears were largely allayed by Jacob’s lies: though perceiving the voice was that of the younger son, yet his hands appeared to be those of the elder. Pathetic indeed is it to see the aged patriarch reduced unto the sense of touch in his efforts to identify the one who had now brought him the longed-for venison. It is this which should speak loudly to our hearts: he who yields to the lusts of the flesh injures his spiritual instincts, and opens wide the door for the Devil to impose upon him and deceive him with his lies! He who allows natural sentiments and affections to override the requirements of God’s revealed will is reduced to a humiliated state in the end. How often it proves that a man’s spiritual foes are they of his own household! Isaac loved Esau unwisely. 

But now we must face a difficult question: Did Isaac deliberately pit himself against the known counsel of God? Did he defiantly purpose to bestow upon Esau what he was assured the Lord had appointed for Jacob? “Whatever may be spoken in excuse of Isaac, it is certain he failed greatly in two things: First, in his inordinate love to Esau (whom he could not but know to be a profane person), and that on so slight an account as eating of his venison: Genesis 25:28. Second, in that he had not sufficiently enquired into the mind of God, in the oracle that his wife received concerning their sons. There is no question on the one hand, but that he knew of it; nor on the other, that he did not understand it. For if the holy man had known that it was the determinate will of God, he would not have contradicted it. But this arose from want of diligent enquiry by prayer into the mind of God” (John Owen).

We heartily agree with these remarks of the eminent Puritan. While the conduct of Isaac on this occasion was far from becoming a child of God who concluded his earthly pilgrimage was now nearly complete, yet charity forbids us to put the worst possible construction upon his action. While his affection for Esau was misplaced, yet, in the absence of any clear Scriptural proof, we are not warranted in thinking that he sinned presumptuously, by deliberately resisting the revealed will of God; rather must we conclude that he had no clear understanding of the Divine oracle given to Rebekah his spiritual discernment was dim, as well as his physical vision! As to the unworthy part played by Rebekah and Jacob, their efforts are to be regarded not so much as the feverish energies of the flesh, seeking to force the fulfillment of God’s promise, but as well-meant but misguided intentions to prevent the thwarting of God’s purpose. Their fears remind us of Uzzah’s in 2 Samuel 6:6. 

The one bright spot in the somber picture which the Holy Spirit has so faithfully painted for us in Genesis 27 is found in verse 33. Right after Isaac had pronounced the major blessing on Jacob, Esau entered the tent, bringing with him the savory meat which he had prepared for his father. Isaac now realized the deception which had been played upon him, and we are told that he “trembled very exceedingly.” Was he shaking with rage at Jacob’s treachery? No indeed. Was he, as one commentator has suggested, fearful that he might suffer injury at the hands of the hot-headed Esau? No, his next words explode such a theory. Rather, it was now that he realized he had been out of harmony with the Divine will, and that God had providentially intervened to effect His own counsels. He was awed to the very depths of his soul.

Blessed indeed is it to behold how the spirit triumphed over the flesh. Instead of bursting out with an angry curse upon the head of Jacob, Isaac said, “I have blessed him, yea, and he shall be blessed.” That was the language of faith overcoming his natural partiality for Esau. It was the recognizing and acknowledging of the immutability and invincibility of the Divine decrees. He realized that God is in one mind, and none can turn Him: that though there are many devices in a man’s heart, nevertheless the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand (Prov. 19:21). Nor could the tears of Esau move the patriarch. Now that the entrance of God’s words had given him light, now that the overruling hand of God had secured His own appointment, Isaac was firm as a rock. The righteous may fall, but they cannot be utterly cast down. 

“By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come” (Heb. 11:20). Jacob, the younger, had the precedence and principal blessing. Strikingly did this exemplify the high sovereignty of God. To take the younger, and leave the elder to perish in their ways, is a course the Lord has often followed, from the beginning of the world. Abel, the junior, was preferred before Cain. Shem was given the precedence over Japheth the elder (Gen. 10:21). Afterwards, Abraham, the younger, was taken to be God’s favourite. Of Abraham’s two sons, the older one, Ishmael, was passed by, and in Isaac was the Seed called. Later, David, who was the youngest of Jesse’s eight sons, was selected to be the man after God’s own heart. And God still writes, as with a sunbeam in the course of His providence, that He will have mercy on whom He will have mercy.

The “blessing” which Isaac pronounced upon Jacob was vastly superior to the portion allotted Esau, though if we look no deeper than the letter of the words which their father used, there appears to be very little difference between them. Unto Jacob Isaac said, “God give thee of the dew of Heaven, and the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine” (Gen. 27:28); what follows in verse 29 chiefly concerned his posterity. Unto Esau Isaac said, “Behold, thy dwelling shall be the fatness of the earth, and of the dew of Heaven from above; and by thy sword shalt thou live, and shalt serve thy brother” (Gen. 27:39, 40). Apart from the younger son having the pre-eminence over the elder, wherein lay the peculiar excellence of his portion? If there had been nothing spiritual in the promise, it would have been no comfort to Jacob at all, for the temporal things mentioned were not his portion: as he acknowledged to Pharaoh, “few and evil have the days of the years of my life been” (Gen. 47:9).

What has just been before us supplies a notable example of how the Old Testament promises and prophecies are to be interpreted; not carnally, but mystically. That Jacob’s portion far excelled Esau’s, is clear from Hebrews 12:17, where it is denominated, “the blessing.” What that is was made clearer when Isaac repeated his benediction upon Jacob, saying, “And give thee the blessing of Abraham, to thee, and to thy seed” (Gen. 28:4). Here is the key which we need to unlock its meaning; as Galatians 3:9, 14, 29 clearly enough show, the “blessing of Abraham” (into which elect Gentiles enter, through Christ) is purely a spiritual thing. Further proof that the same spiritual blessing which God promised to Abraham was also made over by Isaac to Jacob, is found in his words, “I have blessed him, yea, and he shall be blessed” (Gen. 27:33), for Jehovah had employed the same language when blessing the father of all believers: “in blessing I will bless thee” (Gen. 22:17). To this may be added Isaac’s “Cursed be everyone that curseth thee, and blessed be he that blesseth thee” (Gen. 27:29), being part of the very words God used to Abraham, see Genesis 12:2, 3.

Now in seeking to rightly understand the language of Isaac’s prophecy, it must be recognized that (oftentimes) in the Old Testament heavenly things were referred to in earthly terms, that spiritual blessings were set forth under the figure of material things. Due attention to this fact will render luminous many a passage. Such is the case here: under the emblems of the “dew of Heaven and the fatness of the earth,” three great spiritual blessings were intended. First, that he was to have a real relation to Christ, that he should be one of the progenitors of the Messiah-this was the chief favor and dignity bestowed upon “Abraham.” It is in the light of this that we are to understand Genesis 27:29 as ultimately referring: “let the people serve thee, and nations bow down to thee,” that is, to the top branch which should proceed from him-unto Christ, unto whom all men are commanded to render allegiance (Psa. 2:10-12).

Second, the next great blessing of “Abraham” was that he should be the priest that should continue the worship of God and teach the laws of God (Gen. 26:5). The bowing down of his brethren to Jacob (Gen. 27:29), was the owning of his priestly dignity. Herein also lay Jacob’s blessing: to be in the church, and to have the church continued in his line. This was symbolically pointed to in “that thou mayest inherit the land” (Gen. 28:4). “The church is the ark of Noah, which is only preserved in the midst of floods and deep waters. The church is the land of Goshen, which only enjoys the benefits of light, when there is nothing but darkness round about elsewhere. It is the fleece of Gideon, being wet with the dews of Heaven, moistened with the influences of grace, when all the ground round about is dry” (Thomas Manton). As to how high is the honour of having the church continued in our line, the Spirit intimates in Genesis 10:21 -Eber being the father of the Hebrews, who worshipped God.

Third, another privilege of Jacob above Esau was this, that he was taken into covenant with God: “the blessing of Abraham shall come upon thee.” And what was that? This, “And I will be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee” (Gen. 17:7). This is the greatest happiness of any people, to have God for their God-to be in covenant with Him. Thus when Noah came to pronounce blessings and curses on his children, by the spirit of prophecy, he said, “Blessed be the LORD God of Shem” (Gen. 9:26). Afterward the same promise was made unto all Israel: “I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage” (Exo. 20:2). So under the new covenant (the present administration of the Everlasting Covenant), he says, “I will be to them a God, and they shall be to Me a people” (Heb. 8:10). To be a “God” to any, is to supply them with all good things, necessary for temporal or spiritual life.

The fulfillment of Isaac’s prophetic blessing upon his sons was mainly in their descendants, rather than in their own persons: Jacob’s spiritual children, Esau’s natural. Concerning the latter, we would note two details. First, Isaac said to him, “thou shalt serve thy brother”; second, “and it shall come to pass when thou shalt have the dominion, that thou shalt break his yoke from off thy neck” (Gen. 27:40). For long centuries there seemed no likelihood of the first part of this prediction being fulfilled, but eight hundred years later, David said, “over Edom will I cast out my shoe” (Psa. 60:8), which meant he would bring the haughty descendants of Esau into a low and base state of subjection to him; which was duly accomplished -“all they of Edom became David’s servants” (2 Sam. 8:14)! Though their subjugation continued for a lengthy period of time, yet, in the days of Jehoshaphat, we read, “In his days Edom revolted from under the hand of Judah, and made a king over themselves” (2 Kings 8:20)! 

“By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come” (Heb. 11:20). This “blessing” was more than a dying father expressing good-will unto his sons: it was extraordinary: Isaac spoke as a prophet of God, announcing the future of his posterity, and the varied portions each should receive. As the mouthpiece of Jehovah, he did, by the spirit of prophecy, announce beforehand what should be the particular estate of each of his two sons; and so his words have been fulfilled. Though parents today are not thus supernaturally endowed to foretell the future of their children, nevertheless, it is their duty and privilege to search the Scriptures and ascertain what promises God has left to the righteous and to their
seed, and plead them before Him. 

But seeing Isaac thus spake by the immediate impulse of the Spirit, how can it be said that “by faith” he blessed his sons? This brings in the human side, and shows how he discharged his responsibility. He gathered together and rested upon the promises which God had made to him, both directly, and through Abraham and Rebekah. The principle ones we have already considered. He had been present when the Lord said unto his father what is found in Genesis 22:16-18, and he had himself been made the recipient of the Divine promises recorded in Genesis 26:2-4. And now, many years later, we find his heart resting upon what he had heard from God, firmly embracing His promises, and with unshaken confidence announcing the future estates of his distant posterity. 

That Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau “concerning things to come,” gives us a striking example of what is said in the opening verse of Hebrews 11. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” “Abraham was now dead, and Isaac was expecting soon to be buried in the grave he had purchased in the Land given to him and his seed. There was nothing to be seen for faith to rest on; nothing that gave the smallest ground for hope; nothing to make it even probable (apart from what he had heard and believed) that his descendants, either Jacob or Esau, would ever possess the land which had been promised to them” (E.W.B.). There was no human probability at the time Isaac spake which could have been the basis of his calculations: all that he said issued from implicit faith in the bare Word of God.

This is the great practical lesson for us to learn here: the strength of Isaac’s faith should stir us up to cry unto God for an increased measure thereof. With most precious confidence Isaac disposed of Canaan as if he already had the peaceable possession of it. Yet, in fact, he owned not an acre of that Land, and had no human right to anything there save a burying place. Moreover, at the time he prophesied there was a famine in Canaan, and he was in exile in Gerah, “Let people serve thee, and nations bow down to thee” (Gen. 27:29), would, to one that viewed only the outward case of Isaac, seem like empty words. Ah, my brethren, we too ought to be as certain of the blessings to come, which God has promised, as if they were present, even though we see no apparent likelihood of them.

It may be objected against what has been said above, that, from the account which is supplied in Genesis 27, Isaac “blessed” Jacob in ignorance rather than “by faith.” To this it may be replied, first, the object of faith is always God Himself, and the ground on which it rests is His revealed will. So in Isaac’s case, his faith was fixed upon the covenant God and was exercised upon His sure Word, and this was by no means negated by his mistaking Jacob for Esau. Second, it illustrates the fact that the faith of God’s people is usually accompanied by some infirmity: in Isaac’s case, his partiality for Esau. Third, after he discovered the deception which had been played upon him, he made no effort to recall the blessing pronounced upon the disguised Jacob-sweetly acquiescing unto the Divine Sovereignty-but confirming it; and though with tears Esau sought to change his mind, he could not. 

Here too we behold the strength of Isaac’s faith: as soon as he perceived the providential hand of God crossing his natural affection, instead of murmuring and rebelling, he yielded and submitted to the Lord. This is ever the work of true faith: it makes the soul yield to God’s will against our fleshly inclinations, as also against the bent of our own reason. Faith knows that God is so great, so powerful, so glorious, that His commands must be obeyed. As it was with Abraham, so in the case of Isaac: faith viewed the precepts as well as the promise; it moves us to tread the path of obedience. May our faith be more and more evidenced by walking in those good works which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them (Eph. 2:10).

Characteristics of the Virgins in Matthew 25, and how to tell if you have Divine Oil in your Vessel.

Thoughts were taken and adapted from, Terence Ellard, and A.W. Pink

If I may call our attention to the comparisons and contrasts between the wise and foolish virgins of Matthew 25. They have seven things in common.

First, all the virgins were in “the kingdom of heaven”: by which we understand, the sphere of Christian profession.
Second, they were all of them “virgins”: not five virgins and five harlots: by which we understand, they all claimed to belong unto Christ.
Third, they all “went forth to meet the Bridegroom”: they were one in purpose, having a single end in view.
Fourth, they all had “lamps,” the same sort of lamps.
Fifth, they all “slumbered and slept.”
Sixth, they all heard the cry “Behold, the Bridegroom cometh.”
Seventh, they all “arose and trimmed their lamps.”

There are six points of difference between them.

First, five of them were “wise” and five of them were “foolish.”
Second, the wise “took oil in their vessels with their lamps” (v. 4), but the foolish ones did not do so.
Third, at the crucial moment the foolish virgins had to acknowledge “our lamps are (slowly but surely) gone out” (v. 8 margin).
Fourth, the foolish virgins “went to buy” oil (v. 10), the wise ones had no need to do so.
Fifth, the wise were shut in with the Bridegroom, but the foolish were shut out (v. 10.)
Sixth, the foolish virgins were disowned by the Lord (vv. 11, 12).
Let us think about this for a second. “There is a certain class today who differ not from the children of God as to their testimony: its purity, its orthodoxy, its sincerity. These are not Spiritists, Russellites, or the daughters of the Mother of Harlots, but ‘virgins’ doctrinally they are pure. They are pictured as going forth ‘to meet the Bridegroom,’ not one to the ‘desert’ and another to the ‘secret chambers’ (Matt. 24:26), seeking a false Christ. The Object of their service was the same Person which the wise virgins were occupied with.
The vital point in their ‘foolishness’ was not that they ‘slumbered and slept’ but that they had no oil in their VESSELS. Theirs was oil in their ‘lamps’ the testimony or doctrine but none in their vessels or souls.”
The above deeply impresses us with the great importance of making sure individually whether there be oil in my vessel: the “vessel” is the soul, the “oil” is Divine grace in it. Whatever may be the precise signification of “behold the Bridegroom cometh” whether it refer to the hour of death, the “premillennial return of Christ,” or the Day of Judgment, one thing is clear: it points to the crucial testing time.
As it has been pointed out: Balaam had oil in his “lamp,” as also had Judas when Christ sent him forth with the other Apostles to “preach” (Matt. 10:5-7), yet their hearts were destitute of the saving grace of God! What a terrible discovery for the foolish virgins to make: “our lamps are gone out” a discovery made too late to do them any good.
This parable of the “virgins” is indeed a searching and solemn one. It has deeply exercised many a sincere soul. It has caused not a few genuine saints to wonder if, after all, the “root of the matter” were in them. It has given real point to that exhortation “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves” (2 Cor. 13:5).
On the other hand, vast numbers of professing Christians are quite unmoved by its pointed message, complacently assuming that they are numbered among the “wise” virgins, and taking no trouble to seek proof that the oil is in their vessels. Strangest of all, perhaps, some of the Lord’s own people scarcely know how to set about the task of ascertaining their state, and are so suspicious of themselves they readily conclude that their vessels are devoid of the vital oil.
The key passage for the significance of this Scriptural figure is, “Thy God hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy fellows” (Psalms 45:7), where the reference is to the Mediator, for God “giveth not the Spirit by measure unto Him” (John 3:34); in consequence thereof, He is “fairer than the children of men: grace is poured into Thy lips” (Psalms 45:2). The holy “oil” was first poured upon the antitypical Aaron, and then it runs down to all the “skirts of His garments” (Psalms 133:2), that is, to the meanest and feeblest Christians. Just as the little finger or toe is animated by the same life and vitality as actuates the head and heart of a person, so every Christian is vitalized by the same Spirit as was given to Christ, the Head. As the Spirit sanctified the human nature of Christ by fitting and enriching it with all grace, so His grace is communicated to all His members.
The “oil,” then, in the vessels of the wise virgins refers to the life of the Spirit in the soul of a Christian. It is the presence of Divine grace in the heart in contrast from knowledge in the head or correctness of outward deportment which distinguishes the actual possessor from the empty professor. How important then is it that we spare no efforts to ascertain whether or not that Divine grace resides in us! Yet at this very point Christians encounter a real difficulty: as they honestly and diligently look within they perceive such a sea of corruption, ever casting up mire and dirt, they are greatly distressed, and ready to conclude that Divine grace surely cannot be present in such hearts as theirs.
But this is a serious mistake; as genuine oil is distinguishable from counterfeits by its properties, so grace in the soul may be known by its characteristics and effects. But the exercised soul should begin his search for indwelling grace with it definitely settled in his mind, that, in every heart where grace resides there is also an ocean of sin; and just as oil and water will not mix, but continue to preserve their distinct properties even when placed together in the same vessel, so the flesh and spirit will not combine in the Christian, but remain in opposition to each other unto the end.
Admitting, then, a sea of depravity within, my object is to find out if there be any “oil” at all which the surgings of sin are unable to destroy. When I see smoke, I must infer fire (however flickering), and if I can discern in my heart any spiritual grace (however feeble) I must infer the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Be not unduly discouraged, then, dear Christian friend, because you discover so much filthy water in your “vessel” (the editor does the same), but rather confine your attention unto searching for the “oil” within you, and remember that the presence of the same is to be determined by its properties and effects. Let us name a few of these. First, oil illumines, therefore are the blinded Laodiceans bidden to go to Christ for eye salve (anointing oil) that they may see (Rev. 3:18). Now where Divine grace has been bestowed that soul is enlightened. True, says a serious reader, but the point which exercises me so much is, Is my enlightenment a spiritual and supernatural one, or merely a natural and intellectual one, acquired by the mind being instructed through sitting under sound teaching? Those mentioned in Hebrews 6:4 were “once enlightened,” yet no saving work of grace had been wrought in them!
Some readers may be total strangers to all such distressing experiences, and wonder why any real Christian should call into question the exact character of his or her illumination, troubling themselves not at all whether their enlightenment be natural or supernatural. Poor souls, it is greatly to be feared that a rude awakening is awaiting them from their Satan-induced sleep. But what shall we say to those who are awake and deeply concerned about their eternal interests? How are such to determine the matter?
We answer, test the point. Was there not a time when you “saw no beauty in Christ that you should desire Him?” Is it so with you now? Or has He become in your eyes the “altogether lovely” One? You may be afraid to call Him yours, yet if your heart truly yearns for Him, then you must have been spiritually enlightened the “oil” is in your vessel.
Second, oil softens. Oil was much used by the ancients for medicinal purposes, and we moderns might well take a leaf out of their books. It will melt caked wax in the ear; make tender a calloused bunion. It is very useful for boils: repeated applications softening, then causing to burst, and then healing.
Thus it is in the operation of the Holy Spirit. He finds the elect hard and obdurate by nature, and swollen with pride and self-conceit; but Divine grace softens them, melting their flinty hearts, bursting the boils of self-righteousness, and imparting a contrite spirit. “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26).
When Divine grace has been imparted the heart is supernaturally softened. But right here the sincere soul experiences still greater difficulty, and is ready to exclaim emphatically, Then I must still be in an unregenerate state, for my heart is “as hard as the nether millstone.” Wait a moment, dear friend, and test the matter. What are the marks of a “hard heart” as given in Scripture? Are they not a total absence of a feeling sense of the exceeding sinfulness of sin, an utter unconcern whether God be pleased or displeased with my conduct, no mourning in secret when Christ has been dishonored by me?
Is that true of you, who are so ready to conclude you are still in a state of nature? If it is not, if sin is your burden and your soul grieves over your lack of conformity to Christ, then your heart must have been spiritually softened the “oil” is in your vessel.
Third, oil heals. Hence we find the great Physician, under the figure of the good Samaritan, having compassion on the assaulted traveler, binding up his wounds and “pouring in oil and wine” (Luke 10:34); and He is still caring thus for His people through the gracious ministry of the Spirit. How often the blessed Comforter applies “the balm of Gilead” to the sin-afflicted people of God. What horrible bruises and putrefying sores do sin and Satan inflict upon the souls of the saints, yet how frequently and tenderly does the Spirit mollify and relieve them. First, He works repentance in the heart, which is a purging grace, carrying away the foul and poisonous love of sin; and then He strengthens hope, which is a comforting grace so that the joy of the Lord once more becomes his strength. Divine grace removes the load of guilt from the conscience, applies the cordial of the promises, and gives the weary pilgrim a lift by the way “set him on His own beast” (Luke 10:34).
Here, then, is another property and effect of Divine grace: it heals the soul. We can well imagine some fearful reader exclaiming, Alas, that cuts off my hope, for there is no soundness in me. Listen, dear friend, no Christian is completely and perfectly healed from the disease of sin in this life, but he is delivered from the most fearful and fatal effects of it; and it is at this point you are to examine yourself. What are the worst things which the Fall has produced in man? Enmity against God, the love of sin, the idolizing of self. Test yourself by these things. Do you still hate God? If so, would you repine because you love Him so feebly! Are you still in love with sin? If so, why do you grieve over its workings! Is self now your idol? If so, why do you, at times, loath yourself! Sin has not been eradicated, but its wounds are being healed the “oil” is in your vessel.
The limited space now at our disposal prevents us doing more than barely mentioning a number of other features. Oil makes the joints flexible and nimble, and therefore was much used by athletes; so grace enables the Christian to “serve in newness of spirit” (Rom. 7:6) and run the race set before him. It is an excellent thing for those who have stiff joints, for it penetrates to the bones (Psalms 109:18). It makes the countenance fresh and comely (Psalms 104:15): what is more attractive to the spiritual eye than a gracious character. It sweetens our persons, so that we are unto God a “sweet savor of Christ” (2 Cor. 2:15), whereas the wicked are a “smoke in His nostrils” (Isa. 65:5). It gladdens, and thus we read of “the oil of joy” (Isa. 61:3): the heart is exhilarated when grace is active. It is an aid to digestion; so, only as grace is active within us, can we assimilate our spiritual food.
Oil and water will not intermingle: the old man is not bettered by the new, nor is the new corrupted by the old. Oil cannot be made to sink beneath the water, but always floats on top; so grace in the believer is indestructible, and at the end it will be seen to have fully triumphed over sin. Oil is a super-eminent liquid, for it will not incorporate itself with anything lighter; it will have the highest place above all other liquids. So the graces of the Spirit are of a superior character as far above the gifts of nature as spiritual blessings excel earthly things. Oil quietens troubled waters, giving relief to a ship in a storm: so grace often subdues the turbulent workings of sin. What a blessed promise is that in Psalm 92:10, “But my horn shalt Thou exalt like the horn of a unicorn: I shall be anointed with fresh oil”: new supplies of grace, blessed revivings are granted God’s tried people. Yes, there is “oil in the dwellings of the wise” virgins (Prov. 21:20.
This short article is not designed for the searching and exposing of empty Christian professors, but for the establishing and comforting of “the living in Jerusalem.” If the latter will prayerfully re-read its paragraphs and honestly measure themselves by their contents, they should be able to “prove” themselves (2 Cor. 13:5). It is not the absence of sin, nor the decreasing of its power within, which evidences regeneration, but the presence of a contrary and holy principle, which is known by its spiritual longings and efforts.

What to do when YOU are Suffering DECLENSIONS in Grace

Taken and adapted from, “SPIRITUAL FEARS”
Written by, Henry Law, 1873


The first love, so bright –so joyous –so ecstatic –has suffered sad eclipse.

The early warmth is chilled. The leaves, once verdant, now droop witheringly. Delight in prayer–high flights of praise–delicious feasting on the richness of the Word–have spread departing wings. A vacancy is left most coldly void. They have gone back to the husks of worldly vanity. They have sought pleasure in scenes, where God rules not, and their dear Savior is ignored. Theirs is the backsliders’ deadness. They feel disquietude. An accusing conscience alarms. They mourn and sigh alone –”Is not all hope now gone? Can I regain the happy eminence from which I have fallen? Can heavenly smiles again beam over me? Can my delinquency be pardoned? Can I again have place among the children? Can my erring soul be restored?”

Let no one speak lightly of this case.

To desert the Lord and drink again the puddle of the world, is grievous guilt. But such is the tender mercy of our Gospel–such the sweet pitifulness of our heavenly Father–such the infinitude of His love, that especial promises and most alluring calls pursue this class. Peter has been foremost to deny his Lord–but Peter especially receives tidings of great joy–“Go your way, tell His disciples and Peter.”–Mark 16:7. The admonition is reiterated, “Return backsliding Israel–says the Lord–and I will not cause My anger to fall upon you–for I am merciful, says the Lord, and I will not keep anger forever. Turn O backsliding children, says the Lord; for I am married unto you.”—Jeremiah 3:12, 14.

Let such then hasten to the throne of grace, pleading that they obey this gracious call. He who gave the pledge will faithfully redeem it. They will realize the gracious truth “He hates divorce.”–Malachi 2:16. “The redeemed of the Lord shall return and come with singing unto Zion–and everlasting joy shall be upon their heads–they shall obtain gladness and joy–and sorrow and mourning shall flee away.”–Isaiah 51:11.

Sometimes the soul is locked in another gloomy cell.

It questions whether its faith is true. May it not be some cheat–some counterfeit–some deceiver in disguise–some earthborn vanity–no heaven-born grace! Undoubtedly presumption may assume the semblance of faith. It stealthily may creep into the heart and give sweet opiates. It may persuade that soul-concerns are safe, and cause for discomfort remains no more. It may lull on a soft pillow of delusion, and rock to sleep amid deception’s dreams. Wherever this impostor cheats, there is the full calm of security.

The fact, then, that the soul trembles is sure proof that presumption is not its inhabitant. The presumptuous, pleased with their seeming beauty, are at ease in Zion. They gaze complacently on painted features, and take them for the children’s likeness. This counterfeit may be detected by its half-heartedness. It professes to make total self-sacrifice–to be bought by a price, and therefore to be wholly Christ’s. But, like Ananias, while it consecrates much, some portion is retained. It hides some secret idol ‘beneath the stuff’. It offers to surrender all sons, except the darling Benjamin. It locks some secret chamber, from which the Lord is excluded.

If you are conscious of this half-consecration, your faith is equivocal, and trembling is justly yours. But if in thorough sincerity you give your body, soul, and spirit to the Lord–if you are willing that He should live in you as truly as He died for you–if you desire that He should reign supreme, as really as you hope to sit beside Him on His throne–these evidences show faith to be true. This fear is your own infirmity, and ranks among the deceiver’s guiles.

Observe, also, presumption has scanty relish in the Word, and draws but little strength from prayer, and warms not in the joys of ordinances. It still seeks pasture amid the weeds and berries of the world. But if you turn dissatisfied from such food, and have no content in anything but Christ–if your constant yearning is for more of His presence–more tokens of His love–more basking in the sunshine of His smiles, you may take comfort. Such are the actings of true faith. Presumption never thirsts for such delights.

The traveler must expect some cloudy days.

So the Christian pilgrim must be prepared for storms. Providences may seem to frown. A great fight of affliction must be endured. As wave succeeds to wave, so trouble may follow trouble. One disappears, another comes, more trying and severe. Sometimes sickness invades the frame–strength languishes–the night brings no repose–the day is wearisome in pain. Sometimes failing health in much-loved friends awakens concern–means of family support are dried–poverty shows its grim form–the cruse of oil runs to its last drop–the barrel of meal is exhausted. Perhaps malicious tongues breathe wicked slanders. Reproach assails the name, and calumny hints opprobrious surmise. Varied miseries assail in turn, and batter with pitiless assault. The disconsolate heart is prone to read in these dealings, signs of heavenly wrath. Gideon’s doubt is felt, “If the Lord be with us, why then is all this befallen us?”–Judges 6:13. Timidity infers, If God indeed loves me, if rightly I call Him Father, Protector, Friend, why am I thus? If He but speak the word, all pains depart–all peace and joy and blessedness come in. These troubles intimate that I am an alien, and no child.

But all these doubts are prompted by the father of lies. The sun is near, though its rays do not appear. The Father’s love is no inconstancy. These dealings may be real mercies. Have you not read “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten.”–Revelation 3:19. He is not the blessed man who never knows, but who endures, temptation–for when he is tried he shall receive the crown of life. Consider the saints of old. May not the present trial be Paul’s thorn? Did not Job suffer more than this? In this affliction may I not be retracing David’s path? A cloud of witnesses have preceded in this road. Many were their afflictions. Did they perish in them? Out of them all the Lord delivered them. Perhaps you cannot read God’s purpose, yet you must trust, and still cry, “It is the Lord; let Him do what seems good to Him.”–1 Samuel 3:18.

Sometimes the wheels move heavily, being clogged by fears of final failure. Intelligence is sound–knowledge illumines the mind–the provisions of the covenant of grace are clearly seen. The work of grace is real. Repentance is deeply felt. Faith tightly grasps the Savior. But the full assurance of hope is not admitted. The feet are in the right path, but clouds obscure the end. There is a lurking dread, lest the vessel, in which Jesus sits, may yet make shipwreck. What! can it be, that they who are born of God should die at last in Satan’s grasp? What! can his breath put out the flame of grace? Can the incorruptible seed decay? Can he who has received everlasting life find it to be everlasting death? Can a son of God–an heir of promise–lapse into a child of perdition? Let not such groundless surmise be entertained.

There would indeed be cause for every fear–there would be slender ground of hope, if saints were left to their own keeping. They would then fall, as Adam fell in Paradise. They would not keep their high estate better than apostate angels kept theirs. But they are secure in the almighty arms of God. Their “life is hidden with Christ in God.”–Colossians 3:3. Christ must be spoiled, and God subdued, and heaven ransacked, before saints can be plucked from their safe custody. They are committed to the guardian-care of God the Holy Spirit. It is a wondrous word–but not more full of marvel than of truth, “I will put My spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you shall keep My judgments and do them–and you shall be My people, and I will be your God.”–Ezekiel 36:27, 28.

When Israel left Egypt, not a hoof might be left behind. Exodus 10:26. The ark stood still in Jordan, until the entire host had passed the stream. The promise provides that all God’s children shall safely reach their home. Christ and His members make one body. If but one member perish, Christ is no longer whole. Christ incomplete is an impossibility. Believer, realize these solid truths. The covenant, which secures salvation to Christ’s seed, includes each member. The portion in Paradise is doubtless more happy, but the militants on earth are equally secure. Cling to Christ, and He will bring you to be with Him where He is.

If fears be thus prone to enter, diligence should bar the portals of the heart against them. The tremblers are weak. Satan knows this and strives to despoil us of our strength. Awake to his stratagems, and vigilantly resist.

  1. With this intent renew repentance daily. Be often in the penitential valley. Cloak not transgressions. Recite with smitten breast the falls which conscience knows. Bewail their multitude and magnitude. The weeping eye sweetly beholds the cross. The humbled heart most quickly hears, “Your sins, which are many, are forgiven–go in peace.” The promises cheer most tenderly such as confess and forsake their sins.
  1. Daily draw near to Christ, as if each day’s approach were a new act. Plead, “Lord, if I never came before, now I lie low at Your feet.” Continually cast yourself into His open arms, and enter by faith into His wounds. Clinging to His side, avow that nothing shall ever part you from His presence. Be assured that oneness thus cemented is oneness for the endless life. Draw near, then, and be happy.
  1. Review the gracious dealings of preceding days. Surely memory’s casket contains many jewels. Let them not lie neglected. Bring them to light and profit by their contemplation. Retrace your journey through the desert land. The guiding pillar has never yet failed. When foes came forth have not your arms been strengthened to win glorious trophies! Think of your many escapes, as a bird from the fowler’s snare. Has not sadness disappeared, when the Sun of righteousness arose with healing in His wings! You have trembled at the thought of hindrance, but the opposing stone was gone when you drew near. –Mark 16:3-4. 

    When sinking in the billows the Savior has held forth His hand, and you sank not. When you were mourning in a captive’s cell, the prison-door flew open untouched. Infuriate Esau has run to your embrace. These sweet Ebenezers are courage for succeeding days. He, who delivers now, and has delivered, will deliver to the end. Therefore, gird up the loins of your mind. Review your mercies and march bravely on.

  1. Soar high on wings of PRAISE. Begin on earth the song of the redeemed. Intermingle now with the harpers harping with their harps. What motives urge you to this melody! What topics of thanksgiving throng around you! Verily, they cannot be exhausted. The bliss of adoration is ever new. The name of Jesus is an ever-budding theme. In it there is melody without end. Without pause praise His salvation. Bless God incessantly that you claim Him as your own–that your feet stand on praising and on praying ground–and that every moment wafts your bark nearer to the shore of ceaseless hallelujahs. In this blissful exercise fears wither. Resolve that these songs shall continually be in your mouth, and happiness will fill your heart.
  1. Never hold parlance with your crafty foe. You cannot sound the depths of his devices. He can transform himself into an angel of light, and can soon bewilder by his subtleties. Answer him not a word. Appeal to your Advocate on high. Fly quickly to His sheltering arms. There nestle as in a mother’s close embrace. The tempter cannot then obtain advantage.

May the loving Spirit so bless these humble words, that they may lead you to be happy among the happiest, ever rejoicing with the sons of joy! It should be so. It is sad shame–it is ingratitude, when they, professing to be Christ’s, weep among the woe-worn and downcast. The spies were punished who brought discouraging report of Canaan’s land. Never misrepresent your gracious Lord. You are high above others in exalted state–in present privilege–in glorious prospect. Be equally high in happy walk–in smiling brow–in glowing lip. Let all observers see the coming glory beaming in your heaven-lit countenance. Let godly words prove that you are upraised from earth. Thus allure others to your happy walk; and until heaven’s portals open to you, sing for very joy at your own heaven’s gate.


The Last Letter to a Wife

Taken from, “Christopher Love’s Last Letter to his Wife”

Fire at the Grand Storehouse of the Tower of London 1841 Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851 Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856

My most gracious Beloved,

I am now going from a prison to a palace:

I have finished my work, and am now going to receive my wages.  I am going to heaven, where are two of my children, and leaving you on earth, where there are three of my babes. These two above, need not my care; but the three below need thine.  It comforts me to think, two of my children are in the bosom of Abraham, and three of them will be in the arms and care of such a tender and godly mother.  I know you are a woman of sorrowful spirit, yet be comforted, though you sorrows be great for you husband going out of the world, yet your pains shall be the less in bringing your child into the world; you shall be a joyful mother, though you be a sad widow; God hath many mercies in store for you; the prayer of a dying husband for you, will not be lost.  To my shame I speak it, I never prayed for you at liberty, as I have done in prison.  I can write much, but I have few practical counsels to leave with you, viz.,

  1. Keep under a sound, orthodox, soul searching ministry. Oh! There are many deceivers gone out into the world, but Christ’s sheep know His voice, and a stranger they will not follow. Attend any minister that teacheth the way of God in truth; and follow Solomon’s advice, Proverbs 19:27.
  2. Bring up your children in the knowledge and admonition of the Lord. The mother ought to be a teacher in the father’s absence, Proverbs 31:1, “The words that his mother taught him…” And Timothy was instructed by his grandmother, 1 Timothy 1:5.
  3. Pray in your family daily, that yours may be in the number of the families who call upon God.
  4. Labor for a meek and quiet spirit, which in the sight of God, is of great price, 1 Peter 3:4.
  5. Pour not on the comforts you want, but upon the mercies you have. Look rather at God’s ending in afflicting, than to the measure and degree of your affliction.
  6. Labor to clear up your evidence for heaven when God takes from you the comfort of earth, so that as your sufferings do abound, your consolation in Christ may abound much more, 2 Corinthians 1:5. Though it be good to maintain a holy jealously of heart, yet it is still ill of you to cherish fears and doubts touching the truth of your graces. If ever I had confidence touching the grace of another, I have confidence of grace in you; as Peter said of Silvanus, I am persuaded that this is the grace of God wherein ye stand, 1 Peter 5:12.
  7. O, my dear soul wherefore dost thou doubt, who heart has been laid upright, whose walking has been holy, &c. I could venture my soul this day in they soul’s stead, such a confidence I have in you.
  8. When you find your heart secure, presumptuous and proud, then pour upon corruption more than grace: then look upon your grace without infirmities.
  9. Study the covenant of grace, and merits of Christ, and be troubled if you can; you are interested in such a covenant that accepts purposes for performances, desires for deeds, sincerity for perfection, the righteousness of another, viz., that of Jesus Christ, as it were your own alone. Oh! My love! Rest thou in the love of God, the bosom of Christ.
  10. Swallow up your will in the will of God. It is a bitter cup we are to drink, but it is the cup of our Father which has been put into our hands. When Paul was to suffer at Jerusalem, the Christians said, “The will of the Lord be done!” Oh! Say ye so, when I go to the Tower-Hill, “The will of the Lord be done!”
  11. Rejoice in my joy. To mourn for me inordinately argues, that you either envy or suspect my happiness. The joy of the Lord is my strength; Oh! Let it be yours also!  Dear wife, farewell: I will call thee wife no more: I shall see thy face no more: yet I am not much troubled, for now I am going to meet the Bridegroom, the Lord Jesus, to whom I shall be eternally married.
  12. Refuse not to marry, when God offers you a fair opportunity; but be sure you marry in the Lord; and one of a good disposition, that he may not grieve you, but give you a comfortable livelihood in the world.

Farewell dear love, and again I say farewell.  The Lord Jesus be with your spirit, the Maker of heaven and earth be a husband to you; and the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ be a father to your children – so prays your dying,

Your most affectionate friend till death,

Christopher Love

The day of my glorification.
From the Tower of London, August 22, 1651

Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage: Christopher Love (1618 – 22 August 1651) was a Welsh Protestant preacher and advocate of Presbyterianism at the time of the English Civil War. In 1651 he was executed by the government, after it was discovered that he had been in correspondence with the exiled Stuart court. He went to his death as a hero and martyr of the Presbyterian faction which had petitioned in vain for his pardon.

He was chosen to make an example of, to check Presbyterian agitation. He was finally executed on Tower Hill, on 23 August 1651, attended by Simeon Ashe and Edmund Calamy. He was privately buried, 25 August, at St. Lawrence Church. His funeral sermon was preached by Thomas Manton. Robert Wilde wrote a poem The Tragedy of Mr. Christopher Love at Tower Hill (1651). Love condemned himself by refusal to agree not to continue to commit treason against the Republic, but, as true Presbyterian, he wanted royalty restored.

Love had five children, one of whom was born after his death.



Taken, adapted and slightly modernized for easy reading,
from: “All of Grace”

Written by C.H. Spurgeon.


To him that works not, but believeth on him that justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. –Romans 4:5

I call your attention to those words, Him that justifies the ungodly. They seem to me to be very wonderful words.

Are you not surprised that there should be such an expression as that in the Bible, “That justifies the ungodly? I have heard that men that hate the doctrines of the cross bring it as a charge against God, that He saves wicked men and receives to Himself the vilest of the vile. See how this Scripture accepts the charge, and plainly states it! By the mouth of His servant Paul, by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, He takes to Himself the title of “Him that justifies the ungodly.” He makes those just who are unjust, forgives those who deserve to be punished, and favors those who deserve no favor. You thought, did you not, that salvation was for the good? that God’s grace was for the pure and holy, who are free from sin?

Perhaps, it has fallen into your mind that, if you were excellent, then God would reward you; and you have thought that because you are not worthy, therefore there could be no way of your enjoying His favor. You must be somewhat surprised to read a text like this: “Him that justifies the ungodly. ” I do not wonder that you are surprised; for with all my familiarity with the great grace of God, I never cease to wonder at it. It does sound surprising, does it not, that it should be possible for a holy God to justify an unholy man? We, according to the natural legality of our hearts, are always talking about our own goodness and our own worthiness, and we stubbornly hold to it that there must be somewhat in us in order to win the notice of God. Now, God, who sees through all deceptions, knows that there is no goodness whatever in us. He says that “there is none righteous, no not one.” He knows that “all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags,” and, therefore the Lord Jesus did not come into the world to look after goodness and righteousness with him, and to bestow them upon persons who have none of them. He comes, not because we are just, but to make us so: he justifies the ungodly.

When a counsellor or lawyer comes into court, if he is an honest man, he desires to plead the case of an innocent person and justify him before the court from the things which are falsely laid to his charge. It should be the lawyer’s object to justify the innocent person, and he should not attempt to screen the guilty party. It lies not in man’s right nor in man’s power truly to justify the guilty. This is a miracle reserved for the Lord alone. God, the infinitely just Sovereign, knows that there is not a just man upon earth that does good and sins not, and therefore, in the infinite sovereignty of His divine nature and in the splendor of His ineffable love, He undertakes the task, not so much of justifying the just as of justifying the ungodly. God has devised ways and means of making the ungodly man to stand justly accepted before Him: He has set up a system by which with perfect justice He can treat the guilty as if he had been all his life free from offence, yea, can treat him as if he were wholly free from sin. He justifies the ungodly.

Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. This is a very surprising thing— a thing to be marveled at most of all by those who would enjoy it. I know that it is to me even to this day the greatest wonder that I ever heard of, that God should ever justify me. I feel myself to be a lump of unworthiness, a mass of corruption, and a heap of sin, apart from His almighty love. I know by a full assurance that I am justified by faith which is in Christ Jesus, and treated as if I had been perfectly just, and made an heir of God and a joint heir with Christ; and yet by nature I must take my place among the most sinful. I, who am altogether undeserving, am treated as if I had been deserving. I am loved with as much love as if I had always been godly, whereas aforetime I was ungodly. Who can help being astonished at this? Gratitude for such favor stands dressed in robes of wonder.

Now, while this is very surprising, I want you to notice how available it makes the gospel to you and to me. If God justifies the ungodly, then, dear friend, He can justify you. Is not that the very kind of person that you are? If you are unconverted at this moment, it is a very proper description of you; you have lived without God, you have been the reverse of godly; in one word, you have been and are ungodly. Perhaps you have not even attended a place of worship on Sunday, but have lived in disregard of God’s day, and house, and Word—this proves you to have been ungodly. Sadder still, it may be you have even tried to doubt God’s existence, and have gone the length of saying that you did so. You have lived on this fair earth, which is full of the tokens of God’s presence, and all the while you have shut your eyes to the clear evidences of His power and Godhead. You have lived as if there were no God. Indeed, you would have been very pleased if you could have demonstrated to yourself to a certainty that there was no God whatever. Possibly you have lived a great many years in this way, so that you are now pretty well settled in your ways, and yet God is not in any of them.

If you were labeled UNGODLY it would as well describe you as if the sea were to be labeled salt water. Would it not?

Possibly you are a person of another sort; you have regularly attended to all the outward forms of religion, and yet you have had no heart in them at all, but have been really ungodly. Though meeting with the people of God, you have never met with God for yourself; you have been in the choir, and yet have not praised the Lord with your heart. You have lived without any love to God in your heart, or regard to his commands in your life. Well, you are just the kind of man to whom this gospel is sent—this gospel which says that God justifies the ungodly. It is very wonderful, but it is happily available for you. It just suits you. Does it not? How I wish that you would accept it! If you are a sensible man, you will see the remarkable grace of God in providing for such as you are, and you will say to yourself, “Justify the ungodly! Why, then, should not I be justified, and justified at once?”

Now, observe further, that it must be so—that the salvation of God is for those who do not deserve it, and have no preparation for it. It is reasonable that the statement should be put in the Bible; for, dear friend, no others need justifying but those who have no justification of their own. If any of my readers are perfectly righteous, they want no justifying. You feel that you are doing your duty well, and almost putting heaven under an obligation to you. What do you want with a Savior, or with mercy? What do you want with justification? You will be tired of my book by this time, for it will have no interest to you.

If any of you are giving yourselves such proud airs, listen to me for a little while. You will be lost, as sure as you are alive. You righteous men, whose righteousness is all of your own working, are either deceivers or deceived; for the Scripture cannot lie, and it says plainly, “There is none righteous, no, not one.” In any case I have no gospel to preach to the self-righteous, no, not a word of it. Jesus Christ himself came not to call the righteous, and I am not going to do what He did not do. If I called you, you would not come, and, therefore, I will not call you, under that character. No, I bid you rather look at that righteousness of yours till you see what a delusion it is. It is not half so substantial as a cobweb. Have done with it! Flee from it! Oh believe that the only persons that can need justification are those who are not in themselves just! They need that something should be done for them to make them just before the judgment seat of God. Depend upon it, the Lord only does that which is needful. Infinite wisdom never attempts that which is unnecessary. Jesus never undertakes that which is superfluous. To make him just who is just is no work for God—that were a labor for a fool; but to make him just who is unjust—that is work for infinite love and mercy. To justify the ungodly—this is a miracle worthy of a God. And for certain it is so.

Now, look. If there be anywhere in the world a physician who has discovered sure and precious remedies, to whom is that physician sent? To those who are perfectly healthy? I think not.

Put him down in a district where there are no sick persons, and he feels that he is not in his place. There is nothing for him to do. “The whole have no need of a physician, but they that are sick.” Is it not equally clear that the great remedies of grace and redemption are for the sick in soul? They cannot be for the whole, for they cannot be of use to such. If you, dear friend, feel that you are spiritually sick, the Physician has come into the world for you. If you are altogether undone by reason of your sin, you are the very person aimed at in the plan of salvation. I say that the Lord of love had just such as you are in His eye when He arranged the system of grace. Suppose a man of generous spirit were to resolve to forgive all those who were indebted to him; it is clear that this can only apply to those really in his debt. One person owes him a thousand pounds; another owes him fifty pounds; each one has but to have his bill receipted, and the liability is wiped out. But the most generous person cannot forgive the debts of those who do not owe him anything. It is out of the power of Omnipotence to forgive where there is no sin.

Pardon, therefore, cannot be for you who have no sin. Pardon must be for the guilty. Forgiveness must be for the sinful. It was absurd to talk of forgiving those who do not need forgiveness—pardoning those who have never offended.

Do you think that you must be lost because you are a sinner? This is the reason why you can be saved. Because you own yourself to be a sinner I would encourage you to believe that grace is ordained for such as you are.

It is truly so, that Jesus seeks and saves that which is lost. He died and made a real atonement for real sinners. When men are not playing with words, or calling themselves “miserable sinners,” out of mere compliment, I feel overjoyed to meet with them. I would be glad to talk all night to bona fide sinners. The inn of mercy never closes its doors upon such, neither weekdays nor Sunday. Our Lord Jesus did not die for imaginary sins, but His heart’s blood was spilt to wash out deep crimson stains, which nothing else can remove.

He that is a black sinner—he is the kind of man that Jesus Christ came to make white. A gospel preacher on one occasion preached a sermon from, ” Now also the axe is laid to the root of the trees,” and he delivered such a sermon that one of his hearers said to him, “One would have thought that you had been preaching to criminals. Your sermon ought to have been delivered in the county jail.”

“Oh, no,” said the good man, “if I were preaching in the county jail, I should not preach from that text, there I should preach ‘This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.’ ” Just so…

The law is for the self-righteous, to humble their pride: the gospel is for the lost, to remove their despair.

If you are not lost, what do you want with a Savior? Should the shepherd go after those who never went astray? Why should the woman sweep her house for the bits of money that were never out of her purse? No, the medicine is for the diseased; the quickening is for the dead; the pardon is for the guilty; liberation is for those who are bound: the opening of eyes is for those who are blind. How can the Savior, and His death upon the cross, and the gospel of pardon, be accounted for, unless it be upon the supposition that men are guilty and worthy of condemnation? The sinner is the gospel’s reason for existence. You, my friend, to whom this word now comes, if you are undeserving, ill-deserving, hell-deserving, you are the sort of man for whom the gospel is ordained, and arranged, and proclaimed. God justifies the ungodly.

I would like to make this very plain. I hope that I have done so already; but still, plain as it is, it is only the Lord that can make a man see it. It does at first seem most amazing to an awakened man that salvation should really be for him as a lost and guilty one. He thinks that it must be for him as a penitent man, forgetting that his penitence is a part of his salvation. “Oh,” says he, “but I must be this and that,” —all of which is true, for he shall be this and that as the result of salvation; but salvation comes to him before he has any of the results of salvation. It comes to him, in fact, while he deserves only this bare, beggarly, base, abominable description, “ungodly.” That is all he is when God’s gospel comes to justify him.

May I, therefore, urge upon any who have no good thing about them—who fear that they have not even a good feeling, or anything whatever that can recommend them to God—that they will firmly believe that our gracious God is able and willing to take them without anything to recommend them, and to forgive them spontaneously, not because they are good, but because He is good. Does He not make His sun to shine on the evil as well as on the good? Does He not give fruitful seasons, and send the rain and the sunshine in their time upon the most ungodly nations? Ay, even Sodom had its sun, and Gomorrah had its dew. Oh friend, the great grace of God surpasses my conception and your conception, and I would have you think worthily of it! As high as the heavens are above the earth; so high are God’s thoughts above our thoughts. He can abundantly pardon. Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners: forgiveness is for the guilty.

Do not attempt to touch yourself up and make yourself something other than you really are; but come as you are to Him who justifies the ungodly. A great artist some time ago had painted a part of the corporation of the city in which he lived, and he wanted, for historic purposes, to include in his picture certain characters well-known in the town. A crossing-sweeper, unkempt, ragged, filthy, was known to everybody, and there was a suitable place for him in the picture. The artist said to this ragged and rugged individual, “I will pay you well if you will come down to my studio and let me take your likeness.” He came round in the morning, but he was soon sent about his business; for he had washed his face, and combed his hair, and donned a respectable suit of clothes. He was needed as a beggar, and was not invited in any other capacity. Even so, the gospel will receive you into its halls if you come as a sinner, not otherwise. Wait not for reformation, but come at once for salvation. God justifies the ungodly, and that takes you up where you now are: it meets you in your worst estate.

Come in your disorder. I mean, come to your heavenly Father in all your sin and sinfulness. Come to Jesus just as you are, leprous, filthy, naked, neither fit to live nor fit to die. Come, you that are the very sweepings of creation; come, though you hardly dare to hope for anything but death. Come, though despair is brooding over you, pressing upon your bosom like a horrible nightmare.

Come and ask the Lord to justify another ungodly one. Why should He not? Come for this great mercy of God is meant for such as you are. I put it in the language of the text, and I cannot put it more strongly: the Lord God Himself takes to Himself this gracious title, ” Him that justifies the ungodly.” He makes just, and causes to be treated as just, those who by nature are ungodly.

Is not that a wonderful word for you? Reader, do not delay till you have well-considered this matter.

The Reformed Christian’s Approach to Addiction

This document was sourced from,
I would especially encourage all who are interested
to go to this site and watch the accompanying videos.


The idea of law vs. grace is very significant to Christians…

…although not all Christians have been exposed to it. The idea would not be as familiar to a non-Christian, but it is reasonably plain for anyone to understand. Law is, of course, justice being served fairly, and grace is forgiveness of a law broken. These concepts appear in our lives on a daily basis, but when speaking about them in a biblical sense, they carry a bigger meaning.

The idea of grace replacing law through the acts of Christ is the message behind all of Christianity. It is also the concept that is most commonly adulterated by people. Before the work of Christ was put into motion, the biblical stance on the sinful nature of mankind was that it could not exist in the presence of God. Therefore, mankind was unfit to be in God’s presence because man is inherently corruptible.

However, Christ was sent to live among us for a very specific reason: to sacrifice himself and take the blame for our sin so that we could have the opportunity to be in God’s presence at the end of our lives. This act changed the way of the world in its relationship to God. This was the turning point when law was replaced with Grace. Until this time, it was the goal of mankind to live in a way that was pleasing to God in order to spend eternity with Him, which was not working out very well. Christ fulfilled the law by dying in our place, making us no longer under the law, but instead under the perfect forgiveness of God and the mercy of Christ. A radical concept, but a beautiful and divine one indeed.

In the context of addiction, speaking about law vs. grace is very applicable. Despite Christ’s incredible sacrifice, mankind does not emulate His selflessness. Instead, we jump at the chance to hold our fellow-man up to every measure of the law. We do not treat addicts with forgiveness or patience, but with judgment, scorn and the creation of stigmas. This was never God’s plan or Christ’s intention for us. Christ showed mercy and love to those who were afflicted with disorders and battling addiction. He told them they were beautiful and worthy. Where the law states that an addict reaps what they sow and deserves the consequences they come by, the grace that replaced the law through Christ states that those who are broken deserve compassion and love to get them back on their feet. If someone you care about is struggling with addiction, give them the gift of knowing Christ by connecting them with a Christian drug rehabilitation program or a Christian alcohol rehabilitation program.

God Loves You Despite Your Addiction

Addiction hurts you and those around you. Addiction causes damage to personal relationships, health and job or school performance. It also causes depression, anxiety and anger in those you are close to. Sometimes, you can end your addiction and save your relationships with those you love. In some cases, you cannot. Living close to an addict is sometimes too hard and too painful for some people to recover from. However, there is one close relationship that will never abandon you. That is your relationship with God.

God is the only one capable of loving you unconditionally through addiction while walking through it with you. Any person you attempt to lean on completely during addiction will falter and need space from you. This isn’t because they don’t love you or have no compassion. It is because people are susceptible to hurt and damage, and if they do not protect themselves they will not come out all right when it is over. Instead of leaning on a person in your life who is so easily wounded, lean on God for unending provision.

God is the embodiment of perfection. God is capable of meeting the needs of every person who ever lived. He has an infinite amount of grace and compassion and is immeasurably bigger than our problems. He calls us to reach out to him in times of fear and pain so that he can give us comfort. He is called the lover of our souls because he created us in love and wants us to find him through love. He sent his son Jesus to die on the cross for our imperfections so that we could be reunited with him. The sin and the hurt of the world was so great that it inhibited us to be connected to God. When Jesus gave his life, we had the ability to be one with God again, not by our own worthiness, but through the worthiness of Christ.

What Biblical Grace Says About Addiction

The concept of grace as the ultimate message of the bible was made popular by Philip Yancey’s book What is so Amazing about Grace? which was a huge Christian bestseller. The book looks into the life of Christ and the importance that his life had in fulfilling God’s grace – the key to any of humanity having a relationship with him. What is found in this examination actually presents a conundrum to Christian theology. Even non-Christians can tell you that being a Christian should mean that you are held up to a higher standard of morality, but are Christians, as flawed humans, actually capable of behaving better than others? Yancey says this question is beside the point.

What God’s grace actually means to people is that they are forgiven in the truest sense of the word. It means that following legalities is an empty pursuit, while following the ways of true, selfless love is what the life of Christ made available to us. Christ died for us because we were never capable of being godly on our own. A sacrifice had to be made to atone us, to make us suitable to be in the presence of God, and with this sacrifice the expectation of following rules was also put to death. Now, the pure and simple act of accepting God’s perfect grace, love and forgiveness that was granted to us through the life and death of Jesus Christ is the means to paradise. There is no longer penalty under the law of morality, only the choice to accept love or deny love.

What this means to addicts is that perfection from you is not expected. God knows that you are flawed. Addiction is a difficult thing to tend to in your life, and it can be impossible to kill. Rather than following rules to kill addiction on your own, God calls you to accept his perfect love for you, flawed as you are, and let it change and mold your life. For whoever truly accepts the love of Christ will be changed from the inside out. Your old ways will become forgotten and will be replaced by a fierce and powerful love as Christ lives in you. The potential to backslide is always there and can be let in the door through the choices you make, but God’s grace is the ultimate way of tending to your addiction and keeping it pushed out.

What Biblical Law Says About Addiction

Biblical law is exemplified in the old testament, in the time before Christ. It is important to understand that the days of biblical law are over. Christ’s life was a turning point for humanity itself. Christ’s sacrifice did away with the law and replaced it with grace forever so that humanity could have access to God. Prior to this pivotal moment, animal sacrifices were made as a means of atoning human behavior, and the law of scripture was in place over mankind.

In this time, the time of the old testament, judgment on an addict would have been much different. Without the life of Christ, the law of scripture would still be the way of deciding who is worthy of God’s presence. Everyone who has ever walked the earth, save for Jesus, would fail this test. No perfect person has ever existed because people are not capable of perfection. The trouble is, God is perfect, and there is no way to exist in the same place as him with our imperfections. The answer to the trouble was the life of Christ. His sacrifice was what reunited us with God.

Every type of wrongdoing, from addiction to theft to anger, would have been held to the full extent of the moral law. Addiction can be likened to the biblical sin of worshiping a false idol. Anything you place over God in your life will result in your spiritual death. If you place alcohol, drugs or sex in the seat of importance in your life, it will cause you spiritual devastation. Any investment you make in life that is not godly can destroy you. God created us to be perfect through him, but when we chose a path of free will and sin and wandered away from him, our potential for perfection was destroyed.

For the sake of mankind, God sent his son to live and die to restore us to him, so that we would not sentence ourselves to death through our own sinful nature.

Luther’s Anfechtungen: The Dark Night of His Soul, and why it was Important for the Reformation

Written by Richard Bucher
Pastor of “Our Redeemer Lutheran Church”, Lexington, KY.


Martin Luther’s relentless search for forgiveness and peace with God can be fully understood only against the backdrop of his frequent anfechtungen.

What were his anfechtungen?

Anfechtungen is the (German) word that Luther used to describe the overwhelming times of spiritual trial, terror, despair, and religious crisis that he experienced throughout his life. At the heart of such an anfechtung was the terrifying feeling that God was going to judge and condemn the sinner at any moment. In the wake of such a feeling came subsequent feelings of deep sadness that God had forsaken one.

Luther was not alone in his experience of anfechtungen. The late medieval piety that Luther was a part of, which stressed Christ primarily as the avenging Judge, made spiritual terror, guilt, and despair the ordeal of many. The monks especially spoke of this. If Luther was unique, it was the intensity of his anfechtungen that set him apart. Since he saw his sin and failure to keep the Law so clearly, his fear of Christ the Judge grew exponentially.

Luther’s anfechtungen were no mere intellectual questions or doubts, but religious crises that gripped his entire being. Usually it was thinking about Christ the Judge that brought them on. Often it was the mass (holy communion) that was the stage for this, because for Luther, there in the mass, the avenging, punishing Christ was present in his body and blood to judge. This was his experience at this first mass (Luther’s Works 54:234) and also at the Corpus Christi festival in Eisleben in 1515 (LW 54:19-20) when he was gripped with horror over the closeness of Christ. Yet, at times even viewing the crucifix or hearing the name of Jesus would cause Luther to recoil with terror, for it was the Judge that He was seeing or hearing (LW 8:188).

The other main cause of Luther’s anfechtungen was meditating on eternal election. This particular kind of anfechtung was for Luther the worst of all. It brought with it an overwhelming feeling of having been abandoned by God’s grace and of being lost forever. The monks called this intense melancholy “the bath of Satan,” and it was considered a serious sin for it called into question God’s goodness. It was the ultimate anfechtung, one that Luther experienced in Wittenberg for the first time. And he experienced it many times after. Luther describes these spiritual trials as so great and so much like hell that no tongue could adequately express them, no pen could describe them, and one who had not himself experienced them could not believe them. And so great were they that, if they had been sustained or had lasted for half an hour, even for one tenth of an hour, he [Luther] would have perished completely and all of his bones would have been reduced to ashes. At such a time, God seems so terribly angry, and with him the whole creation. At such a time, there is no flight, no comfort, within or without, but all things accuse . . . In this moment, it is strange to say, the soul cannot believe that it can ever be redeemed (LW 31:129).

Though some have tried to explain Luther’s anfechtungen as clinical depression, such explanations are not satisfactory.

First, Luther was usually able to work during these times they didn’t incapacitate him. Second, as Martin Brecht points out, “this was not a psychic affliction, but the living God confronting him” (Brecht, Martin Luther, His Road to Reformation, p. 80). This was the Law of God accusing and condemning Luther, not some delusional imaginations of Luther himself. For Luther, these afflictions were spiritual not psychological.

Even after his Reformation discovery of justification by faith, Luther’s anfechtungen periodically reappeared, but now they were seen in a different light. The reformer began to rethink them.

After his evangelical breakthrough, Luther understood the positive contribution that his anfechtungen made to his theology (his understanding of the Gospel). In one of his “Table Talks” Luther once remarked, “I didn’t learn my theology all at once. I had to ponder over it ever more deeply, and my spiritual trials [anfechtungen] were of help to me in this, for one doesn’t learn anything without practice” (LW 54:50). Later, in discussing what makes a true theologian, Luther, following Psalm 119, lists tentatio (spiritual trials, including anfechtungen) as one of the three rules, and calls it the “touchstone” of theology. (LW 34:279-288).

It is important to see why Luther considered his spiritual trials as good. His anfechtungen were valuable because they drove him to Scripture and compelled him to cling to God’s promises. They taught him by experience, how sure, mighty, and comforting, God’s promises can be. Thus, he not only knew, but lived God’s Word.

Thus is was through the Scriptures that Luther overcame his anfechtungen. When the onslaught of darkness began he would turn not just to any word of Scripture, but to the Gospel portions of Scripture, the promises, which spoke of Christ’s completed salvation and of God’s present help and mercy.

Luther’s anfechtungen were crucial to him, for they drove him into Scripture; and once inside the Scriptures they continually drove him to Christ.

The Theology of C.S. Lewis by Cornelius Van Til

Written by, Dr. Cornelius Van Til
From Chapter 3 of, Christian Theistic Ethics
The following is an unpublished manuscript, made available thanks to Eric Sigward and his work on “The Works of Cornelius Van Til” for (LOGOS) Libronix Software


In his book Reflection on the Psalms Lewis says: “In some of the Psalms the spirit of hatred … strikes us in the face like heat from a furnace mouth. In others the same spirit ceases to be frightful only by becoming (to a modern mind) almost comic in its naiveté.”  Again he says: “One way of dealing with these terrible or (dare we say?) contemptible Psalms is simply to leave them alone. But unfortunately the bad parts will not ‘come away clean’; they may, as we have noticed, be intertwined with the most exquisite things.” 2

“We all find hatred in ourselves. We see this same hatred in the psalm-writers: only they express it in its ‘wild’ or natural condition.”

Once more Lewis asserts: “It is monstrously simple-minded to read these cursings in the Psalms with no feeling except of horror at the uncharity of its poets. They are indeed devilish.”

The Theologians

Now let us visit the theologians: “There were in the eighteenth century terrible theologians who held that ‘God did not command certain things are right because they are right, but certain things are right because God commanded them.’ To make the position perfectly clear, one of them even said that though God has, as it happens, commanded us to love Him and one another, He might equally well have commanded us to hate Him and one another, and hatred would then have been right. It was apparently a mere toss-up which He decided on.”

If we seek Lewis’ standard for evaluating what a man may or may not hold to be true and right, we may read: “We must believe in the validity of rational thought, and we must not believe in anything inconsistent with its validity.”

However, we also hear that: “Our business is with historical possibility.” And further: “the sin, both of men and of angels, was rendered possible by the fact that God gave them free will; thus surrendering a portion of his omnipotence … because He saw that from a world of free creatures, even though they fell, He could work out … a deeper happiness and fuller splendor than any other world of automata would admit.”

Mere Christianity

Lewis propounds his own views in, among other places, his book Mere Christianity. According to Lewis, we must all start with a Law of Right or Wrong: “This rule of Right and Wrong used to be called the Law of Nature.” Says Lewis: “Let us sum up what we have reached so far.… In the case of stones and trees and things of that sort, what we call the Laws of Nature may not be anything but a way of speaking.… But in the case of Man, we saw that this will not do. The Law of Human Nature, or Right and Wrong, must be something above and beyond the actual facts … a law which we did not invent and which we ought to obey.”

How far have we come now? “We have not yet got as far as a God of any actual religion, much less the God of that particular religion called Christianity. We have only got as far as a Somebody or Something behind the Moral Law. We are not taking anything from the Bible or the Churches, we are trying to find out what we can find out about this Somebody on our own steam.”

“Christians believe that an evil power has made himself for the present the Prince of this world. Is this state of affairs in accordance with God’s will or not? If it is, He is a strange God, you will say, and if it is not, how can anything happen contrary to the will of a being with absolute power?”

“Well, any mother can solve this puzzle. At bed-time she says to Johnny and Mary: ‘I’m not going to make you tidy the schoolroom every night. You’ve got to learn to keep it tidy on your own.’ Then she goes up one night and finds the Teddy bear and the ink and the French Grammar all lying in the grate. That is against her will. She would prefer her children to be tidy. But on the other hand, it is her will which had left her children free to be untidy.… It is probably the same in the universe. God created things which had free will.… If a thing is free to be good it is also free to be bad. A free will is what has make evil possible. Why then did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having. A world of automata—a world of creatures that worked like machines—would hardly be worth creating. The happiness which God designs … is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in the ecstasy and delight compared to which love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water. And for that they must be free.”

“When we have understood about free will, we shall see how silly it is to ask, as somebody once asked me: ‘Why did God make a Creature of such rotten stuff that went wrong?’ ”

But why bother about such stuff and nonsense? Ask rather about the central message of Christianity.

“The central message of Christian belief,” says Lewis, “has somehow put us right with God and given us a fresh start. Theories as to how He did this are another matter. A good many theories have been held as to how it works; what all Christians are agreed on is that it does work. I will tell you what I think it is like. All sensible people will tell you that if you are tired and hungry a meal will do you good.… My own Church—the Church of England—does not lay down any one of them as the right one. The Church of Rome goes a bit further but I think they will all agree that the thing itself is infinitely more important than any explanations that theologians have produced.”

And what, pray, is this “thing itself”? Lewis does not inform us, except to say that we are not to believe what Scripture says about it.

I find in Lewis no awareness of my need to accept the substitutionary atonement for my sins on the cross.

Where is, “Christ and him crucified”? Where is “Christ and his resurrection”? Where is the natural man, “dead through trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1)? Jesus tells Nicodemus: “Truly, truly I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said unto you, ‘You must be born again.’” (John 3:7–8)

Does Lewis teach what the Apostle John teaches in the sixth chapter of his Gospel? “Truly, truly I say to you … who so eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him” (John 6:53–55).

How would Lewis react to these words of Jesus: “And they will go into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matthew 25:46)?

Again, where does Lewis acknowledge Malachi 1.2: “‘I have loved you,’ says the Lord. But you say, ‘How hast thou loved us?’ ‘Is not Esau Jacob’s brother?’ says the Lord. ‘Yet I have loved Jacob and I have hated Esau …’” (Malachi 1:2)

How does Lewis interpret the words of Peter spoken at Pentecost: “… this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite counsel and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men” (Acts 2:23).

Must not Lewis list Paul with the horrible theologians and Psalmists when the Apostle says:

As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So it depends not upon man’s will or exertion, but upon God’s mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “I have raised you up for the very purpose of showing my power in you, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy upon whomever he wills, and he hardens the heart of whomever he wills. You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, a man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me thus?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for beauty and another for menial use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power has endured with much patience the vessels of wrath made for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for the vessels of mercy, even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? (Romans 9:13–24)

According to Lewis all depends on man’s free will; according to Paul all depends on God’s mercy.

Reflections on The Psalms DT. 4 L585

  1. The case for Christianity 14M. 1 L5856
  1. Beyond Personality 1D. 1 L585
  1. Cu. Behavior QA. L585

Reflections on the Psalms (New York, Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1958

The Position of Roman Catholicism

On the question discussed in this chapter, Roman Catholicism takes a position half way between that of Christianity and that of paganism. The notion of human consciousness set forth in the works of Thomas Aquinas is worked out, to a great extent, by the form matter scheme of Aristotle. In consequence a large measure of autonomy is assigned to the human consciousness as over against the consciousness of God. This is true in the field of knowledge and it is no less true in the field of ethics.

In the field of ethics this means that even in paradise, before the fall, man is not thought of as being receptively constructive in his attitude toward God. In order to maintain man’s autonomy—or as Thomas thinks, his very manhood as a self-conscious and responsible being—man must, from one point of view at least, be wholly independent of the counsel of God. This is implied in the so-called “freewill” idea. Thomas cannot think of man as responsible and free if all his actions have their ultimate and final reference point exclusively in God and his will. Thus there is no really scriptural idea of authority in Romanism.

It follows that Rome has too high a notion of the moral consciousness of fallen man. According to Thomas, fallen man is not very dissimilar from Adam in paradise. He says that while the sinner needs grace for more things than did Adam, he does not need grace more.  Putting the matter somewhat differently Thomas says, “And thus in the state of perfect nature man needs a gratuitous strength superadded to natural strength for one reason, viz., in order to do and wish supernatural good: but for two reasons, in the state of corrupt nature, viz., in order to be healed, and furthermore in order to carry out works of supernatural virtue, which are meritorious. Beyond this, in both states man needs the Divine help, that he may be moved to act well.” 7  In any case, for Thomas the ethical problem for man is as much one of finitude as it is one of ethical obedience. Man is naturally finite. As such he tends naturally to evil. He needs grace because he is a creature even though he is not a sinner. Hence God really owes grace to man at least to some extent. And man does not become totally depraved when he does not make such use of the grace given him as to keep himself from sin entirely. For in any case the act of his free will puts him naturally in grave danger. Fallen man is therefore only partly guilty and only partly to blame. He retains much of the same ethical power that man had in paradise. Ethical ability is virtually said to be implied in metaphysical ability or free will.

It follows still further that even the regenerate consciousness need not and cannot subject itself fully to Scripture. Thomas is unable to do justice to Paul’s assertion that whatever is not of faith is sin. His entire discussion of the cardinal virtues and their relation to the theological virtues proves this point. He distinguishes sharply between them. “Now the object of the theological virtues is God Himself, Who is the last end of all, as surpassing the knowledge of our reason. On the other hand, the object of the intellectual and moral virtues is something comprehensible to human reason. Wherefore the theological virtues are specifically distinct from the moral and intellectual virtues.”  In respect to the things that are said to be knowable by reason apart from supernatural revelation the Christian acts, and should act, from what amounts to the same motive as the non-Christian. Faith is not required for a Christian to act virtuously in the natural relationships of life. Or if the theological virtues do have some influence over the daily activities of the Christian, this influence is of an accidental and subsidiary nature.

All in all, it is clear that Rome cannot ask its adherents to submit its moral consciousness to Scripture in any thorough way. And accordingly Rome cannot challenge the non-Christian position, such as that set forth by Newman Smyth, in any thorough way.

A position similar to that of Rome is frequently maintained by evangelical Protestants. As a recent illustration we mention the case of C. S. Lewis.

Like Rome, Lewis, in the first place, confuses things metaphysical and ethical. In his book Beyond Personality, he discusses the nature of the divine Trinity. To show the practical significance of the doctrine of the Trinity he says: “The whole dance, or drama, or pattern of this Three-Personal life is to be played out in each one of us: or (putting it the other way round) each one of us has got to enter that pattern, take his place in that dance.”  The purpose of Christianity is to lift the Bios or natural life of man up into Zoe, the uncreated life.  The incarnation is one example of how this may be done. In Him there is “one man in whom the created life, derived from his mother, allowed itself to be completely and perfectly turned into the begotten life.” Then he adds: “Now what is the difference which He has made to the whole human mass? It is just this; that the business of becoming a son of God, of being turned from a created thing into a begotten thing, of passing over from the temporary biological life into timeless Spiritual life, has been done for us.” 11

All this is similar in import to the position of Aquinas which stresses the idea that man is, through grace, to participate in the divine nature.

It is a foregone conclusion that the ethical problem cannot be fairly put on such a basis. Perhaps the most fundamental difference between all forms of non-Christian ethics and Christian ethics lies in the fact that, according to the former, it is man’s finitude as such that causes his ethical strife, while according to the latter it is not finitude as such but created man’s disobedience of God that causes all the trouble. C. S. Lewis does not signalize this difference clearly. Lewis does not call men back with clarion voice to the obedience of the God of the Bible. He asks men to “dress up as Christ” in order that while they have the Christ ideal before them, and see how far they are from realizing it, Christ, who is then at their side, may turn them “into the same kind of thing as Himself,” injecting “His kind of life and thought, His Zoe” into them.

Lewis argues that “a recovery of the old sense of sin is essential to Christianity.”  Why does he then encourage men to hold that man is embroiled in a metaphysical tension over which not even God has any control? Lewis says that men are not likely to recover the old sense of sin because they do not penetrate to the motives behind moral actions.  But how shall men ever be challenged to look inside themselves and find that all that is not of faith is sin if they are encouraged to think that without the light of Scripture and without the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit they can, at least in the natural sphere, do what is right? Can men really practice the “cardinal virtues” of prudence, temperance, justice and fortitude in the way that they should, even though they have no faith? No Protestant ought to admit such a possibility.

Lewis seeks objective standards in ethics, in literature, and in life everywhere. But he holds that objectivity may be found in many places. He speaks of a general objectivity that is common between Christians and non-Christians, and argues as though it is mostly or almost exclusively in modern times that men have forsaken it. Speaking of this general objectivity he says: “This conception in all its forms, Platonic, Aristotelian, Stoic, Christian, and Oriental alike, I shall henceforth refer to for brevity simply as ‘the Tao.’ Some of the accounts of it which I have quoted will seem, perhaps, to many of you merely quaint or even magical. But what is common to them all is something we cannot neglect. It is the doctrine of objective value, the belief that certain attitudes are really true, and others really false, to the kind of thing the universe is and the kind of things we are.”  But surely this general objectivity is common to Christians and non-Christians in a formal sense only. To say that there is or must be an objective standard is not the same as to say what that standard is. And it is the what that is all important. Granted that non-Christians who hold to some sort of something somewhere above man are better than non-Christians who hold to nothing whatsoever above man, it remains true that in the main issue the non-Christian objectivists are no less subjective than are the non-Christian subjectivists. There is but one alternative that is basic; it is that between those who obey the God and Christ of Scripture and those who seek to please themselves. Only those who believe in God through Christ seek to obey God; only they have the true principle in ethics. One can only rejoice in the fact that Lewis is heard the world around, but one can only grieve over the fact that he so largely follows the method of Thomas Aquinas in calling men back to the gospel. The “gospel according to St. Lewis” as well as the “gospel according to St. Thomas” is too much of a compromise with the ideas of the natural man to constitute a clear challenge in our day.”

Portraits of Christ


A LITTLE boy had lost his sister…

There was no portrait of her, for it was before the days of photographs. Earnestly and continuously, he begged his parents to have a painter make a picture of his sister, and their remonstrance and reproof would not silence his pleadings.

Finally, for some relief, he was sent to visit family friends in Boston, and there he was told that he might hunt around to see if he could find a painter who would undertake to make a picture of his sister. It was a friendly gesture, for the friends were only trying to humor him. They took him to the studios of several prominent artists; but they all shook their heads. At last, one young artist said: ” Come with me, and see if you can find any faces that look like your sister’s.”

He took the young boy to a large gallery of portraits. Soon one picture attracted the child’s attention. “That’s like her eyes,” he said. Then another –“that’s like her mouth.” Another had “her hair,” another ” her forehead,” and so on. The artist put all these features together, and succeeded in making a good portrait of the boy’s sister.

In the same way we can find the likeness of Christ. For we do not find all His portrait in any one person. But picking it out, feature by feature, from among the different members of His family, we can make find his likeness forming in one harmonious whole.

And that is why we need to go to church. For it is there that we meet and experience all the members of Christ’s body. Some have this feature, some have that, some show great courage, others demonstrate great love, or perhaps wisdom; but each and all reflect Christ in certain ways… even if it is most imperfectly. You see, it is as the Apostle Peter says,

“As you come to Him, the living stone, rejected by men, but chosen and precious in God’s sight, you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture: “See, I lay in Zion a stone, a chosen and precious cornerstone; and the one who believes in Him will never be put to shame.”… 1 Peter 2:5

Therefore, “Let us not neglect meeting together, as some have made a habit, but let us encourage one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” —Hebrews 10:25