Having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience…

Written by: Edward Bickersteth
Published in: 1839
Edited for thought and sense

power-of-the-cross-larry-landolfiIt is by viewing God as displayed in the whole work of the Lord Jesus Christ, that I, a sinner can see all my sins forgiven through this stupendous sacrifice.

Thus, and thus only, the enmity of my heart against him is put away, and I can have full confidence in approaching the Holy God. Let me credit God’s word really; let me not reckon God false, but true; let me receive the testimony concerning his Son, (1 John 5:9-12.) and joy and peace, love and holiness enter my heart, and lean go to God with the same confidence with which the sinless angels go to him. How very strong are the beautiful expressions of God’s own word!  

“Having, therefore, brethren, BOLDNESS to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say Ins flesh; and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart, in FULL ASSURANCE OF FAITH, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.” — Hebrews 10:9

Or, as in another place,

“Let us come BOLDLY to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” –Hebrews 4:16

Or again,

“Through him we have access by one Spirit unto the Father.” Ephesians 2:18

Or again;

“In Jesus we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.” Ephesians 3:12

christian_012000676_tnbDo, you notice the anxiety of the Holy Spirit to shew the freedom of the sinner’s access with holy boldness and confidence?

Cast away all doubts and suspensions of God’s love and of his willingness to receive you, as it is the very suggestion of Satan the great enemy of your souls. Whoever you are, there is no reason why you should not, by Jesus, at once, go to God and delight in his presence and love to you, and obtained from him every promised blessing.

Do you say this is a blessed state for those who believe it, but I am unable to believe?

Oh do not, with a mocked humility and feigned modesty, thus allow yourself the carnal gratifications of your alienated mind. Oh it will not do! You are deceiving yourselves. The real truth is, you are accusing God of falsehood. You are alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in you, because of the hardness of your heart. Let the light of his truth beam upon you ; receive God’s word as you receive man’s word, and you must see that the “I cannot believe,” is really, “I will not believe.”

But to make this matter still plainer, the very provision which God makes in the gospel is all for your sinfulness, unworthiness, and helplessness. God has provided help for your unbelief. Jesus has received gifts for the rebellious, yes, he has all things pertaining to life and godliness. He bestows the Holy Spirit, he bestows faith,he bestows the Spirit of grace and supplication. 

He casts out none that come to him.

He enables those that look to him to pray in the Holy Ghost. It is wholly your own fault, your own unbelief, if you do not now, without delay, enjoy the privilege of prayer. God invites you to come, he promises you his Spirit, he tells you he loves you, though sinful in ten thousand repeated forms, and especially by the death of his Son ; (Rom. 5:6-11.) he assures to you every blessing, simply on asking!

O reader, perish not with the aggravated guilt of neglecting so great salvation! There is in this day of grace the fullest ground for your entire confidence in approaching the most holy Jehovah, and the fullest supply of strength and ability in Jesus to enable you to do this.

 

The Powerful Work of the Holy Spirit Interceding in Our Prayers

Written by: Edward Bickersteth
Published in: 1839
Edited for thought and sense.

HolySpirit7Gifts_imgThe intercession of the Holy Spirit differs from that of Christ.

Our Lord intercedes in heaven, separate and apart from us, by himself, at the throne of glory. The Holy Spirit intercedes in, and with our hearts, at the throne of grace. The gift and intercession of the Holy Spirit is the fruit and effect of the intercession of Christ, who, when he ascended up on high led captivity captive,and received this gift for men, yea, even for the rebellious.

Christians have then the intercession, and the additional interposition of the Holy Spirit, like a powerful and able advocate, who takes up our sinking cause, urges our necessities and our pleas, with power, earnestness, and perseverance, and places them with strong and irresistible effect in such a light,that it is evident the suit is obtained and the request granted. Thus the Spirit makes intercession for us, suggesting to us, and offering up in us, those desires, arguments, and pleas, which would otherwise never have risen in our minds.

“The Holy’ Spirit,” says one of the Reformers, “excites within us confidence, desires, and sighs, to the conception of which our native powers were altogether inadequate.” There are pious persons of very poor attainments in other respects, without learning or human acquirements, in the very lowest stations of life,who, asking for the aid of the Holy Spirit, can, with the greatest propriety of expression, the deepest reverence, and an uninterrupted fluency of words, pour out their souls to God, and edify their families and their neighbors. Indeed, have not those who entirely decry the assistance of the Holy Spirit, as given to believers in our days, reason to fear lest they should be guilty, in some measure, of the sin of blasphemy against him?

There is a distinction, not improperly made, between the gift and the grace of prayer, though perhaps the more just distinction would be between the talent of elocution and the spirit of prayer. Some have a natural or acquired power of a great command of words, and a full flow of language, which enables them to pray with facility,and so far it is very desirable ; and I hesitate not to say with Dr. Watts, that “there is the ordinary assistance of the Spirit required, even to the attainment of this holy skill, or ability to pray.” But men may have this talent, and yet have none of those real feelings of want, desire, resignation, peace, hope, joy, etc., which form the essence of true prayer, and without which the best expressions are of little worth. The right spirit of prayer is not merely to be able to press God with the most proper words and urgent vehemence: this is talent and elocution.

True prayer is a higher thing, the special gift of the Holy Ghost; not so much a matter of the lips, as of the heart.

He has the most of this gift, who ” has the most enlightened apprehension of the God to whom he speaks: the deepest sense of his own wants: the most eager longings after grace, the most fervent desires of supplies from heaven; and, in a word, whose heart sends up the strongest cries to the Father of Mercies.” Hence many may have much of the spirit of prayer, who have but a small degree of the power of utterance.

Much, indeed, of the work of the Spirit is secret. We know not various particulars connected with it. We know it rather by its effects, than by its mode of operation. The wind blows where it will,and thou hears the sound thereof, hut canst not tell whence it Comes, and whither it goes; so is every one that is born of the Spirit. We experience its power, and that is sufficient. The Christian knows that he has often knelt down averse to prayer, dead, dull, stupid; almost without desiring the blessings for which he ought to ask. And yet with all his weakness, after looking for the aid of the Spirit,after praying as did David, Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise, (Psalm 2:15) and persevering in asking, seeking, and knocking, (Matt. 7:7) he has in such a remarkable way experienced the presence of God, as to fill him with joy unspeakable, and a hope full of glory. He has in these cases sometimes found an unction, an enlargement of expression far beyond anything that he had previously calculated on, or could expect, accompanied by such lively and vehement desires and thirstings after God and holiness and glory, as satisfactorily and evidently to his mind, marked the agency and assistance of a divine power which makes intercession for us.

But farther, he makes intercession with groanings which cannot be uttered.

I am sensible that I am here bringing a subject forward which must be in a great measure unintelligible (and may therefore appear absurd) to those who have never experienced it: but since the sacred writings have plainly stated it, we should neither conceal it, nor keep it back. And conceive the case of a mind truly and fully awakened to see the shortness of time, the vanity of worldly things, the unutterable glory of the blessed, the never-ending anguish of the condemned, the boundless ages of eternity,the uncertainty of every moment, and the inseparable connection between obtaining grace in this life,and glory in the next.

Conceive the mind open to just views of the loving-kindness and glory of the great God, and our privilege to have fellowship with him. If we realize this state of mind, we may easily imagine that there are such ardent thirstings wrought in the immortal soul, after pardon, grace, Christ, heaven and God’s glory, as no words are great or strong enough to express. The Psalms of David often manifest this state of mind “My soul fainteth, he says, for thy salvation. O Lord, how long! I am weary with my groaning.” Here we may observe some of the groanings of him in whom the Spirit intercedes; but yet this intercession is with such importunity of desires, such holy pleading and wrestling with God, such ardor of spirit, such inward laboring and working of the heart toward God, as cannot be expressed by words.

ON THE ENCOURAGING NATURE AND PRIVILEGE OF PRAYER

Written by: Edward Bickersteth
Published in: 1839
Edited for thought and sense

Men in general, think it an honor…

…to be admitted into the company of those who are distinguished by their rank, their power, or their attainments. They feel it a privilege to converse with a man of the first consequence in the state, a man eminent in wisdom or knowledge, or the monarch of a mighty empire.

1560722_597740120302470_264582166_nA Christian also justly reckons it no small privilege to be permitted…

…for a season, to associate with a person of peculiar piety. And if while the greatest good may be obtained from a distinguished person, there be only a limited time in which we can go to him, the importance of using an opportunity that is offered, is evidently greatly increased. If we can say, ‘Now the way of access is open, but it will soon be closed; now you may hold converse, and get intimately acquainted with him; you may obtain all you want; you may secure a lasting interest in his affections; he has invited you to come to him, and you will never have this privilege offered again; surely no other arguments need be urged, to induce a man waiting his help to go to him without delay.

When the Lord of Glory dwelt on earth,

we often read of the great multitudes who assembled together and crowded around him, to see and to hear him. On one occasion, we find even a rich man, Zaccheus, unable to approach him, and climbing a tree to have a transient glimpse of so remarkable a character. Had we lived at that time, and possessed any thing of our present knowledge, we should doubtless have thought it a high honor to be in his company, and, like Mary, to sit at the feet of Jesus, and hear his words.

This privilege was counted the more valuable in seasons of difficulty.

When any were in sickness or danger, and believed that if they could see our Lord, he would help them, they then desired his presence with peculiar earnestness. When Lazarus is dying, then his sisters send a special message to their Lord. When the disciples are in the storm, they awaken him by saying, “Carest thou not that we perish?” When the people are sick, they break through the roof of a dwelling to come to him ; or press through the crowd to touch the hem of his garment.

It is the NATURE of prayer…

…that it gives to needy and sinful men, in the limited time of this life, every day, yes, every hour, this great privilege of access to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, to the Most High and the Most Holy, and this with the utmost freedom and confidence; the access not merely of a servant to a master; or a subject to a king; but of a child to a tender parent.

Prayer is then a holy intercourse with God.

…It is, –as the martyr Bradford expresses it,”a simple, unfeigned, humble, and ardent offering of the heart before God, wherein we either ask things needful, or give thanks for benefits received.” Acceptable prayer is the desire of the heart offered up to God, through the influence of his Spirit, in the name of his Son Jesus Christ,for things according to his will, and in confidence that he hears us, and will answer us. There is no prayer without the exercise of holy and suitable dispositions and affections. The true worshipers,says our Lord, shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth,for the Father seeketh such to worship him, John 5: 23.

Prayer is not the mere posture of the body…

A man may kneel till he wear out the stones; he may put himself into every variety of posture, throw himself on the earth, and lie in the dust; like Ahab, he may put on sackcloth and ashes; or, like the monks of modern times, kneel till his knees become horny, and yet never pray at all.

It is not the mere expression of the mouth…

A man may repeat a hundred times in a day that comprehensive and affecting prayer which our Lord has taught us to use; or he may say, “My soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth after thee,” and yet not offer up one prayer unto God.

It is not the mere invention of the mind.

…Many have a peculiar gift of prayer in this respect, and can pour out fluently, perspicuously, and at length, a multitude of words; but, both the mind and the tongue may be thus employed, while the heart neither feels the sentiments expressed, nor longs for the blessings implored. Nor is the mere act of joining in family,social, or public worship, acceptable prayer. Uniting with others, in the most earnest petitions,while your own heart is unmoved, will avail you nothing.

All these things may be as the mere husk and shell without the kernel; the body without the spirit. God expects the desire of the heart. Your devotions should be a sacred bond knitting the soul unto God, –in a holy converse with him.