The Exchange Between the Sinful and the Sinless

Written by, by Horatius Bonar

“For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” —2 Corinthians 5:21

In showing favor to a criminal, an earthly sovereign must consider whether he can do so…

(1) without loss of character;
(2) without breach of law;
(3) without encouragement to crime;
(4) without infringement or compromise of government.

All these things have been amply provided for in the divine scheme of pardon; that scheme being the embodiment of such provision,—not only containing the prevention of any such wrongs to God and to His universe, but the development of principles and the revelation of facts, which far more than compensate for threatened evils, and bring immense glory to God and His government, out of that which otherwise would have been big with dishonour and confusion. That scheme is announced in these words, “He hath made Him who knew no sin, to be sin for us, that we might be made (or be, or become) the righteousness of God in Him.” Thus God is just, and the Justifier of the unjust.

Here are two special points:

(1) The sinless one made sin for the sinful;

(2) the unrighteous becoming the righteousness of God in the righteous One.

I. The SINLESS One made SIN for the SINFUL.

He was “without sin;” He “knew no sin;” not the shadow of evil was to be found in Him; He was the “righteous one,” the “holy one,” the “Lamb without blemish, and without spot;” altogether perfect, yet partaker of our very flesh, our true humanity; very man, of the substance of the virgin, partaker of the dust of earth, bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh, still SINLESS in the most entire sense of that word; loving righteousness and hating iniquity, this sinless One was made sin, made sin by God: “He hath made Him sin.” The connection between Him and sin, between Him and the sinner, was one made, constituted by God. It was the Lord that laid our iniquity upon Him (Isa 53:6); that bruised Him and put Him to grief; that made His soul an offering for sin (Isa 53:10); that made Him a curse for us (Gal 3:13). Our guilt was transferred to Him by God, and He was treated as if He were really the doer of it all. God “spared Him not, but delivered Him up” (Rom 8:32). In the Psalms He confesses our sin as if it were His own (see 38, 40, 69); during His life He acted as one shut out because of guilt; at His trial He was dumb, and answered not a word; on the cross He cried out, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me.” It is not merely that He was made a sin offering, but he was “made sin,” as if no words could fully express the closeness of His connection with our transgressions. He was treated as a sinner from His cradle to His cross. His was a vicarious life and a vicarious death.

It was this that made Him the man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. On no other ground can we account for His profound and life-long sorrow, save that all His life long He was bearing sin for us,—He was being led as a lamb to the slaughter; and this leading to the slaughter was the real meaning of His sorrowful and burdened life. He was moving to the altar with the sins of His church upon Him; He was going to the cross, laden all through with this infinite burden which was laid upon Him, when He took flesh by the power of the Holy Ghost.

As the sacrifice, burnt-offering, sin-offering, trespass-offering, substitute, surety, and sin-bearer, we find Him here on earth, till He had finished the work which was given Him to do, till He had by Himself purged our sins (Hebrews 1:2).

Men call this a “fiction,” or a “make believe;” but it is the truth of God, with which the whole Bible is full,—the transference of our human guilt to our divine Substitute, that He might bear it all for us, the transference of legal condemnation and divine displeasure from us to Him, that only acquittal, and pardon, and favour, and love might belong to us. “Thy wrath lieth hard upon me” (Psa 88:7), are the words of the Sin-bearer; and that this was felt in a measure all His life through (though consummated on the cross), is shewn by what follows: “I am afflicted and ready to die (“sorrowful unto death”) from my youth up” (Psa 88:15).

The sinless One made sin for the sinful is the pervading doctrine of both Testaments; such books as Leviticus and the Epistle to the Hebrews are unintelligible otherwise. It is this that so strongly and awfully establishes the doctrine of eternal recompense for sin. If sin deserves no eternal wrath, what an unmeaning thing is this divine sin-bearing! What a gratuitous expenditure of labour, and suffering, and death.

II. The UNRIGHTEOUS becoming the RIGHTEOUSNESS Of God in the RIGHTEOUS One.

The name of our Substitute is, “Jehovah our Righteousness”; and, the justifying righteousness is called by an apostle, “the righteousness of Him who is our God and Saviour, Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:1). Thus the “righteousness of God” and the “righteousness of Christ” are declared to be the same, and our common use of the expression, “the righteousness of Christ,” is amply vindicated from the cavils of Socinians and others of like mind. Luther exhorted the brethren to learn, as their constant song of praise, “Lord Jesus, thou art my righteousness, and I thy sin.” So must we, if we would enjoy Luther’s doctrine, his twofold teaching, “That a man is justified by faith; and that he is to know that he is justified.” We are “unrighteous.” There is no question as to that. Yet, says the apostle, “We become (not merely “righteous,” but) THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD,” in this righteous One. What is ours passes over to Him; what is His passes over to us. We become righteousness! As if, from the moment that we believe God’s testimony to, the righteous One and His work, we and righteousness become one and the same thing. So completely are we justified, and lifted up into the same righteous level or standing which the righteous One himself occupies in the sight of God. Thus are we “complete in Him,”—“found in Him,”— recognised as one with Him in righteousness, and entitled to possess all He possesses. What a transference! And how simply effected! Receive the Father’s testimony to the righteousness of the beloved Son, and all that righteousness becomes yours! O man, canst thou refuse an exchange like this? A salvation so complete, so perfect and divine.

Yes; “It is finished!”

On the cross it was finished. Then the blood was shed with which the sinner is sprinkled and purged in conscience; and all that followed (both resurrection and ascension) assumed the completion of the great sacrifice on Golgotha. Then the righteousness was finished also, in virtue of which we are “accepted in the Beloved.” During all the preceding ages the voice of each sacrifice laid on the altar, morning and evening, was, “It is NOT finished;” but then the one voice of the one Sacrifice proclaimed before earth and heaven, “It is finished.” Nothing was from that moment to be added to it or taken from it. All was done. It is the ministry of this “righteousness” that is now preached to the unrighteous. There are many “ministries.” There is the ministry of “the word” (Acts 6:24.); the ministry of “the grace” (Acts 20:24); the ministry of “the reconciliation” (2 Cor 5:18); the ministration of “the Spirit” (2 Cor 3:8). There is also the ministry of “the righteousness” (2 Cor 3:9). Righteousness for the unrighteous is God’s message to the world; righteousness for those whose only qualification is, that they need it; righteousness to the most unrighteous of the sons of men; for it is to the wretched prodigal, the wanderer in the far country, that the Father says, “Bring forth THE BEST ROBE, and put it on him:” In Jesus, the sinner’s substitute, we have “the perfect One.” God sees perfection in Him. But this perfection, while it detects and condemns our imperfection, provides also for its forgiveness.

It is by means of this perfection that God is enabled to deal in love with our imperfection, however great and manifold it may be. The good swallows up the evil, and yet is not tainted thereby. The sinner hands over his sins to the perfect One; and the perfect One hands over His perfection to the sinner. Thus, by reason of this blessed transference or exchange, the imperfect one becomes as the perfect One in the sight of God, and is dealt with as such in regard to all favour and blessing.

Perfection covers imperfection, and the believing sinner stands “complete” in the perfect One: “accepted in the Beloved.” Crediting God’s testimony to the perfect One, and His perfect sacrifice, we stand before God on a new footing,—as men who have “become the righteousness of God in Him,”—and who now get life, and peace, and pardon, and blessing, simply because the perfect One has deserved it for them. We have all in Him.

How Shall I Go To God?  Or, When Luther Found His Rest

Written by, Horatius Bonar, D.D. 
Published by, Religious Tract Society 1888

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It is with our sins that we go to God…

….for we have nothing else to go with that we can call our own. This is one of the lessons that we are so slow to learn; yet without learning this we cannot take one right step in that which we call a religious life. 

It was in some such way as the above that Luther found his way into the peace and liberty of Christ. The story of his deliverance is an instructive one, as showing how the stumbling-blocks of self-righteousness are removed by the full exhibition of the gospel in its freeness, as the good news of God’s love to the unloving and unlovable, the good news of pardon to the sinner, without merit and without money, the good news of PEACE WITH GOD, solely through the propitiation of Him who hath made peace by the blood of His cross. 

One of Luther’s earliest difficulties was that he must get repentance wrought within himself; and having accomplished this, he was to carry this repentance as a peace-offering or recommendation to God. If this repentance could not be presented as a positive recommendation, at least it could be urged as a plea in mitigation of punishment. “How can I dare believe in the favor of God,” he said, “so long as there is in me no real conversion? I must be changed before He can receive me.” 

He is answered that the “conversion,” or “repentance,” of which he is so desirous, can never take place so long as he regards God as a stern and unloving Judge. It is the goodness of God that leadeth to repentance, (Rom. 2:4) and without the recognition of this “goodness” there can be no softening of heart. An impenitent sinner is one who is despising the riches of His goodness and forbearance and long-suffering. 

Luther’s aged counselor tells him plainly that he must be done with penances and mortifications, and all such self-righteous preparations for securing or purchasing the Divine favor. That voice, Luther tells us touchingly, seemed to come to him from heaven: “All true repentance begins with the knowledge of the forgiving love of God.” 

As he listens light breaks in, and an unknown joy fills him. Nothing between him and God! Nothing between him and pardon! No preliminary goodness, or preparatory feeling! He learns the Apostle’s lesson, “Christ died for the ungodly” (Rom. 5:6); God “justifieth the ungodly” (Rom. 4:5). All the evil that is in him cannot hinder this justification; and all the goodness (if such there be) that is in him cannot assist in obtaining it. He must be received as a sinner, or not at all. The pardon that is proffered recognizes only his guilt; and the salvation provided in the cross of Christ regards him simply as lost. 

But the sense of guilt is too deep to be easily quieted.

Fear comes back again, and he goes once more to his aged adviser, crying, “Oh, my sin, my sin!” as if the message of forgiveness which he had so lately received was too good news to be true, and as if sins like his could not be so easily and so simply forgiven. 

“What! would you be only a pretended sinner, and therefore need only a pretended Saviour?” 

So spake his venerable friend, and then added, solemnly, “Know that Jesus Christ is the Saviour of great and real sinners, who are deserving of nothing but utter condemnation.” 

“But is not God sovereign in His electing love?” said Luther; “Perhaps I may not be one of His chosen.” 

“Look to the wounds of Christ,” was the answer, “and learn there God’s gracious mind to the children of men. In Christ we read the name of God, and learn what He is, and how He loves; the Son is the revealer of the Father; and the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.” 

“I believe in the forgiveness of sins,” said Luther to a friend one day, when tossing on a sick bed; “but what is that to me?” 

“Ah,” said his friend, “does not that include your own sins? You believe in the forgiveness of David’s sins, and of Peter’s sins, why not of your own? The forgiveness is for you as much as for David or Peter.” 

Thus Luther found rest. The gospel, thus believed, brought liberty and peace. He knew that he was forgiven because God had said that forgiveness was the immediate and sure possession of all who believed the good news. 

In the settlement of the great question between the sinner and God, there was to be no bargaining and no price of any kind. The basis of settlement was laid eighteen hundred years ago; and the mighty transaction on the cross did all that was needed as a price. “It is finished,” is God’s message to the sons of men in their inquiry, “What shall we do to be saved?” This completed transaction supersedes all man’s efforts to justify himself, or to assist God in justifying him. We see Christ crucified, and God in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing unto men their trespasses; and this non-imputation is the result solely of what was done upon the cross, where the transference of the sinner’s guilt to the Divine surety was once and for ever accomplished. It is of that transaction that the gospel brings us the “good news,” and whosoever believeth it becomes partaker of all the benefits which that transaction secured. 

“But am I not to be indebted to the Holy Spirit’s work in my soul?” 

“Undoubtedly; for what hope can there be for you without the Almighty Spirit, who quickeneth the dead?” 

“If so, then ought I not to wait for His impulses, and having got them, may I not present the feelings which He has wrought in me as reasons why I should be justified?” 

“No, in no wise. You are not justified by the Spirit’s work, but by Christ’s alone; nor are the motions of the Spirit in you the grounds of your confidence, or the reasons for your expecting pardon from the Judge of all. The Spirit works in you, not to prepare you for being justified, or to make you fit for the favor of God, but to bring you to the cross, just as you are. For the cross is the only place where God deals in mercy with the transgressor.” 

It is at the cross that we meet God in peace and receive His favor.

There we find not only the blood that washes, but the righteousness which clothes and beautifies, so that henceforth we are treated by God as if our own unrighteousness had passed away, and the righteousness of His own Son were actually ours. 

This is what the apostle calls “imputed” righteousness (Romans 4:6, 8, 11, 22, 24), or righteousness so reckoned to us by God as that we are entitled to all the blessings which that righteousness can obtain for us. Righteousness got up by ourselves, or put into us by another, we call infused, or imparted, or inherent righteousness; but righteousness belonging to another reckoned to us by God as if it were our own, we call imputed righteousness. It is of this that the apostle speaks when he says, “Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 13:14; Galatians 3:27). Thus Christ represents us: and God deals with us as represented by Him. Righteousness within will follow necessarily and inseparably; but we are not to wait in order to get it before going to God for the righteousness of His only begotten Son. 

Imputed righteousness must come first. You cannot have the righteousness within till you have the righteousness without; and to make your own righteousness the price which you give to God for that of His Son, is to dishonor Christ, and to deny His cross. The Spirit’s work is not to make us holy, in order that we may be pardoned, but to show us the cross, where the pardon is to be found by the unholy; so that having found the pardon there, we may begin the life of holiness to which we are called. 

That which God presents to the sinner is an immediate pardon, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done,” but by the great work of righteousness finished for us by the Substitute. Our qualification for obtaining that righteousness is that we are unrighteous, just as the sick man’s qualification for the physician is that he is sick. 

Of a previous goodness, preparatory to pardon, the gospel says nothing.

Of a preliminary state of religious feeling as a necessary introduction to the grace of God, the apostles never spoke. Fears, troubles, self-questionings, bitter cries for mercy, forebodings of judgment, and resolutions of amendment, may, in point of time, have preceded the sinner’s reception of the good news; but they did not constitute his fitness, nor make up his qualification. He would have been quite as welcome without them. They did not make the pardon more complete, more gracious, or more free. The sinner’s wants were all his arguments:—“God be merciful to me a sinner.” He needed salvation, and he went to God for it, and got it just because he needed it, and because God delights in the poor and needy. He needed pardon, and he went to God for it, and obtained it without merit or money. “When he had NOTHING TO PAY, God frankly forgave.” It was the having nothing to pay that drew out the frank forgiveness. 

Ah, this is grace. “This is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us!” He loved us, even when we were dead in sins. He loved us, not because we were rich in goodness, but because He was “rich in mercy”; not because we were worthy of His favor, but because He delighted in loving-kindness. His welcome to us comes from His own graciousness, not from our lovableness. “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Christ invites the weary! It is this weariness that fits you for Him, and Him for you. Here is the weariness, there is the resting-place! They are side by side. Do you say, “That resting-place is not for me?” What! Is it not for the weary? Do you say, “But I cannot make use of it?” What! Do you mean to say, “I am so weary that I cannot sit down?” If you had said, “I am so weary that I cannot stand, nor walk, nor climb,” one could understand you. But to say, “I am so weary that I cannot sit down,” is simple folly, or something worse, for you are making a merit and a work of your sitting down; you seem to think that to sit down is to do some great thing which will require a long and prodigious effort. 

Let us listen then to the gracious words of the Lord: “If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give Me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of Him, and He would have given thee living water” (John 4:10). Thou wouldest have asked, and He would have given! That is all. How real, how true, how free; yet how simple! Or let us listen to the voice of the servant in the person of Luther. “Oh, my dear brother, learn to know Christ and Him crucified. Learn to sing a new song; to despair of previous work, and to cry to Him, Lord Jesus, Thou art my righteousness, and I am Thy sin. 

Thou hast taken on Thee what was mine, and given to me what is Thine. What I was, Thou becamest, that I might be what I was not. Christ dwells only with sinners. Meditate often on this love of Christ, and you will taste its sweetness.” Yes; pardon, peace, life, are all of them gifts, Divine gifts, brought down from heaven by the Son of God, presented personally to each needy sinner by the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. They are not to be bought, but received; as men receive the sunshine, complete and sure and free. They are not to be earned or deserved by exertions or sufferings, or prayers or tears; but accepted at once as the purchase of the labors and sufferings of the great Substitute. They are not to be waited for, but taken on the spot without hesitation or distrust, as men take the loving gift of a generous friend. They are not to be claimed on the ground of fitness or goodness, but of need and unworthiness, of poverty and emptiness. 

The Foundation of Faith for the Night of Weeping

Taken and adapted from, “Night of Weeping: or words for the suffering family of god”
Written by, Horatius Bonar, 1845

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They live by faith. Thus they began and thus they are to end.

“We walk by faith and not by sight.” Their whole life is a life of faith. Their daily actions are all of faith. This forms one of the main elements of their character. It marks them out as a peculiar people. None live as they do.

Their faith is to them “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” It is a sort of substitute for sight and possession. It so brings them into contact with the unseen world that they feel as if they were already conversant with, and living among, the things unseen. It makes the future, the distant, the impalpable, appear as the present, the near, the real. It removes all intervening time; it annihilates all interposing space; it transplants the soul at once into the world above. That which we know is to be hereafter is felt as if already in being. Hence, the coming of the Lord is always spoken of as at hand. Nay, more than this, the saints are represented as “having their conversation in heaven,” as being already “seated with Christ in heavenly places,”(Eph. 2:16) as having “come to Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn which are written in heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect” (Heb. 12:22). The things amid which they are to move hereafter are so realized by faith as to appear the things amid which they are at present moving. They sit in “heavenly places” and look down upon the earth, with all its clouds and storms, as lying immeasurably far beneath their feet. And what is a “present evil world” to those who are already above all its vicissitudes and breathing a purer atmosphere?

Such is the power of faith. It throws back into the far distance the things of earth, the things that men call near and real; and it brings forward into vital contact with the soul the things which men call invisible and distant. It discloses to us the heavenly mansions, their passing splendor, their glorious purity, their blessed peace. It shows us the happy courts, the harmonious company, the adoring multitudes. It opens our ears also, so that when beholding these great sights we seem to hear the heavenly melody and to catch the very words of the new song they sing, “Thou art worthy…for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth” (Rev. 5:9).

It, moreover, points our eye forward to what is yet to come: the coming of the Lord, the judgment of the great day, the restitution of all things, the kingdom that cannot be moved, the city which hath foundations whose builder and maker is God. While thus it gives to things invisible a body and a form which before they possessed not in our eyes, on the other hand, it divests things visible of that semblance of excellence and reality with which they were formerly clothed. It strips the world of its false but bewildering glow, and enables us to penetrate the thin disguise that hides its poverty and meanness. It not only sweeps away the cloud which hung above us, obstructing our view of heavenly excellence, but it places that cloud beneath us to counteract the fallacious brightness and unreal beauty which the world has thrown over itself to mask its inward deformity.

Thus it is that faith enables us to realize our true position of pilgrims and strangers upon earth, looking for the city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. It is into this that we are introduced by faith at our conversion. For what is our conversion but a turning of our back upon the world and bidding farewell to all that the heart had hitherto been entwined around? It is then that like Abraham we forsake all and go out not knowing whither. Old ties are broken, although sometimes hard to sever. New ones are formed, although not of earth. We begin to look around us and find all things new. We feel that we are strangers— strangers in that very spot where we have been so long at home. But this is our joy. We have left our father’s house, but we are hastening on to a more enduring home. We have taken leave of the world—but we have become heirs of the eternal kingdom, sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty. We have left Egypt, but Canaan is in view. We are in the wilderness, but we are free. Ours is a pathless waste, but we move forward under the shadow of the guardian cloud. Sorrowful, we yet rejoice; poor, we make many rich; having nothing, yet we possess all things. We have a rich inheritance in reversion and a long eternity in which to enjoy it without fear of loss, or change, or end.

Walking thus by faith and not by sight, what should mar our joy? Does it not come from that which is within the veils? And what storm of the desert can find entrance there? Our rejoicing is in the Lord, and He is without variableness or shadow of turning. We know that this is not our rest; neither do we wish it were so, for it is polluted; but our joy is this, that Jehovah is our God, and His promised glory is our inheritance forever. Our morning and our evening song is this “The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot. The lines have fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage” (Psalm 16:5). Why should we, then, into whose hands the cup of gladness shall ere long be put, shrink from the vinegar and the gall? Why should we, who have dearer friends above better bonds that cannot be dissolved, be disconsolate at the severance of an earthly tie? Our homes may be empty, our firesides may be thinned, and our hearts may bleed: but these are not enduring things; and why should we feel desolate as if all gladness had departed? Why should we, who shall wear a crown and inherit all things, sigh or fret because of a few years’ poverty and shame? Earth’s dream will soon be done; and then comes the day of “songs and everlasting joy”—the long reality of bliss! Jesus will soon be here; and “when he who is our life shall appear, then shall we also appear with him in glory.” Shall trial shake us? Nay, in all this we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. Shall sorrow move us? Faith tells us of a land where sorrow is unknown. Shall the death of saints move us? Faith tells us not to sorrow as those who have no hope, for if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, them also that sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him. Shall the pains and weariness of this frail body move us? Faith tells us of a time at hand when this corruptible shall put on incorruption, and death shall be swallowed up in victory. Shall privation move us? Faith tells us of a day when the poverty of our exile shall be forgotten in the abundance of our peaceful, plenteous home, where we shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more.

Shall the disquieting bustle of this restless life annoy us? Faith tells us of the rest that remaineth for the people of God—the sea of glass like unto crystal on which the ransomed saints shall stand—no tempest, no tumult, no shipwreck there. Shall the lack of this world’s honors move us? Faith tells us of the exceeding and eternal weight of glory in reserve. Have we no place to lay our head? Faith tells us that we have a home, though not in Caesar’s house, a dwelling, though not in any city of earth. Are we fearful as we look around upon the disorder and wretchedness of this misgoverned earth? Faith tells us that the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. Do thoughts of death alarm us? Faith tells us that “to die is gain,” and whispers to us, “What, are you afraid of becoming immortal, afraid of passing from this state of death, which men call life, to that which alone truly deserves the name!”

Such is the family life—a life of faith. We live upon things unseen. Our life is hid with Christ in God that when He who is our life shall appear, we may appear with Him in glory. This mode of life is not that of the world at all but the very opposite. Nevertheless, it has been that of the saints from the beginning. This is the way in which they have walked, going up through the wilderness leaning on their Beloved. And such is to be the walk of the saints till the Lord comes. Oh, how much is there in these thoughts concerning it, not only to reconcile us to it, but to make us rejoice in it, and to say, I reckon that the sufferings of this present life, are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us! For all things are ours, whether life or death, things present or things to come, all are ours; for we are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s. Yea, we are heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ. “This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord” (Isaiah 54:17).

We know not a better type or specimen of the family life than Abraham or Israel in their desert wanderings. Look at Abraham. He quits all at the command of the God of glory. This begins his life of faith. Then he journeys onward not knowing whither. Then he sojourns as a stranger in the land which God had given him. Then he offers up Isaac. Then he buys for himself a tomb where he may lay his dust till the day of resurrection. All is faith. He lives and acts as a stranger. He has no home. He has his altar and his tent, but that is all— the one he builds wherever he goes, in the peaceful consciousness of sin forgiven and acceptance found; the other he pitches from day-to-day in token of his being a pilgrim and a stranger upon earth. And what more does any member of the family need below, but his altar and his tent—a Savior for a sinful soul, and a shelter for a frail body until journeying days are done? Or look at Israel. They quit Egypt. There the life of faith begins. Then they cross the Red Sea. Then they take up their abode in the desert. They have no city to dwell in now. They have no fleshpots now— nothing but the daily manna for food. They have no river of Egypt now— nothing but a rock to yield them water. All is waste around. All is to be of faith, not of sight. They are alone with God, and the whole world is afar off. They rear their altar, they pitch their tents, as did Abraham, with this only difference: above their heads there floats a wondrous cloud, which, like a heavenly canopy, stretches itself out over their dwellings when they rest, or like an angel-guide, it takes wing before them when God summons them to strike their tents that it may lead them in the way. Nay, and as if to mark more vividly the pilgrim condition of the family, God Himself, when coming down into the midst of them, chooses a tent to dwell in. It is called “the tabernacle of the Lord,” or more literally “Jehovah’s tent.” Jehovah pitches His tent side by side with Israel’s tents, as if He were a stranger too, a wanderer like themselves!

This is our life. We are to be strangers with God as all our fathers were. It is the life of the desert, not of the city. But what of that? All is well. Jehovah is our God, and we shall soon be in His “many mansions.” Meanwhile, we have the tent, the altar, and the cloud. We need no more below. The rest is secured for us in Heaven, “ready to be revealed in the last time.”

How am I to find salvation?

Taken from, “The Blood of the Cross”
Written by, Horatius Bonar

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Do you ask, “How am I to find salvation…

…and how am I to go to that God, on the blood of whose Son I have trampled so long?” I answer, Go to Him in your proper and present character—that of sinner. Go with no lie upon your lips, professing to be what you are not, or to feel what you do not. Tell Him honestly what you are, and what you feel, and what you do not feel. “Take with you words”; but let them be honest words, not the words of hypocrisy and deceit. Tell Him that your sin is piercing you; or tell Him that you have no sense of sin, no repentance, no relish for divine things, no right knowledge of your own worthlessness and guilt.

Present yourself before Him just as you are, and not as you wish to be, or think you ought to be, or suppose He desires you to be. Recount your necessities; make mention of the multitude of His mercies; point to the work of the blessed Son; remind Him how entirely righteous it would be for Him to receive and bless you. Appear before Him, taking for granted just that you are what you are, a sinner; and that Christ is what He is, a Savior; deal honestly with God, and be assured that it is most thoroughly impossible that you can miss your errand. “Seek the LORD while He may be found”; and you will see that He is found of you. “Call upon Him while He is near”; and you will find how near He is.

But tarry not, for the day is fast closing, and the thick gloom of evening is at hand. The last “woes” are preparing, and the gates of the kingdom shall ere long be shut. The acceptable year of the Lord is running out, and the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. Trifle not with your brief remaining span or inch of hasty time.

This earth shall soon shake beneath the footsteps of its coming Judge. Its hills and rocks must soon echo with the sound of the final trumpet. And therefore it concerns men, without delay, to be securing the shelter ere the storm be up. When once the wrath of the Lamb is kindled, who shall escape save those who are sprinkled with His blood? It is an eternal doom that is preparing for the ungodly, and the time that remaineth is short, in which the sinner may escape. He has no moments to fling away, for that which he flings away may be his last.

Fool! When wilt thou be wise? Thou art wise for time, and not for eternity. Dost thou not see these thunderclouds? Dost thou not hear the wild tumult of earth, the cry of nations, the shock of falling empires, the crumbling sound throughout the earth that speaks of universal dissolution and ruin? What are these things? The work of chance? A passing earthquake? The burst of frenzy for an hour? No. They are signs of gathering wrath. It is God coming down to smite the guilty earth—that earth upon whose surface you are treading.

Are you ready for His arrival? Are all matters of variance between you and Him adjusted? And has your reconciliation been sealed by the blood of the Lamb? If not, how shall you meet His eye? How shall you abide His awful scrutiny? That scrutiny will comprise much. Nay, it will omit nothing; its minuteness and exactness will overwhelm you. But the most solemn part of it will be that touching the blood of the Son of God, and the good news respecting it which have been so long proclaimed to you. These good news have found no entrance, and the messenger who brought them has been denied all access day by day. Instead of prizing this blood and making use of it for your cleansing, you have slighted it; and in slighting it, you have slighted Him whose blood it is—Him through whose death there is life for you. And shall not the Lord visit you for such deliberate rejection of His grace; shall not His soul be avenged for such neglect of His “great salvation?” 

Not Faith, But Faith’s Object: Christ

Taken and adapted from, “Everlasting Righteousness”
Written by, Horatius Bonar

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Our justification is the direct result of our believing the gospel…

…our knowledge of our own justification comes from believing God’s promise of justification to everyone who believes these glad tidings. For there is not only the divine testimony, but there is the promise annexed to it, assuring eternal life to every one who receives that testimony. There is first, then, a believed Gospel, and then there is a believed promise. The latter is the “appropriation,” as it is called; which, after all, is nothing but the acceptance of the promise which is everywhere coupled with the gospel message. The believed gospel saves; but it is the believed promise that assures us of this salvation.

Yet, after all, faith is not our righteousness. It is accounted to us in order to (eis) righteousness (Rom 4:5), but not as righteousness; for in that case it would be a work like any other doing of man, and as such would be incompatible with the righteousness of the Son of God; the “righteousness which is by faith.” Faith connects us with the righteousness, and is therefore totally distinct from it. To confound the one with the other is to subvert the whole gospel of the grace of God. Our act of faith must ever be a separate thing from that which we believe.

God reckons the believing man as having done all righteousness, though he has not done any, and though his faith is not righteousness. In this sense it is that faith is counted to us for, or in order to, righteousness,–and that we are “justified by faith.” Faith does not justify as a work, or as a moral act, or a piece of goodness, nor as a gift of the Spirit, but simply because it is the bond between us and the Substitute; a very slender bond in one sense, but strong as iron in another. The work of Christ for us is the object of faith; the Spirit’s work in us is that which produces this faith: it is out of the former, not of the latter, that our peace and justification come. Without the touch of the rod the water would not have gushed forth; yet it was the rock, and not the rod, that contained the water.

The bringer of the sacrifice into the tabernacle was to lay his hand upon the head of the sheep or the bullock, otherwise the offering would not have been accepted for him.

But the laying on of his hand was not the same as the victim on which it was laid. The serpent-bitten Israelite was to look at the uplifted serpent of brass in order to be healed. But his looking was not the brazen serpent. We may say it was his looking that healed him, just as the Lord said, “Thy faith hath saved thee”; but this is figurative language. It was not his act of looking that healed him, but the object to which he looked. So faith is not our righteousness: it merely knits us to the righteous One, and makes us partakers of His righteousness. By a natural figure of speech, faith is often magnified into something great; whereas it is really nothing but our consenting to be saved by another: its supposed magnitude is derived from the greatness of the object which it grasps, the excellence of the righteousness which it accepts. Its preciousness is not its own, but the preciousness of Him to whom it links us.

Faith is not our physician; it only brings us to the Physician. It is not even our medicine; it only administers the medicine, divinely prepared by Him who “healeth all our diseases.” In all our believing, let us remember God’s word to Israel: “I am Jehovah, that healeth thee” (Exodus 14:26). Our faith is but our touching Jesus; and what is even this, in reality, but His touching us?

Faith is not our savior.

It was not faith that was born at Bethlehem and died on Golgotha for us. It was not faith that loved us, and gave itself for us; that bore our sins in its own body on the tree; that died and rose again for our sins. Faith is one thing, the Savior is another. Faith is one thing, and the cross is another. Let us not confound them, nor ascribe to a poor, imperfect act of man, that which belongs exclusively to the Son of the Living God.

Faith is not perfection.

Yet only by perfection can we be saved; either our own or another’s. That which is imperfect cannot justify, and an imperfect faith could not in any sense be a righteousness. If it is to justify, it must be perfect. It must be like “the Lamb, without blemish and without spot.” An imperfect faith may connect us with the perfection of another; but it cannot of itself do aught for us, either in protecting us from wrath or securing the divine acquittal. All faith here is imperfect; and our security is this, that it matters not how poor or weak our faith may be: if it touches the perfect One, all is well. The touch draws out the virtue that is in Him, and we are saved. The slightest imperfection in our faith, if faith were our righteousness, would be fatal to every hope. But the imperfection of our faith, however great, if faith be but the approximation or contact between us and the fullness of the Substitute, is no hindrance to our participation of His righteousness. God has asked and provided a perfect righteousness; He nowhere asks nor expects a perfect faith. An earthenware pitcher can convey water to a traveler’s thirsty lips as well as one of gold; nay, a broken vessel, even if there be but “a shard to take water from the pit” (Isaiah 30:14), will suffice. So a feeble, very feeble faith, will connect us with the righteousness of the Son of God; the faith, perhaps, that can only cry, “Lord, I believe; help mine unbelief.”

Faith is not satisfaction to God.

In no sense and in no aspect can faith be said to satisfy God, or to satisfy the law. Yet if it is to be our righteousness, it must satisfy. Being imperfect, it cannot satisfy; being human, it cannot satisfy, even though it were perfect. That which satisfies must be capable of bearing our guilt; and that which bears our guilt must be not only perfect, but divine. It is a sin-bearer that we need, and our faith cannot be a sin-bearer. Faith can expiate no guilt; can accomplish no propitiation; can pay no penalty; can wash away no stain; can provide no righteousness. It brings us to the cross, where there is expiation, and propitiation, and payment, and cleansing, and righteousness; but in itself it has no merit and no virtue.

Faith is not Christ, nor the cross of Christ.

Faith is not the blood, nor the sacrifice; it is not the altar, nor the laver, nor the mercy-seat, nor the incense. It does not work, but accepts a work done ages ago; it does not wash, but leads us to the fountain opened for sin and uncleanness. It does not create; it merely links us to that new thing which was created when the “everlasting righteousness” was brought in (Dan 9:24).

And as faith goes on, so it continues…

…always the beggar’s outstretched hand, never the rich man’s gold; always the cable, never the anchor; the knocker, not the door, or the palace, or the table; the handmaid, not the mistress; the lattice which lets in the light, not the sun.

Without worthiness in itself, it knits us to the infinite worthiness of Him in whom the Father delights; and so knitting us, presents us perfect in the perfection of another. Though it is not the foundation laid in Zion, it brings us to that foundation, and keeps us there, “grounded and settled” (Col 1:23), that we may not be moved away from the hope of the gospel. Though it is not “the gospel,” the “glad tidings,” it receives these good news as God’s eternal verities, and bids the soul rejoice in them; though it is not the burnt-offering, it stands still and gazes on the ascending flame, which assures us that the wrath which should have consumed the sinner has fallen upon the Substitute.

Though faith is not “the righteousness,” it is the tie between it and us.

It realizes our present standing before God in the excellency of His own Son; and it tells us that our eternal standing, in the ages to come, is in the same excellency, and depends on the perpetuity of that righteousness which can never change. For never shall we put off that Christ whom we put on when we believed (Rom 12:14; Gal 3:27). This divine raiment is “to everlasting.” It waxes not old, it cannot be rent, and its beauty fadeth not away.

Nor does faith lead us away from that cross to which at first it led us. Some in our day speak as if we soon got beyond the cross, and might leave it behind; that the cross having done all it could do for us when first we came under its shadow, we may quit it and go forward; that to remain always at the cross is to be babes, not men.

But what is the cross?

It is not the mere wooden pole, or some imitation of it, such as Romanists use. These we may safely leave behind us. We need not pitch our tent upon the literal Golgotha, or in Joseph’s garden. But the great truth which the cross embodies we can no more part with than we can part with life eternal. In this sense, to turn our back upon the cross is to turn our back upon Christ crucified,-to give up our connection with the Lamb that was slain. The truth is, that all that Christ did and suffered, from the manger to the tomb, forms one glorious whole, no part of which shall ever become needless or obsolete; no part of which can ever leave without forsaking the whole. I am always at the manger, and yet I know that mere incarnation cannot save; always at Gethsemane, and yet I believe that its agony was not the finished work; always at the cross, with my face toward it, and my eye on the crucified One, and yet I am persuaded that the sacrifice there was completed once for all; always looking into the grave, though I rejoice that it is empty, and that “He is not here, but is risen”; always resting (with the angel) on the stone that was rolled away, and handling the grave-clothes, and realizing a risen Christ, nay, an ascended and interceding Lord; yet on no pretext whatever leaving any part of my Lord’s life or death behind me, but unceasingly keeping up my connection with Him, as born, living, dying, buried, and rising again, and drawing out from each part some new blessing every day and hour.

Man, in his natural spirit of self-justifying legalism, has tried to get away from the cross of Christ and its perfection, or to erect another cross instead, or to set up a screen of ornaments between himself and it, or to alter its true meaning into something more congenial to his tastes, or to transfer the virtue of it to some act or performance or feeling of its own. Thus the simplicity of the cross is nullified, and its saving power is denied.

For the cross saves completely, or not at all.

Our faith does not divide the work of salvation between itself and the cross. It is the acknowledgment that the cross alone saves, and that it saves alone. Faith adds nothing to the cross, nor to its healing virtue. It owns the fullness, and sufficiency, and suitableness of the work done there, and bids the toiling spirit cease from its labors and enter into rest. Faith does not come to Calvary to do anything. It comes to see the glorious spectacle of all things done, and to accept this completion without a misgiving as to its efficacy. It listens to the “It is finished!” of the Sin-bearer, and says, “Amen.” Where faith begins, there labor ends, –labor, I mean, “for” life and pardon. Faith is rest, not toil. It is the giving up all the former weary efforts to do or feel something good, in order to induce God to love and pardon; and the calm reception of the truth so long rejected, that God is not waiting for any such inducements, but loves and pardons of His own goodwill, and is showing that good will to any sinner who will come to Him on such a footing, casting away his own performances or goodnesses, and relying implicitly upon the free love of Him who so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son.

Faith is the acknowledgment of the entire absence of all goodness in us, and the recognition of the cross as the substitute for all the want on our part.

Faith saves, because it owns the complete salvation of another, and not because it contributes anything to that salvation. There is no dividing or sharing the work between our own belief and Him in whom we believe. The whole work is His, not ours, from the first to last. Faith does not believe in itself, but in the Son of God. Like the beggar, it receives everything, but gives nothing. It consents to be a debtor for ever to the free love of God. Its resting-place is the foundation laid in Zion. It rejoices in another, not in itself. Its song is, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but by His mercy He saved us.”

Christ crucified is to be the burden of our preaching, and the substance of our belief, from first to last. At no time in the saint’s life does he cease to need the cross; though at times he may feel that his special need, in spiritual perplexity or the exigency of conflict with evil, may be the incarnation, or the agony in the garden, or the resurrection, or the hope of the promised advent, to be glorified in His saints, and admired in all them that believe.

But the question is not, “What truths are we to believe?” but, What truths are we to believe FOR JUSTIFICATION?

That Christ is to come again in glory and in majesty, as Judge and King, is an article of the Christian faith, the disbelief of which would almost lead us to doubt the Christianity of him who disbelieves it. Yet we are not in any sense justified by the second advent of our Lord, but solely by His first. We believe in His ascension, yet our justification is not connected with it. So we believe His resurrection, yet we are not justified by faith in it, but by faith in His death, –that death which made Him at once our propitiation and our righteousness.

“He was raised again on account of our having been justified” (Rom 4:25) is the clear statement of the word. The resurrection was the visible pledge of a justification already accomplished.

“The power of His resurrection” (Phil 3:10) does not refer to atonement, or pardon, or reconciliation; but to our being renewed in the spirit of our minds, to our being “begotten again unto a living hope, by the resurrection from the dead” (1 Pet 1:3). That which is internal, such as our quickening, our strengthening, our renewing, may be connected with resurrection and resurrection power; but that which is external, such as God’s pardoning, and justifying, and accepting, must be connected with the cross alone.

The doctrine of our being justified by an infused resurrection-righteousness, or, as it is called, justification in a risen Christ, (1) is a clear subversion of the Surety’s work when “He died for our sins, according to the Scriptures,” or when “He washed us from our sins in His own blood,” or when He gave us the robes “washed white in the blood of the Lamb.”

It is the blood that justifies (Rom 5:9).

It is the blood that pacifies the conscience, purging it from dead works to serve the living God (Heb 9:14). It is the blood that emboldens us to enter through the veil into the holiest, and go up to the sprinkled mercy-seat. It is the blood that we are to drink for the quenching of our thirst (John 6:55). It is the blood by which we have peace with God (Col 1:20). It is the blood through which we have redemption (Eph 1:7), and by which we are brought nigh (Eph 2:13), by which we are sanctified (Heb 13:12). It is the blood which is the seal of the everlasting covenant (Heb 13:20). It is the blood which cleanses (1 John 1:7), which gives us victory (Rev 12:11), and with which we have communion in the Supper of the Lord (1 Cor 10:16). It is the blood which is the purchase-money or ransom of the church of God (Acts 20:28).

The blood and the resurrection are very different things; for the blood is death, and the resurrection is life.

It is remarkable that in the book of Leviticus there is no reference to resurrection in any of the sacrifices. It is death throughout. All that is needed for a sinner’s pardon, and justification, and cleansing, and peace, is there fully set forth in symbol, –and that symbol is death upon the altar. Justification by any kind of infused or inherent righteousness is wholly inconsistent with the services of the tabernacle, most of all justification by an infused, resurrection-righteousness.

The sacrifices are God’s symbolical exposition of the way of a sinner’s approach and acceptance; and in none of these does resurrection hold any place. If justification be in a risen Christ, then assuredly that way was not revealed to Israel; and the manifold offerings so minutely detailed, did not answer the question: How may man be just with God? nor give to the worshippers of old one hint as to the way by which God was to justify the ungodly.

“Christ in us, the hope of glory” (Col 1:27)…

…is a well-known and blessed truth; but Christ IN US, our justification, is a ruinous error, leading man away from a crucified Christ-a Christ crucified FOR US. Christ for us is one truth; Christ in us is quite another. The mingling of these two together, or the transposition of them, is the nullifying of the one finished work of the Substitute. Let it be granted that Christ in us is the source of holiness and fruitfulness (John 15:4); but let it never be overlooked that first of all there be Christ FOR US, as our propitiation, our justification, our righteousness. The risen Christ in us, our justification, is a modern theory which subverts the cross. Washing, pardoning, reconciling, justifying, all come from the one work of the cross, not from resurrection. The dying Christ completed the work for us from which all the above benefits flow. The risen Christ but sealed and applied what, three days before, He had done once for all.

It is somewhat remarkable that in the Lord’s Supper (as in the passover) there is no reference to resurrection. The broken body and the shed blood are the Alpha and Omega of that ordinance. In it we have communion (not with Christ as risen and glorified, but) with the body of Christ and the blood of Christ (1 Cor 10:16), that is, Christ upon the cross. “This do in remembrance of me.” “As oft as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till He come.” If, after we have been at the cross, we are to pass on and leave it behind us, as no longer needed, seeing we are justified by the risen Christ in us, let those who hold that deadly error say why all reference to resurrection should be excluded from the great feast; and why the death of the Lord should be the one object presented to us at the table.

“Life in a risen Christ” is another way of expressing the same error. If by this were only meant that resurrection has been made the channel or instrument through which the life and justification are secured for us on and by the cross, –as when the apostle speaks of our being begotten again unto a lively hope by the “resurrection of Christ from the dead,” or when we are said to be “risen with Christ,” –one would not object to the phraseology. But when we find it used as expressive of dissociation of these benefits from the cross, and derivation of them from resurrection solely, then do we condemn it as untrue and antiscriptural. For concerning this “life” let us hear the words of the Lord: “The bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world” (John 6:51). “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him” (John 6:53-56).

This assuredly is not the doctrine of “life in a risen Christ,” or “a risen Christ in us, our justification and life.” I do not enter on the exposition of these verses. I simply cite them. They bear witness to the cross. They point to the broken body and shed blood as our daily and hourly food, our life-long feast, from which there comes into us the life which the Son of man, by His death, has obtained for us. That flesh is life-imparting, that blood is life-imparting; and this not once, but for evermore. It is not incarnation on the one hand, nor is it resurrection on the other, on which we are thus to feed, and out of which this life comes forth; it is that which lies between these two, –death, –the sacrificial death of the Son of God. It is not the personality nor the life-history of the Christ of God which is the special quickener and nourishment of our souls, but the blood-shedding. Not that we are to separate the former from the latter, but still it is on the latter that we are specially to feed, and this all the days of our lives.

“Christ, our passover, has been sacrificed for us.”

Hence we rest, protected by the paschal blood, and feeding on the paschal Iamb, with its unleavened bread and bitter herbs, from day-to-day. “Let us keep the feast” (1 Cor 5:8). Wherever we are, let us keep it. For we carry our passover with us, always ready, always fresh. With girded loins and staff in hand, as wayfarers, we move along, through the rough or the smooth of the wilderness, our face toward the land of promise.

That paschal lamb is CHRIST CRUCIFIED. As such He is our protection, our pardon, our righteousness, our food, our strength, our peace. Fellowship with Him upon the cross is the secret of a blessed and holy life.

We feed on that which has passed through the fire; on that which has come from the altar. No other food can quicken or sustain the spiritual life of a believing man. The unbroken body will not suffice; nor will the risen or glorified body avail. The broken body and shed blood of the Son of God form the viands on which we feast; and it is under the shadow of the cross that we sit down to partake of these, and find refreshment for our daily journey, strength for our hourly warfare. His flesh is meat indeed; His blood is drink indeed.

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(1) Mr. Irving, Dr. Newman, and the followers of Mr. Darby, are the modern upholders of this new form of an old heresy. Formerly it was simply justification by an infused righteousness, now it is by an infused righteousness derived from Christ’s resurrection. See Dr. Newman’s sermon, Christ’s Resurrection the Source of Justification.

Good Works and the Justified Christian

Taken and adapted from, “The Everlasting Righteousness”
Written by, Horatius Bonar (1808-1889)

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“Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt”
—Romans 4:4.

Does Paul by this speech make light of good works?

Does he encourage an unholy walk? Does he use a rash word, which had better been left unspoken? No, truly, he is laying the foundation of good works. He is removing the great obstacle to a holy life, viz., the bondage of an unforgiven state. He is speaking, by the power of the Holy Ghost, the words of truth and soberness. The difference between working and believing is that which God would have us to learn, lest we confound these two things and so destroy them both. The order and relation of these two things are here very explicitly laid down, so as to anticipate the error of many who mix up working and believing together, or who make believing the result of working, instead of working the result of believing. We carefully distinguish, yet we as carefully connect the two. We do not put asunder what God has joined together; yet we would not reverse the divine order, nor disturb the divine relation, nor place that last which God has set first.

It was not to depreciate or discourage good works that the Apostle spoke of not working, but believing; or of a man being “justified by faith without the deeds of the law”; or of God imputing “righteousness without works” (Romans 3:28; 4:6). It was to distinguish things that differ. It was to show the true use of faith in connecting us for justification with what another has done. It was to stay us from doing anything in order to be justified. In this view, then, faith is truly a ceasing from work and not a working. It is not the doing of anything in order to be justified, but the simple reception of the justifying work of Him Who finished transgression and made an end of sin (Daniel 9:24). For the one justifying work was completed eighteen hundred years ago, and any attempt on our part to repeat or imitate this is vain. The one cross suffices.

Nor was it to undervalue good works that our Lord gave, what many may deem such a singular answer to the question of the Jews, “What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?…This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent” (John 6:28, 29).

They wanted to work their way into the favor of God. The Lord tells them that they may have that favor without waiting or working by accepting at once His testimony to His only-begotten Son. Until then, they were not in a condition for working. They were as trees without a root, as stars whose motions, however regular, would be useless, if they themselves were unlighted.

To say to a groping, troubled spirit, “You must first believe before you can work,” is no more to encourage ungodliness or laxity of walk, than to say to an imprisoned soldier, “You must first get out of your dungeon before you can fight”; or to a swimmer, “You must throw off that millstone before you can attempt to swim”; or to a racer, “You must get quit of these fetters before you can run the race.” Yet these expressions of the Apostle have often been shrunk from, dreaded as dangerous, quoted with a guarding clause, or rather cited as seldom as possible, under the secret feeling that unless greatly diluted or properly qualified, they had better not be cited at all. But why are these bold utterances there, if they are perilous, if they are not meant to be as fearlessly proclaimed now as they were fearlessly written eighteen centuries ago? What did the Holy Spirit mean by promulgation of such “unguarded” statements, as some seem disposed to reckon them? It was not for nothing that they were so boldly spoken. Timid words would not have served the purpose. The glorious Gospel needed statements such as these to disentangle the great question of acceptance, to relieve troubled consciences and purge them from dead works, yet at the same time to give to works their proper place…

In another’s righteousness we stand, and by another’s righteousness are we justified. All accusations against us, founded upon our unrighteousness, we answer by pointing to the perfection of the righteousness that covers us from head to foot…

Protected by this perfection, we have no fear of wrath, either now or hereafter. It is a buckler to us; and we cry, “Behold, O God our shield, and look upon the face of thine anointed” (Psalms 84:9), as if to say, “Look not on me, but on my Substitute. Deal not with me for sin, but with my Sin-bearer. Challenge not me for my guilt, but challenge Him; He will answer for me.” Thus, we are safe beneath the shield of His righteousness. No arrow, either from the enemy or from conscience, can reach us there.

Covered by this perfection, we are at peace. The enemy cannot invade us; or if he try to do so, we can triumphantly repel him. It is a refuge from the storm, a covert from the tempest, a river of water in a dry place, the shadow of a great rock in a weary land. The work of righteousness is peace; and in the Lord we have righteousness and strength.

Beautified with this perfection, which is the perfection of God, we find favor in His sight. His eye rests on the comeliness that He has put upon us; and as He did at viewing the first creation, so now, in looking at us as clothed with this divine excellency, He pronounces it “very good.” He sees no iniquity in Jacob and no transgression in Israel (Numbers 23:21). “The iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found” (Jeremiah 50:20). This righteousness suffices to cover, to comfort, and to beautify.

But there is more than this: we are justified that we may be holy. The possession of this legal righteousness is the beginning of a holy life. We do not live a holy life in order to be justified; but we are justified that we may live a holy life. That which man calls holiness may be found in almost any circumstances of dread, or darkness, or bondage, or self-righteous toil and suffering; but that which God calls holiness can only be developed under conditions of liberty and light, and pardon and peace with God. Forgiveness is the mainspring of holiness. Love, as a motive, is far stronger than law, far more influential than fear of wrath or peril of hell. Terror may make a man crouch like a slave and obey a hard master, lest a worse thing come upon him; but only a sense of forgiving love can bring either heart or conscience into that state in which obedience is either pleasant to the soul or acceptable to God.

False ideas of holiness are common, not only among those who profess false religions, but among those who profess the true.

For holiness is a thing of which man by nature has no more idea than a blind man has of the beauty of a flower or the light of the sun. All false religions have had their “holy men,” whose holiness often consisted merely in the amount of pain they could inflict upon their bodies, or of food which they could abstain from, or of hard labor which they could undergo. But with God, a saint or holy man is a very different being. It is in filial, full-hearted love to God that much of true holiness consists. And this cannot even begin to be until the sinner has found forgiveness and tasted liberty and has confidence towards God. The spirit of holiness is incompatible with the spirit of bondage. There must be the spirit of liberty, the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15; Gal 4:6). When the fountain of holiness begins to well up in the human heart and to fill the whole being with its transforming, purifying power, “We have known and believed the love that God hath to us” (1John 4:16) is the first note of the holy song that commenced on earth and is perpetuated through eternity.

We are bought with a price that we may be new creatures in Christ Jesus. We are forgiven that we may be like Him, Who forgives us. We are set at liberty and brought out of prison that we may be holy. The free, boundless love of God, pouring itself into us, expands and elevates our whole being; and we serve Him, not in order to win His favor, but because we have already won it in simply believing His record concerning His Son. If the root is holy, so are the branches. We have become connected with the holy root and by the necessity of this connection are made holy too.

Forgiveness relaxes no law nor interferes with the highest justice. Human pardons may often do so: God’s pardons never. Forgiveness doubles all our bonds to a holy life, only they are no longer bonds of iron, but of gold. It takes off the heavy yoke in order to give us the light and easy. Love is stronger than law. Whatever connects our obedience with love must be far more influential than what connects us with law.

The love of God to us and our love to God work together for producing holiness in us. Terror accomplishes no real obedience. Suspense brings forth no fruit unto holiness. Only the certainty of love, forgiving love, can do this. It is this certainty that melts the heart, dissolves our chains, disburdens our shoulders so that we stand erect, and makes us to run in the way of the divine commandments.

Condemnation is that which binds sin and us together. Forgiveness looses this fearful tie and separates us from sin. The power of condemnation which the Law possesses is that which makes it so strong and terrible. Cancel this power, and the liberated spirit rises into the region of love and in that region finds both will and strength for the keeping of the Law, a law which is at once old and new: old as to substance—“Thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart” (Deuteronomy 6:5)—new as to mode and motive—“for the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2); that is, the law of the life-giving Spirit, which we have in Christ Jesus, has severed the condemning connection of that Law which leads only to sin and death. “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh (i.e., unable to carry out its commandments in our old nature), God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Romans 8:3, 4).

The removal of condemnation is the dissolution of legal bondage and of that awful pressure upon the conscience that at once enslaved and irritated; disenabling as well as disinclining us from all obedience; making holiness both distasteful and dreadful, to be submitted to only through fear of future woe…But the message, “God is love,” is like the sun bursting through the clouds of a long tempest. The good news, “Through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins” (Acts 13:38), is like the opening of the prisoner’s dungeon gate. Bondage departs, and liberty comes. Suspicion is gone, and the heart is won. Perfect love has cast out fear (1John 4:18). We hasten to the embrace of Him Who loved us; we hate that which has estranged us; we put away all that caused the distance between us and Him; we long to be like one so perfect and to partake of His holiness. To be “partakers of the divine nature” (2Peter 1:4), once so distasteful, is henceforth most grateful and pleasant; and nothing seems now so desirable as to escape the corruptions that are in the world through lust.

We undergo many false changes, which look like holiness, but which are not really so…Time changes us, yet does not make us holy. The decays of age change us, but do not break the power of evil. One lust expels another; frailty succeeds to frailty; error drives out error; one vanity pails, another comes freshly in its room; one evil habit is exchanged for a second, but our flesh remains the same. The cross has not touched us with its regenerating power; the Holy Spirit has not purified the inner sources of our being and life.

Fashion changes us; the example of friends changes us; society changes us; excitement changes us; business changes us; affection changes us; sorrow changes us; dread of coming evil changes us; yet the heart is just what it was. Of the numerous changes in our character or deportment, how many are deceitful, how few are real and deep! Only that which can go down into the very depths of our spiritual being can produce any change that is worthy of the name.

The one spell that can really transform us is THE CROSS. The one potent watchword is, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me” (John 12:32)…“For their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth” (John 17:19). Christ presents Himself as the Holy One, Consecrated One, to God that His people may partake of His sanctification and be like Himself—saints, consecrated ones, men set apart for God by the sprinkling of the blood. Through the truth, they are sanctified by the power of the Holy Ghost. “For by one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified” (Hebrews 10:14); so that the perfection of His saints, both as to the conscience and as to personal holiness, is connected with the one offering and springs out of the one work finished upon Calvary. “By the which will we are sanctified, through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:10). Here again the sanctification is connected with the offering of the body of Christ. Whatever place “the power of His resurrection” may hold in our spiritual history, it is the cross that is the source of all that varied fullness by which we are justified and purified. The secret of a believer’s holy walk is his continual recurrence to the blood of the Surety and his daily intercourse with a crucified and risen Lord…

Want of sensitiveness to the difference between truth and error is one of the evil features of modern Protestantism. Sounding words, well-executed pictures, and pretentious logic carry away multitudes.

The distinction between Gospel and no Gospel is very decided and very momentous; yet many will come away from a sermon in which the free Gospel has been overlaid, not sensible of the want, and praising the preacher. The conversions of recent years have not the depth of other days. Consciences are half-awakened and half-pacified; the wound is slightly laid open and slightly healed. Hence, the want of spiritual discernment as to truth and error. The conscience is not sensitive, else it would at once refuse and resent any statement, however well-argued or painted, which encroached in the slightest degree upon the free Gospel of God’s love in Christ; which interposed any obstacle between the sinner and the cross; or which merely declaimed about the cross, without telling us especially how it saves and how it purifies.

The Rending of the Veil

Taken from, “The Rent Veil”
Written by, Horatius Bonar

rent-veil

The symbolic veil was rent…

              …and at the same moment the true veil was also rent.

                                             It is this that we have now to consider….

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 “Behold the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom”

–Matt. 27:51

In considering them we must endeavour to realise the scene of which this is a part. The passage transports us to Jerusalem; it sets us down upon Moriah; it takes us into the old temple at the hour of evening sacrifice, when the sun, though far down the heavens, is still sending its rays right over turret and pinnacle, on to the grey slopes of Olivet, where thousands, gathered for the great Paschal Sacrifice, are wandering; it shows us the holy chambers with their varied furniture of marble and cedar and gold; it brings us into the midst of the ministering priests, all robed for service. Then suddenly, as through the opened sky, it lifts us up and carries us from the earthly into the heavenly places, from the mortal into the immortal Jerusalem, of which it is written by one who had gazed upon them both, “I saw no temple therein, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.”

For we must take the earthly and the heavenly together, as body and soul. The terrestrial sun and the sun of righteousness must mingle their radiance, and each unfold the other. The waters of the nether and the upper springs must flow together. The Church must be seen in Israel, and Israel in the Church; Christ in the altar, and the altar in Christ; Christ in the lamb, and the lamb in Christ; Christ in the mercy-seat, and the mercy-seat in Christ; Christ in the shekinah-glory, and the shekinah-glory in Him, who is the brightness of Jehovah’s glory. We must not separate the shadow from the substance, the material from the spiritual, the visible form the invisible glory. What God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.

Even the old Jew, if a believing man, like Simeon, saw these two things together, though in a way and order and proportion considerably different from what our faith now realises. To him there was the vision of the heavenly through the earthly; to us there is the vision of the earthly through the heavenly. He, standing on the outside, saw the glory through the veil, as one in a valley sees the sunshine through clouds; we, placed in the inside, see the veil through the glory, as one far up the mountain sees the clouds beneath through the sunshine. Formerly it was the earthly that revealed the heavenly, now it is the heavenly that illuminates the earthly. Standing beside the brazen serpent, Moses might see afar off Messiah the Healer of the nations; standing, or rather I should say sitting, by faith beside this same Messiah in the heavenly places, we see the brazen serpent afar off. From the rock of Horeb, the elders of Israel might look up and catch afar off some glimpses of the water of life flowing from the rock of ages; we, close by the heavenly fountain, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb, look down and recognise the old desert rock, with its gushing stream. Taking in his hand the desert manna, Israel could look up to the true bread above; we, taking into our hands the bread of God, look downward on the desert manna, not needing now with Israel to ask, “What is it?”

But let us look at

The rending of the veil. This was a new thing in its history, and quite a thing fitted to make Israel gaze and wonder, and ask, what meaneth this? Is Jehovah about to forsake His dwelling?

1. It was rent, not consumed by fire. For not its mere removal, still less its entire destruction, was to be signified; but its being transformed from being a barrier into a gate of entrance. Through it the way into the holiest was to pass; the new and living way; over a pavement sprinkled with blood.

2. It was rent while the temple stood. Had the earthquake which rent the rocks and opened graves, struck down the temple or shattered its walls, men might have said that it was this that rent the veil. But now was it made manifest that it was no earthly hand, nor natural convulsion, that was thus throwing open the mercy-seat, and making its long-barred chamber as entirely accessible as the wide court without, which all might enter, and where all might worship.

3. It was rent in twain. It did not fall to pieces, nor was it torn in pieces. The rent was a clean and straight one, made by some invisible hand; and the exact division into two parts might well figure the separation of Christ’s soul and body, while each part remained connected with the temple, as both body and soul remained in union with the Godhead; as well as resemble the throwing open of the great folding door between earth and heaven, and the complete restoration of the fellowship between God and man.
4. It was rent from the top to the bottom. Not from side to side, nor from the bottom to the top: which might have been man’s doing; but from the top to the bottom, showing that the power which rent it was from above, not from beneath; that the rending was not of man but of God. It was man, no doubt, that dealt the blow of death to the Son of God, but, “it pleased the Lord to bruise him; He hath put him to grief.” Beginning with the roof and ending with the floor, the rest was complete; for God, out of His own heaven, had done it. And as from roof to floor there remained not one fragment of the old veil; so from heaven to earth, from the throne of God, down to the dwelling of man, there exists not one remnant nor particle of a barrier between the sinner and God. He who openeth and no man shutteth has, with His own hand, and in His own boundless love, thrown wide open to the chief of sinners, the innermost recesses of His own glorious heaven! Let us go in: let us draw near.

5. It was rent in the presence of the priests. They were in the holy place, outside the veil, of course, officiating, lighting the lamps, or placing incense on the golden altar, or ordering the shewbread on the golden table. They saw the solemn rending of the veil, and were no doubt overwhelmed with amazement; ready to flee out of the place, or to cover their eyes lest they should see the hidden glories of that awful chamber which only one was permitted to behold. “Woe is me, for I am undone; I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell among a people of unclean lips; for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts” (Isa. 6:5). They were witnesses of what was done. They had not done it themselves; they felt that no mortal hand had done it; and what could they say but that God Himself had thrown open His gates, that they might enter in to precincts from which they had been so long debarred.

6. It was rent that it might disclose the mercy-seat, and the cherubim, and the glory. These were no longer to be hidden, and known only as the mysterious occupants of a chamber from which they might not go out, and into which no man might enter. It was no longer profanity to handle the uncovered vessels of the inner shrine; to gaze upon the golden floor and walls all stained with sacrificial blood; nay, to go up to the mercy-seat and sit down beneath the very shadow of the glory. Formerly it was blasphemy even to speak of entering in; now the invitation seemed all at once to go forth, “Let us come boldly to the throne of grace.” The safest, as well as the most blessed place, is beneath the shadow of the glory.

7. It was rent at the time of the evening sacrifice. About three o’clock, when the sun began to go down, the lamb was slain, and laid upon the brazen altar. Just at the moment when its blood was shed, and the smoke arose from the fire that was consuming it, the veil was rent in twain. There was an unseen link between the altar and the veil, between the sacrifice and the rending, between the blood-shedding and the removal of the barrier. It was blood that had done the work. It was blood that had rent the veil and thrown open the mercy-seat: the blood of “the Lamb, without blemish, and without spot.”

8. It was rent at the moment when the Son of God died on the cross. His death, then, had done it! Nay, more, that rending and that death were one thing; the one a symbol, the other a reality; but both containing one lesson, that LIFE was the screen which stood between us and God, and death the removal of the screen; that it was His death that made His incarnation available for sinners; that it was from the cross of Golgotha that the cradle of Bethlehem derived all its value and its virtue; that the rock of ages, like the rock of Rephidim, must be smitten before it can become a fountain of living waters. That death was like the touching of the electric wire between Calvary and Moriah, setting loose suddenly the divine power that for a thousand years had been lying in wait to rend the veil and cast down the barrier. It was from the cross that the power emanated which rent the veil. From that place of weakness and shame and agony, came forth the omnipotent command, “Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors.” The “It is finished” upon Golgotha was the appointed signal, and the instantaneous response was the rending of the veil. Little did the Jew think, when nailing the Son of the carpenter to the tree, that it was these pierced hands that were to rend the veil, and that it was their being thus pierced that fitted them for this mysterious work. Little did he suppose, when erecting a cross for the Nazarene, that cross was to be the lever by which both his temple and city were to be razed to their foundations. Yet so it was. It was the cross of Christ that rent the veil; overthrew the cold statutes of symbolic service; consecrated the new and living way into the holiest; supplanted the ritualistic with the real and the true; and substituted for lifeless performances the living worship of the living God.

9. When the veil was rent, the cherubim which were embroidered on it were rent with it. And as these cherubim symbolised the Church of the redeemed, there was thus signified our identification with Christ in His death. We were nailed with Him to the cross; we were crucified with Him; with Him we died, and were buried, and rose again. In that rent veil we have the temple-symbol of the apostle’s doctrine, concerning oneness with Christ in life and death,— “I am crucified with Christ.” And in realising the cross and the veil, let us realise these words of solemn meaning, “Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.”

The broken body and shed blood of the Lord had at length opened the sinner’s way into the holiest. And these were the tokens not merely of grace, but of righteousness. That rending was no act either of mere power or of mere grace. Righteousness had done it. Righteousness had rolled away the stone. Righteousness had burst the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron. It was a righteous removal of the barrier; it was a righteous entrance that had been secured for the unrighteous; it was a righteous welcome for the chief of sinners that was now proclaimed.

Long had the blood of bulls and goats striven to rend the veil, but in vain. Long had they knocked at the awful gate, demanding entrance for the sinner; long had they striven to quench the flaming sword, and unclasp the fiery belt that girdled paradise; long had they demanded entrance for the sinner, but in vain. But now the better blood has come; it knocks but once, and the gate flies open; it but once touches the sword of fire, and it is quenched. Not a moment is lost. The fulness of the time has come. God delays not, but unbars the door at once. He throws open His mercy-seat to the sinner, and makes haste to receive the banished one; more glad even than the wanderer himself that the distance, and the exclusion, and the terror are at an end for ever.

O wondrous power of the cross of Christ! To exalt the low, and to abase the high; to cast down and to build up; to unlink and to link; to save and to destroy; to kill and to make alive; to shut out and to let in; to curse and to bless. O wondrous virtue of the saving cross, which saves in crucifying, and crucifies in saving! For four thousand years has paradise been closed, but Thou hast opened it. For ages and generations the presence of God has been denied to the sinner, but Thou hast given entrance, — and that not timid, and uncertain, and costly, and hazardous; but bold, and blessed, and safe, and free.

The veil, then, has been rent in twain from the top to the bottom. The way is open, the blood is sprinkled, the mercy-seat is accessible to all, and the voice of the High Priest, seated on that mercy- seat, summons us to enter, and to enter without fear. Having, then, 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, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart, in the full assurance of faith. The message is, Go in, go in. Let us respond to the message, and at once draw near. To stand afar off, or even upon the threshold, is to deny and dishonour the provision made for our entrance, as well as to incur the awful peril of remaining outside the one place of safety or blessedness. To enter in is our only security and our only joy. But we must go in a spirit and attitude becoming the provision made for us. If that provision has been insufficient, we must come hesitatingly, doubtingly, as men who can only venture on an uncertain hope of being welcomed. If the veil be not wholly rent, if the blood be not thoroughly sprinkled, or be in itself insufficient, if the mercy-seat be not wholly what its name implies,—a seat of mercy, a throne of grace; if the High Priest be not sufficiently compassionate and loving, or if there be not sufficient evidence that these things are so, the sinner may come doubtingly and uncertainly; but if the veil be fully rent, and the blood be of divine value and potency, and the mercy-seat be really the place of grace, and the High Priest full of love to the sinner, then every shadow of a reason for doubt is swept utterly away. Not to come with the boldness is the sin. Not to come in the full assurance of faith is the presumption. To draw near with an “evil conscience” is to declare our belief that the blood of the Lamb is not of itself enough to give the sinner a good conscience and a fearless access.

“May I then draw near as I am, in virtue of the efficacy of the sprinkled blood?” Most certainly. In what other way or character do you propose to come? And may I be bold at once? Most certainly. For if not at once, then when and how? Let boldness come when it may, it will come to you from the sight of the blood upon the floor and mercy-seat, and from nothing else. It is bold coming that honours the blood. It is bold coming that glorifies the love of God and the grace of His throne. “Come boldly!” this is the message to the sinner. Come boldly now! Come in the full assurance of faith, not supposing it possible that God who has provided such a mercy-seat can do anything but welcome you; that such a mercy-seat can be anything to you but the place of pardon, or that the gospel out of which every sinner that has believed it has extracted peace, can contain anything but peace to you.

The rent veil is liberty of access. Will you linger still? The sprinkled blood is boldness, — boldness for the sinner, for any sinner, for every sinner. Will you still hesitate, tampering and dallying with uncertainty and doubt, and an evil conscience? Oh, take that blood for what it is and gives, and go in. Take that rent veil for what it indicates, and go in. This only will make you a peaceful, happy, holy man. This only will enable you to work for God on earth, unfettered and unburdened; all over joyful, all over loving, and all over free. This will make your religion not that of one who has everything yet to settle between himself and God, and whose labours, and duties, and devotions are all undergone for the purpose of working out that momentous adjustment before life shall close, but the religion of one who, having at the very outset, and simply in believing, settled every question between himself and God over the blood of the Lamb, is serving the blessed One who has loved him and bought him, with all the undivided energy of his liberated and happy soul.

For every sinner, without exception, that veil has a voice, that blood a voice, that mercy-seat a voice. They say, “Come in.” They say, “Be reconciled to God.” They say, “Draw near.” They say, “Seek the Lord while He may be found.”

To the wandering prodigal, the lover of pleasure, the drinker of earth’s maddening cup, the dreamer of earth’s vain dreams,—they say, there is bread enough in your Father’s house, and love enough in your Father’s heart, and to spare,—return, return. To each banished child of Adam, exiles from the paradise which their first father lost, these symbols, with united voice, proclaim the extinction of the fiery sword, the re-opening of the long-barred gate, with a free and abundant re-entrance, or rather, entrance into a more glorious paradise, a paradise that was never lost.

But if all these voices die away unheeded,—if you will not avail yourself, O man, of that rent veil, that open gate,—what remains but the eternal exclusion, the hopeless exile, the outer darkness, where there is the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth? Instead of the rent veil, there shall be drawn the dark curtain, never to be removed or rent, which shall shut you out from God, and from paradise, and from the New Jerusalem for ever. Instead of the mercy-seat, there comes the throne of judgment; and instead of the gracious High Priest, there comes the avenging Judge. Yes, the Lord Jesus Christ is coming, and with His awful advent ends all thy hope. He is coming; and He may be nearer than you think. In an hour when you are not aware He will come. When you are saying peace and safety, He will come. When you are dreaming of earth’s long, calm, summer days, He will come. Lose no time. Trifle no more with eternity; it is too long and too great to be trifled with. Make haste! Get these affections disengaged from a present evil world. Get these sins of thine buried in the grave of Christ. Get that soul of thine wrapped up, all over, in the perfection of the perfect One, in the righteousness of the righteous One. Then all is well, all is well. But till then thou hast not so much as one true hope for eternity or for time.