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.

Essential Questions of the Law and its Object as it Surrounds the Doctrine of Justification. Part One

Taken from “Justification”
Written by Charles Hodge

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When the mind is enlightened by Divine truth…

…and duly impressed with a sense of guilt, it cannot fail anxiously to inquire, “How can a man be just with God!” The answer given to this question decides the character of our religion, and, if practically adopted, our future destiny. To give a wrong answer, is to mistake the way to heaven. It is to err where error is fatal, because it cannot be corrected. If God require one thing, and we present another, how can we be saved? If He has revealed a method in which He can be just and yet justify the sinner, and if we reject that method and insist upon pursuing a different way, how can we hope to be accepted? The answer, therefore, which is given to the above question, should be seriously pondered by all who assume the office of religious teachers, and by all who rely upon their instructions. As we are not to be judged by proxy, but every man must answer for himself, so every man should be satisfied for himself what the Bible teaches on this subject. All that religious teachers can do, is to endeavor to aid the investigations of those who are anxious to learn the way of life. And in doing this, the safest method is to adhere strictly to the instructions of the Scriptures, and to exhibit the subject as it is there presented. The substance and the form of this all-important doctrine are so intimately connected, that those who attempt to separate them can hardly fail to err. What one discards as belonging merely to the form, another considers as belonging to its substance. All certainty and security are lost, as soon as this method is adopted, and it becomes a matter to be decided exclusively by our own views of right and wrong, what is to be retained and what rejected from the scriptural representations. Our only security, therefore, is to take the language of the Bible in its obvious meaning, and put upon it the construction which the persons to whom it was addressed must have given, and which, consequently, the sacred writers intended it should bear.

It is one of the primary doctrines of the Bible, either asserted or assumed, is that we are under the law of God. This is true of all classes of men, whether they enjoy a Divine revelation or not.

Everything which God has revered as a rule of duty, enters into the constitution of the law which binds those to whom that revelation is given, and by which they are to be ultimately judged. Those who have not received any external revelation of the Divine will are a law unto themselves. The knowledge of right and wrong, written upon their hearts, is of the nature of a Divine law, having its authority and sanction, and by it the heathen are to be judged in the last day.

God has seen fit to annex the promise of life to obedience to his law. “The man which doeth those things shall live by them” (Romans 10:5), is the language of Scripture on this subject. To the lawyer who admitted that the law required love to God and man, our Savior said, “Thou has answered right: this do, and thou shalt live” (Luke 10:28). And to one who asked him, “What good things shall I do, that I may have eternal life?” he said, “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandment.”(Matthew 19:17). On the other hand, the law denounces death as the penalty of transgression: “The wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23). Such is the uniform declaration of Scripture on this subject.

The obedience which the law demands is called righteousness…

Those who render that obedience are called righteous. To ascribe righteousness to anyone, or to pronounce him righteous, is the scriptural meaning of the word “to justify.” The word never means, to make good in a moral sense, but always to pronounce just or righteous.

Thus God says, “I will not justify the wicked”(Exodus 23:7). Judges are commanded to justify the righteous and to condemn the wicked (Deuteronomy. 25:1). Woe is pronounced on those who “justify the wicked for reward” (Isaiah 5:23). In the New Testament it is said, “By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight” (Romans 3:20) “It is God that justifieth, –Who is he that condemns?” (Romans 8:33, 34). There is scarcely a word in the Bible the meaning of which is less open to doubt. There is no passage in the New Testament in which it is used out of its ordinary and obvious sense. When God justifies a man, he declares him to be righteous. To justify never means to render one holy. It is said to be sinful to justify the wicked; but it could never be sinful to render the wicked holy. And as the law demands righteousness, to impute or ascribe righteousness to anyone, is, in scriptural language, to justify. To make (or constitute) righteous, is another equivalent form of expression. Hence, to be righteous before God, and to be justified, mean the same thing: as in the following passage: “Not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.”(Romans 2:13) The attentive, and especially the anxious reader of the Bible cannot fail to observe, that these various expressions, to be righteous in the sight of God, to impute righteousness, to constitute righteous, to justify, and others of similar import, are so interchanged as to explain each other, and to make it clear that to justify a man is to ascribe or impute to him righteousness. The great question then is, “How is this righteousness to be obtained?” We have reason to be thankful that the answer which the Bible gives to this question is so perfectly plain.

In the first place, that the righteousness by which we are to be justified before God is not of works, is not only asserted, but proved.

The apostle’s first argument on this point is derived from the consideration that the law demands a perfect righteousness. If the law was satisfied by an imperfect obedience, or by a routine of external duties, or by any service which men are competent to render, then indeed justification would be by works. But since it demands perfect obedience, justification by works is, for sinners, absolutely impossible. It is thus the apostle reasons, “As many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continues not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them (Galatians 3:10). As the law pronounces its curse upon every man who continues not to do all that it commands, and as no man can pretend to this perfect obedience, it follows that all who look to the law for justification must be condemned. To the same effect, in a following verse, he says, “The law is not of faith: but, the man that doeth them shall live in them.” That is, the law is not satisfied by any single grace, or imperfect obedience. It knows, and can know no other ground of justification than complete compliance with its demands. Hence, in the same chapter, Paul says, “If there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.” Could the law pronounce righteous, and thus give a title to the promised life to those who had broken its commands, there would have been no necessity of any other provision for the salvation of men; but as the law cannot thus lower its demands, justification by the law is impossible. The same truth is taught in a different form, when it is said, “If righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain (Galatians 2:21). There would have been no necessity for the death of Christ, if it had been possible to satisfy the law by the imperfect obedience which we can render. Paul therefore warns all those who look to works for justification, that they are debtors to do the whole law (Galatians 5:3). It knows no compromise; it cannot demand less than what is right, and perfect obedience is right, and therefore its only language is as before, ” Cursed is every one that continues not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them” (Galatians 3:10); and, “The man which doeth those things shall live by them” (Romans 10:5). Every man, therefore, who expects justification by works, must see to it, not that he is better than other men, or that he is very exact and does many things, or that he fasts twice in the week, and gives tithes of all he possesses, but that he is SINLESS.

That the law of God is thus strict in its demands, is a truth which lies at the foundation of all Paul’s reasoning in reference to the method of justification.

He proves that the Gentiles have sinned against the law written on their hearts; and that the Jews have broken the law revealed in their Scriptures; both Jews and Gentiles, therefore, are under sin, and the whole world is guilty before God. Hence, he infers, that by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight. There is, however, no force in this reasoning, except on the assumption that the law demands perfect obedience. How many men, who freely acknowledge that they are sinners, depend upon their works for acceptance with God! They see no inconsistency between the acknowledgment of sin, and the expectation of justification by works. The reason is, they proceed upon a very different principle from that adopted by the apostle. They suppose that the law may be satisfied by very imperfect obedience. Paul assumes that God demands perfect conformity to his will, that his wrath is revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. With him, therefore, it is enough that men have sinned, to prove that they cannot be justified by works. It is not a question of degrees, more or less, for as to this point there is no difference, since “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

This doctrine, though so plainly taught in Scripture, men are disposed to think very severe. They imagine that their good deeds will be compared with their evil deeds, and that they will be rewarded or punished as the one or the other preponderates; or that the sins of one part of life may be atoned for by the good works of another, or that they can escape by mere confession and repentance. They could not entertain such expectations, if they believed themselves to be under a law. No human law is administered as men seem to hope the law of God will be. He who steals or murders, though it be but once, though he confesses and repents, though he does any number of acts of charity, is not less a thief or murderer. The law cannot take cognizance of his repentance and reformation. If he steals or murders, the law condemns him. Justification by the law is for him impossible. The law of God extends to the most secret exercises of the heart. It condemns whatever is in its nature evil. If a man violate this perfect rule of right, there is an end of justification by the law; he has failed to comply with its conditions; and the law can only condemn him. To justify him, would be to say that he had not transgressed. Men, however, think that they are not to be dealt with on the principles of strict law. Here is their fatal mistake. It is here that they are in most direct conflict with the Scriptures, which proceed upon the uniform assumption of our subjection to the law. Under the government of God, strict law is nothing but perfect excellence; it is the steady exercise of moral rectitude. Even conscience, when duly enlightened and roused, is as strict as the law of God. It refuses to be appeased by repentance, reformation, or penance. It enforces every command and every denunciation of our Supreme Ruler, and teaches, as plainly as do the Scriptures themselves, that justification by an imperfect obedience is impossible. As conscience, however, is fallible, no reliance on this subject is placed on her testimony. The appeal is to the word of God, which clearly teaches that it is impossible a sinner can be justified by works, because the law demands perfect obedience.

The apostle’s second argument to show that justification is not by works, is the testimony of the Scriptures of the Old Testament.

This testimony is urged in various forms. In the first place, as the apostle proceeds upon the principle that the law demands perfect obedience, all those passages which assert the universal sinfulness of men, are so many declarations that they cannot be justified by works. He therefore quotes such passages as the following: “There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none that understands, there is none that seeks after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one” (Romans 3:10-12). The Old Testament, by teaching that all men are sinners, does, in the apostle’s view, thereby teach that they can never be accepted before God on the ground of their own righteousness. To say that a man is a sinner, is to say that the law condemns him; and of course it cannot justify him. As the ancient Scriptures are full of declarations of the sinfulness of men, so they are full of proof that justification is not by works.

But, in the second place, Paul cites their direct affirmative testimony in support of his doctrine. In the Psalms it is said, “Enter not into judgment with thy servant; for in thy sight shall no man living be justified” (Psalms 143:2). This passage he often quotes; and to the same class belong all those passages which speak of the insufficiency or worthlessness of human righteousness in the sight of God.

In the third place, the apostle refers to those passages which imply the doctrine for which he contends; that is, to those which speak of the acceptance of men with God as a matter of grace, as something which they do not deserve, and for which they can urge no claim founded upon their own merit. It is with this view that he refers to the language of David; “Blessed are they whose iniquities are for given, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin (Romans 4:7, 8). The fact that a man is forgiven, implies that he is guilty; and the fact that he is guilty, implies that his justification cannot rest upon his own character or conduct. It need hardly be remarked, that, in this view, the whole Scriptures, from the beginning to the end, are crowded with condemnations of the doctrine of justification by works. Every penitent confession, every appeal to God’s mercy, is a renunciation of all personal merit, a declaration that the penitent’s hope was not founded on anything in himself. Such confessions and appeals are indeed often made by those who still rely upon their good works, or inherent righteousness, for acceptance with God. This, however, does not invalidate the apostle’s argument. It only shows that such persons have a different view of what is necessary for justification, from that entertained by the apostle. They suppose that the demands of the law are so low, that although they are sinners and need to be forgiven, they can still do what the law demands. Whereas, Paul proceeds on the assumption that the law requires perfect obedience, and therefore every confession of sin, or appeal for mercy, involves a renunciation of justification by the law.

Again, the apostle represents the Old Testament Scriptures as teaching that justification is not by works, by showing that they inculcate a different method of obtaining acceptance with God. This they do by the doctrine which they teach concerning the Messiah as a Redeemer from sin. Hence Paul says, that the method of justification without works (not founded upon works) was testified by the law and the prophets; that is, by the whole of the Old Testament. The two methods of acceptance with God, the one by works, the other by a propitiation for sin, are incompatible. And as the ancient Scriptures teach the latter method, they repudiate the former. But they moreover, in express terms, assert, that “the just shall live by faith.” And the law knows nothing of faith; its language is, “The man that doeth them shall live in them” (Galatians 3:11, 12). The law knows nothing of anything but obedience as the ground of acceptance. If the Scriptures say we are accepted through faith, they thereby say that we are not accepted on the ground of obedience.

Again: the examples of justification given in the Old Testament, show that it was not by works. The apostle appeals particularly to the case of Abraham, and asks, whether he attained justification by works; and answers, “No, for if he were justified by works he had whereof to glory; but he had no ground of glorying before God, and therefore he was not justified by works.” And the Scriptures expressly assert, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness” (Romans 4:3). His acceptance, therefore, was by faith, and not by works.

In all these various ways does the apostle make the authority of the Old Testament sustain his doctrine, that justification is not by works. This authority is as decisive for us as it was for the ancient Jewish Christians. We also believe the Old Testament to be the word of God, and its truths come to us explained and enforced by Christ and his apostles. We have the great advantage of an infallible interpretation of these early oracles of truth; and the argumentative manner in which their authority is cited and applied, prevents all obscurity as to the real intentions of the sacred writers. That by the deeds of the law no flesh shall be justified before God is taught so clearly and so frequently in the New Testament, it is so often asserted, so formally proved, so variously assumed, that no one can doubt that such is indeed the doctrine of the word of God. The only point on which the serious inquirer can even raise a question, is, “What kind of works do the Scriptures mean to exclude as the foundation for acceptance with God?” Does the apostle mean works in the widest sense, or does he merely intend ceremonial observances, or works of mere formality, performed without any real love to God?

Those who attend to the nature of his assertions and to the course of his argument, will find that there is no room for doubt on this subject. The primary principle on which his argument rests precludes all ground for mistaking his meaning. He assumes that the law demands perfect obedience, and as no man can render that obedience, he infers that no man can be justified by the law. He does not argue, that because the law is spiritual, it cannot be satisfied by mere ceremonies, or by works flowing from an impure motive. He nowhere says, that though we cannot be justified by external rites, or by works having the mere form of goodness, we are justified by our sincere, though imperfect, obedience. On the contrary, he constantly teaches, that since we are sinners, and since the law condemns all sin, it condemns us, and justification by the law is, therefore, impossible. This argument he applies to the Jews and the Gentiles without distinction, to the whole world, whether they knew anything of the Jewish Scriptures or not. It was the moral law, the law which he pronounced holy, just, and good, which says, “Thou shalt not covet”; it is this law, however revealed, whether in the writings of Moses, or in the human heart, of which he constantly asserts that it cannot give life, or teach the way of acceptance with God. As most of those to whom he wrote had enjoyed a Divine revelation, and as that revelation included the law of Moses and all its rites, he of course included that law in his statement, and often specially refers to it; but never in its limited sense, as a code of religious ceremonies, but always in its widest scope, as including the highest rule of moral duty made known to men. And hence he never contrasts one class of works with another, but constantly works and faith, excluding all classes of the former, works of righteousness as well as those of mere formality. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us” (Titus 3:5). “Who hath saved us–not according to our works (2 Timothy 1:9). We are saved by faith, not by works (Ephesians 2:9). Nay, men are said to be justified without works; to be in themselves ungodly when justified; and it is not until they are justified that they perform any real good works. It is only when united to Christ that we bring forth fruit unto God. Hence, we are said to be “His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works” (Ephesians 2:10). All the inward excellence of the Christian and the fruit of the Spirit are the consequences, and not the causes of his reconciliation and acceptance with God. They are the robe of beauty, the white garment, with which Christ arrays those who come to him poor, and blind, and naked. It is, then, the plain doctrine of the word of God, that our justification is not founded upon our own obedience to the law.

Nothing done by us or wrought in us can for a moment stand the test of a rule of righteousness, which pronounces a curse upon all those who continue not in all things written in the book of the law to do them.

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.

Blessed are the Persecuted for Righteousness’ Sake

Taken from, “Plain Village Sermons on the Lord’s Prayer and the Beatitudes”
Written by, Henry Alford, (1810 – 1871)

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“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”    –Matt. 5:10-12

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Besides the blessings which are poured into the cup of Christ’s people, on account of those graces which he plants in their hearts…

…there are others coming from the natural and necessary temper of others towards them, and the situation of affairs with respect to them.

Now, they are described as a peculiar, a separated people; as citizens of a kingdom which is situated in another country, and having their affections fixed, and their rule of conduct laid down, not here, but in a place far away. Moreover, it is said that they are not com formed to the world in which they live, that they not only do not run with its inhabitants to that excess of riot and surfeiting; but that they do not, even in things seemingly innocent, suffer their hearts to be bound down to this lower world. Nor is this all: –they are transformed in the image of their minds, they are all united by faith to one living Head –even the Lord Jesus; and are all members of His body. They are begotten anew in Christ, and therefore they have lost their relish and taste for the old and cast off things of this vain world.

What, then, is the consequence? The children of the world, those who are living well contented to enjoy their present life, and caring for nothing beyond, think it strange that there should be those among them, who do not care for the life of which they make so much; and more than this, –they are moved by their holy and constant lives, to envy them, and to endeavor to remove them, if possible, out-of-the-way; for their own evil deeds cannot abide the light of truth and justice which these persons, by their presence, cast upon them. This same motive leads them also to speak evil of the saints of God, and to endeavor to reduce them down to their own level, that they may be able to carry on their bad practices, without the purity of the Christian character even giving warning to them to consider their path, and amend their ways.

And add to all these reasons the enmity natural to the heart of man, against everything that is of God, or belongs to the new nature, of which the members of Christ are partakers, and you will see abundant reason, independently of circumstances, why the servants of God should be held in hatred and contempt by the children of this world. At times these feelings have broken out openly, and they have been subjected to violent persecutions, and loss of goods and life; but in all times the world is of the same mind towards them –therefore the world hates them, because they are not of the world, as He Himself was not of the world.

And this has not been concealed from us by Christ; He has not held us out any prospect of ease and luxury. He has told us plainly, “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” Nay so far from concealing it from them, He makes it, as in the text, a part of their blessedness, that they are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. We have seen in the other blessings, that they belong to persons and qualities not highly esteemed by the world: but this seems the strangest blessing of the whole, that those should be blessed, who are persecuted –who are forsaken of their nearest friends, and made a gazing stock for all men.

We are naturally fond of the quiet and comfort of society, –of the smiles of our friends, and their confidence, and all the little advantages of friendly intercourse; we are fond of sharing our worldly advantages with those about us, and being counted as peaceful members of society, and respectable persons; we are jealous of our characters, and wish to keep them without stain among men, and our own advantage we consult, and eagerly pursue our own profit.

But here is a man who is cast out from society and comfort, –whose enemies are even those of his own household; who has few, and perhaps those, distant friends –and is left alone in the world: advantage she seems to have none, much less any with whom he can share them; owing to the malice of his adversaries, he is represented as a disturber of peace, and disreputable, his fair character in the eyes of men is blotted by their slanders, –he seems to neglect his own advantage, and seeks but little after that profit which all around him are going after, –he appears like one who has a mark set upon him that men should hate him, and cast him out from their company. One would think his very heart would sink within him, and that he would perish under the accumulated load of slight and injuries. But this is the very person who in the text, is pronounced blessed.

There must then be some upholding power, some mighty inward comfort which must work against the attacks of the enemies from without.

If we examine the nature of the blessing, we shall find that such does indeed exist: theirs is the kingdom of heaven. They are the sons of a king, waiting for their inheritance; nay, it is already theirs, they are counted in the Church, who is the body and spouse of that King, –even of Christ. He came down upon earth to purchase the Church to Himself; He stayed with her awhile here below; and He is gone up into heaven to prepare the heavenly mansions to receive her in.

Meanwhile He has left her on earth deprived of His bodily presence, but living on His precious promises, fed with His spiritual flesh and blood, to try her faithfulness to Him. She is espoused, betrothed, given in marriage to Christ, the King of heaven; and in her all His faithful ones, so that already, signed and sealed with a sure promise, the kingdom of heaven is theirs. And He has sent down to His earthly bride this memorable sentence, “To him that overcome will I grant to sit with Me in My throne, even as I overcame, and am set down with My Father in His throne.” Earthly power, riches, or kingdoms, belong not to the servants of Christ; yet however poor, however despised they are, they are princes in disguise: even now their royalty shews itself in an exalted and heavenly mind, in affections raised above the earth, in subduing their stubborn wills, and bringing every thought into subjection unto the righteous law within them: and they have their attendants too, –the ministering spirits who are sent forth to minister to those who shall be heirs of salvation; the angels of the Lord tarry round about them that fear Him, and if our eyes could be opened, and we could see the goodly company of heavenly guards which surround the head of the faithful servant of God, –if we could behold him in his most forsaken moment, when all are turned against him, thronged with bright ministers of joy and defense, we should see that not even Solomon in all his glory was attended like one of these.

When men revile them, and taunt them with lifting themselves above their neighbors, and cut them to the heart with bitter reproaches, they can hear the sweet voice of the heavenly Bridegroom saying to His Church, “Behold, thou art all fair My love, there is no spot in thee.” When the sons of the earth deprive them of their possessions, they can hear the same voice saying, “Fear not little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” And when they are put under severer trials than these, which are hard for flesh and blood to bear, cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover bonds and imprisonment; when their flesh and their heart fail, He who is the strength of their heart and their portion forever, is a very present help for them; and His golden words, “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life,” disarm all their tortures, and fix their eyes on Him who is waiting to receive their souls.

Thus great, thus exalted, is the blessing of those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. And there is yet more of it behind. “Rejoice and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in heaven.” If a cup of cold water given in Christ’s name shall not lose its reward, surely those who suffer for Him, and are made outcasts for His sake, shall have great and worthy reward in His kingdom. It is one of the marks of God’s people, to have respect unto the recompense of the reward;” to be fully assured that works done in Christ and for His name’s sake shall not be forgotten; but are all recorded before Him. There is no surer sign of a humble spirit and one subjected to the will of God, than a clear and practical view of the nature of our Christian reward for works done in Christ.

While some vainly suppose that our own works can effect our salvation; and some on the other hand seem almost to forget that such a thing as the Christian reward is mentioned in Scripture; he who loves Christ by faith, fully assured of his union with Christ and salvation in Him, is also fully assured that not the meanest work done in His name shall be unrewarded; for he has the word, the eternal unalterable word of his Savior for it; and long as the seal on that bond of the Scripture remains, –long as those words remain which though heaven and earth pass away, shall not pass away, –so long shall the work and labor of love of Christ’s justified people not be forgotten, but be surely and gloriously rewarded. To those who are in Christ sin is not imputed: being received into Him their sins are canceled by His satisfaction; and therefore all that they do and suffer for, and in Him, is accepted by God the Father, and will be rewarded by Him. “Rejoice and be exceeding glad; for great is your reward in heaven.”

But there is another source of comfort still; indeed they seem inexhaustible and never-ending to those who are united to Christ. “So persecuted they the prophets which were before you.”

Ye that are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, lift up your eyes and look on the stars, and see if you can tell their number and names. Far more in number is the company who are gone before you from affliction like yours, to glory brighter than the brightest of those heavenly bodies. Once, and once only, are we told that any of them descended and were seen by men, –and then, even our Lord Himself put on for a moment the brightness of His glory to meet them; when He was transfigured on the mount, Moses and Elias, two of those that were persecuted for righteousness’ sake, appeared in glory and talked with Him: and the Apostles trembled as they entered into the cloud which surrounded them –so bright and so heavenly was their appearance. But, as we advance in this divine subject, grounds of support and joy seem to thicken upon us, and the seed-time of persecution and tears appears, indeed, to lead to a rich harvest of rejoicing; –“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you; but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings, –that when His glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.”

Our profession is, to have been buried with Him by baptism into death; if therefore, we find ourselves made partakers visibly of His sufferings we, see accomplished in us what every Christian desires –likeness to Him; and the visible sign and participation of His death is openly shown forth in us. “If we be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye –for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you; on their part He is evil spoken of, but on your part He is glorified.”

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast in the Lord.

If you live united to Christ, you have trials and severe ones too; it is equally true in all times, that those who live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. Let not the neglect, the scorn, the taunts of men, turn you aside from the steady serving of God and cleaving unto Christ. Be not ashamed of His name in the presence of men: what are their taunts and scorn to you? You are kings; surely it is not for you to tremble at these poor foolish slaves of worldly thought –surely it is not for God’s ransomed ones and the heirs of glory, to tremble at the presence of an ignorant scoffer of this world.

Look forward but a few years, and where are all their taunts and bitter words, and scornful looks?  Whenever you feel tempted to deny or to compromise Christ, look straight to that day when you hope to awake up after His likeness; look to the great day of recognition and account, and as you wish to be acknowledged by Him at that day, so now let your acknowledgement of Him be. And if you fall into persecution, if ungodly companions ridicule you or hinder your faith; for this you are all the more blessed –for you will be, by a visible likeness, shewing forth your Savior, “you will be by their persecution driven to cling closer to Him, to commune with Him more in prayer, to grow in grace and in the knowledge of Him.

One word more.

God knows whether I be now speaking to any who have been, or are, the persecutors of the children of God –who by deed, word, look, or thought, have attempted to hinder the faith and progress in holiness, of a neighbor. If have been destroying the sheep of Christ whom He bought with His blood. And, as one of those appointed to watch over His fold, I solemnly tell you in His name, that “it had been better for you never to have been born.” “Whosoever offends (they are His own words) one of these little ones that believe on Me, it were better for him that a millstone were hung about his neck, and that he were cast into the sea.” You may well tremble before that king whom you have so grievously angered.

Turn then to the Lord and to His people, with weeping, and mourning, and praying, if perchance, this thought of your heart may be forgiven you. Far better is the state of those you persecute and despise, than your own; with all your scoffs and reproaches they are happier than you –they have no hurt from without, and what is more, they have no worm gnawing within. Here I leave the comparison, for I tremble to think of you, if I look forward any further. May God give you a better mind, even the spirit of true repentance. Oh shame and sorrow, that we should have to turn in a Christian Church to address such as these! When will the Lord come and purify His temple, and present us to His Father, an acceptable people, a pure and blessed Church?

Pray, my brethren, for that glorious time, when the number of the elect shall be accomplished, and those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake now, shall have entered on the possession of the kingdom!

CONVERSION: And those things from which we turn

Taken and adapted from, “An Alarm to Unconverted Sinners”
Written by Joseph Alleine (1634-1668), An English Nonconformist Pastor

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The objects from which we turn in conversion are, sin, Satan, the world, and our own righteousness.

We turn from sin. When a man is converted, he is forever at enmity with sin; yes, with all sin, but most of all with his own sins, and especially with his bosom sin. Sin is now the object of his indignation. His sins swell his sorrows. It is sin that pierces him and wounds him; he feels it like a thorn in his side, like a prick in his eyes: he groans and struggles under it, and not formally, but feelingly cries out, “0 wretched man!” He is not impatient of any burden so much as of his sin. If God should give him his choice, he would choose any affliction so he might be rid of sin; he feels it like the cutting gravel in his shoes, pricking and paining him as he goes.

Before conversion, he had light thoughts of sin; he cherished it in his bosom, as Uriah his lamb; he nourished it up, and it grew up together with him; it did eat, as it were, of his own meat, and drank of his own cup, and lay in his bosom, and was to him as a daughter. But when God opens his eyes by conversion, he throws it away with abhorrence, as a man would a loathsome toad, which in the dark he had hugged fast in his bosom, and thought it had been some pretty and harmless bird. When a man is savingly changed, he is deeply convinced not only of the danger but the defilement of sin; and O, how earnest is he with God to be purified! He loathes himself for his sins. He runs to Christ, and casts himself into the fountain set open for sin and for uncleanness. If he fall, he has no rest till he flees to the word, and washes in the infinite fountain, laboring to cleanse himself from all filthiness both of flesh and spirit.

The sound convert is heartily engaged against sin; he struggles with it, he wars against it; he is too often foiled, but he will never yield the cause, nor lay down the weapons, while he has breath in his body; he will make no peace; he will give no quarter. He can forgive his other enemies; he can pity them, and pray for them; but here he is implacable, here he is set upon extermination; he hunts as it were for the precious life; his eye shall not pity, his hand shall not spare, though it be a right hand or a right eye. Be it a gainful sin, most delightful to his nature or the support of his esteem with worldly friends, yet he will rather throw his gain down the kennel, see his credit fail, or the flower of pleasure wither in his hand, than he will allow himself in any known way of sin. He will grant no indulgence, he will give no toleration; he draws upon sin wherever he meets it, and frowns upon it with this unwelcome salute, “Have I found you, 0 mine enemy?”

Have you pondered these things in thy heart? Hast you searched the book within you, to see if these things be so? If not, read it again, and make thy conscience speak, whether or not it be thus with you.

Hast you crucified thy flesh with its affections and lusts; and not only confessed, but forsaken thy sins, all sin in thy fervent desires, and the ordinary practice of every deliberate and willful sin in thy life? If not, you art yet unconverted. Does not conscience fly in your face as you read, and tell you that you livest in a way of lying for thy advantage; that you used deceit in your calling; that there is some way of secret wantonness that you live in? Why then, do not deceive thyself; you are in the gall of bitterness and the bond of iniquity.

Does not your unbridled tongue, your indulgence of appetite, your wicked company, your neglect of prayer, of reading and hearing the word, now witness against you, and say, ” We are your works, and we will follow you;” or, if I have not hit you right, does not the monitor within tell you, there is such or such a way that you know to be evil, that yet for some carnal respect you do tolerate yourself in? If this be your case, you are to this day unregenerate, and must be changed or condemned.

We turn from Satan.

Conversion binds the strong man, spoils his armor, casts out his goods, turns men from the power of Satan unto God. Before, the devil could no sooner hold up his finger to the sinner to call him to his wicked company, sinful games, and filthy delights, but presently he followed, like an ox to the slaughter, and a fool to the correction of the stocks; as the bird that hastens to the prey, and knows not that it is for his life. No sooner could Satan bid him lie, but presently he had it on his tongue. No sooner could Satan offer a wanton object, but he was stung with lust. If the devil says, “Away with these family duties,” be sure they shall be rarely enough performed in his house. If the devil says, “Away with this strictness, this preciseness,” he will keep far enough from it: if he tells him, “There is no need of these closet-duties,” he will go from day-to-day and scarcely perform them. But since he is converted he serves another Master, and takes quite another course: he goes and comes at Christ’s bidding. Satan may sometimes catch his foot in a trap, but he will no longer be a willing captive; he watches against the snares and baits of Satan, and studies to be acquainted with his devices; he is very suspicious of his plots, and is very jealous in what comes across him, lest Satan should have some design upon him; he ” wrestles against principalities and powers;” he entertains the messenger of Satan as men do the messenger of death; he keeps his eye upon his enemy, and watches in his duties, lest Satan should get an advantage.

We turn from the world.

Before a man has true faith, he is overcome of the world; either he bows down to mammon, or idolizes his reputation, or is a “lover of pleasure more than a lover of God.” Here is the root of man’s misery by the fall; he is turned aside to the creature, and gives that esteem, confidence, and affection to the creature, that is due to God alone,

0 miserable man, what a deformed monster has sin made you! God made you “little lower than the angels;” sin, little better than the devils. The world, that was formed to serve you, is come to rule you—the deceitful harlot has bewitched you with her enchantments, and made you bow down and serve her.

But converting grace sets all in order again, and puts God on the throne, and the world at his footstool; Christ in the heart, and the world under the feet. So Paul, “I am crucified to the world, and the world to me,” Before this change, all the cry-was, “Who will show us any worldly good?” but now he prays, ” Lord, lift you up the light of thy countenance upon me,” and take the corn and wine whoso will. Before, his heart’s delight and content were in the world; then the song was, “Soul, take thy ease, eat, drink, and be merry; you hast much goods laid up for many years;” but now all this is withered, and there is no comeliness, that we should desire it; and he tunes up with the sweet Psalmist of Israel: “The Lord is the portion of my inheritance; the lines are fallen to me in a fair place, and I have a goodly heritage.” He blesses himself, and boasts himself in God. Nothing else can give him content. He has written vanity and vexation upon all his worldly enjoyments, and loss and dung upon all human excellencies. He has life and immortality now in pursuit. He pants for grace and glory, and has a crown incorruptible in view. His heart is set in him to seek the Lord. He first seeks the kingdom of heaven and the righteousness thereof, and religion is no longer a matter by the by with him, but his main care.

Before, the world had the sway with him; he would do more for gain than godliness—more to please his friend, or his flesh, than the God that made him; and God must stand by till the world was first served. But now all must stand by; he hates father and mother, and life, and all, in comparison of Christ. Well, then, pause a little, and look within. Doth not this nearly concern you? You pretend for Christ, but does not the world sway you? Do you not take more real delight and content in the world than in him? Do you not find thyself better at ease when the world goes to thy mind, and you art compassed with carnal delights, than when retired to prayer and meditation in thy closet, or attending upon God’s word and worship? No surer evidence of an unconverted state, than to have the things of the world uppermost in our aim, love, and estimation.

With the sound convert, Christ has the supremacy. How dear is his name to him! How precious is his favor! The name of Jesus is engraven on his heart. Gal. 4: 19. Honor is but air, and laughter is but madness, and mammon is fallen like Dagon before the ark, with hands and head broken off on the threshold, when once Christ is savingly revealed. Here is the pearl of great price to the true convert; here is his treasure; here is his hope. This is his glory, “My beloved is mine, and I am his.” 0, it is sweeter to him to be able to say, Christ is mine, than if he could say, the kingdom is mine.

We turn from our own righteousness.

Before conversion, man seeks to cover himself with his own fig-leaves, and to make himself whole with his own duties. He is apt to trust in himself, and set up his own righteousness, and to reckon his counters for gold, and not submit to the righteousness of God. But conversion changes his mind; now he counts his own righteousness as filthy rags. He casts it off, as a man would the dirty tatters of a beggar. Now he is brought to poverty of spirit, complains of and condemns himself, and all his inventory is, “poor, and miserable, and wretched, and blind, and naked.” He sees a world of iniquity in his holy things, and calls his once-idolized righteousness but filth and loss; and would not for a thousand worlds be found in it. Now he begins to set a high price upon Christ’s righteousness: he sees the need of Christ in every duty, to justify his person, and sanctify his performances; he cannot live without him; he cannot pray without him. Christ must go with him, or else he cannot come into the presence of God; he leans upon Christ, and so bows. Himself in the house of his God; he sets himself down for a lost undone man without him; his life is hid in Christ, as the root of a tree spreads in the earth for stability and nutriment. Before, the news of Christ was a stale and tasteless thing; but now, how sweet is Christ. Augustine could not relish his before so much admired Cicero, because he could not find in his writings the name of Christ. How emphatically cries he, “0 most sweet, most loving, most kind, most dear, most precious, most desired, most lovely, most fair!”

In a word, the voice of the convert is with the martyr, “None but Christ.”

 

Regeneration and the Regenerate Man

Written by, David Dickson, c.1583–1663, was a Scottish theologian.
Taken and adapted from, Therapeutica Sacra
and from, Select Practical Writings of David Dickson, Vol. 1, 1845

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I.  REGENERATION

We speak not here of the regeneration of elect infants dying in their infancy; God hath his own way of dealing with them; but of the regeneration of those who are capable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the word, which we may thus describe.

Regeneration (being one in effect with effectual calling) is the work of God’s invincible power and mere grace, wherein, by his Spirit accompanying his word, he quickened a redeemed person lying dead in his sins, and renews him in his mind, will, and all the powers of his soul; convincing him savingly of sin, righteousness, and judgment, and making him heartily to embrace Christ and salvation, and to consecrate himself to the service of God in Christ, all the days of his life.

The main thing we must take heed to in this work is to give to God entirely the glory of his grace, and power, and wisdom, so that the glory of man’s regeneration be neither given to man, nor man made sharer of the glory with God; but God may have the whole glory of his free grace, because out of his own good will, not for any thing at all foreseen in man, he lets forth his special love on the redeemed in a time acceptable. And the glory of his almighty power, because by his omnipotent and invisible working, he makes the man dead in sins to live, opens his eyes to take up savingly the things of God, takes away the heart of stone, and makes him a new creature, to will and to do his holy will. And the glory of his wisdom, who deals so with his creature, as he doth not destroy, but perfect the natural power of man’s will, making the man regenerated, most freely, deliberately, and heartily to embrace Christ, and to consecrate himself to God’s service. The reason why we urge this, is, because Satan, by corrupting the doctrine of regeneration, and persuading men that they are capable of themselves, by the common and the natural strength of their own free will, without the special and effectual grace of God, both to convert themselves and others also, doth foster the native pride of men; hinders them from emptying and humbling themselves before God; keeps them from self-denial; doth mar the regeneration of them that are deluded with this error, and obscures what he can, the shining of the glory of God’s grace, power, and wisdom, in the conversion of men. For whatsoever praise proud men let go toward God for making men’s conversion possible, yet they give the whole glory of actual conversion to the man himself, which Christ ascribes to God only, and leaves no more for man to glory in his spiritual regeneration, than he hath to glory in his own natural generation, (John 3:5-8). And the same doth the apostle teach, (Eph 2:8-10, and Phil 2:13). “It is God (saith he) which works in you both to will and to do of his own good pleasure.” And therefore it is the duty of all Christ’s disciples, but chiefly their duty who are consecrated to God, to preach up the glory of God’s free grace, omnipotent power, and unsearchable wisdom; to live in the sense of their own emptiness, and to depend upon the furniture of grace for grace, out of Christ’s fulness; and zealously to oppose the proud error of man’s natural ability for converting himself; as they love to see and find the effectual blessing of the ministry of the gospel, and themselves accepted for true disciples, at the day of their meeting with Christ the judge at his second coming.

For opening up of regeneration, these five propositions must be holden.

The First is this – “The natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God; for, they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned,” (1 Cor 2:14).

The Second is this – It is the Spirit of God which convinces man of sin, of true righteousness, and of judgment, (John 16: 9-11).

The Third is this – In the regeneration, conversion, and quickening of a sinner, God, by His invincible power, creates and infuses a new life, and principles thereof, “Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power,” (Ps 110:3, John 5:21, 6:63).

The Fourth is this – The invincible grace of God, working regeneration and a man’s conversion, doth not destroy the freedom of man’s will, but makes it truly free, and perfects it. “I will make a covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah, and will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts,” (Jer 31:31).

The Fifth is this – Albeit a man, in the act of God’s quickening and converting of him, be passive, and in a spiritual sense dead in sins and trespasses, yet, for exercising external means, whereof God makes use unto his conversion, for fitting him, and preparing him for a gracious change (such as are, hearing of the word, reading it, meditating on it, inquiring after the meaning of it,) the natural man hath a natural power thereunto as to other external actions; which suffices to take away excuse from them who have occasion of using the means, and will not use them (Matt 23:37).

For clearing of the first proposition, we must remember, that the object of actual regeneration, conversion, and effectual calling, is the man elected or redeemed by Christ, lying in the state of defection from God, destitute of original righteousness, at enmity with God, bently inclined to all evil, altogether unfit and impotent, yea, even spiritually dead to every spiritual good, and specially to convert, regenerate, or quicken himself. For albeit after the fall of Adam, there are some sparks of common reason remaining, whereby he may confusedly know that which is called spiritually good, acceptable and pleasant unto God, and fit to save his soul; yet the understanding of the unrenewed man judges of that good, and of the truth of the Evangel wherein that good is propounded, to be mere foolishness; and doth represent the spiritual object, and sets it before the will, as a thing uncertain or vain: and the will of the unrenewed man, after deliberation and comparison made of objects, some honest, some pleasant, and some profitable in appearance, naturally is inclined to prefer and choose any seemingly pleasant or profitable thing, whether the object be natural or civil, rather than that which is truly honest, and morally good. But if it fall out that a spiritual good be well, and in fair colours described unto the unrenewed man, yet he seeth it not, but under the notion of a natural good, and as it is clothed with the image of some natural good, and profitable for preserving its standing in a natural being and welfare therein. So did the false prophet Balaam look upon the felicity of the righteous in their death, when he did separate eternal life from faith and sanctification, and did rend asunder the means from the end appointed of Gad, saying, “Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his” (Num 23:10).

After this manner the woman of Samaria apprehended the gift and grace of the Holy Ghost, and saving grace offered to her by Christ: “Lord,” saith she, “give me of that water, that I may not thirst again, and may not come again to draw water,” (John 4:15). So also did the misbelieving Jews judge of the application of Christ’s incarnation and suffering, for their spiritual feeding, (John 6:33-35); for, “the natural man cannot know the things of the Spirit of God, because they are spiritually discerned,” and the natural man is destitute of the spirit of illumination, (1 Cor 2:14). And the wisdom of the flesh is enmity to God; for it is not subject to the law of God, yea, it cannot be subject unto it, (Rom 8:7). The power, therefore, of the natural or unrenewed man, is not fitted for the discerning, and loving of a spiritual good, because he is altogether natural and not spiritual; for a supernatural object requires a supernatural power of the understanding and will to take it up, and rightly conceive of it. But of this supernatural faculty the unrenewed man is destitute, and in respect of spiritual discerning, he is dead, that he cannot discern spiritual things spiritually.

As for the second proposition regarding a man’s regeneration, the Lord, that he may break the carnal confidence of the person whom he is to convert, first, shows him his duty by the doctrine of the law and covenant of works, making him to see the same by the powerful illumination of the Holy Spirit, and so, taketh away all pretext of ignorance. Secondly, he shows him his guiltiness and deserved damnation wherein he is involved, and so, taketh away all conceit and imagination of his innocency. Thirdly, he doth convince him of his utter inability to satisfy the law, or to deliver himself from the curse thereof, either by way of action and obedience, or by way of suffering, and paying the penalty of the violated law of God; and so, overturned all confidence in himself, or in his own works. Whence followeth the elect man’s desperation to be delivered by himself, because he sees himself a sinner, and that all hope of justification by his own deeds or suffering is cut off. Now, that this is the work of the Holy Spirit, is plain: “When the Comforter, the Spirit of truth shall come, he shall convince the world of sin,” (John 16:8). And in this condition sundry of God’s dear children, for a time, are kept under the bonds of the law, under the spirit of bondage and sad conviction.

As for the third proposition, the Lord, after He hath laid the sins of his elect child who is to be converted, to his charge, by the doctrine of the law, first, opens up a light unto him in the doctrine of the gospel, and lets him see that his absolution from sin, and his salvation is possible, and may be had, by flying unto Christ the Redeemer. Secondly, the Lord drawing near the humbled self-condemned soul, deals with him by way of moral persuasion, sweetly inviting him in the preaching of the gospel, to receive the Redeemer, Christ Jesus, the eternal Son of God manifested in the flesh, that by receiving of Him as he is offered in the evangel, for remission of sin, renovation of life, and eternal salvation, he may close the covenant of grace and reconciliation with God. Thirdly, because the fall of Adam hath bereft man of all spiritual and supernatural power, till he be supernaturally quickened and converted by the omnipotent power of God’s grace, therefore, the Lord super adds unto moral persuasion, effectual operation, and forms in the soul a spiritual faculty and ability for doing what is pleasant unto God, and tends to save himself according to the will of God. This infusion of a new life, sometimes is called the forming of the new creature; sometimes regeneration; sometimes rising from the dead, and vivification, or quickening of the man; sometimes saving grace, and the life of God, and the seed of God; having in it the principle of all saving graces and habits, which are brought forth afterward to acts and exercise.

Meantime, true it is that all men, because of their inborn corruption, have an inclination and bent disposition to resist the Holy Ghost; but when the Lord will actually convert the man, he overcomes  and taketh away actual resistance, and doth so break the power of natural rebellion, that it doth not for ever after reign in him. For if God did not take away actual resistance of the man in his conversion, no conversion would certainly follow, and God would be disappointed of his purpose to convert the man, even when he hath put forth his almighty power to work conversion. But God doth so wisely and powerfully stir up this newly infused life of grace, and sets it so to work, that the understanding and judgment, like a counsellor, and the will, like a commanding emperor, and the active power of the newly infused faculty, like an officer, do all bestir themselves to bring forth supernatural operations. Whence it cometh to pass, that the new creature begins to look kindly on Christ the Redeemer, and to desire to be united unto him; and doth stretch forth itself to embrace him heartily, for obtaining in him righteousness and salvation, as he is offered in the gospel. And so, he casts himself over on Christ, with full purpose never to shed from him, but by faith to draw out of him grace for grace, till he be perfected. And here, the man that was merely passive in his quickening and regeneration, begins presently to be active in his conversion, and following conversation, for God giveth to him to will and to do of his good pleasure; and he, having obtained by God’s effectual operation to will and to do, doth formally will and do the good which is done.

As to the fourth proposition, when the power of God is put forth invincibly for the converting of a soul, that invincible working is so far from destroying the natural liberty of the will, that it doth indeed preserve it, and sets it right on the right object, and doth perfect it. For, as when God opens the eyes of a man’s understanding that he doth behold the wonders of his law, when he removes the natural blindness of the mind, and makes a man to see that the gospel is the wisdom and power of God unto salvation, which sometimes he counted to be mere foolishness, he doth in no way destroys the man’s judgment or understanding; but doth correct, help, heal, and perfect it – so, when the Holy Spirit doth powerfully and effectually move and turn the will of the man to embrace the sweet and saving offers of Christ’s grace in the gospel, and make him deliberately choose this blessed way of salvation, and to renounce all confidence in his own, or any other’s worth or works, he doth not destroy, but perfect the liberty of the will, and raises it up from death and its damnable inclination, and makes it most joyfully and most freely to make choice of this pearl of great price, and bless itself in its choice for ever. Therefore, let no man complain of wrong done to man’s free-will, when God stops its way to hell, and wisely, powerfully, graciously and sweetly moves it to choose the way of life: but rather let men beware to take the glory of actual conversion of men, from God, and either give it wholly to their idol of free-will, or make it sharer of the glory of regeneration with God; which glory God will not give to another, but reserve wholly to himself; for all men, in the point and moment of regeneration, are like unto Lazarus in the grave, to whom God by commanding him to arise, gave life and power to arise out of the grave where he lay dead and rotting.

As to the fifth proposition, we must distinguish the work of regeneration, from the preparation and disposition of the man to be regenerated, whereby he is made more capable of regeneration to be wrought in him. For the material disposition of him, fitting him for regeneration, is neither a part nor a degree of regeneration; for albeit the Lord be not bound to these preparatory dispositions, yet he will have man bound to make use of these external means which may prepare him; because by the use of external means, (such as are, hearing the word, catechising and conference), a man may be brought more near unto regeneration, as Christ doth teach us by his speech to that Pharisee, who was instructed in the law, and answered discreetly unto Christ; “Thou art not far (saith he) from the kingdom of God,” (Mark 12:34). This preparatory disposition, in order to regeneration, is like unto the drying of timber to make it sooner take fire, when it is casted into it. For dryness in the timber, is neither a part nor a degree of kindling or inflammation of it; but only a preparation of the timber to receive inflammation when the fire shall be set to it, or it be put in the fire, possible, a long time after. In these preparatory exercises then, no man will deny, that the natural man unrenewed, hath a natural power to go and hear a sermon preached, to read the scripture, to be informed by catechising and conference of religion and regeneration, whereof God when he pleaseth may make use in regeneration of the man. Wherefore, whosoever in the preaching of the gospel, are charged and commanded to repent, to believe in Christ, or turn unto God, they are commanded also to use all these external means whereby they may be informed of the duty required, and of the means leading thereunto; in the exercise of which external means, they may meet with sundry common operations and effects of God’s Spirit, before they be regenerated or converted, whereof the use may be found not only in, but also after, conversion. And if any man shall refuse, slight, or neglect to follow these preparatory exercises, which may prepare him for conversion, he is inexcusable before God and man, and guilty of rejecting the offer of reconciliation; yea, guilty of resisting the Holy Ghost, of which sin and guiltiness, the holy martyr Stephen charges the misbelieving Jews, (Acts 7:51).

II.  THE REGENERATE MAN

As for the regenerate man, he it is who in the acknowledgment of his sinfulness and deserved misery, and of his utter inability to help himself, doth cast away all confidence in his own parts, and possible righteousness of his own works, and flees to Christ offered in the gospel, that in Christ alone he may have true wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption; and doth with full purpose of heart consecrate himself, and endeavour, in the strength of Christ, to serve God acceptably all the days of his life.

For the ground of this description, we have the words of the apostle, where putting a difference between the true people of God, and the counterfeit, he saith, “We are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, and rejoice in Jesus Christ, and have not confidence in the flesh,” (Phil 3:3).

In which description of the regenerate man, the apostle first points forth unto us three special operations of the Spirit of regeneration; then, three duties of the man regenerated.

The first operation of the Spirit of God, the only circumciser of the heart, is the humbling of the man in the sense of his sin, by the doctrine of the law, and cutting off all his confidence in his own worth, wit, free-will, and strength to help himself, so that the man hath no confidence in the flesh.

The second operation, is the infusion of saving faith, making the man humbled to close with Christ in the covenant of reconciliation, and to rest upon Him as the only and sufficient remedy of sin and misery; so that Christ becometh to him the ground of rejoicing and glorifying.

The third operation, is the up-stirring and enabling of the believer in Christ, to endeavour new obedience, and to worship God in the Spirit.

 As for the three duties of the man regenerated,

The first is, to follow the leading of the Spirit in the point of more and more humbling of himself before God in the sense of his own insufficiency, and eschewing of all leaning on his own parts, gifts, works, or sufferings, or any thing else beside Christ: he must have “no confidence in the flesh.”

The second duty, is to grow in the estimation of Christ’s righteousness, and fulness of all graces to be led forth to the believer, enjoying him by faith, and comforting himself in Christ against all difficulties, troubles, and temptations: he must rejoice in Jesus Christ.

The third duty, is to endeavour communion-keeping with God in the course of new obedience in all cases, worshipping and serving God in sincerity of heart: he must be a worshipper of God.

As to the last thing holden forth in the apostle’s words, which is the undoubted mark and evidence of the man regenerated and circumcised in heart, it standeth in the constant endeavour to grow in these three duties jointly, so as each of them may advance another; for many failings and short-comings will be found in our new obedience, and worshipping of God in the spirit. But let these failings be made use of to extinguish and abolish all confidence in our own parts and righteousness, and that our daily failings may humble us, and cut us off from all confidence in the flesh.

But let not these failings so discourage us, as to hinder us to put confidence in Christ; but by the contraire, the less ground of confidence we find in ourselves, let us raise so much higher the estimation of remission of sin and imputation of Christ’s righteousness, and stir up ourselves by faith to draw more strength and ability out of Christ for enabling us to walk more holily and righteously before God. And having fled to Christ, and comforted ourselves in him, let us not turn his grace into wantonness; but the more we believe the grace of Jesus Christ, let us strive, in his strength, so much the more to glorify God in new obedience. And in the circle of these three duties, let us wind ourselves up stairs toward heaven; for God hath promised, that such “as wait on the Lord, shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint,” (Is 40:31).

In the conjunction of these three duties, the evidence of regeneration is found. If there be not a sincere endeavour after all these three duties, the evidence of regeneration is by so much darkened, and short for probation: for it is not sufficient to prove a man regenerated, that he is driven from all confidence in his own righteousness, and filled with the sense of sin and deserved wrath; because a man that hath no more that, may perish in this miserable condition; as we see in Judas the traitor, whose conscience was burdened with the sense of sin, but did not seek mercy and pardon. Neither is it sufficient to boast of acquaintance with Christ, and profess great respect to him; because many do cry, “Lord, Lord!” who neither renounce their confidence in their own righteousness, nor worship God in spirit; for, of such Christ saith, “Not every one that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of God,” (Matt 7:21). Neither is it sufficient to pretend the worshipping of God in spirit: for, all they who think to be justified by their own works, do esteem their manner of serving God, true and spiritual service and worship; as may be seen in the proud Pharisee glorying before God in his own righteousness, and acknowledging that God was the giver unto him of the holiness and righteousness which he had. “I thank thee, O God,” saith he, “that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican,” (Luke 18:11). For, of this man, Christ saith, he returned to his house unjustified, that is, a man lying still in sin, unrecognised.

Neither is it sufficient to prove a man regenerated, to confess sin and bygone unrighteousness, and to promise and begin to amend his ways and future conversation; for, so much may a Pharisee attain. And there be many that profess themselves Christians, who think to be justified by the merits of their own and other saints’ doings and sufferings, and do disdainfully scoff and mock at the doctrine of the imputed righteousness of Christ. How many are they also, who think their bygone sins may be washed away, and be recompensed by their purpose to amend their life in time to come? How many are they, who, being willingly ignorant of the righteousness of God, which is of faith in Jesus Christ, go about to establish their own righteousness, as the Jews did? (Rom 10:3). And how few are they who follow the example of the apostle, who carefully served God in spirit and truth, but did not lean to his own righteousness, but sought more and more to be found in Christ, not having his own righteousness, which behoved to be made up of his imperfect obedience of the law, but that righteousness which is by the faith in Jesus Christ? (Phil 3:9).

But that man, who daily in the sense of his sinfulness and poverty flees unto Jesus Christ, that he may be justified by his righteousness, and endeavoured by faith in him to bring forth the fruits of new obedience, and doth not put confidence in these his works when he hath done them, but rejoices in Jesus Christ the fountain of holiness and blessedness, that man, I say, undoubtedly is regenerated, and a new creature, for so doth the apostle describe him, (Phil 3:3).

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Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage: David Dickson was born about the year 1583. His parents were religious, of considerable substance, and were many years married before they had David, who was their only child. As he was a Samuel asked of the Lord, so he was early devoted to Him and the ministry. Yet afterwards the vow was forgot, till Providence, by a rod and sore sickness on their son, brought their sins to their remembrance, and then he was sent to assume his studies at the University of Glasgow.

Soon after he had received the degree of Master of Arts, he was admitted professor of philosophy in that college, where he was very useful in training up the youth in solid learning; and, with the learned Principal Boyd of Trochrig, the worthy Mr Blair, and other pious members of that society, his labours were singularly blessed in reviving serious piety among the youth in that declining and corrupted time, a little after the imposition of Prelacy upon the Church. Accordingly, David Dickson was, in 1618, ordained minister to the town of Irvine, where he laboured for about twenty-three years.

That same year, the corrupt Assembly at Perth agreed to the five articles imposed upon the Church by King James IV and the prelates. David Dickson at first had no great scruple against Episcopacy, as he had not studied those questions much, till the articles were imposed by this Assembly. These he closely examined; the more he looked into them, the more aversion he found to them; and when some time after, by a sore sickness, he was brought within view of death and eternity, he gave open testimony of the sinfulness of them.

But when this came to take air, James Law, Archbishop of Glasgow, summoned him to appear before the High Commission Court, January 29, 1622. Dickson, at his entrance to the ministry at Irvine, had preached upon 2 Cor 5:11, “Knowing the terrors of the Lord, we persuade men;” and when he perceived at this juncture a separation (at least for a time), the Sabbath before his compearance he chose the next words of that verse, “But we are made manifest unto God.” Extraordinary power and singular movings of the affections accompanied that parting sermon.

David Dickson appeared before the Commission, where, after the summons being read, and after some reasoning among the bishops, he gave in his declinature; upon which, some of the bishops whispering in his ear, as if they had favoured him upon the good report they had heard of him and his ministry, said to him, “Take it up, take it up.” He answered calmly, “I laid it not down for that end, to take it up again.” Spottiswoode, Archbishop of St Andrews, asked if he would subscribe it. He professed himself ready. The clerk, at the Archbishop’s desire, began to read it; but had scarcely read three lines, till the Archbishop burst forth in railing speeches, full of gall and bitterness; and turning to Mr David, he said, “These men will speak of humility and meekness, and talk of the Spirit of God, but ye are led by the spirit of the devil; there is more pride in you, I dare say, than in all the bishops of Scotland. I hanged a Jesuit in Glasgow for the like fault.” Mr David answered, “I am not a rebel; I stand here as the King’s subject; grant me the benefit of the law, and of a subject, and I crave no more.” But the Archbishop seemed to take no notice of these words.

Aberdeen asked him, whether he would obey the King or not? He answered, “I will obey the King in all things in the Lord.” “I told you that,” said Glasgow, “I knew he would seek to his limitation.” Aberdeen asked again, “May not the King give the same authority that we have, to as many sutors and tailors in Edinburgh, to sit, and see whether ye be doing your duty or not?” Mr David said, “My declinature will answer to that.” Then St Andrews fell again to railing, “The devil,” said he, “will devise; he has Scripture enough;” and then called him knave, swinger, young lad; and said he might have been teaching bairns in the school. “Thou knowest what Aristotle saith,” said he, “but thou hast no theology.” Because he perceived that Dickson gave him no titles, but once called him Sir, he gnashed his teeth, and said, “Sir! you might have called me Lord; when I was in Glasgow long since, ye called me so, but I cannot tell how, ye are become a puritan now.”

All this time he stood silent, and once lifted up his eyes to heaven, which St Andrews called a proud look. So after some more reasoning betwixt him and the bishops, St Andrews pronounced his sentence, in these words: “We deprive you of your ministry at Irvine, and ordain you to enter in Turriff, in the north, in twenty days.” “The will of the Lord be done,” said Mr David; “though ye cast me off, the Lord will take me up. Send me whither ye will, I hope my Master will go with me; and as He has been to me heretofore, He will be with me still, as with His own weak servant.”