Fearful to think that any mercy belongs to me? Rest not in thine own performances!

mercyTaken and adapted from, THE POOR DOUBTING CHRISTIAN DRAWN TO CHRIST
Written by, THOMAS HOOKER, the first pastor of Hartford Connecticut, in 1629
Edited for thought and sense.

The distressed soul, being, truly humbled, takes notice of the beauty of holiness and the image of God stamped on the hearts of his children…

…and of all those precious promises which God hath made to all that are his; now the soul seeing these, begins thus to reason with itself, and saith, “surely if I were so holy and so gracious, then I might have hope to receive the pardon of my sins: or were my heart so perfect to perform Christian duties, and could my heart be so carried with power against my corruptions, to master them, then there would be some hope. But when I have no power against sin, nor a heart to seek timely for Christ, how dare I think that any mercy belongs to me, having so many problems?”

Thus they dare not come to the promise; and they will not venture upon it, because they have not that commitment to duties, and that power against corruption which sometimes the saints of God have. The Lord looks for no power or sufficiency from you, of yourselves; nor of yourselves any power against corruption, or commitment to duties. If you will be content that Christ shall take all from you, and use you and for his will; then take the Saviour, and you will have him.

But the poor soul says, if I go and I am wrong, how shall I know that I do not presume, and how shall I know that I have a true title to the promise?

I answer: there is no better argument in the world to prove that thou hast an interest in Christ, than this, which is your taking of the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour wholly, and as an husband only, John 1, 12. As many as received him, to them he gave power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name. He does not say, to as many as had such commitment to duties, and such powers against corruption; but if you will take Christ upon those terms on which he offers himself. There is no better argument under heaven than that, to prove you have a title to the promise.

Indeed there is a desperate despair that often seizes upon the hearts of distressed sinners.

Therefore, though the sinner looks upon the excellency of Christ and of grace, he then looks upon his own insufficiencies whatever they are, and they make him not willing to venture forward upon the promise; he is looking altogether too much upon his own sinfulness and worthlessness. Why? Because he views the number of his sins so many and vile, and the continuance of them so long, and durable; and he sees the floods of abominations coming in so great upon his soul, with Satan to boot,(who helps him forward in his fears) therefore he dares not make a start out unto Christ.

And thus the soul is always poring, and always too focused upon his corruptions; ever stirring the sore, without ever going to the physician. Here note, that a man is kept just as well from looking to Christ because of despair, as he is by presumption. Before he sees his sins, he thinks his condition is good, and that he hath a sufficiency of his own, and needs not go to Christ, and when he sees his sin, then he beholds so much vileness in himself, that he dares not go to Christ, lest when he come before him, Christ sends him down to that ever-burning lake of fire and brimstone. Herein the devil is very subtle: but this does not hinder our title to Christ; neither ought it to discourage us from laying hold on salvation.

The fault therefore is your own, because you rest in your own performance and in the power that you understand…

…and you do not go to God. For, did a man depend upon God’s power and mercy in his grace, he would always find proportionate help. God sometimes gives,and sometimes delays to give. But God’s love is as constant when he gives not, as when he gives. Therefore labour to quit all carnal confidence in holy duties. Rest not in thine own performances, but look beyond all duties to God in Christ, and desire him to give you the success.

Many a man makes his services his saviours; for, he makes them to bear up his conscience. His grounds is this: he finds and feels by woeful experience what the fruits of sin are: he sees the venom of his corruptions, and the lamentable effects of all his sinful practices. He thought it before a fine thing to swear, and lie, and drink, and follow base company; but now they are gravel to his heart, and gall to his soul. His conscience flieth in his face, and he is ready to sink down to hell under the burden of his mis-ordered life. Conscience saith, “these be thy sins, and these will be thy damnation: they have been thy delight, but they will prove thy shame and confusion in the end; and shortly thou shalt find the smart of them: to hell therefore, be packing, and gone.”

Now this man hath no other cure for his conscience in such a case, but this; he entreats conscience to be quiet. He confesses he has lived in base courses, and his condition to be very miserable; but now he will reform all. He has neglected prayer before this, but now he will pray. He hath hated God’s servants, but now he will love them. His ways have been exceeding evil, but now he will reform them, and now he will turn over a new leaf. This he says, and this he thinks will serve his turn. And thus many poor souls use the means as mediators, and so fall short of Christ.

But a gracious heart does not only pray, and hear, and receive, and use all possible means to obtain Christ, but is restless and unsatisfied till he enjoys and possesses Christ. He rests not upon the bare performance of any duty, neither does he think that by the virtue of any such his endeavours he shall get to Christ.  But when the infinite power of the Lord is considered, as able to overpower all his sins, this lifteth up the heart in some expectation that the Lord will show mercy to a man; though it is a hard thing to hope,when the soul is thus troubled.

“Can this heart be broken? Can these sins be pardoned? Can this soul be saved?”

Now comes in the power of God: God can pardon them. Never measure the power of God by that shallow conceit of thine. All things are possible to God, though not to men. And as it is said of Abraham, he hoped above hope; he looked to the Lord that was able to do what he had promised: he considered not that he had a dead body, but that he had a living God to hope on.

Justice cannot be so severe to revenge thee, as mercy is gracious to do good unto thee.

living-under-the-rain-of-gods-favour-300x265If thy sins be never so many, God’s justice never so great; yet mercy is above all thy sins, above all thy rebellions. This may support thy soul. So here you have the first ground to stir up hope; thy sins are pardonable. There is more power in God to show mercy to you, than power in sin to destroy you. The Lord Jesus Christ came to seek and to save that which was lost. It was the scope of his coming.

Now says the broken and humble sinner, “I am lost. Did Christ come to save sinners ? Then Christ must fail of his end, or I of my comfort. God says, come to me all ye that are weary and heavy laden: I am weary: unless the Lord intended good to me, why did he invite me, and bid me come? Surely he means to show mercy to me.”

Coming to the Father as Family and Friend

Adapted from “A Brief Exposition of the Lord’s Prayer”
Written by Thomas Hooker.
Edited for thought and sense.

01-father-and-child-portraitRejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-7 (ESV)

Now the motives whereby the soul may be furnished to call on God are three:

First, a cheerful readiness to come unto the Lord.

Why? We have an interest in him; he is our Father. We have the interest a child has in his father, which stirs him to come readily to his Father, he does not crave from a stranger, as when the child cried they carried him to his mother. If anything befalls the child, he says, ‘I will tell my father, and complain to my mother,’ and the like. So ask the child, who will provide for him? He says, my father. So it is here with our God. There is a fresh and living way that is marvelous, easy, and open. Whosoever seeks shall find, whosoever knocks it shall be opened to him. Therefore, whatever our injuries are, we should not complain to the world. No, pour forth your prayers to your Father, and he will be sure to hear you.

Secondly, as there should be a cheery readiness to come to the Lord so there should be a spiritual boldness to challenge what may be needful.

Among strangers we are strange, but among friends we are bold. We have a right and title to these things, and we may be bold with our own. Thus David challenges God. As you are faithful, deliver me, I am your servant, etc. If a servant wants food or raiment, he goes to his master. So says David, I am your servant, therefore give me understanding, that I may live. When they bragged of Paul and Apollos, he says, All is yours. This should comfort our hearts. Let us claim our portions. God is our Father and he will give it. Therefore be humbled in regard of your weakness and unworthiness, and confident in regard of his mercy, and walk comfortably in regard of the Lord. If I should see the child doubt in regard of my readiness, I should wonder. Care not, he says, it is your own, and he is our Father, and all that is in him is ours, Matthew 6:32.

Thirdly, this stirs up our hearts to have a fellow-feeling of our brethren’s misery in our prayers.

Therefore God cuts off all in-seekings of our own. Our, as if he should say, ‘Is there never a Joseph in prison, never a Daniel in the lions’ den, remember and pray for them. If one suffers, all suffer; we are all members of one body. We should mourn with those that mourn, and weep with them that weep, Isaiah 58. Put up a prayer for the remnant. Oh that our hearts would have a fellow-feeling of their trouble. Paul begs for prayers as for a penny. Ephesians 6:19, for me also; no, he entreats the Romans to wrestle for him in prayer.
————————————————

Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage: Thomas Hooker (July 5, 1586 – July 7, 1647) was a prominent Puritan colonial leader, who founded the Colony of Connecticut after dissenting with Puritan leaders in Massachusetts. He was known as an outstanding speaker and a leader of universal Christian suffrage.

Called today “the Father of Connecticut,” Thomas Hooker was a towering figure in the early development of colonial New England. He was one of the great preachers of his time, an erudite writer on Christian subjects, the first minister of Cambridge, Massachusetts, one of the first settlers and founders of both the city of Hartford and the state of Connecticut, and cited by many as the inspiration for the “Fundamental Orders of Connecticut,” cited by some as the world’s first written democratic constitution that established a representative government.

Hooker arrived in Boston and settled in Newtown (later renamed Cambridge), where he became the pastor of the First Parish Church. His parish became known as “Mr. Hooker’s Company”.

Hooker and Company Journeying through the Wilderness from Plymouth to Hartford, in 1636, Frederic Edwin Church, 1846

Voting in Massachusetts was limited to freemen, individuals who had been formally admitted to their church after a detailed interrogation of their religious views and experiences. Hooker disagreed with this limitation of suffrage, putting him at odds with the influential pastor John Cotton. Owing to his conflict with Cotton and discontented with the suppression of Puritan suffrage and at odds with the colony leadership, Hooker and the Rev. Samuel Stone led a group of about 100[9] who, in 1636, founded the settlement of Hartford, named for Stone’s place of birth: Hertford, in England.

On January 14, 1639, freemen from these three settlements ratified the “Fundamental Orders of Connecticut” in what John Fiske called “the first written constitution known to history that created a government. It marked the beginnings of American democracy, of which Thomas Hooker deserves more than any other man to be called the father. The government of the United States today is in lineal descent more nearly related to that of Connecticut than to that of any of the other thirteen colonies.”

The Rev. Hooker died during an “epidemical sickness” in 1647, at the age of 61. The location of his grave is unknown, although he is believed to be buried in Hartford’s Ancient Burying Ground. Because there was no known portrait of him, the statue of him that stands nearby, in front of Hartford’s Old State House, was sculpted from the likenesses of his descendants. However, the city is not without a sense of humor regarding its origins. Each year, organizations and citizens of Hartford dress up in outrageous costumes to celebrate Hooker Day with the Hooker Day Parade. T-shirts sold in the Old State House proclaim “Hartford was founded by a Hooker.”