The white devil – John Bunyan

October 14, 2016 Comments off

The White Devil

By John Bunyan

THIS doctrine of coming to Jesus Christ for life, informs us of the evil of UNBELIEF; that wicked thing which is the only or chief hindrance to the coming sinner. Doth the text say, “Come”? Doth it say, “And him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out”? Then what an evil is that, that keepeth sinners from coming to Jesus Christ? And that evil is UNBELIEF: for by faith we come; by UNBELIEF we keep away. Therefore it is that by which a soul is said to depart from God: because it was that which at first caused the world to go off from him, and that also, that keeps them from him to this day. And it doth it the more easily, because it doth it with a wile.

This sin may be called THE WHITE DEVIL. For it ofttimes, in its mischievous doing in the soul, shows as if it were an angel of light: yea, it acteth like a counsellor of heaven. Therefore, a little to discourse of this evil disease, I observe:

1. It is that sin, above all others, that hath some show of reason in its attempts. For it keeps the soul from Christ, by pretending its present unfitness and unpreparedness: as want of more sense of sin, want of more repentance, want of more humility, want of a more broken heart.

2. It is the sin that most suiteth with the conscience. The conscience of the coming sinner tells him, that he hath nothing good! that he stands inditable for ten thousand talents; that he is a very ignorant, blind and hard-hearted sinner, unworthy to be once taken notice of by Jesus Christ; and will you (says UNBELIEF) in such a case as you are now, presume to come to Jesus Christ?

3. It is the sin that most suiteth with our sense of feeling. The coming sinner feels the workings of sin, of all manner of sin and wretchedness in his flesh; he also feels the wrath and judgment of God due to sin and ofttimes staggers under it. Now, (says UNBELIEF) you may see you have no grace; for that which works in you is corruption. You may also perceive that God doth not love you, because the sense of his wrath abides upon you. Therefore, how can you bear the face to come to Jesus Christ?

4. It is that sin above all others that most suiteth the wisdom of our flesh. The wisdom of our flesh thinks it prudence to question awhile, to stand back awhile, to hearken to both sides awhile; and not to be rash, sudden, or unadvised, in too bold a presuming upon Christ. And this wisdom UNBELIEF falls in with.

5. It is the sin above all others, that continually is whispering in the ear the soul, with mistrusts of the faithfulness of God, in keeping promise to them that come to Jesus Christ for life. It also suggests mistrusts about Christ’s willingness to receive it, and save it. And no sin can do this so artfully as UNBELIEF.

6. It is also that sin which is always at hand to enter an objection against this or that promise, that by the Spirit of God is brought to our heart to comfort us. And if the poor coming sinner is not aware of it, it will by some exaction, slight, trick, or cavil, quickly wrest from him the promise again, and he shall have but little benefit of it.

7. It is that above all other sins, that weakens our prayers, our faith, our love, our diligence, our hope and expectations. It even taketh the heart away from God in duty.

8. Lastly, this sin, as I have said, even now, appears in the soul with so many sweet pretences to greater safety and security, that it is, as it were, counsel sent from heaven; bidding the soul be wise, wary, considerate, well-advised, and to take heed of too rash a venture upon believing. “Be sure, first, that God loves you; take hold of no promise until you are forced by God unto it; neither be sure of your salvation; doubt it still, though the testimony of the Lord has often been confirmed in you. Live not by faith, but by sense; and when you can neither see nor feel, then fear and mistrust, then doubt and question all.” This is the devilish counsel of UNBELIEF, which is so covered over with specious pretences, that the wisest Christian can hardly shake off these reasonings.

But to be brief. Let me here give the Christian reader a more particular description of the qualities of UNBELIEF, by opposing faith unto it, in these particulars. Faith believeth the word of God, but UNBELIEF questioneth the certainty of it (Psa 106:24). Faith believeth the word, because it is true; but UNBELIEF doubteth thereof, because it is true (1 Tim 4:3; John 8:45). Faith sees more in a promise of God to help, than in all other things to hinder; but UNBELIEF, notwithstanding God’s promise saith, `How can these things be?’ (Rom 4:19-21; 2 Kings 7:2; John 3:11,12). Faith will make thee see love in the heart of Christ, when with his mouth he gives reproofs; but UNBELIEF will imagine wrath in his heart, when with his mouth and word he saith he loves us (Matt 15:22-29;25:24). Faith will help the soul to wait, though God defers to give; but UNBELIEF will take offence and throw up all, if God makes any tarrying (Psa 25:5; Isa 8:17; 2 Kings 6:33). Faith will give comfort in the midst of fears; but UNBELIEF causeth fears in the midst of comforts (2 Chron 20:20,21; Matt 8:26; Luke 24:25). Faith will suck sweetness out of God’s rod; but UNBELIEF can find no comfort in his greatest mercies (Psa 23; Num 12). Faith maketh great burdens light; but UNBELIEF maketh light ones intolerably heavy (Mal 1:12,13). Faith helpeth us when we are down; but UNBELIEF throws us down when we are up (Micah 7:8- 10; Heb 4:11). Faith bringeth us near to God when we are far from him; but UNBELIEF puts us far from God when we are near to him (Heb 10:22; 3:12,13).

Where faith reigns, it declareth us to be the friends of God; but where UNBELIEF reigns, it declareth us to be his enemies (Heb 3:18; Rev 21:8). Faith putteth a man under grace; but UNBELIEF holdeth him under wrath (Rom 3:24-26; Eph 2:8; John 3:36; 1 John 5:10; Heb 3:17; Mark 16:16; John 8:24). Faith purifieth the heart; but UNBELIEF keepeth it polluted and impure (Acts 15:9; Titus 1:15,16). By faith the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us; but UNBELIEF shuts us up under the law to perish (Rom 4:23,24;11:32; Gal 3:23).

Faith maketh our work acceptable to God through Christ; but whatsoever is of UNBELIEF is sin. For without faith it is impossible to please him (Heb 11:4; Rom 14:23; Heb 11:6). Faith giveth us peace and comforteth our souls; but UNBELIEF worketh trouble and tossings, like the restless waves of the sea (Rom 5:1; James 1:6).

Faith maketh us see preciousness in Christ, but UNBELIEF sees no form, beauty, or comeliness in him (1 Pet 2; Isa 53:1-3). By faith we have our life in Christ’s fulness; but by UNBELIEF we starve and pine away (Gal 2:20). Faith gives us the victory over the law, sin, death, the devil, and all evils: but UNBELIEF lays us obnoxious to them all (1 John 5:4; Luke 12:46).

Faith will show us more excellency in things not seen, than in them that are; but UNBELIEF sees more in things that are, than in things that will be hereafter (2 Cor 4:18; Heb 11:24-27; 1 Cor 15:32).

Faith makes the ways of God pleasant and admirable; but UNBELIEF maketh them heavy and hard (Gal 4:6; 2 Cor 12:10,11; John 6:60; Psa 2:3).

By faith Abraham, Isaac and Jacob possessed the land of promise; but because of UNBELIEF, neither Aaron, nor Moses, nor Miriam could get thither (Heb 11:9; 3:19). By faith the children of Israel passed through the Red sea; but by UNBELIEF the generality of them perished in the wilderness (Heb 11:29; Jude 5). By faith Gideon did more with three hundred men, and a few empty pitchers, than all the twelve tribes could do, because they believed not God (Judg 7:16-22; Num 14:11,14). By faith Peter walked on the water; but by UNBELIEF he began to sink (Matt 14:22-33).

Thus might many more be added, which for brevity’s sake, I omit; beseeching every one that thinketh he hath a soul to save, or be damned, to take heed of UNBELIEF; lest seeing there is a promise left us of entering into his rest, any of us by UNBELIEF should indeed come short of it.

Categories: Bunyan, Unbelief Tags: ,

On Conversion – Thomas Reade

July 29, 2016 Comments off

When the Savior was born into the world, there was no room for him in the inn. Just so it is with our depraved hearts. Yet, wonderful condescension! Jesus stands at the door and knocks, saying, “If any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”

And does not every heart fly open to receive the heavenly visitant? Alas, no! Satan puts on the threefold bar of unbelief, pride, and prejudice; while inbred sin, afraid of losing its darling gratifications, opposes every effort to admit so kind a friend. The flesh pleads hard for self-indulgence; the world spreads its painted baubles, its deceitful riches, its empty honors, its intoxicating pleasures; and thus the sinner is held in vassalage to the powers of darkness.
Is, then, the heart forever barred against the Prince of peace? Forever barred it would be, did not sovereign grace, by its almighty power, drive out the strong man armed, crucify each rebellious lust, and bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. When grace opens the sinner’s heart, all the powers of the soul are made willing to admit the conquering Savior, and to acknowledge him to be the Lord. Old favorite sins now become hateful; darling lusts appear like inbred vipers. Satan is beheld in all his horrors, and vice in its true deformity. The world loses its charms. Heaven opens on the enraptured eye of faith. Holiness captivates the heart by its celestial beauties. Jesus is beheld with rising admiration, and becomes each day more precious to the soul. Such is the wonderful change wrought in the conversion of a sinner, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Unbelief gives way to faith; pride to humility; anger to meekness; impatience to resignation; hatred to love and sin to universal holiness. The idol, self, falls prostrate before Jesus Christ; and nothing is extolled, or trusted in, or pleaded before the throne of God, but the precious blood and righteousness of Emanuel. All glory is now given to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; and the Triune God is ALL in ALL.

It is to be feared that thousands, who call themselves Christians, will never be acknowledged as such in that great day, when the secrets of all hearts shall be revealed, and the real character of every professor of godliness distinctly known. Too many, it is to be feared, substitute a general acknowledgment of the truths of the Bible, for that faith in those truths which purifies the heart, and assimilates the soul to the image of Jesus.

It is no difficult thing to say, “I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ, his only Son our Lord;” But, to feel all the love, reverence, and obedience, which, as creatures and redeemed sinners, we owe to our God and Savior, is not so easy to fallen nature. It is no way contrary to our carnal heart to profess, and even strenuously to contend for, those truths which we have been taught from our infancy to consider as sacred; or to extol that church, in whose bosom we have grown up from earliest years.

But, to exhibit the fruit of those doctrines, and to act agreeably to the spiritual formularies of our venerable establishment, is not so congenial to the natural state of our depraved hearts. So long as thousands, who bear the Christian name, live in all the gayeties and follies of the world; neglecting the Gospel, and manifesting a spirit in direct opposition to it; we cannot wonder that such multitudes, carried away by the potent stream of public example, rest satisfied with a faith which passes current in the world, which attaches no transformation to the character, which requires no self-denial, no painful sacrifices on the part of its possessors.

Many, no doubt, rejoice that they are preserved from such delusions as they suppose the people of God labor under, who debar themselves from what they term the innocent gayeties of life, and the delights of fashionable extravagance. These people pride themselves on their superior wisdom in being able to grasp both worlds at once; to acknowledge the importance of Christianity, and yet to enjoy those carnal gratifications which give such a zest to their existence. Thus they go on, like the rich man in the parable, faring sumptuously every day; and never find out their dreadful mistake, until, like him, they open their eyes in hell, being in torments!

How awfully blinded is the soul of man, until illuminated by the Holy Spirit of truth! Until his glorious light irradiate our minds, we can form no accurate ideas either of God or of ourselves. All is chaos and confusion. We do not even see men as trees walking. We are in a state of complete blindness, and all our conceptions are erroneous. We grope in the dark. We stumble even at noonday.

How different from that cold assent of the understanding to the general truths of the Gospel, which satisfies an unbelieving world, is the faith which the Spirit of God works in the hearts of his people. The believer in Jesus is the new creation of God. His mind is enlightened from above. His heart is made to feel its guilt and misery. He reads the word of God with an interest unfelt before. He reads it as a revelation of love from the God of mercy, proclaiming pardon to the guilty, peace to the miserable, and purity to the polluted. Every declaration bears, to his mind, the stamp of truth. He requires no other sanction than “thus says the Lord;” and, finding this, he reads with reverence, and seeks for grace to receive with all meekness the engrafted word which is able to save his soul. He finds his own character exactly portrayed in its sacred pages. He looks within, and is able to trace sin through the dark recesses and secret windings of his heart. He discovers those latent seeds of evil, those bitter springs of misery, unbelief, and pride and lust, and covetousness, which are continually pouring forth their deadly streams into his outward life. He traces all this evil to the fall of man, and finds that the deadly poison has contaminated the whole posterity of Adam. He owns himself a sinner, both by nature and practice. He justifies the righteous judgment of God, whose law he has broken, and whose tremendous curse he has so awfully incurred. He no longer tries to palliate his offenses, or invent soft names whereby to varnish over the deformity of sin. He frankly and fully confesses himself a rebel, guilty of death, and deserving of nothing less than eternal damnation.

Into this humble, broken, contrite state of heart, he is brought by the deep convictions of that Holy Spirit, whose office it is “to convince the world of sin.” But does this divine agent leave him in this awakened state of agony and despair? Ah, no! How good, how gracious, how merciful is God! He wounds in order to heal; he kills in order to make alive!

When a person labors under a violent fever, every expedient is tried to reduce the wasting malady. The means used, seem, for a time, to increase the weakness and debility of the patient: but he is thus weakened only that he may eventually become strong. No sooner is the consuming fever abated, than cordials and restoratives are freely administered, which, given before, would have augmented the dangerous symptoms, and thus have hastened on the fatal consequences of the disease. Thus, our heavenly Physician humbles and subdues the proud heart of the sinner, and destroys the feverish thirst and burning desire after sinful gratifications, before he imparts the reviving cordials of pardon and peace to restore the sin-sick soul to spiritual strength and vigor.

Then the bloom of health begins to appear in the sweet tints of peace and joy, of love and humility, of meekness and heavenly-mindedness, which beautify the soul, and cause the believer to shine in the image of his divine Redeemer.
The happy believer now knows his malady and his remedy. He takes with gratitude those medicines which Infinite Wisdom prescribes. He daily feeds upon Christ by faith, and daily derives strength from this gracious source of blessedness. He feels his own weakness, and experiences the power of Jesus. He loathes himself and truly loves his Savior, in whose righteousness he appears all lovely in the eyes of his heavenly Father. As a pilgrim, he journeys onwards under the guidance of that Holy Spirit who dwells in him as in a temple, and who has promised to keep him by his mighty power through faith unto salvation. The world fascinates no longer. The mask falls from its face, and he beholds the idol in its natural deformity. He sees the emptiness of human applause; the madness of ambition; the deceitfulness of riches; the folly of extravagance. Every thing beneath the sun assumes its true character while he views it through the medium of God’s holy word.

He learns to form a proper estimate of temporal things. He prays for grace to use the world as not abusing it; to be moderate in the enjoyment of all created good; knowing that the fashion of this world passes away. Has the believer no enjoyment of life? Is he destitute of all rational delights because he makes the Lord his portion? It would be an impeachment of the goodness of God, to suppose his service a mere Egyptian bondage.

The true believer in Jesus has the sweetest enjoyment of life. He can eat his food with singleness of heart, praising God. He can taste the sweets of Christian friendship and domestic life; he can enjoy all the endearing charities of husband, father, brother; he can feel his heart expanding towards the poor; and find his joy in pouring the balm of consolation into the troubled breast; he can delight in all the beauties of natural scenery, and relish all the charms of sound philosophy; he can rejoice in every opening prospect for the extension of the Redeemer’s kingdom, through institutions devised by Christian wisdom and conducted in Christian simplicity; he can weep in his best moments over the ruins of the fall, not only as felt in his own heart, but as beheld in the abject condition of the millions of mankind; he can rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Say, then, can such a man be miserable? can such a man be destitute of sources of real enjoyment? He lives by faith; he longs for heaven; he desires to be daily conformed to Jesus, and to glorify him more, whether it be by life or death. To him, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Such is the character of the converted sinner. Oh how precious, how divine, how rare a character!

“Lord, impart this grace unto me, who am less than the least of all your mercies, until faith shall end in the glorious fruition of yourself in your everlasting kingdom of light and glory.”

Blest Savior, condescend
To dwell within my heart;
Oh, be my advocate and friend;
Bid every sin depart.
Incline my soul to love
The path of life divine;
In concord let my passions move,
Let all my heart be thine.
Preserve me by your care;
Protect me, lest I stray;
Keep me from Satan’s’ deadly snare,
From every devious way.
Let angel-guards surround,
And shield my soul from ill;
While traveling over temptation’s ground,
To Zion’s holy hill.
When death the message brings
To call me hence away,
O may I stretch my joyful wings


6 Marks of the Believers’ Growth in Grace – JC Ryle

June 23, 2016 Comments off

Let me take it for granted that we do not question the reality of growth in grace, and its vast importance. So far so good. But you now want to know how anyone may find out whether he is growing in grace or not? I answer that question, in the first place, by observing that we are very poor judges of our own condition — and that bystanders often know us better than we know ourselves. But I answer further that there are undoubtedly certain great marks and signs of growth in grace — and that wherever you see these marks — you see a growing soul. I will now proceed to place some of these marks before you in order.

1. One mark of growth in grace, is increased HUMILITY. The man whose soul is growing, feels his own sinfulness and unworthiness more every year.

He is ready to say with Job, “I am vile!”
And with Abraham, “I am dust and ashes!”
And with Jacob, “I am not worthy of the least of all Your mercies!”
And with David, “I am a worm!”
And with Isaiah, “I am a man of unclean lips!”

And with Peter, “I am a sinful man, O Lord!”
(Job 40:4; Genesis 18:27; 32:10; Psalm 22:6; Isaiah 6:5; Luke 5:8). The nearer he draws to God, and the more he sees of God’s holiness and perfections — the more thoroughly is he sensible of his own countless sins and imperfections. The further he journeys in the way to Heaven — the more he understands what Paul meant when he says,

“I am not already perfect!”
“I am not fit to be called an apostle!”
“I am less than the least of all saints!”
“I am the chief of sinners!”
(Philippians 3:12; 1 Corinthians 15:9; Ephesians 3:8; 1 Timothy 1:15).

The riper he is for glory, the more, like the ripe corn — he hangs down his head. The brighter and clearer is his gospel light — the more he sees of the shortcomings and infirmities of his own heart. When first converted, he would tell you he saw but little of them — compared to what he sees now. Would anyone know whether he is growing in grace? Be sure that you look within for increased humility.

2. Another mark of growth in grace, is increased FAITH and LOVE towards our Lord Jesus Christ. The man whose soul is growing, finds more in Christ to rest upon every year, and rejoices more that he has such a Savior. No doubt he saw much in Him, when first he believed. His faith laid hold on the atonement of Christ, and gave him hope. But as he grows in grace, he sees a thousand things in Christ of which at first he never dreamed!

His love and power,
His heart and His intentions,
His offices as Substitute, Intercessor, Priest, Advocate, Physician, Shepherd and Friend

— unfold themselves to a growing soul in an unspeakable manner. In short, he discovers a suitableness in Christ to the needs of his soul, of which the half was once not known to him! Would anyone know if he is growing in grace? Then let him look within for increased knowledge of, and love to Christ.

3. Another mark of growth in grace, is increased HOLINESS of life and conduct. The man whose soul is growing, gets more dominion over sin, the world and the devil every year. He becomes more careful about . . .
his temper,
his words and
his actions. He is more watchful over his conduct in every relation of life. He strives more to be conformed to the image of Christ in all things, and to follow Him as his example — as well as to trust in Him as his Savior. He is not content with old attainments and former grace. He forgets the things that are behind, and reaches forth unto those things which are before, making “Higher!” “Upward!” “Forward!” “Onward!” his continual motto (Philippians 3:13). On earth, he thirsts and longs to have a will more entirely in unison with God’s will. In Heaven, the chief thing that he looks for, next to the presence of Christ — is complete separation from all sin. Would anyone know if he is growing in grace? Then let him look within for increased holiness.

4. Another mark of growth in grace, is increased SPIRITUALITY of taste and mind. The man whose soul is growing, takes more interest in spiritual things every year. He does not neglect his duty in the world. He discharges faithfully, diligently and conscientiously — every relation of life, whether at home or abroad. But the things he loves best are spiritual things. The amusements and recreations of the world, have a continually decreasing place in his heart. He does not condemn them as downright sinful, nor say that those who have anything to do with them are going to Hell. He only feels that they have a constantly diminishing hold on his own affections — and gradually seem smaller and more trifling in his eyes. Spiritual companions, spiritual occupations, spiritual conversation — are of ever-increasing value to him. Would anyone know if he is growing in grace? Then let him look within for increasing spirituality of taste.

5. Another mark of growth in grace, is increase in LOVE to others. The man whose soul is growing, is more full of love every year — of love to all men — but especially of love towards the brethren.

His love will show itself actively — in a growing disposition to do kindnesses, to take trouble for others, to be good-natured to everybody, to be generous, sympathizing, thoughtful, tender-hearted and considerate.

His love will show itself passively — in a growing disposition to be meek and patient towards all men, to put up with provocation and not stand upon his rights, to bear and forbear much rather than quarrel. A growing soul will try to put the best construction on other people’s conduct, and to believe all things and hope all things, even to the end. There is no surer mark of backsliding and falling off in grace — than an increasing disposition to find fault, pick holes, and see weak points in others. Would anyone know if he is growing in grace? Then let him look within for increasing love to others.

6. One more mark of growth in grace, is increased ZEAL and diligence in trying to do good to souls. The man who is really growing, will take greater interest in the salvation of sinners every year. Missions at home and abroad, efforts of every kind to spread the gospel, attempts of any sort to increase gospel light and diminish gospel darkness — all these things will every year have a greater place in his attention.

He will not become “weary in well-doing,” just because he does not see every effort succeed. He will not care less for the progress of Christ’s cause on earth, as he grows older, though he will learn to expect less. He will just work on, whatever the result may be — giving, praying, speaking, visiting, according to his position — and count his work its own reward. One of the surest marks of spiritual decline — is a decreased interest about the souls of others, and the growth of Christ’s kingdom. Would anyone know whether he is growing in grace? Then let him look within for increased concern about the salvation of souls.

Those high-flying religionists, whose only notion of Christianity is that of a state of perpetual joy and ecstasy, who tell you that they have got far beyond the region of conflict and soul-humiliation — such people no doubt will regard the marks I have laid down as “legal,” “carnal” and “tending to bondage.” I cannot help that. I call no man master in these things. I only wish my statements to be tried in the balance of Scripture.

And I firmly believe that what I have said is not only Scriptural — but agreeable to the experience of the most eminent saints in every age. Show me a man in whom the six marks I have mentioned can be found. He is the man who can give a satisfactory answer to the question: “Do we grow?” Such are the most trustworthy marks of growth in grace. Let us examine them carefully and consider what we ourselves know about them.

Excerpt from the free eBook Holiness by J. C. Ryle


5 Themes on Providence from the Psalms (Calvin commentary)

May 27, 2016 Comments off

In 1557, John Calvin published his large commentary on the book of Psalms. In the English translation, this commentary runs to five substantial volumes. This commentary reflects a life lived with the Psalter. He loved the psalms: he knew them, studied them, wrote on them, preached them, and sang them.

In the course of his commentary on the Psalms, Calvin gave strong expression to various aspects of his doctrine of providence. Five themes about providence recur in his exposition.

First, he recognizes God’s power as the active governor of the world:

He gives us to understand by this word, that heaven is not a palace in which God remains idle and indulges in pleasures, as the Epicureans dream, but a royal court, from which he exercises his government over all parts of the world. If he has erected his throne, therefore, in the sanctuary of heaven, in order to govern the universe, it follows that he in no wise neglects the affairs of earth, but governs them with the highest reason and wisdom.

Second, he declares that this active power should lead all creatures to honor God as God:

As God by his providence preserves the world, the power of his government is alike extended to all, so that he ought to be worshipped by all.

Third, he teaches that in His governance of the world God always acts as the loving Father of His people:

By the face of God, must be meant the fatherly care and providence which he extends to his people. So numerous are the dangers which surround us, that we could not stand a single moment, if his eye did not watch over our preservation. But the true security for a happy life lies in being persuaded that we are under divine government.

This fatherly care of God does not mean that His people will not suffer:

We are here warned that the guardianship of God does not secure us from being sometimes exercised with the cross and afflictions, and that therefore the faithful ought not to promise themselves a delicate and easy life in this world, it being enough for them not to be abandoned of God when they stand in need of his help. Their heavenly Father, it is true, loves them most tenderly, but he will have them awakened by the cross, lest they should give themselves too much to the pleasures of the flesh. If, therefore, we embrace this doctrine, although we may happen to be oppressed by the tyranny of the wicked, we will wait patiently till God either break their sceptre, or shake it out of their hands.

Fourth, Calvin affirms that confidence in providence causes Christians to grow in faith in Christ and confidence in living for Him:

Besides, the joy here mentioned arises from this, that there is nothing more calculated to increase our faith, than the knowledge of the providence of God; because without it, we would be harassed with doubts and fears, being uncertain whether or not the world was governed by chance. For this reason, it follows that those who aim at the subversion of this doctrine, depriving the children of God of true comfort, and vexing their minds by unsettling their faith, forge for themselves a hell upon earth. For what can be more awfully tormenting than to be constantly racked with doubt and anxiety? And we will never be able to arrive at a calm state of mind until we are taught to repose with implicit confidence in the providence of God.

Fifth, Calvin teaches that knowing that God directs all things leads His people to more frequent and heartfelt prayer:

Were they to reflect on the judgments of God, they would at once perceive that there was nothing like chance or fortune in the government of the world. Moreover, until men are persuaded that all their troubles come upon them by the appointment of God, it will never come into their minds to supplicate him for deliverance.

In his preface to his commentary on the book of Psalms, Calvin made a most remarkable statement about providence that went to the very heart and soul of the religion he embraced and counseled others to embrace. He writes that knowing the Psalter teaches Christians to suffer for God so that “we renounce the guidance of our own affections, and submit ourselves entirely to God, leaving him to govern us, and to dispose our life according to his will, so that the afflictions which are the bitterest and most severe to our nature, become sweet to us, because they proceed from him.”

The bitterest afflictions of this life are sweet when Christians know that they come from God, serve His purposes, and ultimately contribute to their good. Calvin had a truly astounding daily confidence in God and His ways, and he encouraged the same confidence in his followers.

Faith itself not the cause of justification – Louis Berkhof

January 20, 2016 Comments off

Scripture never says that we are justified dia ten pistin, on account of faith. This means that faith is never represented as the ground of our justification. If this were the case, faith would have to be regarded as a meritorious work of man. And this would be the introduction of the doctrine of justification by works, which the apostle opposes consistently, Rom. 3:21,27,28; 4:3,4; Gal. 2:16,21; 3:11. We are told indeed that Abraham’s faith was reckoned unto him for righteousness, Rom. 4:3,9,22; Gal. 3:6, but in view of the whole argument this surely cannot mean that in his case faith itself as a work took the place of the righteousness of God in Christ. The apostle does not leave it doubtful that, strictly speaking, only the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, is the ground of our justification. But faith is so thoroughly receptive in the appropriation of the merits of Christ, that it can be put figuratively for the merits of Christ which it receives. “Faith” then is equivalent to the contents of faith, that is, to the merits or the righteousness of Christ.


And made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus – Philpot devotional 25 July 2015

July 27, 2015 Comments off

July 25  J.C. Philpot

“And made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” – Ephesians 2:6

Jesus did not tarry upon the earth after his resurrection; he ascended up where he was before, and took his seat at the right hand of the Majesty on high. But when he ascended up on high, all the election of grace ascended with him. He did not leave his members behind upon earth, but he took them all virtually into heaven. And this is a pledge that they will one day be with him in the realms of eternal bliss, because they have already ascended with him, as the members of his mystical body. This, in experimental manifestation, is the lifting up of the affections, the raising up of the soul to sit together with Christ in heavenly places. Sin, death, hell, and Satan, with all the misery and wretchedness we have brought upon ourselves—to have them all under our feet, as Christ now reigns, having put all enemies under his feet—to enjoy this, is to sit with Christ in heavenly places. One of the last acts that God usually does for the soul, is the lifting it up thus to sit with Christ in the anticipation of eternal glory. To see death dethroned, hell destroyed, sin abolished, and a glorious immortality reserved for the saints of God; to enjoy this in the sweet anticipation and blessed foretastes, so as to be in heaven before we get there—this is to sit down with Christ in heavenly places, by virtue of his sitting down there “at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”

Now, see what benefits and blessings spring out of a union with the Son of God. Why did God quicken your soul? Because you were a member of Christ. Why were you raised up to “a good hope through grace?” Why did mercy, peace, and pardon flow into your soul? Why were you brought out of misery and death into the light of God’s countenance, and had a precious Christ revealed to your heart? Because in the day, when the Son of God rose triumphant from the tomb, you, as a member of his mystical body, rose there and then with him. Why are you sometimes privileged to have your affections on things above, attain any victory over sin, death, hell, and the grave, find your enemies put under your feet, and look forward at times with a sweet anticipation of eternal joys? Because, as a member of Christ’s mystical body, you have already ascended, and are already sitting at the right hand of God with Christ, who is sitting as the Head of his body there.

J.C. Philpot – 1802-1869

The difficulty of salvation – Richard Sibbes

May 10, 2015 Comments off

If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the wicked and ungodly appear?—1 Pet. 4:18.

What is meant here by righteousness, to wit, a man endued with evangelical righteousness. By ‘righteous’ here, is meant that evangelical righteousness which we have in the state of the gospel, namely, the righteousness of Christ imputed to us; for Christ himself being ours, his obedience and all that he hath becomes ours also; and whosoever partaketh of this righteousness which is by faith, hath also a righteousness of sanctification accompanying the same, wrought in his soul by the Spirit of God, whereby his sinful nature is changed and made holy; for ‘if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature,’ 2 Cor. 5:17. The same Spirit that assures us of our interest in Christ, purifies and cleanseth our hearts, and worketh a new life in us, opposite to our life in the first Adam; from whence flows new works of holiness and obedience throughout our whole conversation. There must be an inward inherent righteousness, before there can be any works of righteousness. An instrument must be set in tune before it will make music; so the Spirit of God must first work a holy frame and disposition of heart in us, before we can bring forth any fruits of holiness in our lives. For we commend not the works of grace as we do the works of art, but refer them to the worker. All that flows from the Spirit of righteousness are works of righteousness. When the soul submits itself to the spirit, and the body to the soul, then things come off kindly. Take a man that is righteous by the Spirit of God: he is righteous in all relations; he gives every one his due; he gives God his due; spiritual worship is set up in his heart above all; he gives Christ his due by affiance in him; he gives the holy angels their due, by considering he is always in their presence, that their eye is upon him in every action he doth, and every duty he performs; the poor have their due from him; those that are in authority have their due. If he be under any, he gives them reverence and obedience, &c.; ‘he will owe nothing to any man but love,’ Rom. 13:8; he is righteous in all his conversation; he is a vessel prepared for every good work. I deny not but he may err in some particular; that is nothing to the purpose. I speak of a man as he is in the disposition and bent of his heart to God and goodness, and so there is a thread of a righteous course, that runs along through his whole conversation. The constant tenure of his life is righteous. He hungers and thirsts after righteousness, and labours to be more and more righteous still, every way, both in justification, that he may have a clearer evidence of that, as also in sanctification, that he may have more of the ‘new creature’ formed in him, that so he may serve God better and better all his days. Now, if this man shall scarcely be saved, where shall the sinner and ungodly appear? Where you have two branches.

1. The righteous shall scarcely be saved.

2. The terrible end of sinners and ungodly, where shall they appear? &c.

Now in that the righteous man thus described by me shall scarcely be saved, consider two things.

1. That the righteous shall be saved.

2. That they shall scarcely be saved.

The righteous are saved. What do I say? the righteous shall be saved? He is saved already. ‘This day is salvation come to thine house,’ saith Christ to Zaccheus, Luke 19:9. ‘We are saved by faith, and are now set in heavenly places together with him,’ Eph. 2:6. We have a title and interest to happiness already. There remains only a passage to the crown by good works. We do not, as the papists do, work to merit that we have not, but we do that we do in thankfulness for what we have. Because we know we are in the state of salvation; therefore we will shew our thankfulness to God in the course of our lives.

How can we miss of salvation when we are saved already? Christ our head being in heaven, will draw his body after him. What should hinder us? The world? Alas!* we have that faith in us,’ which overcometh the world,’ 1 John 5:4. As for the flesh, you know what the apostle saith, ‘We are not under the law, but under grace,’ Rom. 6:14. The spirit in us always lusteth against the flesh, and subdues it by little and little; neither can Satan nor the gates of hell prevail against us; for the grace we have is stronger than all enemies against us.

God the Father is our Father in Christ, and his love and gifts are without repentance, Rom. 11:29. When once we are in the state of salvation, ‘he will preserve us by faith to salvation,’ 1 Pet. 1:5; and we are knit to God the Son, who will lose none of his members. The marriage with Christ is an everlasting union; whom he loves, ‘he loves to the end,’ John 13:1. As for God the Holy Ghost, saith Christ, ‘I will send the Comforter, and he shall be with you to the end,’ John 6:14, 16. The blessed Spirit of God never departs where he once takes up his lodging. There is no question, therefore, of the salvation of the righteous; they are, as it were, saved already.

Use. Let this teach us thus much, that in all the changes and alterations which the faith of man is subject unto, he is sure of one thing: all the troubles, and all the enemies of the world shall not hinder his salvation. ‘If it be possible the elect should be deceived,’ Mat. 24:24; but it is not possible. O what a comfort is this, that in the midst of all the oppositions and plottings of men and devils, yet notwithstanding, somewhat we have, that is not in the power of any enemy to take from us, nor in our own power to lose, namely, our salvation. Set this against any evil whatsoever, and it swallows up all. Put case a man were subject to an hundred deaths, one after another, what are all these to salvation? Put case a man were in such grief, that he wept tears of blood; alas! in the day of salvation all tears shall be wiped from his eyes. Set this, I shall be saved, against any misery you can imagine, and it will unspeakably comfort and revive the soul beyond all.

Obj. But it is here said, he shall scarcely be saved.

Ans. This is not a word of doubt, but of difficulty. It is not a word of doubt of the event, whether he shall be saved or no—there is no doubt at all of that—but it is a word of difficulty in regard of the way and passage thither. So it is here taken, which leads me to a second point, that the way to come to salvation is full of difficulties.

1. Because there is much ado to get Lot out of Sodom, to get Israel out of Egypt. It is no easy matter to get a man out of the state of corruption. O the sweetness of sin to an unregenerate man! O how it cuts his very heart to think what pleasures and what profits, and what friends, and what esteem amongst men he must part withal! What ado is there to pull him out of the kingdom of Satan, wherein the strong man, Luke 11:21, held him before!

2. Again, it is hard in regard of the sin that continually cleaves to them in this world, which doth, as it were, shackle them, and compass them about in all their performances. ‘They would do well, but sin is at hand,’ Rom. 7:21, ready to hinder and stop them in good courses; so that they cannot serve God with such cheerfulness and readiness as they desire to do. Every good work they do, it is, as it were, pulled out of the fire; they cannot pray, but the flesh resists; they cannot suffer, but the flesh draws back. In all their doing and suffering they carry an enemy in their own bosoms that hinders them. Beloved, this [is] no small affliction to God’s people. How did this humble Paul, when no other affliction lay upon him! ‘O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from this body of death?’ Rom. 7:24. It was more troublesome to him than all his irons and pressures whatsoever.

3. Besides, it is a hard matter in regard of Satan; for he is a great enemy to the peace of God’s children. When they are once pulled out of his kingdom, he sends floods of reproaches and persecutions after them, and presently sends hue and cry, as Pharaoh after the Israelites. Oh, how it spites him! What! shall a piece of dust and clay be so near God, when I am tumbled out of heaven myself! Though I cannot hinder him from salvation, I will hinder his peace and joy; he shall not have heaven upon earth.* I will make him walk as uncomfortably as I can. Thus the devil, as he is a malignant creature, full of envy against God’s poor saints, so he is a bitter enemy of the peace and comfort which they enjoy; and therefore troubles them with many temptations from himself and his instruments, to interrupt their peace, and make the hearts of God’s people sad all he can.

4. Then, by reason of great discouragements and ill-usage which they find in the world from wicked men, who are the devil’s pipes, led with his spirit to vex and trouble the meek of the earth; for, though they think not of it, Satan is in their devilish natures; he joins and goes along with their spirits in hating and opposing the saints of God; for, indeed, what hurt could they do but by his instigation? How are good men despised in the world! How are they made the only butt† to shoot at! Alas! beloved, we should rather encourage men in the ways of holiness. We see the number of such as truly fear God is but small, soon reckoned up. They are but as grapes after the vintage, or a few berries after the shaking; one of a city, two of a tribe, Micah 7:1, Jer. 3:14. They have little encouragements from any, but discouragements on all sides.

5. Besides this, scandal makes it a hard matter to be saved; to see evil courses and evil persons flourish and countenanced in the world. Oh, it goes to the heart of God’s people, and makes them stagger at God’s providence. It is a bitter temptation, and shakes the faith of holy men, as we see, Ps. 73, Jer. 12:1, 2. Again, it makes the heart of a good Christian bleed within him, to see scandals arise from professors of the gospel, when they are not so watchful as they should be, but bring a reproach upon religion by their licentious lives.

Yea, God’s children suffer much for their friends, whose wicked courses are laid to their charge, and sometimes even by their friends; for whilst they live here, the best of all are subject to some weakness or other, which causeth even those that are our encouragers, through jealousy or corruption, one way or another, to dishearten and trouble us in the way to heaven.

6. This, likewise, makes the way difficult; we are too apt to offend God daily, giving him just cause to withdraw his Spirit of comfort from us, which makes us go mourning all the day long; wanting those sweet refreshments of spiritual joy and peace we had before. The more comfort God’s child hath in communion with God, the more he is grieved when he wants it. When Christ wanted the sweet solace of his Father upon the cross, how did it trouble him! ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ Mat. 27:46. How did he sweat water and blood in the garden, Luke 22:44, when he felt but a little while his Father’s displeasure for sin! Thus is it with all God’s children; they are of Christ’s mind in their spiritual desertions.

And when they have gotten a little grace, how difficult is it to keep it! to keep ourselves in the sense of God’s love! to manage our Christian state aright! to walk worthy of the gospel, that God may still do us good, and delight to be present with us! What a great difficulty is it to be always striving against the stream, and when we are cast back to get forward still, and not be discouraged till we come to the haven! None comes to heaven but they know how they come there.

Why God will have the righteous with such difficulty saved. Now, God will have it thus to sweeten heaven unto us. After a conflicting life peace is welcome; heaven is heaven indeed after trouble. We can relish it then. Because God will discard hypocrites in this life, who take up so much of religion as stands with their ease and credit in the world, avoiding every difficulty which accompanies godliness, but, so they may swim two ways at once, go on in their lusts still and be religious withal. This they approve of. Therefore, God will have it a hard matter to be saved, to frustrate the vain hopes of such wretches. Alas! it is an easy matter to be an hypocrite, but not to live godly.

Use. If the righteous be saved with much ado, then never enter upon the profession of religion with vain hopes of ease and pleasure, that it shall be thus and thus with thee, &c. Herein thou dost but delude thy own soul, for it will prove otherwise. Forecast, therefore, what will fall, and get provision of grace beforehand to sustain thee. As, if a man were to go a dangerous journey, he provides himself of weapons and cordials, and all the encouragements he can, lest he should faint in the way; whereas he that walks for his pleasure provides nothing. He cares not for his weapon or his cloak, because if a storm comes he can run under shelter or into a house, &c. He that makes religion a recreation can walk a turn or two for his pleasure, and when any difficulty arises can retire and draw in his horns again. An hypocrite hath his reservations and politic ends, and therefore what needs he any great provision to support him, when he knows how to wind out of trouble well enough, rather than to stand courageously to anything thing. But a true Christian, that makes it the main work of his life to please God, arms himself for the worst that can befall him, and will be saved through thick or thin, smooth or rough, whatsoever comes on it. So God will save his soul, he cares not, but rejoiceth, with Paul, if by any means he can attain the resurrection of the dead, Phil. 3:11, by any means, it is no matter what. Let fire and fagot meet with him, yet he is resolved not to retire for any trouble or persecution whatsoever that stands between him and happiness. He is purposely armed to break through every opposition to the best things, and whatever may separate his soul from the favour of God. I beseech you, beloved, think of these things, and let it be your wisdom to make the way to heaven as easy as you can. To this end,

1. Beg the Spirit of Christ. You know the Holy Spirit is full of life and strength; it is a Spirit of light and comfort and whatsover is good. The Spirit of God is like the wind; as it is subtle in operation and invisible, so it is strong and mighty, it bears all before it. Oh! therefore, get this blessed Spirit to enlighten thee, to quicken thee, to support thee, &c., and it will carry thy soul courageously along, above all oppositions and discouragements whatsoever in the way to happiness.

2. Get likewise the particular graces of the Spirit, which will much cheer thee in thy Christian course. Above all, labour for a spirit of humility. An humble man is fit to do or suffer anything. A proud man is like a gouty hand, or a swelled arm, unfit for any Christian performance; he is not in a state to do good; but an humble man is thankful that God will honour him so far as to let him suffer for the cause of Christ. He is wondrous empty and vile in his own eyes, and admires* why God should reserve such infinite matters for so base a worm as he is.

When Christ would have us take his yoke upon us, he advises us ‘to learn of him to be meek and lowly,’ &c., Mat. 11:29. Some might say, This yoke is heavy, it will pinch me and gall me. No, saith our Saviour, it shall be very light and easy. But how shall I get it to be so? Why! get but an humble and meek spirit, and that will bring rest to your souls.

3. Again, labour for a spirit of love. ‘Love is strong as death,’ Cant. 8:6; it will carry us through all. The love of Christ in the martyrs, when the fire was kindled about them, made them despise all torments whatsoever. This will warm our hearts and make us go cheerfully to work. Let but a spirit of love be kindled in God’s child, and it is no matter what he suffers; cast him into the fire, cast him into the dungeon, into prison, whatsoever it be, he hath that kindled in his heart, which will make him digest anything. We see the disciples, when they had the Spirit of Christ within them to warm their hearts, what cared they for whipping, or stocks, &c.? You see even base, carnal love will make a man endure poverty, disgrace, what not! and shall not this fire that comes from heaven, when it is once kindled in our hearts, prevail much more? What will make our passage to heaven sweet if this will not? Nothing is grievous to a person that loves.

4. Exercise your hope likewise. Set before your eyes the crown and kingdom of heaven; those admirable things contained in the word of God, which no tongue can express. Let hope feed upon these delicates; cast anchor in heaven, and see if it will not make thee go on cheerfully in a Christian course.

Faith will overcome the world; all the snares of prosperity that would hinder us on the right hand. Faith, it presents things of a higher nature to the soul; better than they. Faith likewise overcomes temptations on the left hand; all terrors and discomforts whatsoever. It considers these are nothing to ‘the terror of the Lord,’ 2 Cor. 5:11. Therefore ‘faith is called the evidence of things not seen,’ Heb. 11:1, because it presents things that are absent as present to the soul. If life and happiness be once truly presented to our hearts, what can all the world do to hinder our passage thither?

5. Lastly, we should much endeavour the mortification of our lusts; for what is it that makes the way to heaven irksome unto us? Is it not this corrupt and proud flesh of ours, which will endure nothing, no, not the weight of a straw, but is all for ease and quiet, &c.? It is not duty which makes our way difficult, ‘for it was meat and drink to Christ, to do the will of his Father,’ John 4:34.

Quest. Why is it not so with us?

Ans. Because he was born without sin. When Satan came he found nothing of his own in him; but when he solicits us, he finds a correspondency betwixt our corrupt hearts and himself, whereby having intelligence what we haunt, and what we love, he will be sure to molest us. The less we have of the works of Satan in us, the less will be our trouble; and the more we do the will of God, and strive against our corruptions, the more will be our comfort. This will make holy duties delightful to us; but if we favour and cherish corruption, it will make religion harsh. For the ways of wisdom are ways of pleasure in themselves, and to the regenerate, &c. I come now to the second clause.

‘Where shall the sinner and ungodly appear?’

What he means by sinner. By sinner he means him that makes a trade of sin. As we say, a man is of such a trade, because he is daily at work of it, and lives by it, so a man is a trader in sin, that lives in corrupt courses. For it is not one act that denominates a sinner, but the constant practice of his life.

Now this question, Where shall the ungodly appear? implies a strong denial, He shall be able to appear nowhere; especially in these three times.

1. In the day of public calamity, when God’s judgments are abroad in the world. The wicked are as chaff before the wind, as wax before the sun, as stubble before the fire. When God comes to deal with a company of graceless wretches, how will he consume and scatter them, and sweep them away as dung from the face of the earth! he will universally make a riddance of them at once. Where shall a Nabal stand when judgment comes upon him? 1 Sam. 25:37. Alas! his heart is become a stone. Where shall Belshazzar appear when he sees the handwriting upon the wall? Dan. 5. Oh how the wicked tremble and quake when God comes to judge them in this world, though they were a terror to others before!

2. But where shall they stand in the hour of death? when the world can hold them no longer; when friends shall forsake them; when God will not receive them; when hell is ready to devour them, &c.

3. And lastly, where shall the sinner appear at the day of judgment, that great and terrible day of account, when they shall see all the world in a combustion round about them, and the Lord Jesus coming in flaming fire, ‘with his mighty angels, to take vengeance on such as obey not the gospel?’ 2 Thess. 1:8. How will they then call for ‘the mountains to cover them, and the hills to fall upon them, to hide them from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb,’ &c., Rev. 6:16. Beloved, I beseech you, let the meditation of these things sink deep into your hearts, dwell upon them, remember that they are matters which nearly concern your soul, and no vain words, touching you and your welfare.

Sibbes, R. (1577). The Works of Richard Sibbes