Archive for September, 2009

Faith – a sure knowledge and a firm confidence (HC 21)

September 29, 2009 Comments off

By Walter Marshall

Chapter Eleven

Endeavour diligently to perform the great work of believing on Christ in a right manner, without any delay; and then also continue and increase in your most holy faith, that so your enjoyment of Christ, union and fellowship with Him, and all holiness by Him, may be begun, continued and increased in you.

Having already discovered to you the powerful and effectual means of a holy practice, my remaining work is to lead you to the actual exercise and improvement of them, for the immediate attainment of the end. And I think it may be clearly perceived by the foregoing directions that faith in Christ is the duty with which a holy life is to begin, and by which the foundation of all other holy duties is laid in the soul.

It is before sufficiently proved that Christ Himself, with all endowments necessary to enable us to a holy practice, is received actually into our hearts by faith. This is the uniting grace by which the Spirit of God knits the knot of mystical marriage between Christ and us, and makes us branches of that noble vine; members of that body, joined to that excellent head; living stones of that spiritual temple, built on the precious living corner-stone, and sure foundation; partakers of the bread and drink that came down from heaven and gives life to the world. This is the grace by which we pass from our corrupt natural state to a new holy state in Christ; also from death in sin to the life of righteousness, and by which we are comforted, that we so may be established in every good word and work.

If we put the question: ‘What must we do that we work the works of God?’ Christ resolves it, that we ‘believe on Him whom He has sent’ (John 6:28, 29). He puts us first on the work of believing, which is the work of God by way of eminency, the work of works, because all other good works proceed from it.

The first thing in the present direction is to put you upon the performance of this great work of believing on Christ and to guide you therein, for you are to consider distinctly four things contained in it.

1. The first is, you are to make it your diligent endeavour to perform the great work of believing on Christ. Many make little conscience of this duty. It is not known by natural light, as many moral duties are, but only by supernatural revelation in the gospel, and it is foolishness to the natural man. These are sometimes terrified with apprehensions of other sins and will examine themselves concerning them and, it may be, will write them down to help their memories and devotion. But the great sin of not believing on Christ is seldom thought of in their self-examinations, or registered in the large catalogues of their sins. And even those who are convinced that believing on Christ is a duty necessary to salvation do neglect all diligent endeavours to perform it: either because they account that it is a motion of the heart which may be easily performed at any time, without any labour or diligent endeavours; or, on the contrary, because they account it as difficult as all the works of the law, and utterly impossible for them to perform by their most diligent endeavours, except the Spirit of God work it in them by His mighty power; and that therefore it is vain for them to work until they feel this working of the Spirit in their hearts; or, because they account it a duty so peculiar to the elect, that it would be presumption for them to endeavour the performance of it until they know themselves to be elected to eternal life through Christ. I shall urge you to a diligent performance of this duty, notwithstanding all these impediments, by the following consideration. It is worthy of our best endeavours, as appears by the preciousness, excellency and necessity of it already discovered.

If the light of nature were not darkened in the matters of salvation, it would show us that we cannot ourselves find out the way of salvation, and would condemn those that despise that revelation of the way of salvation that God has given us in the gospel, declared in the Holy Scriptures. The great end of preaching the gospel is for the obedience of faith ( Rom. 1:5), that so we may be brought to Christ and all other obedience. Yea, the great end of all revealed doctrines in the whole Scriptures is to ‘make us wise unto salvation by faith that is in Christ Jesus’ (2 Tim. 3:15 ). The ‘end of the law given by Moses, was for righteousness to every one that believes’ ( Rom. 10:4); and Christ was that end for righteousness. The moral law itself was revealed in order to our salvation by believing on Christ; or else the knowledge of it had nothing availed fallen man that was unable to perform it. Therefore, they that slight the duty of believing, and account it foolishness, do in this way slight, despise and vilify the whole counsel of God revealed in the Scripture. The law and the gospel and Christ Himself are become of none effect to the salvation of such. The only fruit that such a one can attain to, by all the saving doctrines of the Scripture, is only some hypocritical moral duties, and slavish performances, which will be as filthy rags in the sight of God in the great day. However, many do not mind the sin of unbelief in their self-examinations, and write it not in their scrolls; yet let them know that this is the most pernicious sin of all. All the sins in their scrolls would not prevail in their condemnation, yea, they would not prevail in their conversation, were it not for their unbelief. This one sin prevailing makes it impossible for them to please God in any duty whatever (Heb. 11:6). If you will not mind this one main sin now, God will at last mind you of it with a vengeance, for ‘he that does not believe on the Son, shall not see life; but the wrath of God abides on him’ (John 3: 36). ‘The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven in flaming fire, taking vengeance on those that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (2 Thess. 1:7, 8).

2. Believing on Christ is a work that will require diligent endeavour and labour for the performance of it. We must labour ‘to enter into that rest, lest any man fall by unbelief’ (Heb. 4:11). We must ‘show diligence to the full assurance of hope to the end, that we may be followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises’ (Heb. 6:11, 12). It is a work that requires the exercise of might and power, and therefore we have need to be ‘strengthened with might by the Spirit in the inward man, that Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith’ (Eph. 3:16, 17). 1 confess it is easy, pleasant and delicious in its own nature, because it is a motion of the heart, without any cumbersome bodily labour; and it is a taking Christ and His salvation as our own, which is very comfortable and delightful; and the soul is carried forth in this by love to Christ and its own happiness, which is an affection that makes even hard works easy and pleasant; yet it is made difficult to us by reason of the opposition that it meets with from our own inward corruptions, and from Satan’s temptations.

It is no easy matter to receive Christ as our happiness and free salvation, with true confidence and lively affection, when the guilt of sin lies heavily on the conscience and the wrath of God is manifested by the Word and terrible judgements – especially when we have been long accustomed to seek salvation by the procurement of our own works, and to account the way of salvation by free grace foolish and pernicious; when our lusts incline us strongly to the things of the flesh and the world; when Satan does his utmost, by his own suggestions, and by false teachers, and by worldly allurements and terrors, to hinder the sincere performance of this duty.

Many works that are easy in their own nature prove difficult for us to perform in our circumstances. To forgive our enemies, and to love them as ourselves, is but a motion of the mind, easy to be performed in its own nature; and yet many that are convinced of their duty find it a hard matter to bring their hearts to the performance of it. It is but a motion of the mind to cast our care on God for worldly things, and rich men may think they can do it easily, but poor men that have great families find it a hard matter. That easy comfortable duty, which Moses exhorted the Israelites to, when Pharaoh, with his chariots and horsemen, overtook them at the Red Sea, ‘Fear not; stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will show you today’ (Exod. 14:13), was not easily performed.

The very easiness of some duties makes their performance difficult, as Naaman the Syrian was hardly brought to wash and be clean, because he thought it to be too slight and easy a remedy for the cure of his leprosy (2 Kings 5:12, 13). Even in this very case, people are offended at the duty of the believing on Christ, as too slight and easy a remedy to cure the leprosy of the soul; they would have some harder thing enjoined them to the attainment of so great an end as this everlasting salvation. The performance of all the moral law is not accounted work enough for this end (Matt. 19:17, 20). However easy the work of believing seems to many, yet common experience has shown that men are more easily brought to the most burdensome, unreasonable and inhuman observations – as the Jews and Christian Galatians were more easily brought to take upon their necks the yoke of Moses’ law, which none were able to bear (Acts 15:10). The heathens were more easily brought to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods (Deut. 12:31). The Papists are brought more easily to their vows of chastity and poverty and obedience to the most rigorous rules of monastic discipline, to macerate and torture their bodies with fastings, scourges and pilgrimage, and to bear all the excessive tyranny of the papal hierarchy, in a multitude of burdensome superstitious and ridiculous devotions.

They that slight the work of faith for its easiness show that they were never yet made sensible of innumerable sins, and the terrible curse of the law and wrath of God they lied under, and of the darkness and vanity of their minds, the corruption and hardness of their hearts, and their bondage under the power of sin and Satan; and have not been truly humbled, without which they cannot believe in a right manner. Many sound believers have found by experience that it has been a very hard matter to bring their hearts to the duty of believing; it has cost them vigorous struggles and sharp conflicts with their own corruptions and Satan’s temptations. It is so difficult a work that we cannot perform it without the mighty working of the Spirit of God in our hearts, who only can make it to be absolutely easy to us, and does make it easy, or allow it to be difficult, according as He is pleased to communicate His grace in various degrees to our souls.

3. Though we cannot possibly perform this great work in a right manner, until the Spirit of God work faith in our hearts by His mighty power, yet it is necessary that we should endeavour it; and that before we can find the Spirit of God working faith effectually in us, or giving strength to believe. We can perform no holy duty acceptably, except the Spirit of God work it in us; and yet we are not hereby excused from working ourselves, but we are the rather stirred up to the greater diligence: ‘Work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God that works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure’ (Phil. 2:12, 13). The way by which the Spirit works faith in the elect is by stirring them up to endeavour to believe. And this is a way suitable to the means that the Spirit uses, that is, the exhortations, commands and invitations of the gospel, which would be of no force, if we were not to obey them, until we find faith already wrought in us.

Neither can we possibly find that the Spirit of God effectually works faith, or gives strength to believe, until we act it; for all inward graces, as well as all other inward habits, are discerned by their acts, as seed in the ground by its springing. We cannot see any such things as love to God or man in our hearts before we act it. Children do not know their ability to stand on their feet until they have made trial by endeavouring to do so; so we know not our spiritual strength until we have learned by experience from the use and exercise of it.

Neither can we know, or assure ourselves absolutely, that the Spirit of God will give us strength to believe before we act faith; for such a knowledge and assurance, if it is right, is having faith itself in part, and whoever trusts on Christ assuredly for strength to believe by His Spirit, in effect, trusts on Christ for his own salvation, which is inseparably joined with the grace of saving faith. Though the Spirit works other duties in us by faith, yet He works faith in us immediately by hearing, knowing and understanding the Word: ‘Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God’ (Rom. 10:17 ). And, in the Word, He makes no absolute promise or declaration that He will work faith in this or that unbelieving. heart, or that He will give strength to believe to anyone in particular, or begin the work of believing in Christ, for faith itself is the first grace by which we have a particular interest in any saving promise. It is a thing hidden in the secret counsel and purpose of God concerning us whether He will give us His Spirit and saving faith until our election is discovered by our believing actually.

Therefore, as soon as we know the duty of believing, we are to apply ourselves immediately to the vigorous performance of the duty and, in so doing, we shall find that the Spirit of Christ has strengthened us to believe, though we know not certainly that He will do it beforehand. The Spirit comes indiscernibly upon the elect to work faith within them, like the wind that blows where it lists and none knows whence it comes, and where it goes, but only we hear the sound of it, and thereby know it when it is past and gone (John 3:8). We must therefore begin the work before we know that the Spirit does, or will work in us savingly; and we shall be willing to set on the work, if we are Christ’s people, for ‘Your people shall be willing in the day of Your power’ (Ps. 110:3). It is enough that God discovers to us beforehand in the gospel what faith is, and the ground we have to believe on Christ for our own salvation; and that God requires this duty of us, and will help us in the performance of it, if we apply ourselves heartily to it: ‘Fear not, I command you; be strong, and of good courage’ (Josh. 1:6). ‘Arise, and be doing, and the Lord will be with you’ (1 Chron. 22:16 ). Therefore, whoever receives this gospel discovery as the Word of God, in hearty love, is taught by the Spirit, and will certainly come to Christ by believing (John 6:45). Everyone that receives it not despises God, makes Him a liar and deserves justly to perish for his unbelief.

4. Though the Spirit works saving faith only in the elect, and others do not believe because they are not of Christ’s sheep (John 10:26), and on that account it is called the faith of God’s elect (Titus 1:1); yet all that hear the gospel are obliged to the duty of believing, as well as to all the duties of the moral law, and that before they know their own particular election, and they are liable to condemnation for unbelief, as well as for any other sin: ‘He that does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed on the name of the only begotten Son of God’ (John 3:18). The apostle Paul shows that the elect Israelites obtained salvation, and the rest that were not elected were blinded; and yet even these were broken off from the good olive tree, because of their unbelief (Rom. 11:7, 20).

We cannot have a certain knowledge of our election to eternal life before we do believe; it is a thing hidden in the unsearchable counsel of God, until it be manifest by our effectual calling and believing on Christ. The apostle knew the election of the Thessalonians by finding the evidence of their faith that the gospel came to them, ‘not in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance,’ and that they had ‘received the word in much affliction, with joy in the Holy Ghost’ (1 Thess. 1:4, 5, 6). We are to see our calling, if we would find that out that God has chosen us (1 Cor. 1:26, 27). Therefore, we must believe on Christ before we know our election, or else we shall never know it, and shall never believe.

And it is no presumption for us to trust confidently on Christ for everlasting life, before we have any good evidence of our election, because God, that cannot lie, has made a general promise ‘that whoever believes on Him, shall not be ashamed’, without making the least difference among them that perform this duty (Rom. 10:11, 12). The promise is as firm and sure to be fulfilled as any of God’s decrees and purposes, and therefore it is a good and sufficient ground for our confidence. It is certain that all that the Father has given to Christ, by the decree of eternal election, shall come to Christ; and it is as really certain that Christ will in no wise cast out any that come to Him, whosoever he is (John 6:37). And we need not fear that we shall infringe God’s decree of election by believing on Christ confidently for our salvation, before we know what God has decreed concerning us, for, if we believe, we shall at last be found among the number of the elect and, if we refuse to believe, we shall thereby wilfully sort ourselves among the reprobates, ‘that stumble at the word, being disobedient, whereunto also they are appointed’ (1 Peter 2:8).

I shall add further that, though we have no evidence of our particular election before we believe, yet we are to trust on Christ assuredly to make it evident to us, by giving us that salvation which is the peculiar portion of the elect only. All spiritual saving blessings, with which God blesses His people in Christ, are the peculiar portion of them whom God has chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:3, 4); yet we must necessarily trust on Christ for those saving blessings, or have none at all. We are to pray in faith, nothing doubting, that God will ‘remember us with the favour that He bears to His people; that we may see the good of His chosen, and glory with His inheritance’ (Ps. 106: 4, 5). Therefore we are to trust assuredly on God that He will deal with us as His chosen people.

Thus it appears that it is not presumption, but your bounden duty, to apply yourselves to the great work of believing on Christ for salvation, without questioning at all beforehand whether you are elected or no: ‘Secret things belong to God, but those things that are revealed, belong to us, that we may do them’ (Deut. 29:29).

The second thing directed to is that you shall endeavour for a right manner of performing this duty. This is a point of great concernment, because the want of it will render your faith ineffectual to sanctification and salvation. The great duty of love, which is the end of the law, and the principal fruit of sanctification, must flow from faith unfeigned (1 Tim. 1:5). There is a feigned faith, that does not really receive Christ into the heart, and will not produce love, or any true obedience, such as Simon Magus had (Acts 8:13, 23), for, notwithstanding his faith, he was in the ‘gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity’; and such as those Jews had, to whom Christ would not commit Himself, who did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue (John 2:24; 12:42); and such as the apostle James speaks of: ‘What does it profit, my brothers, if a man say he has faith, and has no works? Can that faith save him? The devils also believe and tremble’ (James 2:14, 19). Take heed, therefore, lest you deceive your souls with a counterfeit faith, instead of the precious faith in God’s elect.

The way to distinguish the one from the other is by considering well what is the right manner of that believing which is effectual to salvation. Hypocrites may perform the same works for the matter, with true saints, but they are defective in the manner of performance, wherein the excellency of the work does chiefly consist. One great reason why ‘many seek to enter in at the strait gate, and are not able’ (Luke 13:24 ) is because they are ignorant and defective in the right manner of acting this faith by which they are to enter. Now I confess that God is only able to guide us effectually in the right way of believing. And we have this great consolation, when we see our own folly and proneness to mistake our way, and if we heartily desire and endeavour to believe on Grist aright, we may confidently trust on Christ to guide us. God has promised that the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err in the way of holiness; and that He will ‘teach sinners in the way. The meek will He guide in judgement, and the meek will He teach His way’ (Ps. 25:8, 9); and He commands them that lack wisdom to ask it of God in faith, nothing doubting (James 1:5, 6). But, however, we are to know that God guides us only according to the rule of His Word; and we must endeavour to learn the right way of believing out of the Word, or else we are not able so much as to trust rightly on God for guidance and direction in this great work.

To help you here, I have given you before in this treatise a description of saving faith, and have shown that it contains two acts in it: the one is believing the truth of the gospel; the other is believing on Christ as revealed and freely promised to us in the gospel, for all His salvation. Now, your great endeavour must be to perform both these acts in a right manner, as I shall show concerning each of them in particular.

In the first place, you are highly concerned to endeavour for a right belief in the truth of the gospel of Christ, that so you may be well furnished, disposed and encouraged to believe on Christ, as revealed and promised in the gospel. In this way you are to remove all discomfortable thoughts and objections of Satan and your own conscience, and to overcome all corrupt inclinations that hinder a cheerful embracing of Christ and His salvation. It is found by experience that when any fail in the second act of faith, the reason of the failing is commonly some defect in this first act. There is some false imagination or other in them, contrary to the belief of the truth of the gospel, which is a stronghold of sin and Satan that must be pulled down before they can receive Christ into their hearts by believing on Him. If they knew the name of Christ, as He is discovered in the gospel, and judged aright of the truth and excellency of it, they would not fail to put their trust in Him. And we are in great danger of entertaining such false imaginations, and to account many truths of the gospel strange paradoxes, yea, foolish and pernicious, because of our ignorance, selfconceitedness, guilty consciences, corrupt affections and manifold errors, with which our judgements are prepossessed in matters of salvation; and because Satan labours to beguile us, as he did Eve, ‘through his subtilty, to corrupt our minds from the simplicity of the gospel that is in Christ’ (2 Cor. 11:3). 1 shall therefore give you some particular instructions. that are of greatest moment to prevent such defects as we are most liable to in the first act of our faith.

1. You must believe with a full persuasion that you are a child of wrath by nature, as well as others, fallen from God by the sin of the first Adam; dead in trespasses and sins, subject to the curse of the law of God, and to the power of Satan, and to insupportable misery to all eternity; and that you cannot possibly procure your reconciliation with God, or any spiritual life and strength to do any good work, by any endeavouring to get salvation according to the terms of the legal covenant; and that you cannot find any way to escape out of this sinful and miserable condition by your own reason and understanding, without supernatural revelation, nor be freed from it, except by that infinite power that raises the dead. We must not be afraid, as some are, to know our own vileness and sinfulness, neither must we be willing to think ourselves better than we are, but must be heartily desirous and glad to know the worst of our own condition; yea, when we have found out the worst that we can of ourselves, we must be willing to believe that our hearts are deceitful, and desperately wicked, beyond all that we can know and find out (Jer. 17:9). This is all necessary to work in us true humiliation, self-despair and self-loathing, that we may highly esteem, and earnestly seek the salvation of Christ as the one thing necessary. It makes us sick of sin, and sensible of our need of the great Physician, and willing to be ordered according to any of His prescriptions, whatever we suffer, rather than to follow our own wisdom (Matt. 9:12). It was for want of this humiliation that the scribes and Pharisees were not so forward to enter into the kingdom of heaven as the publicans and harlots (Matt. 21:31 ).

2. You are to believe assuredly that there is no way to be saved without receiving all the saving benefits of Christ: His Spirit as well as His merits, sanctification as well as remission of sins, by faith.

It is the ruin of many souls that they trust on Christ for the remission of sins, without any regard to holiness; whereas these two benefits are inseparably joined in Christ, so that none are freed from condemnation by Christ, but those that are enabled to walk holily, that is, ‘not after the flesh, but after the Spirit’ (Rom. 8:1). It is also the ruin of souls to seek only remission of sins by faith in Christ, and holiness by our endeavours, according to the terms of the law; whereas we can never live to God in holiness, except we be dead to the law, and live only by Christ living in us by faith. That faith which receives not holiness, as well as remission of sins from Christ, will never sanctify us, and therefore it will never bring us to heavenly glory (Heb. 12:14 ).

3. You are to be fully persuaded of the all-sufficiency of Christ for the salvation of yourself, and of all that believe on Him; that His blood cleanses from all sin (1 John 1:7). Though our sins be never so great and horrible, and continued in ever so long, yet He is able to deliver from the body of death, and mortify our corruptions, be they never so strong.

We find in Scripture that abominable wicked persons have been saved by Him: idolaters, adulterers, effeminate, covetous, drunkards, extortioners, etc. (1 Cor. 6:9, 10); such as have sinned against the light of nature, as the heathens, and the light of Scripture, as the Jews; such as have denied Christ, as Peter, and persecuted and blasphemed Him, as Paul. Many that have fallen into great sins are ruined for ever, because they do not account the grace of Christ sufficient for their pardon and sanctification, when they think they are gone, and past all hope of recovery, that their ‘sins are upon them, and they pine away in them, how shall they live? (Ezek. 33:10). This despair works secretly in many souls, without much trouble and horror, and makes them careless of their souls and true religion. The devil fills some with horrid, filthy, blasphemous thoughts, on purpose that they may think their sins too great to be forgiven; though commonly such thoughts are the least of the sins of those that are pestered with them, and rather the devil’s sin than theirs, because they are hurried into them sore against their wills; but, if their hearts be somewhat polluted within them, Christ testifies that ‘all manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven, except the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost’ (Matt. 12:31). And as for those that are guilty of blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, the reason why they are never forgiven is not because of any want of sufficiency in the blood of Christ, or in the pardoning mercy of God; but because they never repent of that sin, and never seek to God for mercy through Christ, but continue obstinate until death; for the Scripture testifies that ‘it is impossible to renew them again unto repentance’ (Heb. 6:5, 6). So that the merits of Christ are sufficient for all that seek to Him for mercy by believing.

There are others that despair of ever getting any victory over their lusts, because they have formerly made many vows and resolutions, and have used many vigorous endeavours against them in vain. Such are to persuade themselves that the grace of Christ is sufficient for them, when all other means have failed, as the woman that had the issue of blood, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse by any remedies that physicians could prescribe, yet persuaded herself that, if she might but touch the clothes of Christ, she should be whole (Mark 5:25-28). Those that despair, by reason of the greatness of their guilt and corruption, do greatly dishonour and undervalue the grace of God, His infinite mercy and the infinite merits of Christ’s blood and power of His Spirit, and deserve to perish with Cain and Judas. Abundance of people, that give up themselves to all licentiousness in this wicked generation, lie under secret despair, which makes them so desperate in swearing, blaspheming, whoring, drunkenness and all manner of wickedness. How horrid and heinous soever our sins and corruptions have been, we should learn to account them a small matter in comparison to the grace of Christ, who is God as well as man, and offered up Himself by the eternal Spirit as a sacrifice of infinite value for our salvation, and can create us anew as easily as He created the world by a word speaking.

4. You are to be fully persuaded of the truth of the general free promise, in your own particular case, that if you believe on Christ sincerely, you shall have everlasting life, as well as any other in the world, without performing any condition of works to procure an interest in Christ, for the promise is universal: ‘Whoever believes on Him, shall not be ashamed’ (Rom. 9:33), without exception. And, if God exclude you not, you must not exclude yourselves, but rather conclude peremptorily that, how vile, wicked and unworthy you are, yet, if you come, you shall be accepted as well as any others in the world. You are to believe that great article in the Creed, the remission of sins, in your own case, when you are principally concerned, or else it will little profit you to believe it in the case of others. This is that which hinders many broken wounded spirits from coming to the great Physician, when they are convinced of the abominable filthiness of their hearts, that they are dead in sin, without the least spark of true grace and holiness in them. They think that it is in vain for such as they are to trust on Christ for salvation, and that Christ will never save such as they are. Why so? They can be but lost creatures at worst, and Christ came to seek them that are lost. If they who are dead in sin cannot be saved, then all must despair and perish, for none have any spiritual life until they receive it by believing on Christ.

Some think themselves to be worse than others, and that none have such wicked hearts as they, and though others be accepted, yet they shall be rejected. But they should know that ‘Christ came to save the chief of sinners’ (1 Tim. 1:15 ); and that the design of God is to ‘show the exceeding riches of His grace in our salvation’ (Eph. 2:7), which is most glorified by pardoning the greatest sinners. And it is but our ignorance to think ourselves like nobody, for all others, as well as we, are naturally ‘dead in trespasses and sins’; their ‘mind is enmity to God, and is not subject to His law, nor indeed can be’ (Rom. 8:7); and ‘every imagination of the thoughts of their hearts are only evil,’ and continually so (Gen. 6:5); they have all the same corrupt fountain of all abominations in their hearts, though we may have exceeded many others in several actual sins.

Others think that they have out stayed their time, and therefore now they should find no pace for repentance, though they should seek it carefully with tears (Heb. 12:17). But, ‘Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation’ (2 Cor. 6:2), even as long as God calls on you by the gospel. And, although Esau was rejected, who sought rather the earthly than the spiritual blessings of the birthright, yet they shall not be rejected that seek the enjoyment of Christ and His salvation as their only happiness. If you come into Christ’s vineyard at the eleventh hour of the day, you shall have your penny, as well as those that came early in the morning, because the reward is of grace, and not of merit (Matt. 20:9, 10). And here you must be sure to believe steadfastly that Christ and all His salvation is bestowed as a free gift upon those that do not work to procure any right or title to Him, or meetness or worthiness to receive Him, but only ‘believe on Him that justifies the ungodly’ (Rom. 4:5). If you put any condition of works, or good qualifications between yourselves and Christ, it will be a partition-wall which you can never climb over.

5. You are to believe assuredly that it is the will of God you should believe in Christ, and have eternal life by Him, as well as any other; and that your believing is a duty very acceptable to God; and that He will help you, as well as any other, in this work, because He calls and commands you by the gospel to believe in Christ. This makes us to set cheerfully upon the work of believing, as when Jesus commanded the blind man to be called, they said unto Him, ‘Be of good comfort, rise; He calls you’ (Mark 10:49). A command of Christ made Peter walk on the water (Matt. 14:29 ). And here we are not to meddle with God’s secret of predestination; or the purpose of His will in His gracious invitations and commands, by which we are required to believe on Christ. This will of God is confirmed by His oath: ‘As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way, and live; turn, turn from your evil ways; for, why will you die, O house of Israel?’ (Ezek. 33:11.) Christ testifies that He ‘would often have gathered the children of Jerusalem, even as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and they would not’ (Matt. 23:37 ). And the apostle Paul testifies that ‘God will have all men to be saved’, etc. (1 Tim. 2:4).

You are to reject and abandon all thoughts that are contrary to this persuasion. What if few be saved? Thy salvation will not make the number too great, for few will follow you in the duty of believing. What if the wrath of God be revealed from heaven against you in many terrible judgements, and the Word and your own conscience condemn you, and Christ seem to reckon you no better than a dog, as He did the woman of Canaan? (Matt. 15:26.) You are to make a good interpretation of all these things, that the end of them is to drive you to Christ, as this was the end of the curses of the law and all the terrible dispensations of them (Rom. 10:4). If a prophet or an angel from heaven were sent of God on purpose to declare that the sentence of everlasting damnation is declared against you, it would be your duty to believe that God sent him to give you timely warning for this very end, that you might believe and turn to God by faith and repentance. Jeremiah prophesied against the Jews that God would ‘pluck them up, pull them down, and destroy them for their sins’; yet he himself taught them, ‘if they turned from their evil ways, God would repent him of the evil’ (Jer. 18:7, 8, 11). Jonah preached nothing but certain destruction to Nineveh , to be executed upon them within forty days (Jonah 3:4); yet the intent of that terrible message was that those heathenish people might escape destruction by repentance.

The most absolute and peremptory denunciations of divine vengeance against us, while we are in this world, must be always understood with a secret reserve of salvation for us, upon our faith and repentance. And we are to account that the reason why God so terribly denounces His judgements against us by His Word is that we may escape them by flying for refuge to His free mercy in Christ.

Take heed of fostering any thoughts that God has absolutely decreed to show no saving mercy to you, or that you have already committed the unpardonable sin, or that it is in vain for you to attempt the work of believing, because God will not help you in it. If such thoughts prevail in your hearts, they will do you more hurt than the most blasphemous thoughts that terrify you, or any the grossest abominations that ever you were guilty of, because they obstruct your believing on Christ for salvation. ‘The Spirit and the Bride say, Come.’ Christ says, ‘Whoever will, let him take the water of life freely’ (Rev. 22:17). Therefore, we are to abandon all thoughts that hinder our coming to Christ, as very sinful and pernicious, arising in us from our own corruptions and Satan’s delusions, and utterly opposite to the mind of Christ, and teachings of His Spirit.

And what ground can we have to entertain such unbelieving thoughts? Has God made us of His privy council, that we should be able to know that God has decreed us to damnation, before it be manifest by our final unbelief and impenitence? As for the unpardonable sin, it consists ‘in renouncing the way of salvation by Christ with the whole heart, after we have attained to the knowledge of it, and are convinced of the truth of it by the gospel’. It is the sin that the Christian Hebrews would have been guilty of, if they had revolted from Christianity to the religion of the unbelieving Jews that accounted Christ to be an impostor, and were most rancorous persecutors of Him and His ways (Heb. 6:4, 5). They that have committed that sin continue implacable, malicious enemies to Christ and His ways to the end, without any repentance. Therefore, if you can but find that you desire seriously to get an interest in Christ, and to be better Christians than you are, if you be troubled and grieved that your hearts and lives are so wicked, and that you want faith, love and true obedience, yea, if your hearts are not maliciously bent to persecute the gospel, and prefer atheism, licentiousness or any false religion before it, you have no cause to suspect yourselves to be guilty of this unpardonable sin.

6. Add to all these a full persuasion of the incomparable glorious excellency of Christ, and of the way of salvation by Him. You are to esteem the enjoyment of Christ as the only salvation and true happiness, and such happiness as has in it unsearchable riches of glory, and will make our cup to run over with exceeding abundance of peace, and joy, and lory, to all eternity. We ‘must account all things but loss or the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord’ etc. (Phil. 3:8). Such a persuasion as this will allure and incline your wills and affections to choose and embrace Christ as the chief good, and never to rest satisfied without the enjoyment of Him, and to reject everything that stands in competition with Him, or the enjoyment of Him. Christ is precious in the esteem of all true believers (1 Peter 2:7). Their high esteem of His incomparable preciousness and excellency induces them to sell all, that they may buy this pearl of great price (Matt. 13:46). This makes them say, ‘Lord, evermore give us this bread, that comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world. Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life’ (John 6:33 , 34, 68). ‘Because of the favour of His good ointments, His name is as ointment poured forth; therefore do the virgins love Him’ (S.of S. 1:3). They are sick of love to Him, because He is, in their eyes, the chiefest among ten thousand (S. of S. 5:8, 10).

As the glory of God, that appeared in the wonderful beauty of the temple and in the wisdom and glory of Solomon, drew worshippers to God from the utmost parts of the earth, so the unparalleled excellency of Christ, which was prefigured by the glory of Solomon and the temple, more powerfully draws believers in these gospel days. The devil, who is the god of this world, knows how necessary it is for our salvation to discern all the glory and excellency of Christ and, therefore, where the gospel is preached, he makes it his great work to eclipse the glory of Christ in the ministry and to blind the minds of the people, ‘lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ should shine into them’ (2 Cor. 4:4). One that is convinced of the truth of the gospel may be averse to the embracing of it until he see also the goodness of it, that Christ is altogether lovely and excellent.

I come now to ‘the second principal act of faith by which Christ Himself, and His Spirit, and all His saving benefits, are actually received into the heart, which is believing on Christ, as revealed and freely promised to us in the gospel, for all His salvation’. The Spirit of God habitually disposes and inclines our heart to a right performance of this act, by enabling us to perform the first act, according to the former instructions, by believing assuredly those great things of the gospel by which we are delivered into a form of doctrine (Rom. 6:17), which we are to obey from our hearts, and to follow as our pattern in the manner of our acting faith in Christ for salvation. Therefore, I need only exhort you briefly to act your faith in Christ according to that form and pattern, in which you have been already so largely instructed.

You are to believe in Christ as alone sufficient, and all sufficient for your happiness and salvation, despairing altogether of any attainment of happiness by our own wisdom, strength, works of righteousness, or any fleshly, worldly confidences whatever. We must be as dead people to all other confidences, and account them to be loss for Christ, according to the example of the blessed apostle (Phil. 3:3, 7, 8). We must not be grieved that we have nothing to trust upon besides Christ for our salvation; but rather we are to rejoice that we need nothing else, and that we have a sure foundation to rely on, incomparably better than any other that can be imagined. And we must resolve to cast the burden of our souls wholly on Christ, and to seek salvation no other way, whatever becomes of us.

If the cripple lay not the whole weight of his body upon a strong staff, but part of it upon a rotten one, he is like to receive a fall. If the swimmer will not commit his body wholly to the water to bear him up, but catch at weeds, or struggle to feel out ground, he may sink to the bottom. Christ will be all our salvation, or nothing. If we seek to be saved any other way, as the Galatians did by circumcision, Christ will profit us nothing (Gal. 5:2).

You are also to receive Christ merely as a free gift, given to the chief of sinners, resolving that you will not perform any conditions to procure yourselves a right and title to Him, but that you will come to Him as a lost sinner, an ungodly creature, trusting on ‘Him that justifies the ungodly’, and that you will ‘buy Him without money ‘, and ‘without any price’ whatever (Rom. 4:5; Isa. 55:2) Look not on your faith or love, or any good qualifications in yourselves, as the grounds of your trusting in Christ, but only to the free grace and loving-kindness of God in Christ: ‘How excellent is your loving-kindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your wings’

(Ps. 36:7). For if you make your own faith, love or good qualifications to be your first and principal foundation, and you build Christ on them, instead of building all on Christ, you invert the order of the gospel, and Christ will profit you nothing.

Another thing to be observed diligently is that you must come to Christ for a new holy heart and life and all things necessary for this, as well as fr deliverance from the wrath of God and the torments of hell. You must also come to Him with an ardent love and affection to Him, and esteem Him better than a thousand worlds, and the only excellent portion, loathing and abhorring yourself as a vile, sinful and miserable creature, and accounting all things dung in comparison of His excellency; that you may be able to say from the bottom of your heart, ‘Whom have I in heaven but You? There is none on earth that I desire besides You’ (Ps. 73:25).

Lastly, you must endeavour to draw near with ‘full assurance of faith’ (Heb. 10:22 ), trusting on Christ confidently for your own particular salvation, upon the account of that general promise ‘that whoever believes on Christ shall not be ashamed’ (Rom. 9:33 ). You must check yourselves for all doubtings, fears, staggerings, concerning your own salvation by Christ, saying with the psalmist, ‘Why are you cast down, O my soul? and why are you disquieted within me?’ etc. (Ps. 42: 11).

The third thing contained in this direction is the avoiding all delay in the performance of this great work of believing in Christ. Until we have performed it, we continue under the power of sin and Satan and under the wrath of God, and there is nothing between hell and us besides the breath of our nostrils. It is dangerous for Lot to linger in Sodom , lest fire and brimstone come down from heaven upon him. The man-slayer must flee with all haste to the city of refuge, ‘lest the avenger of blood pursue him, while his heart is hot, and slay him’ (Deut. 19:5, 6). We should make haste, and not delay, to keep God’s commandments’ (Ps. 119:60), and ‘flee for refuge to the hope set before us’ (Heb. 6:18 ). And God commands us to flee thus by faith, without which it is impossible to please God in other duties. The work is of such a nature that it may be performed .as soon as you hear the gospel. ‘As soon as they hear of me, they shall obey me’

(Ps. 18:44). ‘As soon as Zion travailed she brought forth her children’ (Isa. 66:8). We have many examples of those that received the Word by faith at the first hearing of it. Three thousand were added to the church on the very same day wherein Peter first published the gospel in Jerusalem (Acts 2: 41 ). So many Jews and Gentiles were converted at the first hearing of the apostle Paul at Antioch (Acts 13:48 ). The jailer and all his house believed, and were baptized, the same night in which Paul first preached to them (Acts 16: 33 , 34). The gospel came at first to the Thessalonians, ‘not in word only, but in power, and in the Holy Ghost’ (1 Thess. 1:5, 6). If God open the hearts of His people to attend diligently, they may be instructed in the knowledge of the gospel by one brief sermon sufficiently to begin the practice of saving faith. And, when they know their duty, God requires immediate performance, without allowing us the least respite in the state of unbelief.

When Satan cannot prevail with people to reject wholly the duty of believing, his next attempt for the rum of their souls is to prevail with them at least to delay and shift off the performance of it, from time to time, by several false reasonings and imaginations which he puts into their minds. The most ignorant and sensual are easily prevailed with to deter this duty, until they have taken their fill of the pleasure, profits and honours of this world, and are summoned to prepare for another world by infirmities, age, sickness, praying and hoping that a large time of repentance will be granted unto them before they die. But such delays show that they are really unwilling to repent and believe, until they are forced by necessity, and that they prefer the pleasures, profits and honours of the world above God, and Christ, and their own souls. Thus they unfit themselves more and more for this great duty by their customary walking in sin, and by misspending the precious time of their health and strength, which is most meet for the performance of this great work. They highly provoke God never to give them time or grace to repent of it.

Others imagine that, after they have heard the gospel of salvation by Christ, they may lawfully defer the believing it until they have sufficiently examined the truth of some other different doctrine, or until God be pleased to afford them some other means to assure them fully of the truth of the gospel. Thus they that are called ‘seekers’ misspend the day of grace, ‘ever learning, but never coming to the knowledge of the truth’ (2 Tim. 3:7). But the truth of the gospel so clearly evidences itself by its own light that, if people do not wilfully shut their eyes, or blind themselves by their own pride, and love their lusts, they would easily perceive that it is the truth of God, because the image of His grace, mercy, power, justice and holiness appears manifestly engraven upon it. It is a sign people are proud when they consent not to the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the ‘doctrine which is according to godliness’ (1 Tim. 6:3). If they were humble and sincerely inclined to do the will of God, they would ‘know whether the doctrine is of God, or no’ (John 7:17 ); they would quickly be persuaded of the truth by Moses and the prophets, Christ and the apostles, spoken to them in the Scripture. And if they will not hear them, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead, or whatever other miracle be wrought to confirm the divine authority of the gospel (Luke 16:31 ).

Another sort of people there are that delay the great work of believing, to the rum of their souls, resting in an attendance upon the outward means of grace and salvation, instead of any endeavours to receive Christ by faith, though they be convinced of the truth of the gospel. This they call waiting upon God at the doors of His grace and salvation, in the use of means appointed by Him, and sitting under the droppings of the sanctuary. But let them know that this is not the right waiting on God required in Scripture. It is rather disobedience to God, and to the means of His appointment, who requires that we should be ‘doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving ourselves’ (James 1:22), and that we should come in to the spiritual feast (Luke 14:23), and not only stand at the door, or sit under the droppings of the house of God, lest Christ repute us no better than eavesdroppers. That holy waiting on the Lord commended to us in Scripture is ever accompanied with believing and hoping in the Lord, and depends thereon: ‘I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord’ (Ps. 27: 13, 14). ‘It is good that a man should both hope, and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord’ (Lam. 3:26 ).

What is it that these deluded ones wait for, before they perform the duty of believing? Is it for more knowledge of the gospel? The way to increase your knowledge, as well as any other talent, is to make use of what you have received already. Believe heartily on Christ for all your salvation, according to that little knowledge of the gospel which you have, and you will have an interest in the promise of knowledge contained in the new covenant: ‘They shall all know me, from the least to the greatest of them, says the Lord’ (Jer. 31:34). Is it for the appointed time of your conversion that you wait? Then you wait as those impotent folk that lay at the pool of Bethesda , waiting for the season when the angel will come down and move the water. Know, then, that if you enter into Christ now by faith, you shall find in Him waters of life, and the Spirit moving them for the healing and .quickening of your soul. God has appointed, by His work, that it shall be your duty to endeavour that the present time shall be the time of your conversion: ‘As the Holy Ghost says, Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your heart’ (Heb. 3:7, 8). And you shall never know at what time God has purposed, in His secret council, to give faith to you, until you actually believe.

Do you wait for any manifestations or flowings in of God’s saving love to your soul? Then the way to obtain it is to believe that the ‘God of hope may fill you with all joy and peace in believing’ (Rom. 15:13 ). You have sufficient manifestation of God’s love to your soul by the free promises of life and salvation by Christ. Do but ‘trust on the name of the Lord, and stay upon your God’, when you ‘walk in darkness, and see no light’ of sensible comforts any other way, otherwise you wait for comforts in vain, and this shall ‘you have at the Lord’s hand, you ‘shall lie down in sorrow’ (Isa. 50:10, 11).

Do you wait for any qualifications to prepare you for the work of believing? If they be good and holy qualifications, you cannot have them before faith, but they are rather included in the nature of faith, or they are fruits of it – as has been largely proved. If they be bad and sinful, it is strange that any should wait for them, and yet no more strange than true. Some foolishly wait to be terrified with a sense of God’s wrath, and despairing thoughts, and these they call the pangs of the new birth; though, in their own nature, they are rather the pangs of spiritual death, and bring forth hatred to God, rather than holiness, and, therefore, we should strive to prevent them by believing God’s love in Christ, rather than to wait for them. It is true, God makes these despairing thoughts, as well as other sins, work for good to them that are delivered from them by faith in Christ; they are moved thereby to hate sin, and to prize Christ the more and the comforts of His gospel, and to loathe and abhor themselves; yet many are brought to Christ without them, by God’s giving them the knowledge of their own sins and of Christ’s salvation together. Several examples of these were above-mentioned, who received the Word with joy at the first hearing of it. And we must not desire or wait for any evil or sin, such as these despairing thoughts are, that good may come of it; neither should we expect to be worse before we be better, when we may and ought to be better presently, by believing on Christ.

The fourth thing in the direction is that we should continue and increase in the most holy faith. And that we may, we must not think that, when we have once attained to the grace of saving faith, and thereby are begotten anew in Christ, our names are up in heaven, and therefore we may be careless, but, as long as we continue in this life, we must endeavour to continue in the faith, grounded and settled, not moved away from the hope of the gospel (Col. 1: 23); and to ‘hold the beginning of our confidence, and rejoicing of hope steadfast unto the end’ (Heb. 3:6, 14); and to ‘build up ourselves in our most holy faith’ (Jude 20), ‘abounding therein with thanksgiving’ (Col. 2:7). Though we receive Christ freely by faith, yet we are but ‘babes in Christ’ (1 Cor. 3:1). And we must not account that we have ‘already attained, or are already perfect’ (Phil. 3:12, 13); but we must strive to be more rooted and built up in Him, until ‘we come unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the state of the fullness of Christ’ (Eph. 4:13 ).

If the new nature be really in us by regeneration, it will have an appetite to its own continuance and increase until it come to perfection, as the new-born babe (1 Peter 2:2). And we are not only to receive Christ and a new holy nature by faith, but also to live and walk by it, and to ‘resist the devil’, and to ‘quench all his fiery darts’ by it; and also to ‘ grow in grace’, and to ‘perfect holiness in the fear of God’; for we ‘are kept by the mighty power of God through faith unto salvation’ (1 Peter 1:5). As all our Christian warfare is the good fight of faith (1 Tim. 6:12), all spiritual life and holiness continue, grow or decay in us, according as faith continues, grows or decays in us, but when this faith begins to sink by fears and doubtings, the man himself begins to sink together with it (Matt. 14: 29-31). Faith is like the hand of Moses; while it is held up, Israel prevails; when it is let down, Amalek prevails (Exod. 17:11 ). This continuance and growth in faith will require our labour and industry as well as the beginning, though we are to ascribe the glory of all to the grace of God in Christ, who is the finisher, as well as the author of it (Heb. 12:2).

The church meets with great difficulties in her marching through the wilderness of this world to the heavenly Canaan, as well as in her first deliverance from Egyptian bondage; yea, we often meet with greater difficulties in going to perfection than we did in the beginning of the good work, the wisdom and mercy of God so ordering it that we should be exercised with the sharpest dispensations of providence, and the fiercest assaults of our own corruptions, and Satan’s temptations, after we have grace given to us to stand in the evil day.

You must therefore endeavour to continue and go on in the same right manner as I have taught you to begin this great work of believing in Christ, that your faith may be of the same nature from the beginning to the end, though it increase in degrees, for our faith is imperfect and joined with much unbelief in this world and we have need to pray still, ‘Lord, I believe; help my unbelief’ (Mark 9:24), and therefore we have need to strive for more faith, that we may receive Christ in greater perfection. If you find that your faith has produced good works, you should thereby increase your confidence in Christ, for salvation by His mere grace. But take heed of changing the nature of your faith, from trusting on the grace and merits of Christ, to trusting on your own works, according to the popish doctrine ‘that our first justification is by grace and faith only, but our second justification is only by works’.

Beware also of trusting on faith itself, as a work of righteousness, instead of trusting on Christ by faith. If you do not find that your believing in such a right manner as I have described does produce such fruits of holiness as you desire, you ought not to diminish, but rather to increase your confidence in Christ, knowing that the weakness of your faith hinders its fruitfulness. And the greater your confidence is concerning the love of God to you in Christ, the greater will be your love to God and to His service. If you fall into any gross sin, after the work is begun in you, as David and Peter did, think not that you must cast away your confidence and expect nothing but wrath from God and Christ, and that you must refuse to be comforted by the grace of Christ, at least for some time; for thus you would be the more weak, and prone to fall into other sins; but rather strive to believe more confidently that you have ‘an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous’, and that ‘He is the propitiation for our sins’ (1 John 2:1, 2). And let not the guilt of sin stay at all upon your conscience, but wash it away with all speed in the fountain of Christ’s blood, which is opened for us, that it may be ready for our use on all such incident occasions; that so you may be humbled for your sins in a gospel way, and may hate your own sinfulness, and be sorry for it with godly sorrow, out of love to God. Peter might have been ruined for ever by denying Christ, as Judas was by betraying Him, if Peter s fait had not been upheld by the prayer of Christ (Luke 22: 31, 32).

If a cloud be cast over all your qualifications, so that you can see no grace at all in yourselves, yet still trust on Him that justifies the ungodly, and came to seek and to save them that are lost. If God seems to deal with you as an enemy, bringing on you some horrible affliction, as He did upon Job, beware of condemning your faith and its fruits, as if they were not acceptable to God, but rather say, ‘Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him; but I will maintain mine own ways before Him’ (Job 13:15). Strive to keep and to increase faith by faith, that is, by acting faith frequently, by trusting on God to keep and to increase it, ‘being confident, that He which has begun a good work in you, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ’ (Phil. 1:6).

Source: The Gospel mystery of sanctification, chapter 11


To those who negate religious affections

September 27, 2009 Comments off

Jonathan Edwards

Having thus considered the evidence of the proposition laid down, I proceed to some inferences.

1. We may hence learn how great their error is, who are for discarding all religious affections, as having nothing solid or substantial in them. There seems to be too much of a disposition this way, prevailing in this land at this time. Because many who, in the late extraordinary season, appeared to have great religious affections, did not manifest a right temper of mind, and run into many errors, in the time of their affections, and the heat of their zeal; and because the high affections of many seem to be so soon come to nothing, and some who seemed to be mightily raised and swallowed up with joy and zeal, for a while, seem to have returned like the dog to his vomit; hence religious affections in general are grown out of credit with great numbers, as though true religion did not at all consist in them.

Thus we easily and naturally run from one extreme to another. A little while ago we were in the other extreme; there was a prevalent disposition to look upon all high religious affections as eminent exercises of true grace, without much inquiring into the nature and source of those affections, and the manner in which they arose: if persons did but appear to be indeed very much moved and raised, so as to be full of religious talk, and express themselves with great warmth and earnestness, and to be filled, or to be very full, as the phrases were; it was too much the manner, without further examination, to conclude such persons were full of the Spirit of God, and had eminent experience of his gracious influences. This was the extreme which was prevailing three or four years ago. But of late, instead of esteeming and admiring all religious affections without distinction, it is a thing much more prevalent, to reject and discard all without distinction. Herein appears the subtlety of Satan. While he saw that affections were much in vogue, knowing the greater part of the land were not versed in such things, and had not had much experience of great religious affections to enable them to judge well of them, and distinguish between true and false: then he knew he could best play his game, by sowing tares amongst the wheat, and mingling false affections with the works of God’s Spirit: he knew this to be a likely way to delude and eternally ruin many souls, and greatly to wound religion in the saints, and entangle them in a dreadful wilderness, and by and by, to bring all religion into disrepute.

But now, when the ill consequences of these false affections appear, and it is become very apparent, that some of those emotions which made a glaring show, and were by many greatly admired, were in reality nothing; the devil sees it to be for his interest to go another way to work, and to endeavor to his utmost to propagate and establish a persuasion, that all affections and sensible emotions of the mind, in things of religion, are nothing at all to be regarded, but are rather to be avoided, and carefully guarded against, as things of a pernicious tendency. This he knows is the way to bring all religion to a mere lifeless formality, and effectually shut out the power of godliness, and everything which is spiritual, and to have all true Christianity turned out of doors. For although to true religion there must indeed be something else besides affection; yet true religion consists so much in the affections, that there can be no true religion without them. He who has no religious affection, is in a state of spiritual death, and is wholly destitute of the powerful, quickening, saving influences of the Spirit of God upon his heart. As there is no true religion where there is nothing else but affection, so there is no true religion where there is no religious affection. As on the one hand, there must be light in the understanding, as well as an affected fervent heart; where there is heat without light, there can be nothing divine or heavenly in that heart; so on the other hand, where there is a kind of light without heat, a head stored with notions and speculations, with a cold and unaffected heart, there can be nothing divine in that light, that knowledge is no true spiritual knowledge of divine things. If the great things of religion are rightly understood, they will affect the heart. The reason why men are not affected by such infinitely great, important, glorious, and wonderful things, as they often hear and read of, in the word of God, is undoubtedly because they are blind; if they were not so, it would be impossible, and utterly inconsistent with human nature, that their hearts should be otherwise than strongly impressed, and greatly moved by such things.

This manner of slighting all religious affections, is the way exceedingly to harden the hearts of men, and to encourage them in their stupidity and senselessness, and to keep them in a state of spiritual death as long as they live, and bring them at last to death eternal. The prevailing prejudice against religious affections at this day, in the land, is apparently of awful effect to harden the hearts of sinners, and damp the graces of many of the saints, and stun the life and power of religion, and preclude the effect of ordinances, and hold us down in a state of dullness and apathy, and undoubtedly causes many persons greatly to offend God, in entertaining mean and low thoughts of the extraordinary work he has lately wrought in this land.

And for persons to despise and cry down all religious affections, is the way to shut all religion out of their own hearts, and to make thorough work in ruining their souls.

They who condemn high affections in others, are certainly not likely to have high affections themselves. And let it be considered, that they who have but little religious affection, have certainly but little religion. And they who condemn others for their religious affections, and have none themselves, have no religion.

There are false affections, and there are true. A man’s having much affection, does not prove that he has any true religion: but if he has no affection it proves that he has no true religion. The right way, is not to reject all affections, nor to approve all; but to distinguish between affections, approving some, and rejecting others; separating between the wheat and the chaff, the gold and the dross, the precious and the vile.

Source: Religious affections, by Jonathan Edwards

Assurance and doubts

September 23, 2009 Comments off

Walter Marshall

10.1.3. Beware of thinking so highly of this assurance as if it were inconsistent with any doubting in the same soul. A great reason why many Protestants have receded from the doctrine of their ancestors in this point is because they think there can be no true assurance of salvation in any that are troubled with doubtings, as they find many be, whom they cannot but own as true believers and precious saints of God. True, indeed, this assurance must be contrary to doubtings in the nature of it and so, if it be perfect, in the highest degree, it would exclude all doubting out of the soul; and it now excludes it in some degree. But is there not flesh, as well as spirit, in the best saints on earth? (Gal. 5:17) Is there not a law in their members warring against the law of their minds? (Rom. 7:23) May not one that truly believes say, ‘Lord, help my unbelief?’ (Mark 9:24) Can any on earth say they have received any grace in the highest degree, and that they are wholly free from the contrary corruption? Why then should we think that assurance cannot be true, except it is perfect and free the soul from all doubtings? The apostle counts it a great blessing, to the Thessalonians, that they had much assurance; intimating that some true assurance might be in a less degree (1 Thess. 1:5). Peter had some good assurance of Christ’s help when he walked on the water at Christ’s command, and yet he had some doubtfulness in him, as his fear showed when he saw the wind boisterous. He had some faith contrary to doubting, though it were but little, as Christ’s words to him show: ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’ (Matt. 14:29-31) It is strange if the flesh and the devil shall never oppose a true assurance and assault it with doubtings. A believer may be sometimes so overwhelmed with doubtings that he may not be able to perceive an assurance in himself. He is so far from knowing his place in heaven already (as some scoffingly object) that he will say that he does not know any assurance that he has of being there, and needs diligent self-examination to find it out. Yet, if at that time he can blame his soul for doubting, ‘Why are you cast down, O my soul? and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him’ (Ps. 42:11); if he can condemn his doubtings as sinful, and say with himself, ‘This is my infirmity’ (Ps. 77:10), these doubtings are of the flesh, and of the devil; if he still endeavor to call God ‘Father’, and complain to Him that he doubts whether He is his Father, and pray that God will give him the assurance of His fatherly love, which he is not sensible of, and dispel those fears and doubtings; I say, that such a one has some true assurance, though he must strive to grow to a higher degree, for, if he were not persuaded of the truth of the love of God towards him, he could not rationally condemn his fears and doubts concerning it as sinful; neither could he rationally pray to God as his Father, or that God would assure him of that love that he does not think to be true.
Do but grant that it is the nature of saving faith thus to resist and struggle with slavish fears of wrath and doubting of our own salvation, and you grant, in effect, that there is, and must be something of assurance of our salvation in saving faith, by which it resists doubtings, and you are, in effect, of the same judgement with me in the assertion, however strange my expressions seem to you. If this that I have said concerning our imperfection in assurance, as well as in other graces, were well considered, this ancient Protestant doctrine would be freed from much prejudice and gain more esteem among us.

Source: The Gospel mystery of sanctification, ch. 10

Categories: Assurance, Doubt Tags:

Matthew Henry commentary Ecclesiastes 1:12-18

September 20, 2009 Comments off

Ecc 1:12  I the Preacher was king over Israel in Jerusalem.
Ecc 1:13  And I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven: this sore travail hath God given to the sons of man to be exercised therewith.
Ecc 1:14  I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit.
Ecc 1:15  That which is crooked cannot be made straight: and that which is wanting cannot be numbered.
Ecc 1:16  I communed with mine own heart, saying, Lo, I am come to great estate, and have gotten more wisdom than all they that have been before me in Jerusalem: yea, my heart had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.
Ecc 1:17  And I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly: I perceived that this also is vexation of spirit.
Ecc 1:18  For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.

Ecc 1:12-18
Solomon, having asserted in general that all is vanity, and having given some general proofs of it, now takes the most effectual method to evince the truth of it, 1. By his own experience; he tried them all, and found them vanity. 2. By an induction of particulars; and here he begins with that which bids fairest of all to be the happiness of a reasonable creature, and that is knowledge and learning; if this be vanity, every thing else must needs be so. Now as to this,
I. Solomon tells us here what trial he had made of it, and that with such advantages that, if true satisfaction could have been found in it, he would have found it. 1. His high station gave him an opportunity of improving himself in all parts of learning, and particularly in politics and the conduct of human affairs, Ecc_1:12. He that is the preacher of this doctrine was king over Israel, whom all their neighbours admired as a wise and understanding people, Deu_4:6. He had his royal seat in Jerusalem, which then deserved, better than Athens ever did, to be called the eye of the world. The heart of a king is unsearchable; he has reaches of his own, and a divine sentence is often in his lips. It is his honour, it is his business, to search out every matter. Solomon’s great wealth and honour put him into a capacity of making his court the centre of learning and the rendezvous of learned men, of furnishing himself with the best of books, and either conversing or corresponding with all the wise and knowing part of mankind then in being, who made application to him to learn of him, by which he could not but improve himself; for it is in knowledge as it is in trade, all the profit is by barter and exchange; if we have that to say which will instruct others, they will have that to say which will instruct us. Some observe how slightly Solomon speaks of his dignity and honour. He does not say, I the preacher am king, but I was king, no matter what I am. He speaks of it as a thing past, because worldly honours are transitory. 2. He applied himself to the improvement of these advantages, and the opportunities he had of getting wisdom, which, though ever so great, will not make a man wise unless he give his mind to it. Solomon gave his heart to seek and search out all things to be known by wisdom, Ecc_1:13. He made it his business to acquaint himself with all the things that are done under the sun, that are done by the providence of God or by the art and prudence of man. He set himself to get all the insight he could into philosophy and mathematics, into husbandry and trade, merchandise and mechanics, into the history of former ages and the present state of other kingdoms, their laws, customs, and policies, into men’s different tempers, capacities, and projects, and the methods of managing them; he set himself not only to seek, but to search, to pry into, that which is most intricate, and which requires the closes application of mind and the most vigorous and constant prosecution. Though he was a prince, he made himself a drudge to learning, was not discouraged by its knots, nor took up short of its depths. And this he did, not merely to gratify his own genius, but to qualify himself for the service of God, and his generation, and to make an experiment how far the enlargement of the knowledge would go towards the settlement and repose of the mind. 3. He made a very great progress in his studies, wonderfully improved all the parts of learning, and carried his discoveries much further than any that had been before him. He did not condemn learning, as many do, because they cannot conquer it and will not be at the pains to make themselves masters of it; no, what he aimed at he compassed; he saw all the works that were done under the sun (Ecc_1:14), works of nature in the upper and lower world, all within this vortex (to use the modern gibberish) which has the sun for its centre, works of art, the product of men’s wit, in a personal or social capacity. he had as much satisfaction in the success of his searches as ever any man had; he communed with his own heart concerning his attainments in knowledge, with as much pleasure as ever any rich merchant had in taking account of his stock. He could say, “Lo, I have magnified and increased wisdom, have not only gotten more of it myself, but have done more to propagate it and bring it into reputation, than any, than all that have been before me in Jerusalem.” Note, It becomes great men to be studious, and delight themselves most in intellectual pleasures. Where God gives great advantages of getting knowledge he expects improvements accordingly. It is happy with a people when their princes and noblemen study to excel others as much in wisdom and useful knowledge as they do in honour and estate; and they may do that service to the commonwealth of learning by applying themselves to the studies that are proper for them which meaner persons cannot do. Solomon must be acknowledged as competent judge of this matter, for he had not only got his head full of notions, but his heart had great experience of wisdom and knowledge, of the power and benefit of knowledge, as well as the amusement and entertainment of it; what he knew he had digested, and knew how to make use of. Wisdom entered into his heart, and so became pleasant to his soul, Pro_2:10, Pro_2:11; Pro_22:18. 4. He applied his studies especially to that part of learning which is most serviceable to the conduct of human life, and consequently is the most valuable (Ecc_1:17): “I gave my heart to know the rules and dictates of wisdom, and how I might obtain it; and to know madness and folly, how I might prevent and cure it, to know the snares and insinuations of it, that I might avoid them, and guard against them, and discover its fallacies.” So industrious was Solomon to improve himself in knowledge that he gained instruction both by the wisdom of prudent men and by the madness of foolish men, by the field of the slothful, as well as of the diligent.
II. He tells us what was the result of this trial, to confirm what he had said, that all is vanity.
1. He found that his searches after knowledge were very toilsome, and a weariness not only to the flesh, but to the mind (Ecc_1:13): This sore travail, this difficulty that there is in searching after truth and finding it, God has given to the sons of men to be afflicted therewith, as a punishment for our first parents’ coveting forbidden knowledge. As bread for the body, so that for the soul, must be got and eaten in the sweat of our face, whereas both would have been had without labour if Adam had not sinned.
2. He found that the more he saw of the works done under the sun the more he saw of their vanity; nay, and the sight often occasioned him vexation of spirit (Ecc_1:14): “I have seen all the works of a world full of business, have observed what the children of men are doing; and behold, whatever men think of their own works, I see all is vanity and vexation of spirit.” He had before pronounced all vanity (Ecc_1:2), needless and unprofitable, and that which does us no good; here he adds, It is all vexation of spirit, troublesome and prejudicial, and that which does us hurt. It is feeding upon wind; so some read it, Hos_12:1. (1.) The works themselves which we see done are vanity and vexation to those that are employed in them. There is so much care in the contrivance of our worldly business, so much toil in the prosecution of it, and so much trouble in the disappointments we meet with in it, that we may well say, It is vexation of spirit. (2.) The sight of them is vanity and vexation of spirit to the wise observer of them. The more we see of the world the more we see to make us uneasy, and, with Heraclitus, to look upon all with weeping eyes. Solomon especially perceived that the knowledge of wisdom and folly was vexation of spirit, Ecc_1:17. It vexed him to see many that had wisdom not use it, and many that had folly not strive against it. It vexed him when he knew wisdom to see how far off it stood from the children of men, and, when he saw folly, to see how fast it was bound in their hearts.
3. He found that when he had got some knowledge he could neither gain that satisfaction to himself nor do that good to others with it which he expected, Ecc_1:15. It would not avail, (1.) To redress the many grievances of human life: “After all, I find that that which is crooked will be crooked still and cannot be made straight.” Our knowledge is itself intricate and perplexed; we must go far about and fetch a great compass to come at it. Solomon thought to find out a nearer way to it, but he could not. The paths of learning are as much a labyrinth as ever they were. The minds and manners of men are crooked and perverse. Solomon thought, with his wisdom and power together, thoroughly to reform his kingdom, and make that straight which he found crooked; but he was disappointed. All the philosophy and politics in the world will not restore the corrupt nature of man to its primitive rectitude; we find the insufficiency of them both in others and in ourselves. Learning will not alter men’s natural tempers, nor cure them of their sinful distempers; nor will it change the constitution of things in this world; a vale of tears it is and so it will be when all is done. (2.) To make up the many deficiencies in the comfort of human life: That which is wanting there cannot be numbered, or counted out to us from the treasures of human learning, but what is wanting will still be so. All our enjoyments here, when we have done our utmost to bring them to perfection, are still lame and defective, and it cannot be helped; as they are, so they are likely to be. That which is wanting in our knowledge is so much that it cannot be numbered. The more we know the more we see of our own ignorance. Who can understand his errors, his defects?
4. Upon the whole, therefore, he concluded that great scholars do but make themselves great mourners; for in much wisdom is much grief, Ecc_1:18. There must be a great deal of pains taken to get it, and a great deal of care not to forget it; the more we know the more we see there is to be known, and consequently we perceive with greater clearness that our work is without end, and the more we see of our former mistakes and blunders, which occasions much grief. The more we see of men’s different sentiments and opinions (and it is that which a great deal of our learning is conversant about) the more at a loss we are, it may be, which is in the right. Those that increase knowledge have so much the more quick and sensible perception of the calamities of this world, and for one discovery they make that is pleasing, perhaps, they make ten that are displeasing, and so they increase sorrow. Let us not therefore be driven off from the pursuit of any useful knowledge, but put on patience to break through the sorrow of it; but let us despair of finding true happiness in this knowledge, and expect it only in the knowledge of God and the careful discharge of our duty to him. He that increases in heavenly wisdom, and in an experimental acquaintance with the principles, powers, and pleasures of the spiritual and divine life, increases joy, such as will shortly be consummated in everlasting joy.

Categories: Wisdom Tags:

Singer & Gimpel Show 4 part I and II- The Jewish Messiah

September 19, 2009 Comments off

Part 1

Part 2


  • don’t need a spiritual messiah to save them from their condition as sinners, because
  • they can justify themselves, by
  • fulfilling the Law to God’s standard.

What they do need, is a political messiah, to save them from their lowly earthly position, and

  • establish them, as God’s chosen people,
  • to their rightful destiny as ruler over the nations.

The Covenant Seed

September 18, 2009 Comments off

Thomas Goodwin

That my scope may by all be fully understood, I have shut up the full sum and argument of the whole into this one proposition, that “The children of believing parents, at least their next and immediate seed, even of us Gentiles now under the gospel, are included by God within the covenant of grace, as well as Abraham’s or David’s seed within that covenant of theirs.”  Both the proof and explication of which great point will run along together.

I will begin first to search out this right by that magna charta, that great and faithful charter which was made to Abraham, the father of the faithful, in the name of all his seed; for that is made the primary and fundamental ground of this great privilege by our divines, that we being ‘ Abraham’s seed’ (as Gal. iii. 29) as well as the Jews, and having the same covenant, are therefore ‘ heirs of the promise,’ and so of that promise which was made to Abraham and the Jews: ‘ I will be the God of thee and of thy seed.’ But against this ground, as thus barely alleged, this exception hath often come thwart my mind, that this was Abraham’s peculiar privilege, and an honour to him vouchsafed; as likewise was that to be styled the ‘ father of all the faithful,’ which, as we all know, is to us incommunicable; and that therefore, although we may for our own persons indeed come into his promise as his seed, and so into that part of the promise, ‘ I will be the God of thy seed,’ and so have the promise of God’s being our God, and of the blessing by Christ for ourselves, as we are Abraham’s seed, yet take the whole promise collectively made to him and us, ‘ I will be the God of thee and of thy seed,’ and it should seem to be peculiar to him alone, as to be the father of the faithful also is, by which title we are no way called, but only the sons of Abraham, and Abraham’s seed. It might have well sufficed us for our own persons to have come into his promise singly, and to be ‘heirs according to the promise, as the phrase is, Gal. iii. 26, although we were not fathers also to convey the promise, as Abraham was; nor although the promise, as collectively taken, had belonged to us, as to Abraham it did, nor that part of the promise, “I will be the God of thy seed,” had been extended to us. And although the Jews, who were Abraham’s seed after the flesh as well as after the Spirit, had that privilege also, that God in their generations promised to be the God of them and their seed; yet that also may seem to be a special privilege proper to them, which we Gentiles cannot plead; for as in Rom. iii. 1, ‘What advantage or prerogative had the Jews’ but this, Rom. ix. 4, that ‘to them pertaineth the adoption, and the covenant, and the promises,’ as being those ‘ whose are the fathers after the flesh,’ verse 5, and so they had this privilege, that the covenant was propagated by the flesh.

Now, in satisfaction to these two exceptions, although there must necessarily be granted a transcendent special honour and privilege vouchsafed to Abraham, and to the Jewish nation his seed, which we have not; yet withal a farther inquiry would be made, whether notwithstanding we Gentiles have not some correspondent sprinkling of this privilege of his and theirs, though of a lesser extent, and how far ours extendeth, in difference to that of theirs, and what further warrants there are for any such privilege to us Gentiles, who must have a charter and grant to shew for it if we would prove our seeds to be born heirs within the covenant, even as nobles and gentlemen have in a civil way for theirs; otherwise it will be the highest presumption in us to claim it, or to expect it at the hands of God.

First, then, to Abraham we grant this transcendent privilege, that he had the peculiar honour to be the ‘ father of all the faithful,’ as Eve had the honour to be ‘ the mother of all living,’ Gen. iii. 20, which being spoken by Adam after the promise to her seed made, ver. 15, may be interpreted in the same sense that Abraham’s was; she was the ‘ mother of all living,’ that is, that live spiritually and by faith, as Abraham was ‘ father of all the faithful,’ the covenant running in her name at the first, as in Abraham’s afterward; and so Adam, in that his speech to Eve, uttered his faith in the promise made to her of her seed, and so in that respect Adam himself came in under her covenant.

Secondly, It was both Abraham’s and the Jews’ privilege also that they should have this promise to all generations, as Gen. xvii. For two thousand years the covenant to belong thus unto them, and to be entailed on them, and also that after the flesh Christ should come of them,’ as Rom. ix. 5, and that they should be the root of our covenant, and we but engrafted on them as the ‘ natural branches,’ Rom. xi.; and further, that after their eminent breaking off by unbelief, for well nigh two thousand years since, their covenant should be remembered, and for their fathers’ sakes all Israel should yet be saved, as in the same chapter. And as the place which be there quotes out of Isaiah also promiseth that their seed’s seed should be converted in a successive way from their second call to the world’s end; and perhaps of every one, at least the most of that nation. And indeed it hath seemed to me to be one reason why all that nation were outwardly holy (which no nation ever was) before Christ’s time, that this might be a prophetic type that all should one day be inwardly and really holy. How transcendent a privilege is this, then, that they should have something peculiarly promised to them, which is evident even by this also, that Abraham and his seed had the peculiar promise of Canaan, which we Gentiles have not.

But yet let us search into the records of Holy Writ, if out of this their great charter, there be not a seal grant of a lesser, though like privilege, and this by virtue of Christ, in that we have the honour to be accounted Abraham’s seed as truly as they; and likewise in that, to have the covenant entailed unto children is so great and spiritual a privilege, as would tend infinitely to the comfort of godly parents now, as then it did to theirs, to have our seed within the covenant, as theirs were. Wherefore, though this was peculiar unto Abraham and them, to have an entail to them and to their seed for ever, yet that we should have our eyes and ears blessed with the hopes of our next seed (how far further I will not now dispute), as involved in this covenant, was a meet mercy for God’s free grace to vouchsafe to us Gentiles also. And seeing Abraham and they did partake of so great a privilege otherwise, it may well be hoped and expected, that so small in one correspondent to theirs, God should vouchsafe to us Gentiles, upon whom the blessing of Abraham through Christ is come, in a conformity unto his blessing upon him and his.

And searching this, first, I find that this very privilege is given unto a Gentile convert by Christ himself, and founded upon this very ground, that he was a ‘ son of Abraham,’ being become a believer. This we have, Luke xix., declared by Christ of Zaccheus when he was converted, who by all circumstances was a Gentile, and so the ancients carry it, for he was a publican; and though some, yet but few Jews were such, because of the hatred of their own nation; yet he being a chief publican, was surely therefore a Gentile. It being an office of trust to be chief custom-gatherer for the emperors, they would be sure to put none into that office but a Gentile; and so I find out of antiquity, Cyprian and others quoted for it, that in those chief places of custom, none but equites Romani, Roman knights, were placed.* And whereas some object, that if Zaccheus had been a Gentile, that then the Jews would have clamoured against Christ for going in unto a Gentile, and that so professedly as under that notion, because a Gentile. The answer is not far off, for, ver. 7, we read that they did quarrel him for it, ‘ they all murmured, saying, that he was gone to be a guest to a sinner,’ that is, a Gentile; for the Jews usually called the Gentiles by the name of sinners, as Paul’s phrase is, Gal. ii. 15, ‘ sinners of the Gentiles.’ But then, further, that answer which Christ there gives unto their murmuring doth strengthen this, for he says of him, ‘ Inasmuch as he also is the son of Abraham,’ ver. 9. The meaning of which words evidently is this, that he who is not by birth a son of Abraham, but a sinner, a Gentile, yet is made one now by grace; and when Zaccheus was thus converted, Christ enlargeth his covenant to Zaccheus his family also, ‘ This day is salvation come to this house, inasmuch as he is also the son of Abraham,’ ver. 9. This was spoken of him as now believing in Christ. Now if Christ’s intent had been in this his answer given, to shew that he was a Jew, and so though a great sinner, yet was converted as being a son of Abraham (as some expound it), he would have made it the reason but of this only, why Zaccheus was saved himself personally; but he makes it the reason why his house should be saved also, and so the covenant stuck with them of his family likewise, because he the father of the family was now a believer; whereas had his children and family, being Jews by birth, and himself likewise, then salvation had come unto him and them all, because they all were sons of Abraham by birth (if Jews) as well as he. So as it is evident, that as he was a Gentile by birth, so now being converted, is therefore called a ‘ son of Abraham ‘ and withal had this privilege of Abraham, as being his son (which is the point I allege this for), to have his house brought into the covenant, even of that of salvation, in conformity to his father Abraham, whose house at the first giving of that covenant, even children and all, were circumcised and saved upon that ground, Christ intending now he should go in to eat with him, to convert his household also. And let me add this, that as Christ once before, in the conversion of the centurion, the first fruits of the Gentiles, Mat. viii., did first break open the treasury of the Gentile’s conversion, so upon occasion of this man’s conversion afterwards, he shews the privilege of the Gentiles, when converted, and their covenant to be the same with Abraham’s in a conformity therewith; and so here first broacheth the doctrine of it, this man being the next first-fruits of the Gentiles, shewing how their covenant was to run by households, in a conformity to Abraham’s family at first.

And, 2, Thus in like manner, when the apostles came to preach the gospel to a Gentile householder, master or father of a family, they carried the offer of it in this tenor, and in the way of this privilege, as a motive to conversion. So when Paul preached to the jailor, Acts xvi., he asking, ‘ What shall I do to be saved?’ ver. 80, Paul answers, ‘ Believe on the Lord Jesus and thou shalt be saved;’ and then addeth, ‘ thou and thine house.’ As Christ published the covenant with these promises annexed to a Gentile converted already, to comfort him, so the apostles promulgate the offer of it to one to be converted, and being a master of a family, do declare his privilege by this, that he should be a means to convey it to his house; and accordingly it fell out there, ver. 84, that ‘ he believed in God with all his house,’ as Zaccheus and his household did here.

And, 3, in the New Testament we find in the event (which still answers to promises) that the gospel spread itself through whole households, this being the tenure of our covenant. So it is said of the centurion, a Gentile, Acts x. 2, that he was ‘ a devout man, fearing God, he and all his house;’ so Lydia was converted, ‘and all her house,’ Acts xvi. IS, 16; so 1 Cor. i. 16, ‘The household of Stephanas,’ and perhaps intimated, at least sometimes, in that usual phrase, ‘ the church in thy house.’

Now, then, when the covenant thus runs with the heads of houses for the families themselves, I argue thus from thence for their children, that they must needs be included and intended in a more special manner; for they are the natural branches, and servants but engrafted, as was said of the Jews and Gentiles in the like case. And ‘ the servant abides not always in the house, but the son ever abides in it,’ John viii. 35. The house of Aaron and his children are put for one and the same, Ps. cxv. 12, 15. In like phrase of speech, Leah and Rachel, in bringing forth children, are said to ‘ build up the house of Israel,’ Ruth iv. 11; and so the word house is used for posterity in all languages.

And for the further confirmation of this, namely, that this tenure of the Gentiles’ covenant in a conformity to Abraham’s, should run thus by families from the heads thereof, this doth fully suit with the original promise made to Abraham himself, when the Scripture foresaw, as Paul’s phrase is, that the Gentiles should be justified, and so conveyed a blessing through Abraham unto them, as his seed. The promise (Gen. xii. 8 ) runs in these terms, ‘ In thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed;’ as elsewhere, Gen. xviii. 18, and xxii. 18, it runs in these terms, ‘All the nations of the earth shall be blessed.’ These expressions are both used; the one to shew, the seed should be of all nations and people, yet so as withal the covenant was to run by families in those nations. Therefore the New Testament quotes it in both senses: Gal. iii. 8 says, all nations, or heathens, because some of all nations shall be converted; but Peter, when he makes mention of the covenant, Acts iii. 25, though chiefly for the end to shew the Jews were the first children of the covenant, yet he expounds these words spoken to Abraham, ‘ In thy seed shall the families of the earth be blessed,’ thus: ‘In thy seed,’ namely Christ (as ver. 20 he interprets it), ‘ all the fatherhoods or kindreds of the earth shall be blessed.’ The word in the original is, ‘fatherhoods of the earth; so he styleth families because of the father’s covenant, through which Christ, the seed of Abraham, conveys his blessing. And the psalmist, Ps. xxii. 27, speaking of the calling of the Gentiles by Christ, as the fruit of his death, when he says, ‘ All the ends of the earth shall turn unto him; and all the kindreds,’ &c. The Septuagint also renders it, as Peter here, fatherhoods, and because it shall be derived sometimes by succession of birth, as a means of conveying the blessing, therefore, in the following 80th verse, he saith, ‘a seed shall serve him’; that is, the posterity of those godly, who (as ver. 31) ‘ shall be born of them.’

Further, we see that in the calling of the Jews to come, God respects their fathers and their covenant though it be under the gospel; so Rom. xi. Yea, and the apostle quoteth for it that place of the prophet, Isa. lix. 20, ‘ The Redeemer shall come to Zion.’ Now if we look into the words of the prophet prophesying of their call, how doth the promise of the new covenant made to them in that their call to come run ? More infallibly upon their seed than that former to Abraham’s did. ‘ This is my covenant, my Spirit shall not depart out of the mouth of thy seed, and out of thy seed’s seed, from henceforth and for ever.’ There will be in the new Jerusalem a continued succession of sanctified ones, a seed’s seed for ever; and not only of men converted when of ripe years, but when infants. Therefore in Deut. xxx. (where God gives the covenant of the gospel, as appears by Rom. x., and that in opposition to the law given before, and expresseth it by way of prophesying what should fall out after their dispersion, as ver. 1), he says, ‘ I will circumcise thy heart, and the heart of thy seed,’ ver. 6. You know whither the phrase circumcise leads, namely, to the sign and seal of it, which under the New Testament is baptism answering unto it. Their children’s hearts he will circumcise, which is the fruit of baptism, as Col. ii. 12.

And further, that our covenant, as Abraham’s seed, should run thus with us and our families, was most correspondent to that first example of the covenant then given to Abraham; for then the church was only in a family, and so the first giving of this covenant and the seal to confirm it, was established with a family through Abraham the father of it. And this was (as all knew) the primitive and natural church way, under the law of nature afore Moses, unto which therefore for ever God hath suited this family covenant, and in Abraham ratified and sanctified it to the end of world, he being constituted the father of all the faithful, both Jews and Gentiles; and accordingly he and his family were made the prototype of this covenant, God then blessing all families of believers, and the fathers thereof, in blessing that of his through him the father of it, even as God blessed all mankind in Adam and Eve, Gen. i., for increase and multiplying, as being the root and first sampler.

And the reason why God chose this of a family to convey the covenant by was, that this society was the only natural society of all others, and therefore God did always choose it throughout all states of the church. Thus when the church was national among the Jews, then was this way in force: ‘I and my house will serve the Lord,’ said Joshua; so David, Ps. ci. And when, under the New, the institution was to consist of many believers meeting in one place for public worship, yet this still remains, a church in the house also. God herein engrafting (as he uses to do grace on nature, in our spirits, when he converts us), so his covenant of grace upon this covenant of nature to run in the channel of it.

And let me add this further observation, that in Abraham’s family his servants that were Gentiles, if they had children, those children were circumcised, as forerunning pledges and types that both we and our children, who are Gentiles and strangers, were engrafted into this covenant, it held forth this our privilege to come, that in Abraham the Gentiles’ seed (as well as Abraham’s own) should be blessed in him.


Categories: Covenant Tags:

Negating assurance of salvation

September 16, 2009 Comments off
Lack of acknowledging what God has done

Some of God’s people might know the marks of a saving change, but they are afraid that they don’t possess those marks in sufficient strength and clarity. For example, one mark of grace is a hatred of and fleeing from sin. Some people may have experienced such aversion to sin but, at times, their hatred of sin and holy warfare against it become weak. They then conclude that their soul is not right with God. They are not willing to acknowledge God’s work in them unless it meets their requirements and expectations.

In his work Heaven on Earth, another classic on assurance, Thomas Brooks pictures the heart of man as a courtroom—the old nature on one side, the new nature on the other. The old nature is the result of Satan’s work, and the new nature the result of God’s work. Brooks says that some Christians take the side of the old nature, trying to prove that the new nature doesn’t exist or is not really part of God’s work.

Brooks writes:

“Let me tell thee, it is thy wisdom and thy duty to remember the command of God that doth prohibit thee from bearing false witness against thy neighbor. That same command doth enjoin thee not to bear false witness against the work of grace upon thine own heart, against the precious and glorious things that God hath done for thy soul. How dare you bear false witness against your own soul and the gracious work of God upon thee? If this be not the way to keep off assurance and to keep thy soul in darkness, I know nothing.”

Brooks’s point is that there are good signs and bad signs in every believer’s life. It is wrong to acknowledge only the bad signs while failing to acknowledge the good things that the Lord has done in our hearts and in our lives.

Are you having trouble with assurance? I exhort you to examine yourself according to what is written above. Do not rest in the pious cliché, “God has to give it to me.” God has to give assurance to you, no doubt, but He has also revealed how He sovereignly gives it: through the use of right thinking and the use of our own minds as we prayerfully meditate upon and appropriate His promises, examining our lives by the marks that He has given us in His Word. As the Puritans were fond of emphasizing, we need a Spirit-assisted self-examination that arrives at a conclusion, yes or no. Too much or too little self-examination arrives at no conclusion. It ends with a “perhaps” or a hope or a rash presumption. We should never be satisfied with a “perhaps” or with any kind of presumption. God says to us all, “Make your calling and election sure.”