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Calvin commentary Luke 23:31

March 31, 2010 Comments off

Luk 23:31  For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?

31.If they do these things in the green tree. By this sentence Christ confirms what he had stated, that his death will not remain unpunished, and that the Jews, whose iniquity is ripe, or rather half-rotten, will not remain long in their present condition; and by a familiar comparison, he proves it to be impossible but that the fire of the divine wrath shall immediately kindle and devour them. We know that dry wood is wont to be first thrown into the fire; but if what is moist and green be burnt, much less shall the dry be ultimately spared. The phrase, if they do, may be taken indefinitely for if it be done (266) and the meaning will be: “If green wood is thrown into the fire before the time, what, think you, shall become of what is dry and old?” But some perhaps will prefer to view it as a comparison of men with God, as if Christ had said: “Wicked men, who resemble dry wood, when they have basely murdered the righteous, will find that their time is prepared by God. For how could they who are already devoted to destruction escape the hand of the heavenly Judge, who grants them so much liberty for a time against the good and innocent?”
Whether you choose to interpret it in the one or the other of these ways, the general meaning is, that the lamentation of the women is foolish, if they do not likewise expect and dread the awful judgment of God which hangs over the wicked. And whenever our distress of mind, arising from the bitterness of the cross, goes to excess, it is proper to soothe it by this consolation, that God, who now permits his own people to be unjustly oppressed, will not ultimately allow the wicked to escape punishment. If we were not sustained by this hope, we must unavoidably sink under our afflictions. Though it be the natural and more frequent practice to make a fire of dry wood rather than of green wood, yet God pursues a different order; for, while he allows tranquillity and ease to the reprobate, he trains his own people by a variety of afflictions, and therefore their condition is more wretched than that of others, if we judge of it from the present appearance. But this is an appropriate remedy, if we patiently look for the whole course of the judgment of God; for thus we shall perceive that the wicked gain nothing by a little delay; for when God shall have humbled his faithful servants by fatherly chastisements, he will rise with a drawn sword against those whose sins he appeared for a time not to observe.

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Sanctification – John Flavel WSC

March 28, 2010 Comments off

Of Sanctification.

Q. 35. What is sanctification?
A. Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and mare to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.

Q. 1. What are the parts of sanctification?
A. Dying unto sin, and living unto God; Romans 6:11. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Q. 2. Who is the Author of sanctification?
A. God only; Jude 1. To them that are sanctified by God the Father.

Q. 3. What is the instrument of it?
A. The word of God; John 17:17. sanctify them through thy truth; thy word is truth.

Q. 4. What part of man is sanctified?
A. Every part, both of soul and body; 1 Thessalonians 5:23. And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Q. 5. Is sanctification perfected at once?
A. No; but by degrees; 2 Peter 3:18. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Q. 6. When will it be made perfect?
A. When we come to heaven, and not before; 1 Corinthians 13:10-11. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.

Q. 7. What are the signs of true sanctification?
A. When it runs into all parts of our conversation; 1 Peter 1:15. But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation. And continues to the end; Revelation 22:11. Let him that is holy be holy still.

Q. 8. What is the inseparable companion of sanctification?
A. Righteousness towards men; Luke 1:74-75. That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hands of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness, and righteousness before him all the days of our life.

Q. 9. What is opposite to sanctification?
A. All filthiness of flesh and spirit; 2 Corinthians 7:1. Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit.

Q. 10. What is the privilege of the sanctified?
A. They are all elected, and shall he glorified; 1 Peter 1:2, 4. Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit. . . to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you.

Q. 11. What is the case of them who live and die unsanctified?
A. They shall never see God; Hebrews 12:14. Follow peace with all men, and holiness; without which no man shall see the Lord.

Q. 12. What differenceth true from pretended sanctification?
A. True sanctification purgeth the heart from the love of sin; Romans 7:15. For that which I do, I allow not. And the life from the dominion of sin; Romans 6:19. As ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness, and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness, unto holiness.

Q. 13. May great sinners be sanctified?
A. Yes; the Spirit of God can sanctify the vilest heart; 1 Corinthians 6:11. And such were some of you; but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified.

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Proving justification by sanctification, the marks of grace – John Flavel

March 28, 2010 Comments off

If all the promises of the new covenant be absolute and unconditional, having no respect nor relation, to any grace wrought in us, nor duty done by us, then the trial of our interest in Christ, by marks and signs of grace, is not our duty, nor can we take comfort in sanctification, as an evidence of our justification.

But it is a Christian’s duty to try his interest in Christ by marks and signs; and he may take comfort in sanctification, as an evidence of justification. Ergo.

The sequel of the major is undeniably clear: so that can never be a sign or evidence of an interest in Christ, which that interest may be without; yea, and as Dr. Crispe asserts, according to his Antinomian principles, ‘Christ is ours (saith he) before we have gracious qualifications; every true mark and sign must be inseparable from that it signifies.’ Now, if the works of the Spirit in us be not so, but an interest in Christ may be where these are not, then they are no proper marks or signs; and if they are not, it cannot be our duty to make use of them as such, and consequently if we should, they can yield us no comfort.

The minor is plain in scripture; 1 John 2.3, “Hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.” The meaning is, we perceive and discern ourselves to be sincere believers, and consequently that Christ is our propitiation, when obedience to his commands is become habitual and easy to us; So 1 John 3.19, “Hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him;” i.e., by our sincere cordial love to Christ and his members, as verse 18, this shall demonstrate to us, that we are the children of truth; and again, 1 John 3.15, “We know that we are passed from death to life; because we love the brethren:” With multitudes more to the same purpose, which plainly teach Christians to fetch the evidences of their justification out of their sanctification, and to prove their interest in Christ, by the works of his Spirit found in their own hearts.

And this is not only a Christian’s liberty, but his commanded duty to bring his interest in Christ to this touchstone and test; 2 Cor. 13.5, “Examine yourselves, prove yourselves,” &c. 2 Pet. 1.10, “Give all diligence to make your calling and election sure,” i.e., your election by your calling. No man can make his election sure a priori, nor can any make it surer than it is in se; therefore it is only capable of being made sure to us a posteriori; arguing from the work of sanctification in us, to God’s eternal choice of us.

And as the saints in all ages have taken this course, so they have taken great and lawful comfort in the use of these marks and signs of grace; 2 Kings 20.3.; 2 Cor. 1.12.

I am sensible how vehemently the Antinomian party, Dr. Crispe, Mr. Eyre, and some others, do oppugn [oppose] this truth, representing it as legal and impracticable (for they are for the absolute and unconditional nature of the new covenant, as well as you); but by your espousing their principle, you have even run Anabaptism into Antinomianism; and must, by this principle of yours, renounce all marks and trials of an interest in Christ, by any work of the Spirit wrought in us. You must only stick to the immediate sealings of the Spirit; which, if such a thing be at all, it is but rare and extraordinary.

I will not deny but there may be an immediate testimony of the Spirit; but sure I am his mediate testimony by his graces in us, is his usual way of sealing believers. We do not affirm any of these his works to be meritorious causes of our justification; or that, considered abstractly from the Spirit, they can of themselves seal, or evidence our interest in Christ. Neither do we affirm, that any of them are complete and perfect works; but this we say, that they being true and sincere, though imperfect graces, they are our usual and standing evidences, to make out our interest in Christ by. And I hope you, and the whole Antinomian party, will find it hard, yea, and impossible, to remove the saints from that comfortable and scriptural way of examining their interest in Christ, by the graces of his Spirit in them; as the saints, who are gone to heaven before them, have done in all generations.

Source: A reply to Baptist hyper-calvinism

If all the promises of the new covenant be absolute and unconditional, having no respect nor relation, to any grace wrought in us, nor duty done by us, then the trial of our interest in Christ, by marks and signs of grace, is not our duty, nor can we take comfort in sanctification, as an evidence of our justification.

But it is a Christian’s duty to try his interest in Christ by marks and signs; and he may take comfort in sanctification, as an evidence of justification. Ergo.

The sequel of the major is undeniably clear: so that can never be a sign or evidence of an interest in Christ, which that interest may be without; yea, and as Dr. Crispe asserts, according to his Antinomian principles, ‘Christ is ours (saith he) before we have gracious qualifications; every true mark and sign must be inseparable from that it signifies.’ Now, if the works of the Spirit in us be not so, but an interest in Christ may be where these are not, then they are no proper marks or signs; and if they are not, it cannot be our duty to make use of them as such, and consequently if we should, they can yield us no comfort.

The minor is plain in scripture; 1 John 2.3, “Hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.” The meaning is, we perceive and discern ourselves to be sincere believers, and consequently that Christ is our propitiation, when obedience to his commands is become habitual and easy to us; So 1 John 3.19, “Hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him;” i.e., by our sincere cordial love to Christ and his members, as verse 18, this shall demonstrate to us, that we are the children of truth; and again, 1 John 3.15, “We know that we are passed from death to life; because we love the brethren:” With multitudes more to the same purpose, which plainly teach Christians to fetch the evidences of their justification out of their sanctification, and to prove their interest in Christ, by the works of his Spirit found in their own hearts.

And this is not only a Christian’s liberty, but his commanded duty to bring his interest in Christ to this touchstone and test; 2 Cor. 13.5, “Examine yourselves, prove yourselves,” &c. 2 Pet. 1.10, “Give all diligence to make your calling and election sure,” i.e., your election by your calling. No man can make his election sure a priori, nor can any make it surer than it is in se; therefore it is only capable of being made sure to us a posteriori; arguing from the work of sanctification in us, to God’s eternal choice of us.

And as the saints in all ages have taken this course, so they have taken great and lawful comfort in the use of these marks and signs of grace; 2 Kings 20.3.; 2 Cor. 1.12.

I am sensible how vehemently the Antinomian party, Dr. Crispe, Mr. Eyre, and some others, do oppugn [oppose] this truth, representing it as legal and impracticable (for they are for the absolute and unconditional nature of the new covenant, as well as you); but by your espousing their principle, you have even run Anabaptism into Antinomianism; and must, by this principle of yours, renounce all marks and trials of an interest in Christ, by any work of the Spirit wrought in us. You must only stick to the immediate sealings of the Spirit; which, if such a thing be at all, it is but rare and extraordinary.

I will not deny but there may be an immediate testimony of the Spirit; but sure I am his mediate testimony by his graces in us, is his usual way of sealing believers. We do not affirm any of these his works to be meritorious causes of our justification; or that, considered abstractly from the Spirit, they can of themselves seal, or evidence our interest in Christ. Neither do we affirm, that any of them are complete and perfect works; but this we say, that they being true and sincere, though imperfect graces, they are our usual and standing evidences, to make out our interest in Christ by. And I hope you, and the whole Antinomian party, will find it hard, yea, and impossible, to remove the saints from that comfortable and scriptural way of examining their interest in Christ, by the graces of his Spirit in them; as the saints, who are gone to heaven before them, have done in all generations.

“All thy children shall be taught of the Lord.” Isaiah 54:13 – JC Philpot

March 25, 2010 Comments off

“All thy children shall be taught of the Lord.” Isaiah 54:13

The teaching of God can only be known and realised by those who have seen an end of all creature perfection, and who are completely and experimentally destitute of all wisdom in the flesh. And God’s teaching does not leave a man where it found him, dead, stupefied, worldly, unfeeling, and carnal. If he is in distress, it does not leave him in distress; if he feels guilty, it does not leave him guilty; if he is in darkness, it does not leave him in darkness; but it lifts him out of these evils. Thus God’s people are continually led to come unto him for his instruction, because they feel that without his special teaching they can know nothing as they ought to know. Nay, the more they have, the more they want to have; for no sooner is the light withdrawn, than the darkness is more sensibly felt. If any text of Scripture has been opened up to them, it makes them want to have others made known in a similar way; if they have had any consolation, and it is taken away, it makes them want it again. So that the more wise and spiritual God’s people become, the more foolish and carnal they appear in their own eyes; the stronger they are in the Lord and in the power of his might, the more sensibly do they feel the weakness of their flesh; and the more they are enabled to walk closely with the Lord, the more they discover the wretched wanderings of their base and sinful hearts.

J.C. Philpot – 1802-1869

Faith alone – John Owen

March 24, 2010 Comments off

The truth which we plead has two parts:— 1. That the righteousness of God imputed to us, unto the justification of life, is the righteousness of Christ, by whose obedience we are made righteous. 2. That it is faith alone which on our part is required to interest us in that righteousness, or whereby we comply with God’s grant and communication of it, or receive it unto our use and benefit; for although this faith is in itself the radical principle of all obedience, — and whatever is not so, which cannot, which does not, on all occasions, evidence, prove, show, or manifest itself by works, is not of the same kind with it, — yet, as we are justified by it, its act and duty is such, or of that nature, as that no other grace, duty, or work, can be associated with it, or be of any consideration. And both these are evidently confirmed in that description which is given us in the Scripture of the nature of faith and believing unto the justification of life.

I know that many expressions used in the declaration of the nature and work of faith herein are metaphorical, at least are generally esteemed so to be; — but they are such as the Holy Ghost, in his infinite wisdom, thought meet to make use of for the instruction and edification of the church. And I cannot but say, that those who understand not how effectually the light of knowledge is communicated unto the minds of them that believe by them, and a sense of the things intended unto their spiritual experience, seem not to have taken a due consideration of them. Neither, whatever skill we pretend unto, do we know always what expressions of spiritual things are metaphorical. Those oftentimes may seem so to be, which are most proper. However, it is most safe for us to adhere unto the expressions of the Holy Spirit, and not to embrace such senses of things as are inconsistent with them, and opposite unto them. Wherefore, —

1. That faith whereby we are justified is most frequently in the New Testament expressed by receiving. This notion of faith has been before spoken unto, in our general inquiry into the use of it in our justification. It shall not, therefore, be here much again insisted on. Two things we may observe concerning it:— First, That it is so expressed with respect unto the whole object of faith, or unto all that does any way concur unto our justification; for we are said to receive Christ himself: “As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God,” John i. 12; “As ye have received Christ Jesus the Lord,” Col. ii. 6. In opposition hereunto unbelief is expressed by not receiving of him, John i. 11; iii. 11; xii. 48; xiv. 17. And it is a receiving of Christ as he is “The Lord our Righteousness,” as of God he is made righteousness unto us. And as no grace, no duty, can have any co-operation with faith herein, — this reception of Christ not belonging unto their nature, nor comprised in their exercise, — so it excludes any other righteousness from our justification but that of Christ alone; for we are “justified by faith.” Faith alone receives Christ; and what it receives is the cause of our justification, whereon we become the sons of God. So we “receive the atonement” made by the blood of Christ, Rom. v. 11; for “God hath set him forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood.” And this receiving of the atonement includes the soul’s approbation of the way of salvation by the blood of Christ, and the appropriation of the atonement made thereby unto our own souls. For thereby also we receive the forgiveness of sins: “That they may receive forgiveness of sins … by faith that is in me,” Acts xxvi. 18. In receiving Christ we receive the atonement; and in the atonement we receive the forgiveness of sins. But, moreover, the grace of God, and righteousness itself, as the efficient and material cause of our justification, are received also; even the “abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness,” Rom. v. 17. So that faith, with respect unto all the causes of justification, is expressed by “receiving;” for it also receives the promise, the instrumental cause on the part of God thereof, Acts ii. 41; Heb. ix. 15. Secondly, That the nature of faith, and its acting with respect unto all the causes of justification, consisting in receiving, that which is the object of it must be offered, tendered, and given unto us, as that which is not our own, but is made our own by that giving and receiving. This is evident in the general nature of receiving. And herein, as was observed, as no other grace or duty can concur with it, so the righteousness whereby we are justified can be none of our own antecedent unto this reception, nor at any time inherent in us. Hence we argue, that if the work of faith in our justification be the receiving of what is freely granted, given, communicated, and imputed unto us, — that is, of Christ, of the atonement, of the gift of righteousness, of the forgiveness of sins, — then have our other graces, our obedience, duties, works, no influence into our justification, nor are any causes or conditions thereof; for they are neither that which does receive nor that which is received, which alone concur thereunto.

2. Faith is expressed by looking: “Look unto me, and be ye saved,” Isa. xlv. 22; “A man shall look to his Maker, and his eyes shall have respect unto the Holy One of Israel,” chap. xvii. 7; “They shall look upon me whom they have pierced,” Zech. xii. 10. See Ps. cxxiii. 2. The nature hereof is expressed, John iii. 14, 15, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” For so was he to be lifted up on the cross in his death, John viii. 28, chap. xii. 32. The story is recorded Numb. xxi. 8, 9. I suppose none doubt but that the stinging of the people by fiery serpents, and the death that ensued thereon, were types of the guilt of sin, and the sentence of the fiery law thereon; for these things happened unto them in types, 1 Cor. x. 11. When any was so stung or bitten, if he betook himself unto any other remedies, he died and perished. Only they that looked unto the brazen serpent that was lifted up were healed, and lived; for this was the ordinance of God, — this way of healing alone had he appointed. And their healing was a type of the pardon of sin, with everlasting life. So by their looking is the nature of faith expressed, as our Saviour plainly expounds it in this place: “So must the Son of man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in him,” — that is, as the Israelites looked unto the serpent in the wilderness, — [“should not perish.”] And although this expression of the great mystery of the gospel by Christ himself has been by some derided, yet is it really as instructive of the nature of faith, justification, and salvation by Christ, as any passage in the Scripture. Now, if faith, whereby we are justified, and in that exercise of it wherein we are so, be a looking unto Christ, under a sense of the guilt of sin and our lost condition thereby, for all, for our only help and relief, for deliverance, righteousness, and life, then is it therein exclusive of all other graces and duties whatever; for by them we neither look, nor are they the things which we look after. But so is the nature and exercise of faith expressed by the Holy Ghost; and they who do believe understand his mind. For whatever may be pretended of metaphor in the expression, faith is that act of the soul whereby they who are hopeless, helpless, and lost in themselves, do, in a way of expectancy and trust, seek for all help and relief in Christ alone, or there is not truth in it. And this also sufficiently evinces the nature of our justification by Christ.

3. It is, in like manner, frequently expressed by coming unto Christ: “Come unto me, all ye that labour,” Matt. xi. 28. See John vi. 35, 37, 45, 65; vii. 37. To come unto Christ for life and salvation, is to believe on him unto the justification of life; but no other grace or duty is a coming unto Christ: and therefore have they no place in justification. He who has been convinced of sin, who has been wearied with the burden of it, who has really designed to fly from the wrath to come, and has heard the voice of Christ in the gospel inviting him to come unto him for help and relief, will tell you that this coming unto Christ consists in a man’s going out of himself, in a complete renunciation of all his own duties and righteousness, and betaking himself with all his trust and confidence unto Christ alone, and his righteousness, for pardon of sin, acceptation with God, and a right unto the heavenly inheritance. It may be some will say this is not believing, but canting; be it so: we refer the judgment of it to the church of God.

4. It is expressed by fleeing for refuge: Heb. vi. 18, “Who have fled for refuge, to lay hold on the hope set before us.” [See] Prov. xviii. 10. Hence some have defined faith to be “perfugium animæ,” the flight of the soul unto Christ for deliverance from sin and misery. And much light is given unto the understanding of the thing intended thereby. For herein it is supposed that he who believes is antecedently thereunto convinced of his lost condition, and that if he abide therein he must perish eternally; that he has nothing of himself whereby he may be delivered from it; that he must betake himself unto somewhat else for relief; that unto this end he considers Christ as set before him, and proposed unto him in the promise of the gospel; that he judges this to be a holy, a safe way, for his deliverance and acceptance with God, as that which has the characters of all divine excellencies upon it: hereon he flees unto it for refuge, that is, with diligence and speed, that he perish not in his present condition; he betakes himself unto it by placing his whole trust and affiance thereon. And the whole nature of our justification by Christ is better declared hereby, unto the supernatural sense and experience of believers, than by a hundred philosophical disputations about it.

5. The terms and notions by which it is expressed under the Old Testament are, leaning on God, Mic. iii. 11; or Christ, Cant. viii. 5; — rolling or casting ourselves and our burden on the Lord, Ps. xxii. 8, [margin,] xxxvii. 5 — (the wisdom of the Holy Ghost in which expressions has by some been profanely derided); — resting on God, or in him, 2 Chron. xiv. 11; Ps. xxxvii. 7; — cleaving unto the Lord, Deut. iv. 4; Acts xi. 23; as also by trusting, hoping, and waiting, in places innumerable. And it may be observed, that those who acted faith as it is thus expressed, do everywhere declare themselves to be lost, hopeless, helpless, desolate, poor, orphans; whereon they place all their hope and expectation on God alone.

All that I would infer from these things is, that the faith whereby we believe unto the justification of life, or which is required of us in a way of duty that we may be justified, is such an act of the whole soul whereby convinced sinners do wholly go out of themselves to rest upon God in Christ for mercy, pardon, life, righteousness, and salvation, with an acquiescence of heart therein; which is the whole of the truth pleaded for.

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Expelling Worldliness with a New Affection

March 24, 2010 Comments off
By Sinclair Ferguson

Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847) was one of the most remarkable men of his time—a mathematician, evangelical theologian, economist, ecclesiastical, political, and social reformer all in one.  His most famous sermon was published under the unlikely title: “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection.” In it he expounded an insight of permanent importance for Christian living: you cannot destroy love for the world merely by showing its emptiness. Even if we could do so, that would lead only to despair. The first world–centered love of our hearts can be expelled only by a new love and affection—for God and from God. The love of the world and the love of the Father cannot dwell together in the same heart. But the love of the world can be driven out only by the love of the Father. Hence Chalmers’ sermon title.

True Christian living, holy and right living, requires a new affection for the Father as its dynamic. Such new affection is part of what William Cowper called “the blessedness I knew when first I saw the Lord”—a love for the holy that seems to deal our carnal affections a deadly blow at the beginning of the Christian life. Soon, however, we discover that for all that we have died to sin in Christ, sin has by no means died in us. Sometimes its continued influence surprises us, even appears to overwhelm us in one or other of its manifestations. We discover that our “new affections” for spiritual things must be renewed constantly throughout the whole of our pilgrimage. If we lose the first love we will find ourselves in serious spiritual peril.

Sometimes we make the mistake of substituting other things for it. Favorites here are activity and learning. We become active in the service of God ecclesiastically (we gain the positions once held by those we admired and we measure our spiritual growth in terms of position achieved); we become active evangelistically and in the process measure spiritual strength in terms of increasing influence; or we become active socially, in moral and political campaigning, and measure growth in terms of involvement. Alternatively, we recognize the intellectual fascination and challenge of the gospel and devote ourselves to understanding it, perhaps for its own sake, perhaps to communicate it to others. We measure our spiritual vitality in terms of understanding, or in terms of the influence it gives us over others. But no position, influence, or evolvement can expel love for the world from our hearts. Indeed, they may be expressions of that very love.

Others of us make the mistake of substituting the rules of piety for loving affection for the Father: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!” Such disciplines have an air of sanctity about them, but in fact they have no power to restrain the love of the world. The root of the matter is not on my table, or in my neighborhood, but in my heart. Worldliness has still not been expelled.

It is all too possible, in these different ways, to have the form of genuine godliness (how subtle our hearts are!) without its power. Love for the world will not have been expunged, but merely diverted. Only a new love is adequate to expel the old one. Only love for Christ, with all that it implies, can squeeze out the love of this world. Only those who long for Christ’s appearing will be delivered from Demas-like desertion caused by being in love with this world.

How can we recover the new affection for Christ and his kingdom that so powerfully impacted our life-long worldliness, and in which we crucified the flesh with its lusts?

What was it that created that first love in any case? Do you remember? It was our discovery of Christ’s grace in the realization of our own sin. We are not naturally capable of loving God for himself, indeed we hate him. But in discovering this about ourselves, and in learning of the Lord’s supernatural love for us, love for the Father was born. Forgiven much, we loved much. We rejoiced in the hope of glory, in suffering, even in God himself. This new affection seemed first to overtake our worldliness, then to master it. Spiritual realities—Christ, grace, Scripture, prayer, fellowship, service, living for the glory of God—filled our vision and seemed so large, so desirable that other things by comparison seemed to shrink in size and become bland to the taste.

The way in which we maintain “the expulsive power of a new affection” is the same as the way we first discovered it. Only when grace is still “amazing” to us does it retain its power in us. Only as we retain a sense of our own profound sinfulness can we retain a sense of the graciousness of grace.

Many of us share Cowper’s sad questions: “Where is the blessedness I knew when first I saw the Lord? Where is the soul-refreshing view of Jesus and his word?” Let us remember the height from which we have fallen, repent and return to those first works. It would be sad if the deepest analysis of our Christianity was that it lacked a sense of sin and of grace. That would suggest that we knew little if the expulsive power of a new affection. But there is no right living that last without it.

Sinclair Ferguson is an Alliance Council Member and associate professor of systematic theology at Westminster Theological Seminary.

This article was previously published in Eternity Magazine, December 1987.

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What sinners should plead with God

March 22, 2010 Comments off

1. Plead his promise, Ezek 36:26,27. “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” It is a free, gracious promise: cry to him to make good that word to you, seeing he has said, “Once again I will yield to the plea of the house of Israel and do this for them.” ver. 37. Tell him, that now you are come to inquire, and request him to do it.

2. Plead your own feebleness and inability to help yourselves; this was the impotent man’s plea at the pool of Bethesda, John 5:6,7 “When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, ‘Do you want to get well?’ ‘Sir,’ the invalid replied, ‘I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.'” So say you, Lord, I have lain many years with this dead plagued heart, beside the open fountain of your blood; I am unable to move to it of myself; I have none to put me in: ordinances cannot do it; ministers cannot do it; you must put to your helping hand, or else the work will remain unperformed.

3. Plead his power, in a sense of your own weakness. Do you feel the power and multitude of your corruptions within you? Say with Jehoshaphat, “Lord I have no might against this great company; neither know I what to do: but mine eyes are upon you.” With you all things are possible. Though I may despair of help in myself and others; yet, you have forbid me to despair of help in you. You said, Let there be light, and there was light; therefore say, let there be faith, and it will immediately take place; for faith is your work and your gift: it is “the work of God that we believe: by grace we are saved, through faith, and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God.”

4. Plead your necessity, your extreme need of Christ and of faith in him. O man, there is not a starving man that needs food so much as you need Christ: there is not a wounded man that needs a physician; a shipwrecked man that needs a plank; a dying man, with the death rattle in his throat, that needs breath so much, as you need Christ. O then, cry, “Give me Christ, or else I die.” I may live without friends, without wealth, and honour, and pleasure; but I cannot live without Christ, and without faith. Plead his power; how easy it is for him to help, saying, as Psalm 80:1 “you who sit enthroned between the cherubim, shine forth!” It will cost you no more pain to work faith in me, than it does the sun to shine forth. Yea, he can more easily put forth his power and grace, than the sun can dart out its beams. It is no trouble nor loss to the sun to shine forth, so neither will it be to him, to show his power and mercy: a look, or a touch, will do it; since he can so easily do it. You may cry with hope; he will never miss an alms bestowed on a beggar, out of the ocean of his bounty. Nay, as the sun, the more it shines displays its glory the more; so will he gain glory by putting forth his power to help you.

5. Plead his mercy, and the freedom and extension of it. Plead the freedom of his mercy, that needs no motive, and expects no worth: it runs freely, so that the mountains cannot stop the current of it, no more than the rocks can stop the ebbing and flowing of the sea. Plead the extension of his mercy to others: he had compassion on men’s bodies, that came to him for healing, and will he not have compassion upon souls, that come to him for life? Is not mercy the work that he delights in? The perfection of his nature, he takes pleasure to display.

6. Plead Christ’s commission, Isa. 61:1, that he came “to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.” Cry, Lord, here is a poor prisoner, a locked and bound up heart; here is employment for you. O loose and knock off my fetters, and bring my soul out of prison. O here is a naked sinner for you to cover, a wounded soul for you to cure, a lost sheep for you to seek and save; and was not this your errand? You came to seek and save that which was lost. And will you not find a lost sinner, that desires to seek you through your grace? Plead his commission under the broad seal of heaven; for, “Him has God the Father sealed.” And plead the value of his blood, and merit of his righteousness: and upon that ground whereby all grace is purchased: plead for faith and grace to receive Jesus Christ the Lord.

Thus I have laid before you some directions, in order to the receiving of Christ. O cry for grace to follow them, and put them in practice, so you may indeed close the bargain with him. O shall all these directions be lost, and Christ be still slighted and rejected! O friends, you cannot please God better, than by coming to Christ and embracing the offer of him; and you cannot please the devil better than by refusing the offer of Christ; and putting him off with delays, till you perish in your unbelief.

And now, after all that has been said, what are you resolved upon? Will you receive Christ or not? Our glorious Lord and Master has sent us to pose you man, woman, and demand whether you will receive him or not? O! what answer shall we return with? Must we go and say, that all this people, upon no terms, will receive him; none of them are for precious Christ? Oh! God forbid! shall he not see the travail of his soul, who travailed through all the armies of God’s wrath for you, and gave his soul an offering for your sin? O give your soul to him, saying, Lord, in spite of the devil and of unbelief, through grace I will open my heart and arms to receive Christ! The Lord himself help you to receive him, and walk in him.

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