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On Conversion – Thomas Reade

July 29, 2016 Comments off

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source

Calvin on Hebrews 6:1 – IMPERATIVE TO GO FORWARD FROM FIRST FOUNDATIONS!

September 30, 2012 Comments off

Heb 6:1  Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,
Heb 6:2  Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.

1.Therefore, leaving, etc. To his reproof he joins this exhortation, — that leaving first principles they were to proceed forward to the goal. For by the word of beginning he understands the first rudiments, taught to the ignorant when received into the Church. Now, he bids them to leave these rudiments, not that the faithful are ever to forget them, but that they are not to remain in them; and this idea appears more clear from what follows, the comparison of a foundation; for in building a house we must never leave the foundation; and yet to be always engaged in laying it, would be ridiculous. For as the foundation is laid for the sake of what is built on it, he who is occupied in laying it and proceeds not to the superstruction, wearies himself with foolish and useless labor. In short, as the builder must begin with the foundation, so must he go on with his work that the house may be built. Similar is the case as to Christianity; we have the first principles as the foundation, but the higher doctrine ought immediately to follow which is to complete the building. They then act most unreasonably who remain in the first elements, for they propose to themselves no end, as though a builder spent all his labor on the foundation, and neglected to build up the house. So then he would have our faith to be at first so founded as afterwards to rise upwards, until by daily progress it be at length completed. (95)
Of repentance from dead works, etc. He here refers to a catechism commonly used. It is hence a probable conjecture that this Epistle was written, not immediately after the promulgation of the Gospel, but when they had some kind of polity established in the Churches; such as this, that the catechumen made a confession of his faith before he was admitted to baptism. And there were certain primary points on which the pastor questioned the catechumen, as it appears from the various testimonies of the fathers; there was an examination had especially on the creed called the Apostles’ Creed. This was the first entrance, as it were, into the church to those who were adults and enlisted under Christ, as they were before alienated from faith in him. This custom the Apostle mentions, because there was a short time fixed for catechumens, during which they were taught the doctrine of religion, as a master instructs his children in the alphabet, in order that he may afterwards advance them to higher things.
But let us examine what he says. He mentions repentance and faith, which include the fullness of the Gospel; for what else does Christ command his Apostles to preach, but repentance and faith? When, therefore, Paul wished to show that he had faithfully performed his duty, he alleged his care and assiduity in teaching these two things. It seems then (as it may be said) unreasonable that the Apostle should bid repentance and faith to be omitted, when we ought to make progress in both through the whole course of our life. But when he adds, from dead works, he intimates that he speaks of first repentance; for though every sin is a dead work, either as it leads to death, or as it proceeds from the spiritual death of the soul; yet the faithful, already born again of the Spirit of God, cannot be said properly to repent from dead works. Regeneration is not indeed made perfect in them; but because of the seed of new life which is in them, however small it may be, this at least may be said of them that they cannot be deemed dead before God. The Apostle then does not include in general the whole of repentance, the practice of which ought to continue to the end; but he refers only to the beginning of repentance, when they who were lately and for the first time consecrated to the faith, commenced a new life. So also the word, faith, means that brief summary of godly doctrine, commonly called the Articles of Faith.
To these are added, the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. These are some of the highest mysteries of celestial wisdom; nay, the very end of all religion, which we ought to bear in mind through the whole course of our life. But as the very same truth is taught in one way to the ignorant, and in another way to those who have made some proficiency, the Apostle seems here to refer to the common mode of questioning, “Dost thou believe the resurrection of the dead? Dost thou believe eternal life?” These things were suitable to children, and that only once; therefore to turn back to them again was nothing else but to retrograde.

Jesus our righteousness before God – Grace abounding excerpt

March 22, 2012 Comments off

229. But one day, as I was passing in the field, and that too with some dashes on my conscience, fearing lest yet all was not right, suddenly this sentence fell upon my soul, Thy righteousness is in heaven; and methought withal, I saw, with the eyes of my soul, Jesus Christ at God’s right hand; there, I say, is my righteousness; so that wherever I was, or whatever I was a-doing, God could not say of me, He wants my righteousness, for that was just before Him. I also saw, moreover, that it was not my good frame of heart that made my righteousness better, nor yet my bad frame that made my righteousness worse; for my righteousness was Jesus Christ Himself, the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever (Heb. 13.8).

230. Now did my chains fall off my legs indeed, I was loosed from my affliction and irons, my temptations had fled away; so that, from that time, those dreadful scriptures of God left off to trouble me now; now went I also home rejoicing, for the grace and love of God. So when I came home, I looked to see if I could find that sentence, Thy righteousness is in heaven; but could not find such a saying, wherefore my heart began to sink again, only that was brought to my remembrance, He ‘of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption’ by this word I saw the other sentence true (1 Cor. 1.30).

231. For by this scripture, I saw that the man Christ Jesus, as He is distinct from us, as touching His bodily presence, so He is our righteousness and sanctification before God. Here, therefore, I lived for some time, very sweetly at peace with God through Christ; Oh, methought, Christ! Christ! there was nothing but Christ that was before my eyes, I was not only for looking upon this and the other benefits of Christ apart, as of His blood, burial, or resurrection, but considered Him as a whole Christ! As He in whom all these, and all other His virtues, relations, offices, and operations met together, and that as He sat on the right hand of God in heaven.

232. It was glorious to me to see His exaltation, and the worth and prevalency of all His benefits, and that because of this: now I could look from myself to Him, and should reckon that all those graces of God that now were green in me, were yet but like those cracked groats and fourpence-halfpennies that rich men carry in their purses, when their gold is in their trunks at home! Oh, I saw my gold was in my trunk at home! In Christ, my Lord and Saviour! Now Christ was all; all my wisdom, all my righteousness, all my sanctification, and all my redemption.

233. Further, the Lord did also lead me into the mystery of union with the Son of God, that I was joined to Him, that I was flesh of His flesh, and bone of His bone, and now was that a sweet word to me in Eph. 5.30. By this also was my faith in Him, as my righteousness, the more confirmed to me; for if He and I were one, then His righteousness was mine, His merits mine, His victory also mine. Now could I see myself in heaven and earth at once; in heaven by my Christ, by my head, by my righteousness and life, though on earth by my body or person.

234. Now I saw Christ Jesus was looked on of God, and should also be looked on by us, as that common or public person, in whom all the whole body of His elect are always to be considered and reckoned; that we fulfilled the law by Him, rose from the dead by Him, got the victory over sin, death, the devil, and hell, by Him; when He died, we died; and so of His resurrection. ‘Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise,’ saith he (Isa. 26.19). And again, ‘After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight’ (Hos. 6.2); which is now fulfilled by the sitting down of the Son of Man on the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens, according to that to the Ephesians, He ‘hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus’ (Eph. 2.6).

235. Ah, these blessed considerations and scriptures, with many others of a like nature, were in those days made to spangle in mine eyes, so that I have cause to say, ‘Praise ye the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power. Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness’ (Ps. 150.1, 2).

Source: Grace abounding to the chief of sinners, by John Bunyan

How a rabbi found peace – Testimony of Dr. Max Wertheimer

January 11, 2012 Comments off

Born of orthodox Jewish parents, my earliest childhood impression was of my parents rising in the morning very early in order to spend a long time reading the Hebrew prayers. Even in the cold winter, before fires were kindled for their physical comfort, they carried on faithfully these early devotions. Insofar as their knowledge of God was concerned, they were a devout and God-fearing couple.

From the age of five to fifteen my training was in a Jewish school, in orthodox Judaism. A scholarly Hebrew instructed me in the five books of Moses. I went to the Gymnasium for my classical training and later was apprenticed to a manufacturer, doing office work. My associates at that time led me into the sinful pleasures of the world, and although I attended synagogue and read my Hebrew prayers on the Sabbath, I drifted from the faith of my fathers.

A parental decision to send me to America to pursue my classical education brought me to Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I graduated in seven years, having meanwhile taken my degrees in letters and Hebrew literature, and four years later my Master’s degree. We studied the Old Testament, translated it from Hebrew into the vernacular, went through Jewish history from beginning to the present day, and learned the oral laws.

After finishing the rabbinical course we were publicly ordained and inducted into the rabbinical office. My first call was to Dayton, Ohio, where I officiated as rabbi for ten years, during which I made many friends and received many tokens of love which I treasure highly. In my Friday evening lectures I spoke on social, industrial and economic questions, monotheism, ethical culture, the moral systems of the Jews, etc. In the Saturday morning addresses I took weekly sections of the Pentateuch, followed by a corresponding section of the prophets. On Sunday I taught Sunday School from eight in the morning until five in the evening, with one hour intermission for dinner.

In 1895, a series of meetings was held in the Christian Church of Dayton, with various denominational pastors giving addresses on their religion. I stood proudly before that audience of professing Christians and told them why I was a Jew and would not believe in their Christ as my Messiah and Savior. I gloried in Reform Judaism that acknowledged no need of an atoning sacrifice for sin, a religion of ethics which quieted qualms of conscience through a smug self-righteousness. In the audience sat an humble aged woman, a devout Christian, who was deeply stirred as she listened. “O God,” she prayed, “bring Dr. Wertheimer to realize his utter need of that Savior he so boastingly rejects. Bring him if necessary to the very depths in order that he may know his need of my Lord Jesus Christ.”

What unforeseen forces were brought into action as a result of that unknown woman’s heart-cry! How perfectly satisfied with life I was that day: I had a young, attractive, accomplished wife, was rabbi of the B’nai Yeshorun Synagogue, had a beautiful home, a comfortable income, a place of prominence in the community, had become an honorary member of the ministerial association, was a member of the Present-Day Club, served as chaplain in the Masonic lodge, and was a popular speaker before women’s clubs, schools, civic organizations, etc. Had you visited my library at that time you would have found a wide range of reading. I had every book Bob Ingersoll wrote, read them, and corresponded with the author. I was an oft-invited guest speaker in every denominational church in the city. I was satisfied with life! My wife and I enjoyed the musical treats, we had a large home, two servants, and a beautiful baby boy and daughter, Rose.

Suddenly there came a change! My wife was taken seriously ill, and in spite of many physicians and specialists, she died, leaving me a distraught widower with two little children. After the funeral I put Rose in the care of my mother-in-law, advertised for a housekeeper for myself and boy, and found myself the most miserable of men. I could not sleep. I walked the streets, striving to forget the void, the vacancy in my heart and life. My dreams of a successful career and serene domestic life were all shattered. Where was comfort to be found? The heavens were brass when I called on the God of my fathers! How could I speak as a rabbi words of comfort to others when my own sorrow had brought me to despair? I investigated Spiritism but found it utter fallacy. I attended meetings and read the literature of Theosophy and Christian Science, only to find it futile and hopeless. My experience was comparable to Job’s when he cried, “My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle, and are spent without hope” (Job 7:6). The tenth year of my rabbinical office drew to its close. I decided not to accept re-election, and resigned. I wanted to think over things! I would study! Where is the spirit and soul of one who was such a gifted pianist, who gave charm to life, who made existence so sweet? What had become of all the faculties, the intents and purposes of that active, keen mind? I turned to my Bible!

I studied about Judaism, but it answered no questions, satisfied no craving of my heart. Then I began reading the New Testament and comparing it with the Old Testament. Many passages were read, pondered, meditated upon. One made a definite impression: the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, eleventh verse, last clause: “By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities” (Isaiah 53:11). Here was the only mention of that phrase “My righteous servant” I could find. It is found nowhere else in the Word of God, in either testament. We have “David my servant,” “Isaiah my servant,” “Daniel my servant,” but here it is “my righteous servant.” I said to myself: “Who is that righteous servant? To whom does the prophet refer?” I argued, “Whoever that ‘righteous servant’ of Jehovah is, of one thing I am sure: he is not Israel, because the prophet declares Israel to be a sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a leprous nation. The righteous servant of Jehovah must be One Who is holy. If it isn’t Israel, who could it be?” I decided it must be Isaiah. But in Isaiah 6 I found it could never be the prophet, for he confesses himself to be a guilty sinner and a man of unclean lips in God’s sight. “My righteous servant.” Who could it be? Then I began to study the context of the fifty-third chapter and in Isaiah 50:6 I found, “I gave my back to the smiters.” I pondered that: Who gave his back to the smiters? In the beginning of the chapter it says, “Thus saith Jehovah.” Jehovah is the only speaker in the chapter. Jehovah gave His back to the smiters? Had God a back? When and why was it smitten? Who smote it? Further I read: “Who gave his cheeks to them that plucked off the hair.” And still further: “I hid not my face from shame and spitting.” What did all this mean? Who had been so abused? When? Why? Did Jehovah have all these human characteristics?

I studied more and more various prophetic utterances. In Psalm 110:1 it is written: “The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.” Here was David himself, speaking of his own seed and calling Him “Lord.” How did He get up there? Why didn’t God specify? Why didn’t He speak so plainly to Israel that every Jew could understand?

In confusion I decided to begin at the first chapter of Isaiah and read the book through. I was stopped at the ninth: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). Here was a most incomprehensible thing!

I was faced with the doctrine of the trinity. We Jews have a popular monotheistic slogan: “Sh’ma Yisroel, Adonai Eloheynu, Adonai echod” (Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God is one LORD, Deuteronomy 6:4). The word echod means one. Upon that word the doctrine of unity of Jehovah is rooted and grounded, the entire philosophy of Judaism is based. Taught by the rabbis for ages, that word echod means absolute unity. Now I could not believe it; my teaching was wrong! I began to study the word and I discovered it meant not absolute unity but composite unity. Let me illustrate: Adam and Eve became one flesh; the Hebrew for one flesh is bosor echod, a composite unity. Moses sent twelve spies into Canaan, and they returned bearing a gigantic bunch of grapes. That cluster of grapes is called in Hebrew eschol-echod. With hundreds of grapes on the stem it could not have been an absolute unity; they are called in Hebrew “one cluster,” composite unity. There was wickedness committed in Gibeah of Benjamin which disgraced Jehovah and His name and character. The other tribes were indignant and “all the people arose as one man.” That is what I want you to see: at that time the men of Israel, beside Benjamin, were 400,000 men of war, yet they were “knit together as one man” (in Hebrew: ish echod). Here again composite unity: thousands acted as one! These and other Scriptures showed conclusively that echod cannot be an absolute unity.

God revealed Himself to Abraham as Almighty (El Shaddai). The first letter of this word is schin; it has three strokes joined as one. This letter is on the top of the phylacteries and on the casing of the door posts. Jews have always taken this letter as symbolical of the godhead because it had three strokes (one for each Person in the trinity), joined together as one to show unity. But another question troubled me: if He Who was on the cross was truly an incarnation of Jehovah, then who was in heaven? I turned to the eighteenth of Genesis. Abraham had three visitors; two angels, and the third he addressed fourteen times as Jehovah. Later, two went away, but the third said to Abraham: “Shall I hide from Abraham that which I shall do? I am going down to Sodom and Gommorah to see whether or not they have done altogether according to the report which has come to me. If not, I will know I am going to destroy the cities.” Abraham interceded for them, the Lord went His way, and Abraham went home. Now here is the point: We find Jehovah inspecting the moral condition of Sodom and Gomorrah and refusing to spare them because not even ten righteous citizens could be found within their borders. But in this same chapter we have this statement: “Then Jehovah rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from Jehovah out of heaven.” How and why could there be two Jehovahs, one walking the streets of Sodom and another in heavenly places? It must be one omnipresent Jehovah! Then if that were true, He could be simultaneously both in heaven and with and in Jesus on the cross.

Another problem succeeded it: “Why is the name Jesus never mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures?” I studied this question. Imagine my surprise when I found that 275 years before Christ, King Ptolemy Philadelphus summoned men from Palestine and bade them translate the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek vernacular. They took the Pentateuch first and when they came to the name “Joshua” they translated it the book of “Yesous,” written with a circumflex over it to show there had been a suppression of Hebrew that could not be expressed in Greek. When Joshua went into Canaan with the other eleven spies he was called “Yehoshua” (Jehovah is the Savior). That is exactly what the word “Jesus” means.

I could hold out in unbelief no longer; I was convinced of the truth of God as it is in Christ Jesus. I cried, “Lord, I believe that Thou as Jehovah Yesous hast made the atonement for me. I believe that Jehovah Yesous died for me! I believe Thou hast made provision for me! I believe Thou hast the ability and power! From henceforth I will publicly confess Yeshua as my Savior and Lord!” Thus after months of searching I was convinced that Jesus was the righteous servant of Jehovah—Jehovah-tsidkenu, “The LORD our righteousness!”

On March 30, 1904, I publicly confessed Christ in the Central Baptist Church, and having been licensed to preach, doors readily opened to me. I was persuaded to enter Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, from which I graduated after a year of study. Mr. Icenbarger, at my request, called a council of Dayton Association of ministers, and 35 Baptist pastors assembled in Central Church questioned me relative to my personal faith and doctrine. My ordination took place that evening, and my first call came from Ada, Ohio, where I served as pastor for five years. From there the New Covenant Mission in Pittsburgh, of which Maurice Ruben was founder and superintendent for many years, called me to be their pastor-evangelist. After two and a half years of this ministry I was convinced that God was calling me to a wider sphere in preaching the Gospel to both Jew and Gentile, depending upon the Lord for the support of myself and family. In 1913 we returned to Ada, the little flock over which I had been under-shepherd for five years being very dear to our hearts.

I started out in Bible teaching, and God was ever faithful. Were I to write of all the manifestations of His goodness and grace, it would fill a book. Critical operations, publication of my books, supplying all our needs—He never failed to care and provide. In Christ I have found my only abiding comfort for every sorrow.

As a rabbi I had yearned to give the bereaved some hope on which to lean, but how could I give that which I did not possess? I gave sympathy, but in times of heart-aching grief and tragedy, sympathy is of little comfort. But to the heartbroken how satisfying and glorious are the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live” (John 11:25). And again, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath [possesses now] everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life” (John 5:24).

There is but one eternal life. There is but one source of eternal life; that is God’s Son. What a great and glorious message we, His redeemed ones, are commissioned to deliver today!

Source

Experimental salvation – AW Pink

December 25, 2011 Comments off

SALVATION may be viewed from many angles and contemplated under various aspects, but from whatever side we look at it we must ever remember that “Salvation is of the Lord.” Salvation was planned by the Father for His elect before the foundation of the world. It was purchased for them by the holy life and vicarious death of His incarnate Son. It is applied to and wrought in them by His Holy Spirit. It is known and enjoyed through the study of the Scriptures, through the exercise of faith, and through communion with the triune Jehovah.

Now it is greatly to be feared that there are multitudes in Christendom who verily imagine and sincerely believe that they are among the saved, yet who are total strangers to a work of divine grace in their hearts. It is one thing to have clear intellectual conceptions of God’s truth, it is quite another matter to have a personal, real heart acquaintance with it. It is one thing to believe that sin is the awful thing that the Bible says it is, but it is quite another matter to have a holy horror and hatred of it in the soul. It is one thing to know that God requires repentance, it is quite another matter to experimentally mourn and groan over our vileness. It is one thing to believe that Christ is the only Savior for sinners, it is quite another matter to really trust Him from the heart. It is one thing to believe that Christ is the Sum of all excellency, it is quite another matter to LOVE Him above all others. It is one thing to believe that God is the great and holy One, it is quite another matter to truly reverence and fear Him. It is one thing to believe that salvation is of the Lord, it is quite another matter to become an actual partaker of it through His gracious workings.

While it is true that Holy Scripture insists on man’s responsibility, and that all through them God deals with the sinner as an accountable being; yet it is also true that the Bible plainly and constantly shows that no son of Adam has ever measured up to his responsibility, that every one has miserably failed to discharge his accountability. It is this which constitutes the deep need for GOD to work in the sinner, and to do for him what he is unable to do for himself. “They that are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom 8:8). The sinner is “without strength” (Rom 5:6). Apart from the Lord, we “can do nothing” (John 15:5).

While it is true that the Gospel issues a call and a command to all who hear it, it is also true that ALL disregard that call and disobey that command—”They all with one consent began to make excuse” (Luke 14:18). This is where the sinner commits his greatest sin and most manifests his awful enmity against God and His Christ: that when a Savior, suited to his needs, is presented to him, he “despises and rejects” Him (Isa 53:3).

This is where the sinner shows what an incorrigible rebel he is, and demonstrates that he is deserving only of eternal torments. But it is just at this point that God manifests His sovereign and wondrous GRACE. He not only planned and provided salvation, but he actually bestows it upon those whom He has chosen.

Now this bestowal of salvation is far more than a mere proclamation that salvation is to be found in the Lord Jesus: it is very much more than an invitation for sinners to receive Christ as their Savior. It is God actually saving His people. It is His own sovereignty and all-powerful work of grace toward and in those who are entirely destitute of merit, and who are so depraved in themselves that they will not and cannot take one step to the obtaining of salvation. Those who have been actually saved owe far more to divine grace than most of them realize. It is not only that Christ died to put away their sins, but also the Holy Spirit has wrought a work in them—a work which applies to them the virtues of Christ’s atoning death.

It is just at this point that so many preachers fail in their exposition of the Truth. While many of them affirm that Christ is the only Savior for sinners, they also teach that He actually became ours only by our consent. While they allow that conviction of sin is the Holy Spirit’s work and that He alone shows us our lost condition and need of Christ, yet they also insist that the decisive factor in salvation is man’s own will. But the Holy Scriptures teach that “salvation is of the LORD” (Jonah 2:9), and that nothing of the creature enters into it at any point. Only that can satisfy God which has been produced by God Himself. Though it be true that salvation does not become the personal portion of the sinner until he has, from the heart, believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, yet is that very BELIEVING wrought in him by the Holy Spirit: “By grace are ye saved through faith, and that NOT OF YOURSELVES; it is the gift of God” (Eph 2:8).

It is exceedingly solemn to discover that there is a “believing” in Christ by the natural man, which is NOT a believing unto salvation. Just as the Buddists believe in Budda, so in Christendom there are multitudes who believe in Christ. And this “believing” is something more than an intellectual one. Often there is much feeling connected with it—the emotions may be deeply stirred. Christ taught in the Parable of the Sower that there is a class of people who hear the Word and with joy receive it, yet have they no root in themselves (Matt 13:20,21). This is fearfully solemn, for it is still occurring daily. Scriptures also tell us that Herod heard John “gladly. ” Thus, the mere fact that the reader of these pages enjoys listening to some sound gospel preacher is no proof at all that he is a regenerated soul. The Lord Jesus said to the Pharisees concerning John the Baptist, “Ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light,” yet the sequel shows clearly that no real work of grace had been wrought in them. And these things are recorded in Scripture as solemn warnings!

It is striking and solemn to mark the exact wording in the last two Scriptures referred to. Note the repeated personal pronoun in Mark 6:20: “For Herod feared John [not ‘God’!], knowing that he as a just man and an holy, and observed him; and when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly.” It was the personality of John which attracted Herod. How often is this the case today! People are charmed by the personality of the preacher: they are carried away by his style and won by his earnestness for souls. But if there is nothing more than this, there will one day be a rude awakening for them. That which is vital is a “love for the truth,” not for the one who presents it. It is this which distinguishes the true people of God from the “mixed multitude” who ever associate with them.

So in John 5:35 Christ said to the Pharisees concerning His forerunner: “Ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light,” not “in the light”! In like manner, there are many today who listen to one whom God enables to open up some of the mysteries and wonders of His Word and they rejoice “in his light” while in the dark themselves, never having personally received “an unction from the Holy One.” Those who do “love the truth” (2 Thess 2:10) are they in whom a divine work of grace has been wrought. They have something more than a clear, intellectual understanding of the Scripture: it is the food of their souls, the joy of their hearts (Jer 15:16). They love the truth, and because they do so, they hate error and shun it as deadly poison. They are jealous for the glory of the Author of the Word, and will not sit under a minister whose teaching dishonors Him; they will not listen to preaching which exalts man into the place of supremacy, so that he is the decider of his own destiny.

“LORD, Thou wilt ordain peace for us: for Thou also hast wrought all our works in us” (Isa 26:12). Here is the heart and unqualified confession of the true people of God. Note the preposition: “Thou also hast wrought all our works in us.” This speaks of a divine work of grace wrought in the heart of the saint. Nor is this text alone. Weigh carefully the following: “It pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by His grace, to reveal His Son in me” (Gal 1:15,16).

“Unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us” (Eph 3:20). “Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it” (Phil 1:6). “It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure” (Phil 2:13). “I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them” (Heb 10: 16). “Now the God of peace…make you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is well pleasing in His sight” (Heb 13:20). Here are seven passages which speak of the inward workings of God’s grace; or in other words of experimental salvation.

“LORD, Thou wilt ordain peace for us: for Thou also hast wrought all our works in us” (Isa 26:12). Is there an echoing response in our heart to this, my reader? Is your repentance something deeper than the remorse and tears of the natural man? Does it have its root in a divine work of grace which the Holy Spirit hath wrought in your soul? Is your believing in Christ something more than an intellectual one? Is your relation to Him something more vital than what some act of yours has brought about, having been made one with Him by the power and operation of the Spirit? Is your love for Christ something more than a pious sentiment, like that of the Romanist who sings of the “gentle” and “sweet” Jesus? Does your love for Him proceed from an altogether new nature, that God has created within you? Can you really say with the Psalmist: “Whom have I in heaven but Thee? And there is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee.” Is your profession accompanied by true meekness and lowliness of heart? It is easy to call yourself names, and say, “I am an unworthy and unprofitable creature.” But do you realize yourself to be such? Do you feel yourself to be “less than the least of all saints?” Paul did! If you do not; if instead, you deem yourself superior to the rank and file of Christians, who bemoan their failures, confess their weakness, and cry, “O wretched man that I am!”—there is grave reason to conclude you are a stranger to God!

That which distinguishes genuine godliness from human religiousness is this: the one is external, the other internal. Christ complained of the Pharisees, “Ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess” (Matt 23:25). A carnal religion is all on the surface. It is at the heart God looks and with the heart God deals. Concerning His people He says: “I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them” (Heb 10:16).

“Lord, Thou wilt ordain peace for us: for Thou also hast wrought all our works in us.” How humbling is this to the pride of man! It makes everything of God and nothing of the creature!

The tendency of human nature the world over, is to be self-sufficient and self-satisfied; to say with the Laodiceans, “I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing” (Rev 3:17). But here is something to humble us, and empty us of pride. Since God has wrought all our works in us, then we have no ground for boasting. “What hast thou that thou didst not receive? Now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?” (I Cor 4:7).

And who are the ones in whom God thus works? From the divine side; His favored, chosen, redeemed people. From the human side: those who, in themselves have no claim whatever on His notice; who are destitute of any merit; who have everything in them to provoke His holy wrath; those who are miserable failures in their lives, and utterly depraved and corrupt in their persons. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound, and did for them and in them what they would not and could not do for themselves.

And what is it God “works” in His people?—All their works. First, He quickens them: “It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing” (John 6:63). “Of His own will begat He us with the word of truth” (James 1:18). Second, He bestows repentance: “Him hath God exalted with His right hand to be a Prince and a Savior, for to give repentance to Israel” (Acts 5:31). “Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life” (Acts 11:18; 2 Tim 2:25). Third, He gives faith: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” (Eph 2:8). “Ye are risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God” (Col 2:12). Fourth, He grants a spiritual understanding:’And we know the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know Him that is true” (I John 5:20). Fifth, He effectuates our service: “I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (I Cor 15:10). Sixth, He secures our perseverance: “who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation” (I Pet 1:5). Seventh, He produces our fruit: “From Me is thy fruit found” (Hosea 14:8). “The fruit of the Spirit” (Gal 5:22). Yes, He has wrought all our works in us.

Why has God thus “wrought all our works in us?” First, because unless He had done so, all had eternally perished (Rom 9:29). We were “without strength,” unable to meet God’s righteous demands. Therefore, in sovereign grace, He did for us what we ought but could not do for ourselves. Second, that all the glory might be His. God is a jealous God. He says so. His honour He will not share with another. By this means He secures all the praise, and we have no ground for boasting. Third, that our salvation might be effectually and securely accomplished. Were any part of our salvation left to us it would be neither effectual nor secure. Whatever man touches he spoils: failure is written across everything he attempts. But what God does is perfect and lasts for ever: “I know that whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before Him” (Eccl 3:14).

But how may I be sure that my works have been “wrought in me” by God? Mainly by their effects. If you have been born again, you have a new nature within. This new nature is spiritual and contrary to the flesh—contrary in its desires and aspirations. Because the old and new natures are contrary to each other, there is a continual war between them. Are you conscious of this inward conflict?

If your repentance be a God-wrought one, then you abhor yourself. If your repentance be a genuine and spiritual one, then you marvel that God did not long ago cast you into hell. If your repentance be the gift of Christ, then you daily mourn the wretched return which you make to God’s wondrous grace; you hate sin, you sorrow in secret before God for your manifold transgressions. Not simply do you do so at conversion, but daily do so now.

If your faith be a God-communicated one, it is evidenced by your turning away from all creature confidences, by a renunciation of your own self-righteousness, by a repudiation of all your own works. If your faith be “the faith of God’s elect” (Titus 1:1), then you are resting alone on Christ as the ground of your acceptance before God. If your faith be the result of “the operation of God,” then you implicitly believe His Word, you receive it with meekness, you crucify reason, and accept all He has said with childlike simplicity.

If your love for Christ be the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:25), then it evidences itself by constantly seeking to please Him, and by abstaining from what you know is displeasing to Him: in a word, by an obedient walk. If your love for Christ be the love of “the new man,” then you pant after Him, you yearn for communion with Him above everything else. If your love for Christ be the same m kind (though not in degree) as His love for you, then you are eagerly looking forward to His glorious appearing, when He shall come again to receive His people unto Himself, that they may be forever with the Lord. May the grace of spiritual discernment be given the reader to see whether his Christian profession be real or a sham, whether his hope is built upon the Rock of Ages or the quicksands of human resolutions, efforts, decisions, or feelings; whether, in short, his salvation is “OF THE LORD” or the vain imagination of his own deceitful heart.

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David Brainerd journal exerpt

January 9, 2011 Comments off

“I was from my youth somewhat sober, and inclined rather to melancholy than the contrary extreme; but do not remember any thing of conviction of sin, worthy of remark, till I was, I believe, about seven or eight years of age. Then I became concerned for my soul, and terrified at the thoughts of death, and was driven to the performance of duties: but it appeared a melancholy business, that destroyed my eagerness for play. And though, alas! this religious concern was but short-lived, I sometimes attended secret prayer; and thus lived at “ease in Zion, without God in the world,’’ and without much concern, as I remember, till I was above thirteen years of age. But some time in the winter 1732, I was roused out of carnal security, by I scarce know what means at first; but was much excited by the prevailing of a mortal sickness in Haddam. I was frequent, constant, and somewhat fervent in duties; and took delight in reading, especially Mr. Janeway’s Token for Children. I felt sometimes much melted in duties, and took great delight in the performance of them; and I sometimes hoped that I was converted, or at least in a good and hopeful way for heaven and happiness, not knowing what conversion was. The Spirit of God at this time proceeded far with me; I was remarkably dead to the world, and my thoughts were almost wholly employed about my soul’s concerns; and I may indeed say, “Almost I was persuaded to be a Christian” I was also exceedingly distressed and melancholy at the death of my mother, in March, 1732. But afterwards my religious concern began to decline, and by degrees I fell back into a considerable degree of security, though I still attended secret prayer.

“About the 15th of April, 1733, I removed from my father’s house to East Haddam, where I spent four years; but still “without God in the world,” though, for the most part, I went a round of secret duty. I was not much addicted to young company, or frolicking, as it is called, but this I know, that when I did go into such company, I never returned with so good a conscience as when I went; it always added new guilt, made me afraid to come to the throne of grace, and spoiled those good frames I was wont sometimes to please myself with. But, alas! all my good frames were but self-righteousness, not founded on a desire for the glory of God.

“About the latter end of April, 1737, being full nineteen years of age, I removed to Durham, to work on my farm, and so continued about one year; frequently longing, from a natural inclination, after a liberal education. When about twenty years of age, I applied myself to study; and was now engaged more than ever in the duties of religion. I became very strict, and watchful over my thoughts, words, and actions; and thought I must be sober indeed, because I designed to devote myself to the ministry; and imagined I did dedicate myself to the Lord.

“Some time in April, 1738, I went to Mr. Fiske’s, and lived with him during his life. 352352 Mr. Fiske was the pastor of the church in Haddam. I remember he advised317me wholly to abandon young company, and associate myself with grave elderly people: which counsel I followed. My manner of life was now exceeding regular, and full of religion, such as it was; for I read my Bible more than twice through in less than a year, spent much time every day in prayer and other secret duties, gave great attention to the word preached, and endeavoured to my utmost to retain it. So much concerned was I about religion, that I agreed with some young persons to meet privately on sabbath evenings for religious exercises, and thought myself sincere in these duties; and after our meeting was ended, I used to repeat the discourses of the day to myself; recollecting what I could, though sometimes very late at night. I used sometimes on Monday mornings to recollect the same sermons; had considerable movings of pleasurable affection in duties, and had many thoughts of joining the church. In short, I had a very good outside, and rested entirely on my duties, though not sensible of it.

“After Mr. Fiske’s death, I proceeded in my learning with my brother; was still very constant in religious duties, and often wondered at the levity of professors; it was a trouble to me, that they were so careless in religious matters. Thus I proceeded a considerable length on a self-righteous foundation; and should have been entirely lost and undone, had not the mere mercy of God prevented.

“Some time in the beginning of winter, 1738, it pleased God, on one sabbath-day morning, as I was walking out for some secret duties, to give me on a sudden such a sense of my danger, and the wrath of God, that I stood amazed, and my former good frames, that I had pleased myself with, all presently vanished. From the view I had of my sin and vileness, I was much distressed all that day, fearing the vengeance of God would soon overtake me. I was much dejected, kept much alone, and sometimes envied the birds and beasts their happiness, because they were not exposed to eternal misery, as I evidently saw I was. And thus I lived from day to day, being frequently in great distress: sometimes there appeared mountains before me -to obstruct my hopes of mercy; and the work of conversion appeared so great, that I thought I should never be the subject of it. I used, however, to pray and cry to God, and perform other duties with great earnestness; and thus hoped by some means to make the case better.

“And though, hundreds of times, I renounced all pretences of any worth in my duties, as I thought, even while performing them, and often confessed to God that I deserved nothing, for the very best of them, but eternal condemnation; yet still I had a secret hope of recommending myself to God by my religious duties. When I prayed affectionately, and my heart seemed in some measure to melt, I hoped God would be thereby moved to pity me, my prayers then looked with some appearance of goodness in them, and I seemed to mourn for sin. And then I could in some measure venture on the mercy of God in Christ, as I thought, though the preponderating thought, the foundation of my hope, was some imagination of goodness in my heart-meltings, flowing of affections in duty, extraordinary enlargements, &c. Though at times the gate appeared so very strait, that it looked next to impossible to enter, yet, at other times, I flattered myself that it was not so very difficult, and hoped I should by diligence and watchfulness soon gain the point. Sometimes after enlargement in duty and considerable affection, I hoped I had made a good step towards heaven; imagined that God was affected as I was, and that he would hear such sincere cries, as I called them. And so sometimes, when I withdrew for secret duties in great distress, I returned comfortable; and thus healed myself with my duties.

“Some time in February, 1739, I set apart a day for secret fasting and prayer, and spent the day in almost incessant cries to God for mercy, that he would open my eyes to see the evil of sin, and the way of life by Jesus Christ. And God was pleased that day to make considerable discoveries of my heart to me. But still I trusted in all the duties I performed; though there was no manner of goodness in them, there being in them no respect to the glory of God, nor any such principle in my heart. Yet, God was pleased to make my endeavours that day a means to show me my helplessness in some measure.

“Sometimes I was greatly encouraged, and imagined that God loved me, and was pleased with me; and thought I should soon be fully reconciled to God. But the whole was founded on mere presumption, arising from enlargement in duty, or flowing of affections, or some good resolutions, and the like. And when, at times, great distress began to arise, on a sight of my vileness, nakedness, and inability to deliver myself from a sovereign God, I used to put off the discovery, as what I could not bear. Once, I remember, a terrible pang of distress seized me, and the thoughts of renouncing myself, and standing naked before God, stripped of all goodness, were so dreadful to me, that I was ready to say to them as Felix to Paul, ‘Go thy way for this time.’ Thus, though I daily longed for greater conviction of sin, supposing that I must see more of my dreadful state in order to a remedy; yet when the discoveries of my vile, hellish heart, were made to me, the sight was so dreadful, and showed me so plainly my exposedness to damnation, that I could not endure it. I constantly strove after whatever qualifications I imagined others obtained before the reception of Christ, in order to recommend me to his favour. Sometimes I felt the power of a hard heart, and supposed it must be softened before Christ would accept of me; and when I felt any meltings of heart, I hoped now the work was almost done. Hence, when my distress still remained, I was wont to murmur at God’s dealings with me; and thought, when others felt their hearts softened, God showed them mercy; but my distress remained still.

“Sometimes I grew remiss and sluggish, without any great convictions of sin, for a considerable time together; but after such a season, convictions seized me more violently. One night I remember in particular, when I was walking solitarily abroad, I had opened to me such a view of my sin, that I feared the ground would cleave asunder under my feet, and become my grave; and would send my soul quick into hell, before I could get home. And though I was forced to go to bed, lest my distress should be discovered by others, which I much feared; yet I scarcely durst sleep at all, for I thought it would be a great wonder if I should be out of hell in the morning. And though my distress was sometimes thus great, yet I greatly dreaded the loss of convictions, and returning back to a state of carnal security, and to my former insensibility of impending wrath; which made me exceeding exact in my behaviour, lest I should stifle the motions of God’s Holy Spirit. When at any time I took a view of my convictions, and thought the degree of them to be considerable, I was wont to trust in them; but this confidence, and the hopes of soon making some notable advances towards deliverance, would ease my mind, and I soon became more senseless and remiss: but then again, when I discerned my convictions to grow languid, and I thought them about to leave me, this immediately alarmed and distressed me. Sometimes I expected to take a large step, and get very far towards conversion, by some particular opportunity or means I had in view.

“The many disappointments, great distresses, and perplexity I met with, put me into a most horrible frame of contesting with the Almighty; with an inward vehemence and virulence finding fault with his ways of dealing with mankind. I found great fault with the imputation of Adam’s sin to his posterity; and my wicked heart often wished for some other way of salvation, than by Jesus Christ. Being like the troubled sea, my thoughts confused, I used to contrive to escape the wrath of God by some other means. I had strange projects, full of atheism, contriving to disappoint God’s designs and decrees concerning me, or to escape his notice, and hide myself from him. But when, upon reflection, I saw these projects were vain, and would not serve me, and that I could contrive nothing for my own relief; this would throw my mind into the most horrid frame, to wish there was no God, or to wish there were some other God that could control him, &c. These thoughts and desires were the secret inclinations of my heart, frequently acting before I was aware; but, alas! they were mine, although I was affrighted when I came to reflect on them. When I considered, 318it distressed me to think, that my heart was so full of enmity against God; and it made me tremble, lest his vengeance should suddenly fall upon me. I used before to imagine, that my heart was not so bad as the Scriptures and some other books represented it. Sometimes I used to take much pains to work it up into a good frame, an humble submissive disposition; and hoped there was then some goodness in me. But, on a sudden, the thoughts of the strictness of the law, or the sovereignty of God, would so irritate the corruption of my heart, that I had so watched over, and hoped I had brought to a good frame, that it would break over all bounds, and burst forth on all sides, like floods of water when they break down their dam.

“Being sensible of the necessity of a deep humiliation in order to a saving close with Christ, I used to set myself to work in my own heart those convictions that were requisite in such an humiliation; as, a conviction that God would be just, if he cast me off for ever; that if ever God should bestow mercy on me, it would be mere grace, though I should be in distress many years first, and be never so much engaged in duty; that God was not in the least obliged to pity me the more for all past duties, cries, and tears, &c. I strove to my utmost to bring myself to a firm belief of these things and a hearty assent to them; and hoped that now I was brought off from myself, truly humbled, and that I bowed to the divine sovereignty. I was wont to tell God in my prayers, that now I had those very dispositions of soul that he required, and on which he showed mercy to others, and thereupon to beg and plead for mercy to me. But when I found no relief, and was still oppressed with guilt, and fears of wrath, my soul was in a tumult, and my heart rose against God, as dealing hardly with me. Yet then my conscience flew in my face, putting me in mind of my late confession to God of his justice in my condemnation, &c. And this giving me a sight of the badness of my heart, threw me again into distress, and I wished I had watched my heart more narrowly, to keep it from breaking out against God’s dealings with me; and I even wished I had not pleaded for mercy on account of my humiliation, because thereby I had lost all my seeming goodness. Thus, scores of times, I vainly imagined myself humbled and prepared for saving mercy. And while I was in this distressed, bewildered, and tumultuous state of mind, the corruption of my heart was especially irritated with the following things.

“1. The strictness of the divine law. For I found it was impossible for me, after my utmost pains, to answer its demands. I often made new resolutions, and as often broke them. I imputed the whole to carelessness and the want of being more watchful, and used to call myself a fool for my negligence. But when, upon a stronger resolution, and greater endeavours, and close application to fasting and prayer, I found all attempts fail; then I quarrelled with the law of God, as unreasonably rigid. I thought, if it extended only to my outward actions and behaviours I could bear with it; but I found it condemned me for my evil thoughts, and sins of my heart, which I could not possibly prevent. I was extremely loth to own my utter helplessness in this matter: but after repeated disappointments, thought that, rather than perish, I could do a little more still; especially if such and such circumstances might but attend my endeavours and strivings. I hoped, that I should strive more earnestly than ever, if the matter came to extremity though I never could find the time to do my utmost, in the manner I intended and this hope of future more favourable circumstances, and of doing something great hereafter, kept me from utter despair in myself, and from seeing myself fallen into the hands of a sovereign God, and dependent on nothing but free and boundless grace.

“2. Another thing was, that faith alone, was the condition of salvation; that God would not come down to lower terms, and that he would not promise life and salvation upon my sincere and hearty prayers and endeavours. That word, Mark xvi. 16. “He that believeth not, shall be damned,” cut off all hope there: and I found, faith was the sovereign gift of God; that I could not get it as of myself, and could not oblige God to bestow it upon me, by any of my performances, (Eph. ii. 1, 8.) This, I was ready to say, is a hard saying, who can bear it? I could not bear, that all I had done should stand for mere nothing, who had been very conscientious in duty, had been exceeding religious a great while, and had, as I thought, done much more than many others who had obtained mercy. I confessed indeed the vileness of my duties; but then, what made them at that time seem vile, was my wandering thoughts in them; not because I was all over defiled like a devil, and the principle corrupt from whence they flowed, so that I could not possibly do any thing that was good. And therefore I called what I did, by the name of honest faithful endeavours; and could not bear it, that God had made no promises of salvation to them.

“3. Another thing was, that I could not find out what faith was; or what it was to believe, and come to Christ. I read the calls of Christ to the weary and heavy laden; but could find no way that he directed them to come in. I thought I would gladly come, if I knew how, though the path of duty were never so difficult. I read Mr. Stoddard’s Guide to Christ, (which I trust was, in the hand of God, the happy means of my conversion,) and my heart rose against the author; for though he told me my very heart all along under convictions, and seemed to be very beneficial to me in his directions; yet here he failed, he did not tell me any thing I could do that would bring me to Christ, but left me as it were with a great gulf between, without any direction to get through. For I was not yet effectually and experimentally taught, that there could be no way prescribed, whereby a natural man could, of his own strength, obtain that which is supernatural, and which the highest angel cannot give.

“4. Another thing to which I found a great inward opposition, was the sovereignty of God. I could not bear that it should be wholly at God’s pleasure to save or damn me, just as he would. That passage, Rom. ix. 11-23. was a constant vexation to me, especially ver. 21. Reading or meditating on this, always destroyed my seeming good frames: for when I thought I was almost humbled, and almost resigned, this passage would make my enmity against the sovereignty of God appear. When I came to reflect on my inward enmity and blasphemy, which arose on this occasion, I was the more afraid of God, and driven further from any hopes of reconciliation with him. It gave me such a dreadful view of myself, that I dreaded more than ever to see myself in God’s hands, at his sovereign disposal, and it made me more opposite than ever to submit to his sovereignty; for I thought God designed my damnation.

“All this time the Spirit of God was powerfully at work with me; and I was inwardly pressed to relinquish all self-confidence, all hopes of ever helping myself by any means whatsoever: and the conviction of my lost estate was sometimes so clear and manifest before my eyes, that it was as if it had been declared to me in so many words, ‘It is done, it is done, for ever impossible to deliver yourself.’ For about three or four days my soul was thus greatly distressed. At some turns, for a few moments, I seemed to myself lost and undone; but then would shrink back immediately from the sight, because I dared not venture myself into the hands of God, as wholly helpless, and at the disposal of his sovereign pleasure. I dared not see that important truth concerning myself, that I was dead in trespasses and sins. But when I had as it were thrust away these views of myself at any time, I felt distressed to have the same discoveries of myself again; for I greatly feared being given over of God to final stupidity. When I thought of putting it off to a more convenient season, the conviction was so close and powerful, with regard to the present time, that it was the best, and probably the only time, that I dared not put it off.

“It was the sight of truth concerning myself, truth respecting my state, as a creature fallen and alienated from God, and that consequently could make no demands on God for mercy, but must subscribe to the absolute sovereignty of the Divine Being; the sight of the truth, I say, my soul shrank away from, and trembled to think of beholding. Thus, he that doth evil, as all unregenerate men continually do, hates the light of truth, neither cares to come to it, because it will reprove his deeds, and show him his just deserts, John iii. 20. And though, some time before, I had taken much pains, as I thought, to submit to319the sovereignty of God, yet I mistook the thing; and did not once imagine, that seeing and being made experimentally sensible of this truth, which my soul now so much dreaded and trembled at, was the frame of soul that I had been so earnest in pursuit of heretofore. For I had ever hoped, that when I had attained to that humiliation, which I supposed necessary to go before faith, then it would not be fair for God to cast me off; but now I saw it was so far from any goodness in me, to own myself spiritually dead, and destitute of all goodness, that, on the contrary, my mouth would be for ever stopped by it; and it looked as dreadful to me, to see myself, and the relation I stood in to God I a sinner and criminal, and he a great Judge and Sovereign as it would be to a poor trembling creature, to venture off some high precipice. And hence I put it off for a minute or two, and tried for better circumstances to do it in; either I must read a passage or two, or pray first, or something of the like nature; or else put off my submission to God’s sovereignty, with an objection, that I did not know how to submit. But the truth was, I could see no safety in owning myself in the hands of a sovereign God, and that I could lay no claim to any thing better than damnation.

“But after a considerable time spent in such like exercises and distresses, one morning, while I was walking in a solitary place, as usual, I at once saw that all my contrivances and projects to effect or procure deliverance and salvation for myself, were utterly in vain; I was brought quite to a stand, as finding myself totally lost. I had thought many times before, that the difficulties in my way were very great; but now I saw, in another and very different light, that it was for ever impossible for me to do any thing towards helping or delivering myself. I then thought of blaming myself, that I had not done more, and been more engaged, while I had opportunity for it seemed now as if the season of doing was for ever over and gone but I instantly saw, that let me have done what I would, it would no more have tended to my helping myself, than what I had done; that I had made all the pleas I ever could have made to all eternity; and that all my pleas were vain. The tumult that had been before in my mind, was now quieted; and I was something eased of that distress, which I felt, while struggling against a sight of myself, and of the divine sovereignty. I had the greatest certainty that my state was for ever miserable, for all that I could do; and wondered that I had never been sensible of it before.

“While I remained in this state, my notions respecting my duties were quite different from what I had ever entertained in times past. Before this, the more I did in duty, the more hard I thought it would be for God to cast me off; though at the same time I confessed, and thought I saw, that there was no goodness or merit in my duties; but now the more I did in prayer or any other duty, the more I saw I was indebted to God for allowing me to ask for mercy; for I saw it was self-interest had led me to pray, and that I had never once prayed from any respect to the glory of God. Now I saw there was no necessary connexion between my prayers and the bestowment of divine mercy; that they laid not the least obligation upon God to bestow his grace upon me; and that there was no more virtue or goodness in them, than there would be in my paddling with my hand in the water, (which was the comparison I had then in my mind,) and this because they were not performed from any love or regard to God. I saw that I had been heaping up my devotions before God, fasting, praying, &c. pretending, and indeed really thinking sometimes, that I was aiming at the glory of God; whereas I never once truly intended it, but only my own happiness. I saw, that as I had never done any thing for God, I had no claim on any thing from him, but perdition, on account of my hypocrisy and mockery. Oh how different did my duties now appear from what they used to do! I used to charge them with sin and imperfection; but this was only on account of the wanderings and vain thoughts attending them, and not because I had no regard to God in them; for this I thought I had. But when I saw evidently that I had regard to nothing but self-interest, then they appeared a vile mockery of God, self-worship, and a continual course of lies; so that I now saw that something worse had attended my duties, than barely a few wanderings, &c.; for the whole was nothing but self-worship, and a horrid abuse of God.

“I continued, as I remember, in this state of mind, from Friday morning till the sabbath evening following, (July 12, 1739,) when I was walking again in the same solitary place, where I was brought to see myself lost and helpless, as before mentioned. Here, in a mournful melancholy state, I was attempting to pray; but found no heart to engage in that or any other duty; my former concern, exercise, and religious affections were now gone. I thought the Spirit of God had quite left me; but still was not distressed: yet disconsolate, as if there was nothing in heaven or earth could make me happy. Having been thus endeavouring to pray though, as I thought, very stupid and senseless for near half an hour, then, as I was walking in a dark thick grove, unspeakable glory seemed to open to the view and apprehension of my soul. I do not mean any external brightness, for I saw no such thing; nor do I intend any imagination of a body of light, somewhere in the third heavens, or any thing of that nature; but it was a new inward apprehension or view that I had of God, such as I never had before, nor any thing which had the least resemblance of it. I stood still, wondered, and admired! I knew that I never had seen before any thing comparable to it for excellency and beauty; it was widely different from all the conceptions that ever I had of God, or things divine. I had no particular apprehension of any one person in the Trinity, either the Father, the Son, or the Holy Ghost; but it appeared to be divine glory. My soul rejoiced with joy unspeakable, to see such a God, such a glorious Divine Being; and I was inwardly pleased and satisfied that he should be God over all for ever and ever. My soul was so captivated and delighted with the excellency, loveliness, greatness, and other perfections of God, that I was even swallowed up in him; at least to that degree, that I had no thought (as I remember) at first about my own salvation, and scarce reflected there was such a creature as myself.

“Thus God, I trust, brought me to a hearty disposition to exalt him, and set him on the throne, and principally and ultimately to aim at his honour and glory, as King of the universe. I continued in this state of inward joy, peace, and astonishment, till near dark, without any sensible abatement; and then began to think and examine what I had seen; and felt sweetly composed in my mind all the evening following. I felt myself in a new world, and every thing about me appeared with a different aspect from what it was wont to do. At this time, the way of salvation opened to me with such infinite wisdom, suitableness, and excellency, that I wondered I should ever think of any other way of salvation; was amazed that I had not dropped my own contrivances, and complied with this lovely, blessed, and excellent way before. If I could have been saved by my own duties, or any other way that I had formerly contrived, my whole soul would now have refused it. I wondered that all the world did not see and comply with this way of salvation, entirely by the righteousness of Christ.

“The sweet relish of what I then felt, continued with me for several days, almost constantly, in a greater or less degree; I could not but sweetly rejoice in God, lying down and rising up. The next Lord’s day I felt something of the same kind, though not so powerful as before. But not long after I was again involved in thick darkness, and under great distress; yet not of the same kind with my distress under convictions. I was guilty, afraid, and ashamed to come before God; was exceedingly pressed with a sense of guilt: but it was not long before I felt, I trust, true repentance and joy in God. About the latter end of August, I again fell under great darkness; it seemed as if the presence of God was clean gone for ever; though I was not so much distressed about my spiritual state, as I was at my being shut out from God’s presence, as I then sensibly was. But it pleased the Lord to return graciously to me, not long after.

“In the beginning of September I went to college, 353353 Yale college, in New-Haven and entered there; but with some degree of reluctancy, fearing lest I should not be able to lead a life of strict religion, in320the midst of so many temptations. After this, in the vacancy, before I went to tarry at college, it pleased God to visit my soul with clearer manifestations of himself and his grace. I was spending some time in prayer, and self-examination, when the Lord by his grace so shined into my heart, that I enjoyed full assurance of his favour, for that time; and my soul was unspeakably refreshed with divine and heavenly enjoyments. At this time especially, as well as some others, sundry passages of God’s word opened to my soul with divine clearness, power, and sweetness, so as to appear exceeding precious, and with clear and certain evidence of its being the word of God. I enjoyed considerable sweetness in religion all the winter following.

“In Jan. 1740, the measles spread much in college; and I having taken the distemper, went home to Haddam. But some days before I was taken sick, I seemed to be greatly deserted, and my soul mourned the absence of the Comforter exceedingly. It seemed to me all comfort was for ever gone; I prayed and cried to God for help, yet found no present comfort or relief. But through divine goodness, a night or two before I was taken ill, while I was walking alone in a very retired place, and engaged in meditation and prayer, I enjoyed a sweet refreshing visit, as I trust, from above; so that my soul was raised far above the fears of death. Indeed I rather longed for death, than feared it. O how much more refreshing this one season was, than all the pleasures and delights that earth can afford! After a day or two I was taken with the measles, and was very ill indeed, so that I almost despaired of life; but had no distressing fears of death at all. However, through divine goodness I soon recovered; yet, by reason of hard and close studies, and being much exposed on account of my freshmanship, I had but little time for spiritual duties: my soul often mourned for want of more time and opportunity to be alone with God. In the spring and summer following, I had better advantages for retirement, and enjoyed more comfort in religion. Though indeed my ambition in my studies greatly wronged the activity and vigour of my spiritual life; yet this was usually the case with me, that “in the multitude of my thoughts within me, God’s comforts principally delighted my soul;” these were my greatest consolations day by day.

“One day I remember, in particular, (I think it was in June, 1740,) I walked to a considerable distance from the college, in the fields alone at noon, and in prayer found such unspeakable sweetness and delight in God, that I thought, if I must continue still in this evil world, I wanted always to be there, to behold God’s glory. My soul dearly loved all mankind, and longed exceedingly that they should enjoy what I enjoyed. It seemed to be a little resemblance of heaven. On Lord’s day, July 6, being sacrament-day, I found some divine life and spiritual refreshment in that holy ordinance. When I came from the Lord’s table, I wondered how my fellow-students could live as I was sensible most did. Next Lord’s day, July 13, I had some special sweetness in religion. Again, Lord’s day, July 20, my soul was in a sweet and precious frame.

“Some time in August following, I became so weakly and disordered, by too close application to my studies, that I was advised by my tutor to go home, and disengage my mind from study, as much as I could; for I was grown so weak, that I began to spit blood. I took his advice, and endeavoured to lay aside my studies. But being brought very low, I looked death in the face more stedfastly; and the Lord was pleased to give me renewedly a sweet sense and relish of divine things; and particularly, October 13, I found divine help and consolation in the precious duties of secret prayer and self-examination, and my soul took delight in the blessed God: so likewise on the 17th of October.

Saturday, Oct. 18. In my morning devotions, my soul was exceedingly melted, and bitterly mourned over my exceeding sinfulness and vileness. I never before had felt so pungent and deep a sense of the odious nature of sin, as at this time. My soul was then unusually carried forth in love to God, and had a lively sense of God’s love to me. And this love and hope, at that time, cast out fear. Both morning and evening I spent some time in self-examination, to find the truth of grace, as also my fitness to approach to God at his table the next day; and through infinite grace, found the Holy Spirit influencing my soul with love to God, as a witness within myself.

Lords day, Oct. 19. In the morning I felt my soul hungering and thirsting after righteousness. In the forenoon, while I was looking on the sacramental elements, and thinking that Jesus Christ would soon be “set forth crucified before me,” my soul was filled with light and love, so that I was almost in an ecstasy; my body was so weak, I could scarcely stand. I felt at the same time an exceeding tenderness and most fervent love towards all mankind; so that my soul and all the powers of it seemed, as it were, to melt into softness and sweetness. But during the communion, there was some abatement of this life and fervour. This love and joy cast out fear; and my soul longed for perfect grace and glory. This frame continued till the evening, when my soul was sweetly spiritual in secret duties.

Monday, Oct. 20. I again found the assistance of the Holy Spirit in secret duties, both morning and evening, and life and comfort in religion through the whole day. Tuesday, Oct. 21. I had likewise experience of the goodness of God in “shedding abroad his love in my heart,” and giving me delight and consolation in religious duties; and all the remaining part of the week, my soul seemed to be taken up with divine things. I now so longed after God, and to be freed from sin, that when I felt myself recovering, and thought I must return to college again, which had proved so hurtful to my spiritual interest the year past, I could not but be grieved, and I thought I had much rather have died; for it distressed me to think of getting away from God. But before I went, I enjoyed several other sweet and precious seasons of communion with God, (particularly Oct. 30, and Nov. 4,) wherein my soul enjoyed unspeakable comfort.

“I returned to college about Nov. 6, and, through the goodness of God, felt the power of religion almost daily, for the space of six weeks. Nov. 28. In my evening devotion, I enjoyed precious discoveries of God, and was unspeakably refreshed with that passage, Heb. xii. 22-24. My soul longed to wing away for the paradise of God; I longed to be conformed to God in all things. A day or two after, I enjoyed much of the light of God’s countenance, most of the day; and my soul rested in God.

Tuesday, Dec. 9. I was in a comfortable frame of soul most of the day; but especially in evening devotions, when God was pleased wonderfully to assist and strengthen me; so that I thought nothing should ever move me from the love of God in Christ Jesus my Lord. O! one hour with God infinitely exceeds all the pleasures and delights of this lower world.

“Some time towards the latter end of January, 1741, I grew more cold and dull in religion, by means of my old temptation, viz. ambition in my studies. But through divine goodness, a great and general awakening spread itself over the college, about the latter end of February, in which I was much quickened, and more abundantly engaged in religion.”

 

 

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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