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Posts Tagged ‘Grace’

Luke 11:27 free offer – Calvin commentary

June 14, 2011 Comments off

Luk 11:27  And it came to pass, as he spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked.
Luk 11:28  But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.

Luk 11:27 Luk_11:27.Blessed is the womb. By this eulogium the woman intended to magnify the excellence of Christ; for she had no reference to Mary, (154) whom, perhaps, she had never seen. And yet it tends in a high degree to illustrate the glory of Christ, that she pronounces the womb that bore him to be noble and blessed. Nor was the blessing inappropriate, but in strict accordance with the manner of Scripture; for we know that offspring, and particularly when endued with distinguished virtues, is declared to be a remarkable gift of God, preferable to all others. It cannot even be denied that God conferred the highest honor on Mary, by choosing and appointing her to be the mother of his Son. And yet Christ’s reply is so far from assenting to this female voice, that it contains an indirect reproof. Nay, rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God. We see that Christ treats almost as a matter of indifference that point on which the woman had set a high value. And undoubtedly what she supposed to be Mary’s highest honor was far inferior to the other favors which she had received; for it was of vastly greater importance to be regenerated by the Spirit of God than to conceive Christ, according to the flesh, in her womb; to have Christ living spiritually within her than to suckle him with her breasts. In a word, the highest happiness and glory of the holy Virgin consisted in her being a member of his Son, so that the heavenly Father reckoned her in the number of new creatures. In my opinion, however, it was for another reason, and with a view to another object, that Christ now corrected the saying of the woman. It was because men are commonly chargeable with neglecting even those gifts of God, on which they gaze with astonishment, and bestow the highest praise. This woman, in applauding Christ, had left out what was of the very highest consequence, that in him salvation is exhibited to all; and, therefore, it was a feeble commendation, that made no mention of his grace and power, which is extended to all. Christ justly claims for himself another kind of praise, not that his mother alone is reckoned blessed, but that he brings to us all perfect and eternal happiness. We never form a just estimate of the excellence of Christ, till we consider for what purpose he was given to us by the Father, and perceive the benefits which he has brought to us, so that we who are wretched in ourselves may become happy in him. But why does he say nothing about himself, and mention only the word of God? It is because in this way he opens to us all his treasures; for without the word he has no intercourse with us, nor we with him. Communicating himself to us by the word, he rightly and properly calls us to hear and keep it, that by faith he may become ours. We now see the difference between Christ’s reply and the woman’s commendation; for the blessedness, which she had limited to his own relatives, is a favor which he offers freely to all. He shows that we ought to entertain no ordinary esteem for him, because he has all the treasures of life, blessedness, and glory, hidden in him, (Col_2:3,) which he dispenses by the word, that they may be communicated to those who embrace the word by faith; for God’s free adoption of us, which we obtain by faith, is the key to the kingdom of heaven. The connection between the two things must also be observed. We must first hear, and then keep; for as faith cometh by hearing, (Rom_10:17,) it is in this way that the spiritual life must be commenced. Now as the simple hearing is like a transitory looking into a mirror, (155) as James says, (1:23,) he likewise adds, the keeping of the word, which means the effectual reception of it, when it strikes its roots deep into our hearts, and yields its fruit. The forgetful hearer, whose ears alone are struck by the outward doctrine, gains no advantage. On the other hand, they who boast that they are satisfied with the secret inspiration, and on this ground disregard the outward preaching, shut themselves out from the heavenly life. What the Son of God hath joined let not men, with wicked rashness, put asunder, (Mat_19:6.) The Papists discover amazing stupidity by singing, in honor of Mary, those very words by which their superstition is expressly condemned, and who, in giving thanks, detach the woman’s saying, and leave out the correction. (156) But it was proper that such a universal stupefaction should come upon those who intentionally profane, at their pleasure, the sacred word of God.

Christ our righteousness – John Bunyan

January 16, 2011 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 (lacks) 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

Hindrances – JC Philpot

September 28, 2010 Comments off

“To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death; to guide our feet into the way of peace.” Luke 1:79

What was it that moved the divine Father to send his own Son into the world? Was it not the free mercy of God flowing forth from his bosom to his family? Then, what merit, what claim can his family ever have? Their misery is their claim. Their worthlessness, their sunken state, the depth of their fall–these things call forth God’s compassion. It is not what I have done for the glory of God; not what I am doing, or trying to do; not my wisdom, my strength, my resolutions, my piety, my holiness. No; my misery, my helplessness, my worthlessness, my deeply sunken state, my fallen condition; which I feel only because of interest in the blood and love of the Lamb–this it is that makes me need God’s mercy; and this it is that qualifies me to go to God through Jesus to receive mercy: for “he is able to save unto the uttermost all that come unto God by him.” Are you sitting in darkness and the shadow of death–far from the way of peace, troubled, perplexed, exercised, confused? You are the very characters for whom Jesus came. Are not unutterable mercies locked up in the bosom of God for you? What is to exclude you? Your sins? No; God has pardoned them. Your worthlessness? No; there is a robe of righteousness prepared for you. Your demerits? No; the merits of Jesus are upon your side. Your unholiness? No; “He of God is made to you sanctification.” Your ignorance? No; “He of God is made to you wisdom.” These are no barriers. I will tell you what is a barrier–self-righteousness, self-esteem, self-exaltation, pride, hypocrisy, presumption; a name to live, a form of godliness, being settled upon your lees, and at ease in Zion–these are barriers. But helplessness, hopelessness, worthlessness, misery–these are not barriers; they are qualifications; they shew, when felt, that your name is in the book of life, that the Lord of life and glory appeared in this world for you; and sooner or later, you will have the sweet enjoyment of it in your heart; and then be enabled to adore him for his grace, and admire and bless his name for glorifying his love and mercy in your free and full salvation.

JC PHILPOT – 1802-1869

True grace may ebb and flow, but never die – Joseph Caryl

July 18, 2010 Comments off

Job’s complaint ended in the former chapter: in this a hot dispute began. Job having cursed his day, as was indeed a wounding, such as almost at every word, drew blood; and was not only a rod upon his back, but a sword at his heart. Job was wounded first by Satan, he was wounded a second time by his wife, a third time he was wounded (not as it is spoken in the prophet, “in the house of friends, but) in his own house by his friends. these last wounds are judged by all good physicians, in soul afflictions) his deepest and sorest wounds.

Everyone who faileth or declineth or falleth off from what formerly was,or held forth, is therefore an hypocrite or hat his graces are false, and but pretences; there may be many declining’s and failings, many breaches and backsliding’s, and yet the spirit upright. Indeed, falling away and quite falling off, are an argument of insincerity and hypocrisie.; for true grace is everlasting grace, true holiness, endures forever. Therefore we are here to consider whence these failing were occasionined in Job, and how a failing maybe exprest, and continue so, as to conclude insincerity or hypocrisy.

First, it was from a sudden perturbation, not for a settled resolution. Job was not resolvedly thus impatient and unruly: an unexpected storm hurried his spirit so violently, that he was not master of his own actions; Job had not his affections at command, they got the bridle (as it were) on their necks, and away they carried him with such force, that he was not able to stop or stay them.

Secondly, it came from the smart and sense of pain in his flesh, not for the perverseness of his spirit. If the taint had been in his spirit, then Eliphaz, had a ground, a certain ground to have argued thus against him.

Thirdly, Job’s graces were hid and obscured, they were not lose or dead; the acts were suspended, the habits were not removed; when grace which hath been shewed, is quite lost, that grace was nothing but a shew of grace, painted fear, and painted confidence; but in Job’s case there was only a hiding of his graces or a vail cast over them.

Last we must not say, he falls from grace who falleth into sin; nor must it be concluded that he hath no grace who falls into a great sin: it follows not, that grace is false or none, because it doth not work like itself, or because it doth not sometimes work at all. True grace works not always uniformly; though it be always the same in itself, yet is is not always the same in its effects; true grace is always alive, yet it doth not always act, it retains life when motion is undiscerned Wherefore they who not work like themselves, or do not work at all (for a time) in gracious ways, are not to be concluded as having no grace, or nothing but a shew of grace.

Vol 2 Chaptaer 1

Job 33:19-28 – Matthew Henry commentary

June 1, 2010 Comments off
Job 33:19  He is chastened also with pain upon his bed, and the multitude of his bones with strong pain:
Job 33:20  So that his life abhorreth bread, and his soul dainty meat.
Job 33:21  His flesh is consumed away, that it cannot be seen; and his bones that were not seen stick out.
Job 33:22  Yea, his soul draweth near unto the grave, and his life to the destroyers.
Job 33:23  If there be a messenger with him, an interpreter, one among a thousand, to shew unto man his uprightness:
Job 33:24  Then he is gracious unto him, and saith, Deliver him from going down to the pit: I have found a ransom.
Job 33:25  His flesh shall be fresher than a child’s: he shall return to the days of his youth:
Job 33:26  He shall pray unto God, and he will be favourable unto him: and he shall see his face with joy: for he will render unto man his righteousness.
Job 33:27  He looketh upon men, and if any say, I have sinned, and perverted that which was right, and it profited me not;
Job 33:28  He will deliver his soul from going into the pit, and his life shall see the light.
God has spoken once to sinners by their own consciences, to keep them from the paths of the destroyer, but they perceive it not; they are not aware that the checks their own hearts give them in a sinful way are from God, but they are imputed to melancholy or the preciseness of their education; and therefore God speaks twice; he speaks a second time, and tries another way to convince and reclaim sinners, and that is by providences, afflictive and merciful (in which he speaks twice), and by the seasonable instructions of good ministers setting in with them. Job complained much of his diseases and judged by them that God was angry with him; his friends did so too: but Elihu shows that they were all mistaken, for God often afflicts the body in love, and with gracious designs of good to the soul, as appears in the issue. This part of Elihu’s discourse will be of great use to us for the due improvement of sickness, in and by which God speaks to men. Here is,
I. The patient described in his extremity. See what work sickness makes (Job_33:19, etc.) when God sends it with commission. Do this, and doeth it. 1. The sick man is full of pain all over him (Job_33:19): He is chastened with pain upon his bed, such pain as confines him to his bed, or so extreme the pain is that he can get no ease, no, not on his bed, where he would repose himself. Pain and sickness will turn a bed of down into a bed of thorns, on which he that used to sleep now tosses to and fro till the dawning of the day. The case, as here put, is very bad. Pain is borne with more difficulty than sickness, and with that the patient here is chastened, not a dull heavy pain, but strong and acute; and frequently the stronger the patient the stronger the pain, for the more sanguine the complexion is the more violent, commonly, the disease is. It is not the smarting of the flesh that is complained of, but the aching of the bones. It is an inward rooted pain; and not only the bones of one limb, but the multitude of the bones, are thus chastened. See what frail, what vile bodies we have, which, though receiving no external hurt, may be thus pained from causes within themselves. See what work sin makes, what mischief it does. Pain is the fruit of sin; yet, by the grace of God, the pain of the body is often made a means of good to the soul. 2. He has quite lost his appetite, the common effect of sickness (Job_33:20): His life abhorreth bread, the most necessary food, and dainty meat, which he most delighted in, and formerly relished with a great deal of pleasure. This is a good reason why we should not be desirous of dainties, because they are deceitful meat, Pro_23:3. We may be soon made as sick of them as we are now fond of them; and those who live in luxury when they are well, if ever they come, by reason of sickness, to loathe dainty meat, may, with grief and shame, read their sin in their punishment. Let us not inordinately love the taste of meat, for the time may come when we may even loathe the sight of meat, Psa_107:18. 3. He has become a perfect skeleton, nothing but skin and bones, Job_33:21. By sickness, perhaps a few days’ sickness, his flesh, which was fat, and fair, is consumed away, that it cannot be seen; it is strangely wasted and gone: and his bones, which were buried in flesh, now stick out; you may count his ribs, may tell all his bones. The soul that is well nourished with the bread of life sickness will not make lean, but it soon makes a change in the body.
He who, before, had such a beauteous air,
And, pampered with the ease, seemed plump and fair
Doth all his friends (amazing change!) surprise
With pale lean cheeks and ghastly hollow eyes;
His bones (a horrid sight) start through his skin,
Which lay before, in flesh and fat, unseen.
– Sir R. Blackmore
4. He is given up for gone, and his life despaired of (Job_33:22): His soul draws near to the grave, that is, he has all the symptoms of death upon him, and in the apprehension of all about him, as well as in his own, he is a dying man. The pangs of death, here called the destroyers, are just ready to seize him; they compass him about, Psa_116:3. Perhaps it intimates the very dreadful apprehensions which those have of death as a destroying thing, when it stares them in the face, who, when it was at a distance, made light of it. All agree when it comes to the point, whatever they thought of it before, that it is a serious thing to die.
II. The provision made for his instruction, in order to a sanctified use of his affliction, that, when God in that way speaks to man, he may be heard and understood, and not speak in vain, Job_33:23. He is happy if there be a messenger with him to attend him in his sickness, to convince, counsel, and comfort him, an interpreter to expound the providence and give him to understand the meaning of it, a man of wisdom that knows the voice of the rod and its interpretation; for, when God speaks by afflictions, we are frequently so unversed in the language, that we have need of an interpreter, and it is well if we have such a one. The advice and help of a good minister are as needful and seasonable, and should be as acceptable, in sickness, as of a good physician, especially if he be well skilled in the art of explaining and improving providences; he is then one of a thousand, and to be valued accordingly. His business at such a time is to show unto man his uprightness, that is, God’s uprightness, that in faithfulness he afflicts him and does him no wrong, which it is necessary to be convinced of in order to our making a due improvement of the affliction: or, rather, it may mean man’s uprightness, or rectitude. 1. The uprightness that is. If it appear that the sick person is truly pious, the interpreter will not do as Job’s friends had done, make it his business to prove him a hypocrite because he is afflicted, but on the contrary will show him his uprightness, notwithstanding his afflictions, that he may take the comfort of it, and be easy, whatever the event is. 2. The uprightness, the reformation, that should be, in order to life and peace. When men are made to see the way of uprightness to be the only way, and a sure way to salvation, and to choose it, and walk in it accordingly, the work is done.
III. God’s gracious acceptance of him, upon his repentance, Job_33:24. When he sees that the sick person is indeed convinced that sincere repentance, and that uprightness which is gospel perfection, are his interest as well as his duty, then he that waits to be gracious, and shows mercy upon the first indication of true repentance, is gracious unto him, and takes him into his favour and thoughts for good. Wherever God finds a gracious heart he will be found a gracious God; and, 1. He will give a gracious order for his discharge. He says, Deliver him (that is, let him be delivered) from going down to the pit, from that death which is the wages of sin. When afflictions have done their work they shall be removed. When we return to God in a way of duty he will return to us in a way of mercy. Those shall be delivered from going down to the pit who receive God’s messengers, and rightly understand his interpreters, so as to subscribe to his uprightness. 2. He will give a gracious reason for this order: I have found a ransom, or propitiation; Jesus Christ is that ransom, so Elihu calls him, as Job had called him his Redeemer, for he is both the purchaser and the price, the priest and the sacrifice; so high was the value put upon souls that nothing less would redeem them, and so great the injury done by sin that nothing less would atone for it than the blood of the Son of God, who gave his life a ransom for many. This is a ransom of God’s finding, a contrivance of Infinite Wisdom; we could never have found it ourselves, and the angels themselves could never have found it. It is the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom, and such an invention as is and will be the everlasting wonder of those principalities and powers that desire to look into it. Observe how God glories in the invention here, heurēka, heurēka, – “I have found, I have found, the ransom; I, even I, am he that has done it.”
IV. The recovery of the sick man hereupon. Take away the cause and the effect will cease. When the patient becomes a penitent see what a blessed change follows. 1. His body recovers its health, Job_33:25. This is not always the consequence of a sick man’s repentance and return to God, but sometimes it is; and recovery from sickness is a mercy indeed when it arises from the remission of sin; then it is in love to the soul that the body is delivered from the pit of corruption when God casts our sins behind his back, Isa_38:17. That is the method of a blessed recovery. Son, be of good cheer, thy sins be forgiven thee; and then, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk, Mat_9:2, Mat_9:6. So here, interest him in the ransom, and then his flesh shall be fresher than a child’s and there shall be no remains of his distemper, but he shall return to the days of his youth, to the beauty and strength which he had then. When the distemper that oppressed nature is removed how strangely does nature help itself, in which the power and goodness of the God of nature must be thankfully acknowledged! By such merciful providences as these, which afflictions give occasion for, God speaketh once, yea, twice, to the children of men, letting them know (if they would but perceive it) their dependence upon him and his tender compassion of them. 2. His soul recovers it peace, Job_33:26. (1.) The patient, being a penitent, is a supplicant, and has learned to pray. He knows God will be sought unto for his favours, and therefore he shall pray unto God, pray for pardon, pray for health. Is any afflicted, and sick? Let him pray. When he finds himself recovering he shall not then think that prayer is no longer necessary, for we need the grace of God as much for the sanctifying of a mercy as for the sanctifying of an affliction. (2.) His prayers are accepted. God will be favourable to him, and be well pleased with him; his anger shall be turned away from him, and the light of God’s countenance shall shine upon his soul; and then it follows, (3.) That he has the comfort of communion with God. He shall now see the face of God, which before was hid from him, and he shall see it with joy, for what sight can be more reviving? See Gen_33:10, As though I had seen the face of God. All true penitents rejoice more in the returns of God’s favour than in any instance whatsoever of prosperity or pleasure, Psa_4:6, Psa_4:7. (4.) He has a blessed tranquility of mind, arising from the sense of his justification before God, who will render unto this man his righteousness. He shall receive the atonement, that is, the comfort of it, Rom_5:11. Righteousness shall be imputed to him, and peace thereupon spoken, the joy and gladness of which he shall then be made to hear though he could not hear them in the day of his affliction. God will now deal with him as a righteous man, with whom it shall be well. He shall receive the blessing from the Lord, even righteousness, Psa_24:5. God shall give him grace to go and sin no more. Perhaps this may denote the reformation of his life after his recovery. As he shall pray unto God, whom before he had slighted, so he shall render to man his righteousness, whom before he had wronged, shall make restitution, and for the future do justly.
V. The general rule which God will go by in dealing with the children of men inferred from this instance, Job_33:27, Job_33:28. As sick people, upon their submission, are restored, so all others that truly repent of their sins shall find mercy with God. See here, 1. What sin is, and what reason we have not to sin. Would we know the nature of sin and the malignity of it? It is the perverting of that which is right; it is a most unjust unreasonable thing; it is the rebellion of the creature against the Creator, the usurped dominion of the flesh over the spirit, and a contradiction to the eternal rules and reasons of good and evil. It is perverting the right ways of the Lord (Act_13:10), and therefore the ways of sin are called crooked ways, Psa_125:5. Would we know what is to be got by sin? It profiteth us not. The works of darkness are unfruitful works. When profit and loss come to be balanced all the gains of sin, put them all together, will come far short of countervailing the damage. All true penitents are ready to own this, and it is a mortifying consideration. Rom_6:21, What fruit had you then in those things whereof you are now ashamed? 2. See what repentance is, and what reason we have to repent. Would we approve ourselves true penitents? We must then, with a broken and contrite heart, confess our sins to God, 1Jo_1:9. We must confess the fact of sin (I have sinned) and not deny the charge, or stand upon our own justification; we must confess the fault of sin, the iniquity, the dishonesty of it ( have perverted that which was right); we must confess the folly of sin – “so foolish have I been and ignorant, for it profited me not; and therefore what have I to do any more with it?” Is there not good reason why we should make such a penitent confession as this? For, (1.) God expect it. He looks upon men, when they have sinned, to see what they will do next, whether they will go on in it or whether they will bethink themselves and return. He hearkens and hears whether any say, What have I done? Jer_8:6. He looks upon sinners with an eye of compassion, desiring to hear this from them; for he has no pleasure in their ruin. He looks upon them, and, as soon as he perceives these workings of repentance in them, he encourages them and is ready to accept them (Psa_32:5, Psa_32:6), as the father went forth to meet the returning prodigal. (2.) It will turn to our unspeakable advantage. The promise is general. If any humble himself thus, whoever he be, [1.] He shall not come into condemnation, but be saved from the wrath to come: He shall deliver his soul from going into the pit, the pit of hell; iniquity shall not be his ruin. [2.] He shall be happy in everlasting life and joy: His life shall see the light, that is, all good, in the vision and fruition of God. To obtain this bliss, if the prophet had bidden us do some great thing, would we not have done it? How much more when he only says unto us, Wash and be clean, confess and be pardoned, repent and be saved?

Job 33:19-28  God has spoken once to sinners by their own consciences, to keep them from the paths of the destroyer, but they perceive it not; they are not aware that the checks their own hearts give them in a sinful way are from God, but they are imputed to melancholy or the preciseness of their education; and therefore God speaks twice; he speaks a second time, and tries another way to convince and reclaim sinners, and that is by providences, afflictive and merciful (in which he speaks twice), and by the seasonable instructions of good ministers setting in with them. Job complained much of his diseases and judged by them that God was angry with him; his friends did so too: but Elihu shows that they were all mistaken, for God often afflicts the body in love, and with gracious designs of good to the soul, as appears in the issue. This part of Elihu’s discourse will be of great use to us for the due improvement of sickness, in and by which God speaks to men. Here is,I. The patient described in his extremity. See what work sickness makes (Job_33:19, etc.) when God sends it with commission. Do this, and doeth it. 1. The sick man is full of pain all over him (Job_33:19): He is chastened with pain upon his bed, such pain as confines him to his bed, or so extreme the pain is that he can get no ease, no, not on his bed, where he would repose himself. Pain and sickness will turn a bed of down into a bed of thorns, on which he that used to sleep now tosses to and fro till the dawning of the day. The case, as here put, is very bad. Pain is borne with more difficulty than sickness, and with that the patient here is chastened, not a dull heavy pain, but strong and acute; and frequently the stronger the patient the stronger the pain, for the more sanguine the complexion is the more violent, commonly, the disease is. It is not the smarting of the flesh that is complained of, but the aching of the bones. It is an inward rooted pain; and not only the bones of one limb, but the multitude of the bones, are thus chastened. See what frail, what vile bodies we have, which, though receiving no external hurt, may be thus pained from causes within themselves. See what work sin makes, what mischief it does. Pain is the fruit of sin; yet, by the grace of God, the pain of the body is often made a means of good to the soul. 2. He has quite lost his appetite, the common effect of sickness (Job_33:20): His life abhorreth bread, the most necessary food, and dainty meat, which he most delighted in, and formerly relished with a great deal of pleasure. This is a good reason why we should not be desirous of dainties, because they are deceitful meat, Pro_23:3. We may be soon made as sick of them as we are now fond of them; and those who live in luxury when they are well, if ever they come, by reason of sickness, to loathe dainty meat, may, with grief and shame, read their sin in their punishment. Let us not inordinately love the taste of meat, for the time may come when we may even loathe the sight of meat, Psa_107:18. 3. He has become a perfect skeleton, nothing but skin and bones, Job_33:21. By sickness, perhaps a few days’ sickness, his flesh, which was fat, and fair, is consumed away, that it cannot be seen; it is strangely wasted and gone: and his bones, which were buried in flesh, now stick out; you may count his ribs, may tell all his bones. The soul that is well nourished with the bread of life sickness will not make lean, but it soon makes a change in the body.He who, before, had such a beauteous air,And, pampered with the ease, seemed plump and fairDoth all his friends (amazing change!) surpriseWith pale lean cheeks and ghastly hollow eyes;His bones (a horrid sight) start through his skin,Which lay before, in flesh and fat, unseen. – Sir R. Blackmore4. He is given up for gone, and his life despaired of (Job_33:22): His soul draws near to the grave, that is, he has all the symptoms of death upon him, and in the apprehension of all about him, as well as in his own, he is a dying man. The pangs of death, here called the destroyers, are just ready to seize him; they compass him about, Psa_116:3. Perhaps it intimates the very dreadful apprehensions which those have of death as a destroying thing, when it stares them in the face, who, when it was at a distance, made light of it. All agree when it comes to the point, whatever they thought of it before, that it is a serious thing to die.II. The provision made for his instruction, in order to a sanctified use of his affliction, that, when God in that way speaks to man, he may be heard and understood, and not speak in vain, Job_33:23. He is happy if there be a messenger with him to attend him in his sickness, to convince, counsel, and comfort him, an interpreter to expound the providence and give him to understand the meaning of it, a man of wisdom that knows the voice of the rod and its interpretation; for, when God speaks by afflictions, we are frequently so unversed in the language, that we have need of an interpreter, and it is well if we have such a one. The advice and help of a good minister are as needful and seasonable, and should be as acceptable, in sickness, as of a good physician, especially if he be well skilled in the art of explaining and improving providences; he is then one of a thousand, and to be valued accordingly. His business at such a time is to show unto man his uprightness, that is, God’s uprightness, that in faithfulness he afflicts him and does him no wrong, which it is necessary to be convinced of in order to our making a due improvement of the affliction: or, rather, it may mean man’s uprightness, or rectitude. 1. The uprightness that is. If it appear that the sick person is truly pious, the interpreter will not do as Job’s friends had done, make it his business to prove him a hypocrite because he is afflicted, but on the contrary will show him his uprightness, notwithstanding his afflictions, that he may take the comfort of it, and be easy, whatever the event is. 2. The uprightness, the reformation, that should be, in order to life and peace. When men are made to see the way of uprightness to be the only way, and a sure way to salvation, and to choose it, and walk in it accordingly, the work is done.III. God’s gracious acceptance of him, upon his repentance, Job_33:24. When he sees that the sick person is indeed convinced that sincere repentance, and that uprightness which is gospel perfection, are his interest as well as his duty, then he that waits to be gracious, and shows mercy upon the first indication of true repentance, is gracious unto him, and takes him into his favour and thoughts for good. Wherever God finds a gracious heart he will be found a gracious God; and, 1. He will give a gracious order for his discharge. He says, Deliver him (that is, let him be delivered) from going down to the pit, from that death which is the wages of sin. When afflictions have done their work they shall be removed. When we return to God in a way of duty he will return to us in a way of mercy. Those shall be delivered from going down to the pit who receive God’s messengers, and rightly understand his interpreters, so as to subscribe to his uprightness. 2. He will give a gracious reason for this order: I have found a ransom, or propitiation; Jesus Christ is that ransom, so Elihu calls him, as Job had called him his Redeemer, for he is both the purchaser and the price, the priest and the sacrifice; so high was the value put upon souls that nothing less would redeem them, and so great the injury done by sin that nothing less would atone for it than the blood of the Son of God, who gave his life a ransom for many. This is a ransom of God’s finding, a contrivance of Infinite Wisdom; we could never have found it ourselves, and the angels themselves could never have found it. It is the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom, and such an invention as is and will be the everlasting wonder of those principalities and powers that desire to look into it. Observe how God glories in the invention here, heurēka, heurēka, – “I have found, I have found, the ransom; I, even I, am he that has done it.”IV. The recovery of the sick man hereupon. Take away the cause and the effect will cease. When the patient becomes a penitent see what a blessed change follows. 1. His body recovers its health, Job_33:25. This is not always the consequence of a sick man’s repentance and return to God, but sometimes it is; and recovery from sickness is a mercy indeed when it arises from the remission of sin; then it is in love to the soul that the body is delivered from the pit of corruption when God casts our sins behind his back, Isa_38:17. That is the method of a blessed recovery. Son, be of good cheer, thy sins be forgiven thee; and then, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk, Mat_9:2, Mat_9:6. So here, interest him in the ransom, and then his flesh shall be fresher than a child’s and there shall be no remains of his distemper, but he shall return to the days of his youth, to the beauty and strength which he had then. When the distemper that oppressed nature is removed how strangely does nature help itself, in which the power and goodness of the God of nature must be thankfully acknowledged! By such merciful providences as these, which afflictions give occasion for, God speaketh once, yea, twice, to the children of men, letting them know (if they would but perceive it) their dependence upon him and his tender compassion of them. 2. His soul recovers it peace, Job_33:26. (1.) The patient, being a penitent, is a supplicant, and has learned to pray. He knows God will be sought unto for his favours, and therefore he shall pray unto God, pray for pardon, pray for health. Is any afflicted, and sick? Let him pray. When he finds himself recovering he shall not then think that prayer is no longer necessary, for we need the grace of God as much for the sanctifying of a mercy as for the sanctifying of an affliction. (2.) His prayers are accepted. God will be favourable to him, and be well pleased with him; his anger shall be turned away from him, and the light of God’s countenance shall shine upon his soul; and then it follows, (3.) That he has the comfort of communion with God. He shall now see the face of God, which before was hid from him, and he shall see it with joy, for what sight can be more reviving? See Gen_33:10, As though I had seen the face of God. All true penitents rejoice more in the returns of God’s favour than in any instance whatsoever of prosperity or pleasure, Psa_4:6, Psa_4:7. (4.) He has a blessed tranquility of mind, arising from the sense of his justification before God, who will render unto this man his righteousness. He shall receive the atonement, that is, the comfort of it, Rom_5:11. Righteousness shall be imputed to him, and peace thereupon spoken, the joy and gladness of which he shall then be made to hear though he could not hear them in the day of his affliction. God will now deal with him as a righteous man, with whom it shall be well. He shall receive the blessing from the Lord, even righteousness, Psa_24:5. God shall give him grace to go and sin no more. Perhaps this may denote the reformation of his life after his recovery. As he shall pray unto God, whom before he had slighted, so he shall render to man his righteousness, whom before he had wronged, shall make restitution, and for the future do justly.V. The general rule which God will go by in dealing with the children of men inferred from this instance, Job_33:27, Job_33:28. As sick people, upon their submission, are restored, so all others that truly repent of their sins shall find mercy with God. See here, 1. What sin is, and what reason we have not to sin. Would we know the nature of sin and the malignity of it? It is the perverting of that which is right; it is a most unjust unreasonable thing; it is the rebellion of the creature against the Creator, the usurped dominion of the flesh over the spirit, and a contradiction to the eternal rules and reasons of good and evil. It is perverting the right ways of the Lord (Act_13:10), and therefore the ways of sin are called crooked ways, Psa_125:5. Would we know what is to be got by sin? It profiteth us not. The works of darkness are unfruitful works. When profit and loss come to be balanced all the gains of sin, put them all together, will come far short of countervailing the damage. All true penitents are ready to own this, and it is a mortifying consideration. Rom_6:21, What fruit had you then in those things whereof you are now ashamed? 2. See what repentance is, and what reason we have to repent. Would we approve ourselves true penitents? We must then, with a broken and contrite heart, confess our sins to God, 1Jo_1:9. We must confess the fact of sin (I have sinned) and not deny the charge, or stand upon our own justification; we must confess the fault of sin, the iniquity, the dishonesty of it ( have perverted that which was right); we must confess the folly of sin – “so foolish have I been and ignorant, for it profited me not; and therefore what have I to do any more with it?” Is there not good reason why we should make such a penitent confession as this? For, (1.) God expect it. He looks upon men, when they have sinned, to see what they will do next, whether they will go on in it or whether they will bethink themselves and return. He hearkens and hears whether any say, What have I done? Jer_8:6. He looks upon sinners with an eye of compassion, desiring to hear this from them; for he has no pleasure in their ruin. He looks upon them, and, as soon as he perceives these workings of repentance in them, he encourages them and is ready to accept them (Psa_32:5, Psa_32:6), as the father went forth to meet the returning prodigal. (2.) It will turn to our unspeakable advantage. The promise is general. If any humble himself thus, whoever he be, [1.] He shall not come into condemnation, but be saved from the wrath to come: He shall deliver his soul from going into the pit, the pit of hell; iniquity shall not be his ruin. [2.] He shall be happy in everlasting life and joy: His life shall see the light, that is, all good, in the vision and fruition of God. To obtain this bliss, if the prophet had bidden us do some great thing, would we not have done it? How much more when he only says unto us, Wash and be clean, confess and be pardoned, repent and be saved?

Weak measures of grace in Christians

December 27, 2009 Comments off

by Christopher Love

“Because in him there is found some good thing toward the Lord God of Israel, in the house of Jeroboam.” 1 Kings 14:13

Having dispatched the observations which may be gathered from the circumstances of the text, I come to the main doctrine I intend to handle: God not only exactly takes notice of, but also tenderly cherishes and graciously rewards, the smallest beginnings and weakest measures of grace which He works in the hearts of His own people.

I might produce a cloud of testimonies to confirm this point. Our Savior Christ said that He will not “break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax” (Matthew 12:20). Observe, the bruised reed shall not be broken; not the light and flaming torch, but the smoking flax shall not be quenched. Smoking flax, where there is but little fire, and much smoke of infirmity, yet Christ will not quench it. He will cherish it. Here less is spoken than is intended. He will be so far from quenching that He will cherish the smoking flax, as in another place God says that He “will not despise a broken heart” (Psalm 51:17). Rather, He will highly esteem it.

Solomon speaks of the fig tree putting forth her green figs, and the vine with her tender grapes giving a good smell. That is, the little measure and weak beginnings of grace in young converts please the Lord Jesus Christ, and are as a sweet smell in His nostrils. Again, Christ said, “Let us see if the vine flourish, whether the tender grapes appear, and the pomegranate bud forth” (Song of Solomon 7:12). The green buds are regarded by Christ as well as the ripe and grown fruit.

In opening the doctrine, I shall endeavor to show these two things: Some of God people have but weak measures and small beginnings of grace. But second, though there is but a little grace, yet God will regard and reward it.

First, some of God’s people have but a little grace~ they have but the beginnings of grace wrought in their souls. In the handling of this there are three things: The truth of the proposition may be made good from the Scriptures. I will lay down notes of discovery to such as have but small measures of grace wrought in them.

And then I will show why God in His wisdom will not suffer His people to be all of an equal strength and stature in grace.

QUESTION. How does it appear that some of God’s people are but weak in grace?

ANSWER 1. By the different names and titles that are given unto Christians in the Holy Scriptures, arguing they are of different measure and growth in grace. Some are called strong men and others weak. Some are called babes in Christ and others grown men. Some are called trees of righteousness, plants of renown, that grow like cedars in Lebanon, and others are but a bruised reed. Some are kids in Christ’s flock and lambs. Others are as the he-goats, that go stately before the flock. Some have grace flaming forth in much zeal and vivacity; they have the spirit of burning; and others are but “smoking flax,” Christians who have much of the smoke of infirmity and but little of the flame of grace.

ANSWER 2. By the analogy that is between spiritual and natural differences of age, strength, and stature in man. The holy Scripture exactly sets down all the different degrees of grace under the similitude of the different ages of men. There is a forming of Christ in the heart, and so a spiritual conception. There are some who are but newborn babes in Christ.

There are some who are advanced from infancy to be young men. There are some who are grown men in Christ, old men. And all this but sets forth the different degrees of grace that are in Christians, some having less and some more.

In the church of Christ, which is His orchard, there are trees of all sorts, spikenard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense, myrrh and aloes (see Song of Solomon 4:14). [Daniel] Brightman, commenting on this Scripture, notes that hereby is meant the several sorts of Christians. Spikenard and saffron are young, weak professors; these are tender plants that scarcely lift up the head above the ground. Calamus and cinnamon, which are shrubs of two cubits high, denote Christians of a middle size; and the other trees denote Christians of a more eminent measure, and growth in grace.

QUESTION. How may a man know himself that he is but of a little measure, and small beginning in grace?

ANSWER 1. To be much in dependence on duties argues you are but weak in grace. A young Christian is like a young carpenter: he makes many chips, and has many blows, but does not make such smooth work as an experienced carpenter, who will make fewer chips, and at fewer blows better work. So young children are much in the use of duty, but they are apt to rely upon duty. They think duties make them saints, and they are apt to make saviors of their duties and be frequent in their duties. They see not their failings in their duties, and so are apt to rest on their duties. As it is a sign of an apostate professor to call off duty, so it is also a note of a young and weak professor to rest too much upon his duties.

ANSWER 2. A weak Christian does not have clear insight into the close and spiritual failings which cleave to his performances. He sees his gifts, and takes notice of his affections, but he does not see the vanity of his mind, the unsoundness of his ends, his carnal dependence upon his duty, self-love, and vainglory, but in the course of time, a grown Christian takes notice of these things in himself. An experienced Christian will take as much notice of his failing in duty as of his ability in it; and though he discerns an enlargement of gifts and graces in himself at times, yet he still discerns much spiritual pride, popular applause, ostentation of gifts, and too much forwardness in setting out his parts, which a weak Christian seldom perceives.

ANSWER 3. To have a scrupulous conscience about matters of indifference argues a weak Christian; for so the Apostle calls them “weak in the faith,” such as bound conscience when the Scripture left it free. One believer thought he might eat anything, and another doubted the lawfulness of eating sundry things. Now those who doubted, the Apostle called weak; and the weak conscience is apt to be defiled. Not to know our liberty, and to abuse our liberty, is an argument we have but little grace. Young converts call more things sins than ever God did; they perplex and entangle themselves merely in indifferent things. It is true, there ought to be a conscientious tenderness in all Christians; tenderness of conscience is our duty, but a tormenting, entangling scrupulosity is our infirmity. And yet, as a weak Christian is better than no Christian, a weak faith is better than a seared conscience.

ANSWER 4. To be so intently set on the exercises of religion, as to neglect our particular callings is a sign we are but weak in grace. It was a good saying of that famous man of God, Dr. [Richard] Sibbes: “I like that Christian well that will hear much and live much, that will pray much and work much.” In young converts the affections are strong and stirring, and they think they can never hear enough. Many times they neglect the duties of their callings, which argues their weakness and infirmity. An experienced, grown Christian is regular in his general and particular callings, so that the one shall not jostle and hinder the others.

ANSWER 5. To have men’s persons in admiration argues weakness in grace. Such were the Corinthians. The Apostle called them children, babes; though they had the life of Christians, yet they had but little of the strength of Christians. They were carnal; they favored the flesh more than the Spirit. Ignorance is often a cause of admiration. Weak Christians who have but little knowledge are apt to be so taken with men’s persons that one cries, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” and so they fall into sin, condemned of combining the faith of Christ with respect of persons, so as to cry up one minister and cry down others. To idolize some, and to despise others, argues that you are in weak faith. A solid Christian loves all good ministers and can condemn none.

ANSWER 6. To be easily seduced and led away into error argues weakness in grace. The Apostle Paul calls those children who are “tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine” (Ephesians 4:14). Weakness of head argues that grace is not very strong in your heart. The way not to fall from our steadfastness is to grow in grace, for the Apostle Peter joins these two duties together. Having given caution in 2 Peter 3:17 “not to fall from steadfastness,” in verse 18 he gives counsel “to grow in grace.” Strong Christians are steadfast, whereas weak ones are inconstant; and therefore, as for those professors who have been whirled about with divers opinions, it is an evidence they have but weak grace, if any.

ANSWER 7. Such as are only acquainted with the common principles of religion, without further search into the depths and mysteries of religion, are weak in grace. There are some professors who may be fitly called babes in Christ because they need milk, being unskillful in the word of righteousness, that is, in the more solid doctrines of the gospel concerning Christ who is our righteousness. Thus the disciples and apostles of Christ knew but little of our redemption at first, and were ignorant concerning the passion of Christ of the resurrection, as also of the affection of Christ till the Holy Ghost came and taught them these things, and brought those things to remembrance that Christ had taught them.

ANSWER 8. Weak Christians are strong in affections and not in judgment; they have usually more heat than light. Young Christians are like young horses: they have much mettle, but are not so fit for a journey because they are not so thoroughly trained. There are many Christians who have much zeal and affection, but are not solid in their judgment. This argues much weakness in grace.

ANSWER 9. A weak Christian is one who cannot bear reproof. Sharp weather discovers whether you are of a weak or sound body. So a sharp reproof will discover whether you are of a weak spiritual temper and constitution. When Nathan came to David, he could bear the reproof though the prophet told him to his face that he was the man who had sinned. Asa, though a good man, could not endure the faithful reproof of a prophet, but was wroth with the seer and put him in the prison house.

ANSWER 10. A weak believer is one who can trust God for his soul, but not for his body. So Jesus Christ argued of those who had little faith, who expected heaven and happiness from God their Father, and trusted Him with their souls and eternal concerns, and yet dared not trust Him for food and raiment. There are those who dare trust God for heaven, and yet do not trust Him for earth, but these are of little faith. When the disciples wanted bread, they began to reason among themselves how they should be supplied. “O ye of little faith,” said Christ, “why do you thus reason? Can you trust Me for the bread of eternal life, and dare you not trust Me for the bread of this life?”

Be not then discouraged, you who discern in yourselves but small measures of grace; look on your wants and imperfections so as to grow in grace, and not to be content with any measure, but look not on the small beginnings in grace as discouragement to you. When you see a great oak in a field, you may say this great tree was once but a small acorn. Those Christians who now are but small sprigs may hereafter be tall cedars. Say to your soul, “Though I am but weak, yet I shall be strong.” Grace, where it is true, will be growing; the smoking flax may be a burning and shining lamp in God s candlestick. And therefore, as you may not be content with the greatest measure of grace, so neither be discouraged with the least measure of grace. A grain of mustard seed may grow a great tree. Content not yourselves with small measures of grace. A little of the world will not content you. In the womb a foot contents us, three feet in the cradle, and seven feet in the grave. But between the cradle and the grave, a whole world will not content us; and shall a little grace content us? For wealth and desire of it, you are as the horse leech that cries, “Give, give,” and as the grave that never says, “It is enough,” and for grace, will you be content with a little?

Source

Weak Measures of Grace in Christians
by Christopher Love

“Because in him there is found some good thing toward the Lord God of Israel, in the house of Jeroboam.” 1 Kings 14:13

Having dispatched the observations which may be gathered from the circumstances of the text, I come to the main doctrine I intend to handle: God not only exactly takes notice of, but also tenderly cherishes and graciously rewards, the smallest beginnings and weakest measures of grace which He works in the hearts of His own people.

I might produce a cloud of testimonies to confirm this point. Our Savior Christ said that He will not “break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax” (Matthew 12:20). Observe, the bruised reed shall not be broken; not the light and flaming torch, but the smoking flax shall not be quenched. Smoking flax, where there is but little fire, and much smoke of infirmity, yet Christ will not quench it. He will cherish it. Here less is spoken than is intended. He will be so far from quenching that He will cherish the smoking flax, as in another place God says that He “will not despise a broken heart” (Psalm 51:17). Rather, He will highly esteem it.

Solomon speaks of the fig tree putting forth her green figs, and the vine with her tender grapes giving a good smell. That is, the little measure and weak beginnings of grace in young converts please the Lord Jesus Christ, and are as a sweet smell in His nostrils. Again, Christ said, “Let us see if the vine flourish, whether the tender grapes appear, and the pomegranate bud forth” (Song of Solomon 7:12). The green buds are regarded by Christ as well as the ripe and grown fruit.

In opening the doctrine, I shall endeavor to show these two things: Some of God people have but weak measures and small beginnings of grace. But second, though there is but a little grace, yet God will regard and reward it.

First, some of God’s people have but a little grace~ they have but the beginnings of grace wrought in their souls. In the handling of this there are three things: The truth of the proposition may be made good from the Scriptures. I will lay down notes of discovery to such as have but small measures of grace wrought in them.

And then I will show why God in His wisdom will not suffer His people to be all of an equal strength and stature in grace.

QUESTION. How does it appear that some of God’s people are but weak in grace?

ANSWER 1. By the different names and titles that are given unto Christians in the Holy Scriptures, arguing they are of different measure and growth in grace. Some are called strong men and others weak. Some are called babes in Christ and others grown men. Some are called trees of righteousness, plants of renown, that grow like cedars in Lebanon, and others are but a bruised reed. Some are kids in Christ’s flock and lambs. Others are as the he-goats, that go stately before the flock. Some have grace flaming forth in much zeal and vivacity; they have the spirit of burning; and others are but “smoking flax,” Christians who have much of the smoke of infirmity and but little of the flame of grace.

ANSWER 2. By the analogy that is between spiritual and natural differences of age, strength, and stature in man. The holy Scripture exactly sets down all the different degrees of grace under the similitude of the different ages of men. There is a forming of Christ in the heart, and so a spiritual conception. There are some who are but newborn babes in Christ.

There are some who are advanced from infancy to be young men. There are some who are grown men in Christ, old men. And all this but sets forth the different degrees of grace that are in Christians, some having less and some more.

In the church of Christ, which is His orchard, there are trees of all sorts, spikenard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense, myrrh and aloes (see Song of Solomon 4:14). [Daniel] Brightman, commenting on this Scripture, notes that hereby is meant the several sorts of Christians. Spikenard and saffron are young, weak professors; these are tender plants that scarcely lift up the head above the ground. Calamus and cinnamon, which are shrubs of two cubits high, denote Christians of a middle size; and the other trees denote Christians of a more eminent measure, and growth in grace.

QUESTION. How may a man know himself that he is but of a little measure, and small beginning in grace?

ANSWER 1. To be much in dependence on duties argues you are but weak in grace. A young Christian is like a young carpenter: he makes many chips, and has many blows, but does not make such smooth work as an experienced carpenter, who will make fewer chips, and at fewer blows better work. So young children are much in the use of duty, but they are apt to rely upon duty. They think duties make them saints, and they are apt to make saviors of their duties and be frequent in their duties. They see not their failings in their duties, and so are apt to rest on their duties. As it is a sign of an apostate professor to call off duty, so it is also a note of a young and weak professor to rest too much upon his duties.

ANSWER 2. A weak Christian does not have clear insight into the close and spiritual failings which cleave to his performances. He sees his gifts, and takes notice of his affections, but he does not see the vanity of his mind, the unsoundness of his ends, his carnal dependence upon his duty, self-love, and vainglory, but in the course of time, a grown Christian takes notice of these things in himself. An experienced Christian will take as much notice of his failing in duty as of his ability in it; and though he discerns an enlargement of gifts and graces in himself at times, yet he still discerns much spiritual pride, popular applause, ostentation of gifts, and too much forwardness in setting out his parts, which a weak Christian seldom perceives.

ANSWER 3. To have a scrupulous conscience about matters of indifference argues a weak Christian; for so the Apostle calls them “weak in the faith,” such as bound conscience when the Scripture left it free. One believer thought he might eat anything, and another doubted the lawfulness of eating sundry things. Now those who doubted, the Apostle called weak; and the weak conscience is apt to be defiled. Not to know our liberty, and to abuse our liberty, is an argument we have but little grace. Young converts call more things sins than ever God did; they perplex and entangle themselves merely in indifferent things. It is true, there ought to be a conscientious tenderness in all Christians; tenderness of conscience is our duty, but a tormenting, entangling scrupulosity is our infirmity. And yet, as a weak Christian is better than no Christian, a weak faith is better than a seared conscience.

ANSWER 4. To be so intently set on the exercises of religion, as to neglect our particular callings is a sign we are but weak in grace. It was a good saying of that famous man of God, Dr. [Richard] Sibbes: “I like that Christian well that will hear much and live much, that will pray much and work much.” In young converts the affections are strong and stirring, and they think they can never hear enough. Many times they neglect the duties of their callings, which argues their weakness and infirmity. An experienced, grown Christian is regular in his general and particular callings, so that the one shall not jostle and hinder the others.

ANSWER 5. To have men’s persons in admiration argues weakness in grace. Such were the Corinthians. The Apostle called them children, babes; though they had the life of Christians, yet they had but little of the strength of Christians. They were carnal; they favored the flesh more than the Spirit. Ignorance is often a cause of admiration. Weak Christians who have but little knowledge are apt to be so taken with men’s persons that one cries, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” and so they fall into sin, condemned of combining the faith of Christ with respect of persons, so as to cry up one minister and cry down others. To idolize some, and to despise others, argues that you are in weak faith. A solid Christian loves all good ministers and can condemn none.

ANSWER 6. To be easily seduced and led away into error argues weakness in grace. The Apostle Paul calls those children who are “tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine” (Ephesians 4:14). Weakness of head argues that grace is not very strong in your heart. The way not to fall from our steadfastness is to grow in grace, for the Apostle Peter joins these two duties together. Having given caution in 2 Peter 3:17 “not to fall from steadfastness,” in verse 18 he gives counsel “to grow in grace.” Strong Christians are steadfast, whereas weak ones are inconstant; and therefore, as for those professors who have been whirled about with divers opinions, it is an evidence they have but weak grace, if any.

ANSWER 7. Such as are only acquainted with the common principles of religion, without further search into the depths and mysteries of religion, are weak in grace. There are some professors who may be fitly called babes in Christ because they need milk, being unskillful in the word of righteousness, that is, in the more solid doctrines of the gospel concerning Christ who is our righteousness. Thus the disciples and apostles of Christ knew but little of our redemption at first, and were ignorant concerning the passion of Christ of the resurrection, as also of the affection of Christ till the Holy Ghost came and taught them these things, and brought those things to remembrance that Christ had taught them.

ANSWER 8. Weak Christians are strong in affections and not in judgment; they have usually more heat than light. Young Christians are like young horses: they have much mettle, but are not so fit for a journey because they are not so thoroughly trained. There are many Christians who have much zeal and affection, but are not solid in their judgment. This argues much weakness in grace.

ANSWER 9. A weak Christian is one who cannot bear reproof. Sharp weather discovers whether you are of a weak or sound body. So a sharp reproof will discover whether you are of a weak spiritual temper and constitution. When Nathan came to David, he could bear the reproof though the prophet told him to his face that he was the man who had sinned. Asa, though a good man, could not endure the faithful reproof of a prophet, but was wroth with the seer and put him in the prison house.

ANSWER 10. A weak believer is one who can trust God for his soul, but not for his body. So Jesus Christ argued of those who had little faith, who expected heaven and happiness from God their Father, and trusted Him with their souls and eternal concerns, and yet dared not trust Him for food and raiment. There are those who dare trust God for heaven, and yet do not trust Him for earth, but these are of little faith. When the disciples wanted bread, they began to reason among themselves how they should be supplied. “O ye of little faith,” said Christ, “why do you thus reason? Can you trust Me for the bread of eternal life, and dare you not trust Me for the bread of this life?”

Be not then discouraged, you who discern in yourselves but small measures of grace; look on your wants and imperfections so as to grow in grace, and not to be content with any measure, but look not on the small beginnings in grace as discouragement to you. When you see a great oak in a field, you may say this great tree was once but a small acorn. Those Christians who now are but small sprigs may hereafter be tall cedars. Say to your soul, “Though I am but weak, yet I shall be strong.” Grace, where it is true, will be growing; the smoking flax may be a burning and shining lamp in God s candlestick. And therefore, as you may not be content with the greatest measure of grace, so neither be discouraged with the least measure of grace. A grain of mustard seed may grow a great tree. Content not yourselves with small measures of grace. A little of the world will not content you. In the womb a foot contents us, three feet in the cradle, and seven feet in the grave. But between the cradle and the grave, a whole world will not content us; and shall a little grace content us? For wealth and desire of it, you are as the horse leech that cries, “Give, give,” and as the grave that never says, “It is enough,” and for grace, will you be content with a little?

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