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What concern have we in the sins of the day wherein we live? – John Owen

March 27, 2011 Comments off

Discourse III

Question. What concern have we in the sins of the day wherein we live?

Answer. All sins may be referred to two heads:— First, Irreligion. Secondly, Immorality.

First. Irreligion; and that may be reduced to two heads, — atheism and false worship: you may add, also, particularly, the contempt of all instituted worship. It takes up much of the sins against the first table; however, at present I shall only speak of the first of them:— As to atheism, then, it may be no age can parallel that wherein we live, considering all the ways whereby the atheism of man’s heart may discover itself. For, take it absolutely, and in the seat of it, it is found only in the heart of man; unless some one or other prodigious instance breaks out sometime, as we have had in our days: but otherwise, “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.” The heart is the seat of atheism. But we consider the ways whereby this atheism may and doth manifest itself:—

(1.) By horrid, cursed, blasphemous swearing; which is a contempt of the name of God. And when did it ever more abound in this nation?

2.) By reproaching of the Spirit of God. Perhaps this is the peculiar sin of the nation at this day; and that the like hath not been known or heard of in any nation under the sun.

(3.) By scoffing at all holy things; — at the Scriptures, — at every thing that carries a reverence and fear of God; so that a man who dares profess a fear of God in what he doth, makes himself a scorn.

(4.) Contempt of all God’s providential warnings is another proof of atheism. Never had a nation more warnings from God’s providence, nor ever were they more despised. These things, brethren, are not done in a corner; they are perpetrated in the face of the sun. The steam of them darkens the whole heaven, and they abound more and more every day.

Secondly. Shall we go to the other head, — namely, Immorality, — and see how it is there? It would be an endless thing, to go over the sins that reign among us: oppression, blood, uncleanness, sensuality, drunkenness, — all to the height, raging and reigning in the nation. I mention these things as a matter to be bewailed before the Lord by us this day; and we ought to be affected with the consideration of them.

Unto this great prevalency and predominancy of sin in the whole nation, there is added a strange and unspeakable security. The truth is, men were a little awakened one while in the nation. When the judgments of God — the pestilence, the fire, the sword, and the year after, another warning from heaven — were upon us, then there was a little awakening, like a man out of a dead sleep, that lifts up his head, and rubs his eyes for a time. But I can say this, that it is now towards forty years since God enabled me to observe something in the world; and, to my knowledge, I never observed this nation in that state of security wherein it is at this day. For, even in former times, there were warnings continually that God had a controversy with the nation; and those that had any fear of God spake one to another about it; and we saw and found their warnings were not in vain.

But here is now a general security. Men complain of straits, want, poverty, and the like; but as to any thing wherein God hath to do with the world, either my observation doth greatly deceive me, or I never saw, I think, so general a security as at this day in this nation. And this security hath reached us all, — even the churches of God themselves.

These things are matter of fact. The whole question is, Whether we are greatly to be concerned in these things or not? “They are the sins of wicked men, and they are the sins of the persecutors of God’s people, and the like; and what have we to do with them?”

The psalmist of old said, that “rivers of waters ran down his eyes, because men did not keep the law of God.” And you know that God doth set a special mark upon those, not that are free from the abominations of the age, but upon those that mourn for the abominations that are in the midst of us. It will not be enough for us, that we are free from those abominations, unless we are found to mourn for them. Brethren, our own hearts know we are guilty in this matter, and that we had need seek the face of God this day to give us a deeper sense of these things than we have obtained.

The name of God is blasphemed, the Spirit of God reproached, a flood of iniquity spreads itself over the nation, the land of our nativity, over the inheritance of Christ, over a nation professing the reformed religion; — all things go backward, — every thing declines. Indeed, brethren, if you will not, I do acknowledge here before you, and to my own shame, I have great guilt upon me in this matter, that I have not been sensible of the abominations of the nation, so as to mourn for them and be humbled for them, as I ought to have been. And you will do well to search your hearts, and consider how it is with you; — whether indeed you have been affected with these things; or whether you have not thought all is well, while all hath been well with yourselves and families, and, it may be, with the church, that may have no trouble upon that account. The security that is upon the nation is dismal; and, I may say, I see no way or means whereby the nation should be freed from this security. The conduct of the ministry, which they are under generally, is not able to free them from this security; nor the dispensation of the word: [so] that it seems to be a security from God to lead on the nation to judgment; the means for the removal of it and the awakening of us being laid aside.

And if it comes this way, or that way, any way, though we see not the morning of it, you will find yourselves concerned in it. — “Who may abide the day of his coming?”

We may do well, brethren, to consider the state of the church of God in the world, among ourselves, and our own condition. I need not tell you how it is in the world; but this I can say, that to my apprehensions, the interest of Christ and the gospel was never so fast going down in the world since it came into it, as at this day. I will give you my reason of what I say: When the gospel was first planted and brought into the world, the devil was not able to bring the church into its apostasy, under six, or seven, or eight hundred years, and that by degrees. Since the time of the Reformation, the church was progressive for about seventy years; it stood at a stay about the same proportion of time; and ever since, it hath been going backward, straitened in all places: the power of it decays, and the peace of it is taken away, and destruction everywhere seems to lie at the door.

Many, indeed, are in great misery and distress: some I have heard of lately sold for slaves, for the testimony of their conscience. How is it with the church of Christ in this nation? Truly, some [are] in great poverty, in great affliction, in great distress; and I am afraid we and others have not hearts to relieve them, as we ought to do, in a due manner: however, let us help them with our prayers.

And that which is worst of all, there seems to me, I must acknowledge it, to be a very great decay in all churches of Christ in the nation, especially among those of us who have had most peace, most prosperity. That which we call zeal for God is almost quite lost among us. Some of us have almost forgot whether there be such a thing as the cause and interest of Christ in the world. We who have cried and prayed about it, and had it upon our hearts, have sat down in our narrow compass, and almost forgot there is such a thing as the interest of Christ in the world, so as to have an active zeal for the ordinances of God according to rule, as God requires of us. Our primitive love, — how is it decayed! Value of the ordinances of Christ, and the society of his people for edification, — how cold are we grown in these things! How little is the church society upon our hearts, which some of us remember when it was the very joy of our souls! Truly we have reason to lift up our cry to God, that he would return and visit the churches, and pour out a new, fresh, reviving spirit upon them, that we fall not under the power of these decays till we come to formality, and God withdraws himself from us, and leaves us; which he seems to be at the very point of doing.

Then, brethren, let us remember our own church; that God would in an especial manner revive the spirit of life, power, and holiness among us; that he would be pleased to help the officers of the church to discharge their duty, and not suffer them to fall under any decay of grace or gifts, unfitting of them to the discharge of their office to the edification of the church; that he would give them also to beware and take heed of formality as to the exercise of gifts in their administration; and that he would take care of us, since we are apt to fall under these things. Let us pray that we may be acted by the Spirit of God, and enlivened by the grace of God, in all things we do.

Have any of us any particular occasions in reference to temptations, trials, and troubles? — we may bear it upon our hearts to the Lord this day. This is much better than by multiplying a company of formal bills. The Lord help us to know the plague of our own hearts, and to be enabled to plead with the Lord, upon this opportunity, for grace and mercy to help us in every time of need!

Source: Several practical cases of conscience resolved

Faith alone – John Owen

March 24, 2010 Comments off

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source

Categories: Faith Tags: ,

How may we recover from a decay of the principle of grace? – John Owen

March 20, 2010 Comments off

Question. How may we recover from a decay of the principle of grace?

Answer. We have been speaking concerning the decay of the principle of grace; and I will now offer you some few thoughts that may be applied unto our recovery from the decay of this principle.

In doing which, I shall tell you no more than I think I have found myself.

If we would recover spiritual life, we must come as near as we can unto, and abide as much as we are able at, the well-head of life. Christ is the spring of our spiritual life; he is every way our life. It is in a derivation of life from Christ, and in conformity to him, that we must look for our spiritual life.

Before I mention how we should approach unto and lie at this well-head of life, let me observe to you this one thing, — that when there is a general contagious disease (the plague, or the like), every man will look to his health and safety with reference to other occasions, but will be most careful in regard to the general contagion. Now, if forsaking this spring of life be the plague of the age, and the plague of the place where we live, and the plague of Christians, we ought to be very careful lest this general contagion should reach us, more or less, one way or other. It is evident to me, — who have some advantage to consider things, as much as ordinary men, — that the apostasy, the cursed apostasy, that spreads itself over this nation, and whose fruits are in all ungodliness and uncleanness, consists in an apostasy from and forsaking the person of Christ. Some write of how little use the person of Christ is in religion; — none, but to declare the doctrine of the gospel to us.

Consider the preaching and talk of men. You have much preaching and discourse about virtue and vice; so it was among the philosophers of old: but Jesus Christ is laid aside, quite as a thing forgotten; as if he was of no use, no consideration, in religion; as if men knew not at all how to make any use of him, as to living to God.

This being the general plague, as is evident, of the apostasy of the day wherein we live, if we are wise, we shall consider very carefully whether we ourselves are not influenced more or less with it; as where there is a general temptation, it doth more or less try all men, the best of believers, and prevail more or less upon their spirits. I am afraid we have not, some of us, that love for Christ, that delight in him, nor do make that constant abode with him, as we have done. We have very much lost out of our faith and our affections him who is the life and centre, the glory and the power, of all spiritual life, and of all we have to do with God, — Jesus Christ himself. I brought it in only to let us know, that if we would revive our spiritual life (and, believe it, if any of us are not concerned in our spiritual decays, these are sapless things, and will be heard with as much weariness as spoken), we are to abide more at the well-head of life. It is the direction of our Lord Jesus Christ, “Abide in me: unless ye abide in me, ye can bring forth no fruit. And every such branch shall be so and so purged.”

But you will say, “How shall we do so? how shall we abide, more than we have done, at this well-head of life?”

1. We are to abide at the well-head of life by a frequency of the acts of faith upon the person of Christ. Faith is that grace, not only whereby we are implanted into Christ, but whereby we also abide in him. If so, methinks the frequent actings of faith upon the person of Christ are a drawing near to the well-head of life. And though we are to put forth the vigour, the earnestness, the watchfulness of our hearts unto obedience; yet a ceasing to continue in the acting of faith upon the person of Christ, even under the vigour of our own endeavours by those general, outward desires of walking with God and living to him, will weaken us, and we shall find ourselves losers by it.

Do you all understand me? I am not teaching the wise and more knowing of the flock; I would speak unto the meanest. I say, suppose we should resolve with great earnestness, diligence, watchfulness, to abide in duties, in inward duties, to watch over our hearts, which is required of us; yet, if in our so doing we are taken off thereby from frequent actings of faith upon Christ, as the spring of our life, we shall decay under all our endeavours, watchfulness, and multiplication of duties. Wherefore, my brethren, let me give you this advice, — that you would night and day, upon your beds, in your ways, upon all occasions, have the exercise of faith upon the person of Christ; faith working by a view of him as represented in the gospel, by trust in him, and by invocation of him, — that he may be continually nigh unto you. And you cannot have him nigh unto you, unless you make yourselves, by these actings of faith, through his grace, continually nigh unto him: so you will abide at the well-head.

I could show you those excellent advantages that we should have by continually being near to Christ, who is the overflowing spring of grace, and from whence it will issue out to us, if we abide with him, be nigh to him, and keep up to this well-head.

2. Abide with him in love. Oh, the warm affections for Christ which some of you can witness concerning yourselves, — that your hearts have been filled withal towards Christ, when you have been under his call to believe on him! And it is a marvellous way of abiding with Christ, to abide with him by love; which is called “cleaving to God and Christ:” it is the affection of adhesion, and gives a sense of union.

“How, then, shall we get our hearts to abide with Christ by love?”

This is a subject that if I were to preach upon, how many things would presently offer themselves to us, from the excellency of his person, from the excellency of his love, from our necessity of him, the advantages and benefits we have by him, and his kindness towards us! All these things, and many more, would quickly present themselves unto us.

But I will name but one thing, and I name it the rather, because I heard it mentioned in prayer since I came in: Labour to have your hearts filled with a love to Jesus Christ, as there is in him made a representation of all divine excellencies. This was God’s glorious design. It is not to be separated from his design of glorifying himself in the work of redemption; for a great part of God’s glorious design in the incarnation of Christ, was in him to represent himself unto us, “who is the image of the invisible God, the express image of his person.” Now, if you do but consider Christ as God is gloriously represented unto you in him, you will find him the most proper object for divine love, — for that love which is wrought in your hearts by the Holy Ghost, for that love that hath sweetness, complacency, satisfaction in it. Then, let us remember that we exercise our minds to consider Christ, as all the lovely properties of the divine nature and counsels of his will, as to love and grace, are manifested by Christ.

If we would abide at the well-head of life, we must abide in these things; and let love be excited to Christ under this especial consideration, — as he who represents the supreme object of your love, God himself, in all the glorious properties of his nature.

3. Add meditation hereunto; study Christ more, and all the things of Christ; delight more in the hearing and preaching of Christ. He is our best friend; let not the difficulties of the mystery of his person and grace deter you. There are wonderful things of the counsels of heaven, and of the glory of the holy God, in the person of Christ as the head of the church; if you would be found inquiring into them, an unsearchable treasure of divine wisdom, grace, and love is laid up in Christ: therefore meditate upon them more. Let me assure you this will prove the best expedient for the recovery of our spiritual life. And I will abide by this doctrine to eternity, that without it we shall never recover spiritual life to the glory of God in Christ.

4. And then, brethren, seeing we have, in the next place, felt decays in the midst of the performance of multiplied duties, labour to bring spirituality into your duties.

“What is that,” you will say, “and wherein doth it consist?”

It is the due exercise of every grace that is required to the discharge of that duty. Let every such grace be in its due exercise, and that is to be spiritual in duty. As, for instance, would a man be spiritual in all his prayers? — let him, then, consider what grace and what exercise of grace is required to this duty. A due fear and reverence of the name of God; faith, love, and delight in him; an humble sense of his own wants, earnest desires of supply, dependence upon God for guidance, and the like; — we all know that these are the graces required to the discharge of this duty of praying by the Holy Ghost. And let these graces be in a due exercise, and then you are spiritual in this duty.

Is the duty charity, — giving a supply to the poor? There is to be a ready mind, a compassionateness of heart, and obedience unto the command of Christ in that particular. These are the graces required to the discharge of that duty, and to watch against the contrary vices. So that if we would bring spirituality into duty, it is to exercise the graces that are required by the rule to the performance of that duty.

I shall only farther give you this one caution, — have a care that your head in notion and your tongue in talk do not too fast empty your hearts of truth. We are apt to lay it up in our heads by notions, and bring it forth in talk, and not let it be in our hearts; and this weakens spiritual life greatly. Ye hear the word preached; and it is of great concernment what account we shall give of the word that hath been preached unto you: for we that preach must give an account of our preaching, and so must you of what you hear; and many a good word is spoken, truly, and yet we see but little fruit of it. And the reason of this is, that some, when they hear it, take no farther regard of it, but “let it slip,” as the apostle speaks, Heb. ii. 1. And if we complain of the treacherousness of our memories, — it is the most harmless way of the slipping out of the word. It is not the treachery of our memories, but of our hearts and affections, that makes the heart like a broken vessel, — that makes all the rents in it where the water runs out, as the comparison is. The word slips out by putting your affections into carnal exercise; and it quickly finds its way to depart from the heart that gives it no better entertainment. We talk away a sermon and the sense of it; which robs us both of the sermon and the fruit of it. A man hears a good word of truth, and, instead of taking the power of it into his heart, he takes the notion of it into his mind, and is satisfied therewith. But this is not the way to thrive. God grant that we may never preach to you any thing but what we may labour to have an experience of the power of it in our own hearts, and to profit ourselves by the word wherewith we design to profit others! And I pray God grant that you also may have some profit by the word dispensed to you, — that it slip not out through carnal affections, and be not drawn out through notions and talk, with a regardlessness to treasure it up in your hearts!

These things we are diligently to attend unto, if we would recover our spiritual losses that we are complaining of, and that not without just cause.

Categories: Flesh, Grace, Recovery Tags: ,

What are the most certain evidences and pledges that we have cordially and sincerely received Christ, and returned unto God? – John Owen

March 20, 2010 Comments off

Discourse II

Question. Seeing the act of closing with Christ is secret and hidden, and the special times and seasons of our conversion unto God are unknown unto most, what are the most certain evidences and pledges that we have cordially and sincerely received Christ, and returned unto God?

Answer. I do acknowledge the inquiry is very large, and such as we may be straitened in, through the abundance of it. I shall only speak plainly some few things that to me are an evidence of a sincere closing with Christ, and receiving of Christ, — such as I know have been of use unto some.
First. When there is a permanency and abiding in the choice we have made of Christ, notwithstanding opposition against it that we shall be sure to meet withal. I do not speak to the nature of the choice, or the means of it, — how the mind is prepared for it; but I speak unto the poorest, the weakest of the flock, that may be inquiring whether they have made a sincere choice of Christ or not: I say, they may try it by the permanency and abiding in their choice against opposition.
And there are two sorts of oppositions that will try us and shake us, as to our choice, as I have found it, if I have had any experience of these things — 1. Opposition from charges of the guilt of sin and the law. 2. Opposition from temptations unto sin:—
1. There will, even after sincere believing and closing with Christ, be many a heavy charge brought against a soul from the law, and the guilt of sin in the conscience. Now, in such a case, the inquiry is, What the soul abides by when it is shaken? Why, truly, if a man go only upon mere convictions, on such shaking impressions of the guilt of sin, he will be very ready and inclined in his own mind to tack about to some other relief. He puts out fair for his voyage, — the storm arises, — the ship will not carry him; — he must tack about for another harbour. I have known it so with some; and experienced, when the wind hath set very strong that way with myself, — when the guilt of sin hath been charged with all its circumstances, — the soul hath been very hardly able to keep its hold, yet notwithstanding resolved, “I will trust to Christ:” but it hath been tacking about to self again, — “I must remedy this, — have relief for this from myself; I cannot abide by it, and live wholly upon Christ; and when the storm is over, then I will out to sea again.” I say, this is no good sign to me when things are so; but when a soul in all those charges that sometimes come upon it abides the issue, — “Here I will trust upon Christ, let the worst come upon me;” — this I call a permanency in our choice against opposition. I hope you have experience of it.
2. There must be a permanency in our choice of Christ against temptations unto sin, as well as against the charges from sin. Truly, the former — of abiding with Christ against the charges from sin — is our daily work: it is sometimes more high and pressing, but it is our daily work. But there are also temptations unto sin, — it may be to the neglect of our duty, or to a compliance in any evil way (which we are subject unto while in the body); and perhaps great sins. Here Joseph’s reply, applied to Christ, is that which doth argue our choice of Christ to be sincere, — “How shall I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” When the soul can draw a prevailing argument from that, “How shall I do this, and relinquish my Lord Christ?” — “I will not do this against him whom I have chosen,” — this is a good argument, if frequently reiterated, that our choice of Christ is sincere.
Secondly. Growing up in a love unto the person of Christ is a great evidence to me of a sincere choice of Christ. It is a blessed field that is before me, but I shall but hint things unto you. When the soul hath received Christ, it cannot but study Christ; and though it is no argument against the sincerity of a man’s faith and grace, that he doth principally regard the offices and graces of Christ, and the benefits we have by him, yet it is an argument against the thrift and growth of it: for a thriving faith and grace will come to respect principally the person of Christ. I mean this; — when the soul studies the person of Christ, — the glory of God in him, — of his natures, the union of them in one person, — of his love, condescension and grace; and the heart is drawn out to love him, and cry, “Doubtless I count all things but loss and dung for the excellency of Christ Jesus my Lord.” “What is thy beloved more than another beloved?” “My beloved is white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand; he is altogether lovely.” To see an excellency, a desirableness in the person of Christ, so as to grow in admiration and love of him, is to me an evidence that, when all fails besides, will greatly support the soul, and persuade it that its choice is true. Nay, it is one of the most spiritual evidences; for I much question whether an unregenerate man can love Christ for his own sake at all. But it is a good sign of growth, when our love to the person of Christ grows, when we meditate much upon it, and think much about it. I could show you wherein the beauty of Christ’s person doth much consist; but I have not time now to do it.
Thirdly. Another evidence to me of the soul’s having made a sincere choice of Christ is, when it continues to approve, judge well of, and every day more and more to see, the glory, the excellency, the holiness, the grace, which is in the way of salvation by Jesus Christ; approves of it as not only a necessary way, — a way it has betaken itself to, because it must unavoidably perish in any other way, — but when it approves of it to be a most excellent way, in pardoning sin freely through the atonement he hath made, and the imputation of his righteousness unto us, — while the righteousness, the holiness, and the grace of God in all this is glorified. Saith the soul, “What a blind, wretched creature was I, that I did not see an excellency in this way before! It is better than the way of the law and the old covenant. I approve of this way with all my heart. If all other ways were set before me, and made possible, I would choose this way, of going to God by Jesus Christ, as the best way, — that brings most glory to God and most satisfaction unto the creature, and is most suited to the desires of my heart, I would have no other way. ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life,’ says Christ; and this I will abide by, whatsoever becomes of me,” replies the soul; “though I should perish, I will abide by it, since God hath given me such a discovery of the glory of saving sinners by Christ, that is inferior to nothing but the glory of heaven. I see that glory to God in it, — that exaltation to Christ, whom I would love, — that honour to the Holy Spirit, and safety to my own soul, — that I will abide by it.” A growing in the approbation of this way gives some assurance that we have made a true and sincere choice of Christ.
Give me leave to add this one thing more:—
Fourthly. That a delight in obedience unto God by Christ, in the ways of his own appointment, is a great evidence that we have chosen Christ, and he us; — chosen him as our king, prophet, and priest. The ways of the worship of God in his church and ordinances, are the ways and worship of God in Christ, which he hath appointed. Take these things abstractedly and in themselves, and we should be apt to say of them, as was said of Christ, “There is no beauty in them, nor glory, that they should be desired.” There is much more outward beauty and glory in other ways, that Christ hath not appointed. But if we love the ways Christ hath appointed, because he hath appointed them, then we choose those ways because we have chosen him to be our king; and that is it which gives them beauty and life. And when the ways of Christ’s appointment grow heavy and burdensome to us, we are weary of them, and are willing to have our neck from under the yoke, — it is a sign we grow weary of him who is the author of them; and this is a great sign that we never made a right and sincere choice of him.
Many other things might be offered as evidences of sincere closing with Christ; but these are some which have been of use to me: and I hope they may be so unto some of you.

Source

What conviction of a state of sin, and of the guilt of sin, is necessary to cause a soul sincerely to look after Christ? – John Owen

March 20, 2010 Comments off

Discourse I

Question. What conviction of a state of sin, and of the guilt of sin, is necessary to cause a soul sincerely to look after Christ?

Answer. There is one thing only that I shall at present speak to, and that is this: What is the lowest condition that hath the nature of conviction in sincerity, so as that souls may not be discouraged from closing with Christ because they have had no greater convictions of sin? And I shall speak to it on this account, — because, although the things that have already been spoken by others are true, and such as those who have spoken them have found to be true by the word and their own experience; yet, it may be, others have not come up in their experience unto such a distinct observation of the work of conviction as hath been laid down, [so] that they may be discouraged.
For, seeing conviction is so indispensably necessary, some may say, “It hath not been thus and thus with me, — according as hath been declared.” Therefore, I would only show what I judge to be so necessary, as that without it a soul cannot be supposed sincerely to have closed with Christ. And we having all made our profession of choosing and closing with Christ, as I would be loath to say any thing that might discourage any, lest they should have failed in the very necessary work of conviction; so I would not betray the truth of God, nor the souls of any.
Therefore, I shall place it upon this: What Jesus Christ doth indispensably call men unto, in order to believing in him, that is indispensably required of them. And this I shall manifest out of two or three places of Scripture:— Mark ii. 17, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Now, this calling them unto repentance, is a calling them unto it by the faith which is in him. The apostle saith, 1 Tim. i. 15, “It is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.” What kind of sinners doth Christ call? Whom he calls to repentance, he calls to faith; and whom he calls to faith, that they may truly believe, they are sinners, — opposed unto them that are righteous: “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” “The righteous!” who are those righteous? The Scriptures tell us of these very men, that there were two sorts of them: First, Such as trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised other men. As long as a man trusteth in himself that he is righteous, Christ doth not call that man to believe. So long as a man is persuaded that his condition is good enough, he shall do well enough, that man hath no warrant to believe. Another description of these very persons, though upon another occasion, is given by the apostle Paul, Rom. x. 3, where he says, they were ignorant of the righteousness of God, and went about to establish their own righteousness. Though they did not come to trust in themselves for righteousness, yet sought righteousness as it were by the works of the law, and went about to establish their own righteousness; — Jesus Christ doth not call these men to believe: these righteous persons have no ground for believing. What is the conclusion?
“Lost sinners,” saith Christ, “this is that I require of you.” So that this is what I assert to be indispensably necessary, — namely, that they are so far convinced that they are sinners as to state and course, that they are not righteous in themselves, and can have no righteousness in themselves.
I say, therefore, when a person is not really convinced that he is not righteous, he is not under the call of Jesus Christ; and if he doth believe this, he is under a sovereign dispensation, and let not such despond.
Another direction of Christ is, “They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick,” Matt. ix. 12. There are, in my apprehension, two things in a sick person that have need of a physician:
First, He hath an uneasiness. A man who is sick, though he would shift it, yet his uneasiness will cause him to send for a physician. Saith Christ, “I come to such persons who say they can find no rest nor ease in their present condition.” It may be they have often tried this and that, and see all will not do, — they are sick still; conscience reflects, and their hearts are burdened, and they must have relief, or they shall not be free. Secondly, There is a fear that it will end in death. This puts the sick person upon sending for a physician. When the soul is made uneasy in its state and condition, can find no rest nor ease, it thinks, “If I abide here, I shall be lost for ever.” This soul doth Christ call; this man will be at the charge of a physician, cost what it will.
There is another word of Christ [which] very remarkably speaks just to the same purpose, Matt. xi. 28, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” — a soul finding itself under want, labouring after something whereby it may be accepted with God. I will not confine this to extraordinary instances, for sometimes he is found of them that sought him not; but the ordinary case of a labouring soul, before closing with Christ, is to abstain from sin, pray more or less, be found in duties, and under strong desires to be accepted with God. And what is the end of these labours and endeavours? They labour and are weary; — that is, they see their labour comes to no effect; they do not find rest, and peace, and acceptance with God. And here is the turning point; Isa. lvii. 10, “Thou art wearied in the greatness of thy way; yet saidst thou not, There is no hope.” When the soul hath laboured for acceptance with God, and comes to be weary, saith Christ, “Come unto me.” “No,” saith the light of nature, “come unto me; trust unto your own endeavours.” Saith the soul, “I will try what it will do; I will not say, ‘There is no hope.’ ” Saith another, “I will not say so; I will go unto Christ:” — this is he whom Christ calls.
Now, these things I do account indispensably necessary, antecedently to believing, as to the substance of them. And this, I hope, hath been found in all our souls. And if we have obtained so far, we need not then question whether our closing with Christ be sincere or not. This is all that I dare assert to be absolutely and indispensably  necessary. Many pretend to believe, though they never were convinced thoroughly that they were not righteous, — never were sick in their lives, — never had fears that they should die. These are contrary to the express rule Christ hath given, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners;” — not those that say, “There is hope,” but those that say, “There is no hope.”

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Genesis 3: God places enmity between elect and reprobate

March 10, 2010 Comments off

Chapter XI.

The last general argument.

Arg. XVI. Our next argument is taken from some particular places of Scripture, clearly and distinctly in themselves holding out the truth of what we do affirm. Out of the great number of them I shall take a few to insist upon, and therewith to close our arguments.

1. The first that I shall begin withal is the first mentioning of Jesus Christ, and the first revelation of the mind of God concerning a discrimination between the people of Christ and his enemies: Gen. iii. 15, “I will put enmity between thee” (the serpent) “and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed.” By the seed of the woman is meant the whole body of the elect, Christ in the first place as the head, and all the rest as his members; by the seed of the serpent, the devil, with all the whole multitude of reprobates, making up the malignant state, in opposition to the kingdom and body of Jesus Christ.

That by the first part, or the seed of the woman, is meant Christ with all the elect, is most apparent; for they in whom all the things that are here foretold of the seed of the woman do concur, are the seed of the woman (for the properties of any thing do prove the thing itself.) But now in the elect, believers in and through Christ, are to be found all the properties of the seed of the woman; for, for them, in them, and by them, is the head of the serpent broken, and Satan trodden down under their feet, and the devil disappointed in his temptations, and the devil’s agents frustrated in their undertakings. Principally and especially, this is spoken of Christ himself, collectively of his whole body, which beareth a continual hatred to the serpent and his seed.

Secondly, By the seed of the serpent is meant all the reprobate, men of the world, impenitent, unbelievers. For,

First, The enmity of the serpent lives and exerciseth itself in them. They hate and oppose the seed of the woman; they have a perpetual enmity with it; and every thing that is said of the seed of the serpent belongs properly to them.

Secondly, They are often so called in the Scripture: Matt. iii. 7, “O generation of vipers,” or seed of the serpent; so also chap. xxiii. 33. So Christ telleth the reprobate Pharisees, “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do,” John viii. 44. So again, “Child of the devil,” Acts xiii. 10, — that is, the seed of the serpent; for “he that committeth sin is of the devil,” 1 John iii. 8.

These things being undeniable, we thus proceed:— Christ died for no more than God promised unto him that be should die for. But God did not promise him to all, as that he should die for them; for he did not promise the seed of the woman to the seed of the serpent, Christ to reprobates, but in the first word of him he promiseth an enmity against them. In sum, the seed of the woman died not for the seed of the serpent.

2. Matt. vii. 23, “I will profess unto them, I never knew you.” Christ at the last day professeth to some he never knew them. Christ saith directly that he knoweth his own, whom he layeth down his life for, John x. 14–17. And surely he knows whom and what he hath bought. Were it not strange that Christ should die for them, and buy them that he will not own, but profess he never knew them? If they are “bought with a price,” surely they are his own? 1 Cor. vi. 20. If Christ did so buy them, and lay out the price of his precious blood for them, and then at last deny that he ever knew them, might they not well reply, “Ah, Lord! was not thy soul heavy unto death for our sakes? Didst thou not for us undergo that wrath that made thee sweat drops of blood? Didst thou not bathe thyself in thine own blood, that our blood might be spared? Didst thou not sanctify thyself to be an offering for us as well as for any of thy apostles? Was not thy precious blood, by stripes, by sweat, by nails, by thorns, by spear, poured out for us? Didst thou not remember us when thou hungest upon the cross? And now dost thou say, thou never knewest us? Good Lord, though we be unworthy sinners, yet thine own blood hath not deserved to be despised. Why is it that none can lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? Is it not because thou diedst for them? And didst thou not do the same for us? Why, then, are we thus charged, thus rejected? Could not thy blood satisfy thy Father, but we ourselves must be punished? Could not justice content itself with that sacrifice, but we must now hear, ‘Depart, I never knew you?’ ” What can be answered to this plea, upon the granting of the general ransom, I know not.

3. Matt. xi. 25, 26, “I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight.” Those men from whom God in his sovereignty, as Lord of heaven and earth, of his own good pleasure, hideth the gospel, either in respect of the outward preaching of it, or the inward revelation of the power of it in their hearts, those certainly Christ died not for; for to what end should the Father send his only Son to die for the redemption of those whom he, for his own good pleasure, had determined should be everlasting strangers from it, and never so much as hear of it in the power thereof revealed to them? Now, that such there are our Saviour here affirms; and he thanks his Father for that dispensation at which so many do at this day repine.

4. John x. 11, 15, 16, 27, 28. This clear place, which of itself is sufficient to evert the general ransom, hath been a little considered before, and, therefore, I shall pass it over the more briefly. First, That all men are not the sheep of Christ is most apparent; for, — First, He himself saith so, verse 26, “Ye are not of my sheep.” Secondly, The distinction at the last day will make it evident, when the sheep and the goats shall be separated. Thirdly, The properties of the sheep are, that they hear the voice of Christ, that they know him; and the like are not in all. Secondly, That the sheep here mentioned are all his elect, as well those that were to be called as those that were then already called. Verse 16, Some were not as yet of his fold of called ones; so that they are sheep by election, and not believing. Thirdly, That Christ so says that he laid down his life for his sheep, that plainly he excludes all others; for, — First, He lays down his life for them as sheep. Now, that which belongs to them as such belongs only to such. If he lays down his life for sheep, as sheep, certainly be doth it not for goats, and wolves, and dogs. Secondly, He lays down his life as a shepherd, verse 11; therefore, for them as the sheep. What hath the shepherd to do with the wolves, unless it be to destroy them? Thirdly, Dividing all into sheep and others, verse 26, he saith he lays down his life for his sheep; which is all one as if he had said he did it for them only. Fourthly, He describes them for whom he died by this, “My Father gave them me,” verse 29; as also chap. xvii. 6, “Thine they were, and thou gavest them me:” which are not all; for “all that the Father giveth him shall come to him,” chap. vi. 37, and he “giveth unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish,” chap. x. 28. Let but the sheep of Christ keep close to this evidence, and all the world shall never deprive them of their inheritance. Farther to confirm this place, add Matt. xx. 28; John xi. 52.

Rom. viii. 32–34. The intention of the apostle in this place is, to hold out consolation to believers in affliction or under any distress; which he doth, verse 31, in general, from the assurance of the presence of God with them, and his assistance at all times, enough to conquer all oppositions, and to make all difficulty indeed contemptible, by the assurance of his loving-kindness, which is better than life itself. “If God be for us, who can be against us?” To manifest this his presence and kindness, the apostle minds them of that most excellent, transcendent, and singular act of love towards them, in sending his Son to die for them, not sparing him, but requiring their debt at his hand; whereupon he argues from the greater to the less, — that if he have done that for us, surely he will do every thing else that shall be requisite. If he did the greater, will he not do the less? If he give his Son to death, will he not also freely give us all things? Whence we may observe, — First, That the greatest and most eximious expression of the love of God towards believers is in sending his Son to die for them, not sparing him for their sake; this is made the chief of all. Now, if God sent his Son to die for all, he had [done] as great an act of love, and hath made as great a manifestation of it, to them that perish as to those that are saved. Secondly, That for whomsoever he hath given and not spared his Son, unto them he will assuredly freely give all things; but now he doth not give all things that are good for them unto all, as faith, grace, and glory: from whence we conclude that Christ died not for all. Again, verse 33, he gives us a description of those that have a share in the consolation here intended, for whom God gave his Son, to whom he freely gives all things; and that is, that they are his “elect,” — not all, but only those whom he hath chosen before the foundation of the world, that they should be holy; which gives another confirmation of the restraint of the death of Christ to them alone: which he yet farther confirms, verse 34, by declaring that those of whom he speaks shall be freely justified and freed from condemnation; whereof he gives two reasons, — first, Because Christ died for them; secondly, Because he is risen, and makes intercession for them for whom he died: affording us two invincible arguments to the business in hand. The first, taken from the infallible effects of the death of Christ: Who shall lay any thing to their charge? who shall condemn them? Why, what reason is given? “It is Christ that died.” So that his death doth infallibly free all them from condemnation for whom he died. The second, from the connection that the apostle here makes between the death and intercession of Jesus Christ: For whom he died, for them he makes intercession; but he saveth to the utmost them for whom he intercedeth, Heb. vii. 25. From all which it is undeniably apparent that the death of Christ, with the fruits and benefits thereof, belongeth only to the elect of God.

6. Eph. i. 7, “In whom we have redemption.” If his blood was 294shed for all, then all must have a share in those things that are to be had in his blood. Now, amongst these is that redemption that consists in the forgiveness of sins; which certainly all have not, for they that have are “blessed,” Rom. iv. 7, and shall be blessed for evermore: which blessing comes not upon all, but upon the seed of righteous Abraham, verse 16.

7. 2 Cor. v. 21, “He hath made him to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” It was in his death that Christ was made sin, or an offering for it. Now, for whomsoever he was made sin, they are made the righteousness of God in him: “By his stripes we are healed,” Isa. liii. 5; John xv. 13, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Then, to intercede is not of greater love than to die, nor any thing else that he doth for his elect. If, then, he laid down his life for all, which is the greatest, why doth he not also the rest for them, and save them to the uttermost?

8. John xvii. 9, “I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.” And verse 19, “For their sakes I sanctify myself.”

9. Eph. v. 25, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;” as [also] Acts xx. 28. The object of Christ’s love and his death is here asserted to be his bride, his church; and that as properly as a man’s own wife is the only allowed object of his conjugal affections. And if Christ had a love to others so as to die for them, then is there in the exhortation a latitude left unto men, in conjugal affections, for other women besides their wives.

I thought to have added other arguments, as intending a clear discussing of the whole controversy; but, upon a review of what hath been said, I do with confidence take up and conclude that those which have been already urged will be enough to satisfy them who will be satisfied with any thing, and those that are obstinate will not be satisfied with more. So of our arguments here shall be an end.

The work of the Holy Spirit in purging believers from sin

January 3, 2010 Comments off

By John Owen

The Holy Spirit is the chief worker of holiness in us on the basis of the blood shed by Christ on the cross by which the right for the Holy Spirit to work holiness in us was purchased.

This holiness, or sanctification, is produced in us by two means: faith and troubles or afflictions.

We are purged from sin by the Spirit of God. It is from our depraved natures that sin comes with all its pollution. So it is by the renewal of our natures back into the image of God that we are made holy (Ephesians 4:23, 24; Titus 3:5). The Holy Spirit cleanses us by strengthening our souls by his grace to fulfil our duties and to resist actual sins. But if we sin, it is the blood of Christ that cleanses us ( 1 John 1 :7-9).

It is the blood of Christ applied to our souls by the Holy Spirit that actually purges our souls from sins (1 John 1:7; Rev. 1:5; Hebrews 9:14; Ephesians 5: 25, 26; Titus 2:14), as Zechariah anticipated ( Zechariah. 13:1).

The blood of Christ here is the blood of his sacrifice, along with its power, virtue and effectiveness.

Blood in the Old Testament

The blood of a sacrifice was considered as an offering to God to make atonement and reconciliation. It was sprinkled on things for their purging and sanctification (Leviticus 1:11; 16: 14; Hebrews 9:19, 20, 22). So the blood of Christ is considered as the offering up of himself by the eternal Spirit to God to make atonement for sin and to procure eternal redemption. It is sprinkled by the same Spirit on the consciences of believers to purge them from dead works (Hey 9:12-14; 12:24; 1 Peter 1:2). But the blood of Christ in his sacrifice is still always in the same condition as it was in that hour in which it was shed. It is the same in strength and effectiveness.

Cold or congealed blood was of no use for sprinkling. Blood was appointed for atonement, because the life of the animal was in the blood (Lev.17:11). But the blood of an animal soon went cold and then it clotted. But the blood of Christ is always hot and never congeals, because it has the same Spirit of life and sanctification still moving in it. So we have a new and living way to God (Hebrews 10:20). It is always living, yet always as if newly slain.

There were different sorts of propitiatory offerings where the blood was sprinkled. There was the continual burnt offering. By this and the sprinkling of its blood, the congregation was purified to be holy to the Lord. This is how cleansing from secret and unknown sins was symbolized.

On the Sabbath day, the sacrifice was doubled both in the morning and the evening. This showed a special and more abundant pouring out of mercy and purging grace.

There was a great annual sacrifice at the feast of expiation when by the sacrifice of the sin offering and the scapegoat the whole congregation was purged from all known and great sins and brought into a state of legal holiness.

There were occasional sacrifices for everyone according to each person’s sense of need. There was a way continually ready for any man’s purification by his bringing an offering.

Now the blood of Christ must continually and on all occasions accomplish spiritually what these sacrifices accomplished legally (Hebrews 9:9-14). And so it does.

The red heifer

In the book of Numbers we read of another way by which God’s people under the Old Testament were purified (Numbers 19). A red heifer was sacrificed. The blood was taken and sprinkled on the tabernacle, but the heifer was burned. The ashes of the heifer were then kept and when anyone wished to be purified from legal pollutions, some of the ashes were mixed with water and sprinkled on the unclean person. Now, as the ashes of the red heifer were always available for purification, so is the blood of Christ to us now. Any unclean person who did not purify himself with the ashes of the heifer was to be cut off from the people (Numbers 19:20). And so it is also with those who refuse to be purified by the blood of Christ as the ‘fountain opened for sin and uncleanness’ (Zechariah 13:1).

The cleansing blood of Christ

Now the blood of Christ cleanses us from all our sins. The blood of Christ takes away from the sinner all the loathsomeness of sin in the sight of God. Now the sinner is seen as one who is washed and purified and fit to stand in his holy presence (Isaiah 1:16-18; Psalms 51:7; Ephesians 5:25-27). The blood of Christ takes shame out of the conscience, and gives the soul boldness in God’s presence (Hebrews 10:1922). When these things are done, then sin is purged and our souls are cleansed.

But how do we become partakers of that cleansing blood? It is the Holy Spirit who shows us and spiritually convinces us of the defilement caused by sin (John 16:8). Only when we see how sin has defiled us will we be driven to the blood of Christ for cleansing.

The Holy Spirit proposes, declares and presents to us the only true remedy for our cleansing. Left to ourselves, we turn to the wrong means (Hosea 5:13). It is the Holy Spirit who shows us the things of Christ (John 16:14).

Faith and cleansing

The Holy Spirit also works faith in us by which we are made partakers of the purifying virtue of the blood of Christ. By faith we receive Christ and by faith we receive all that Christ has to give us (Psalms 51:7; Leviticus 14: 2-7; Numbers 19:4-6; Acts 13:39; Hebrews 9:13,14; 10:1-3).

The actual application by faith of Christ’s blood for cleansing lies in four things. Firstly, we must look by faith to Christ’s blood as shed on the cross for our sins, as the Israelites of old looked at the brass serpent on the pole to be healed from the poison of the snakes that bit them (Isaiah 45:22; Num. 21:8; cf. John 3:14). Secondly, faith actually trusts in and relies on Christ’s blood for cleansing from all sin (Romans 3:25; Hebrews 9:13, 14; 10:22). Thirdly, faith fervently prays for that cleansing blood to be applied (Hebrews 4:15, 16). And fourthly, faith accepts the truth and faithfulness of God to cleanse by the blood of Christ.

The Holy Spirit actually applies the cleansing, purifying virtue of the blood of Christ to our souls and consciences so that we are freed from shame and have boldness towards God.

It is by faith that our souls are purified (Acts 15:9). Faith is the hand of the soul that takes hold of the blood of Christ for cleansing.

There are two unfailing evidences of a sincere faith. Inwardly, it purifies the heart and outwardly, it works by love (1 Peter 1:22; Titus 1:15).

We are purified by faith because faith is the chief grace by which our nature is restored to the image of God and so freed from original defilement (Colossians 3:10; l John 3:3). It is also by faith on our part that we receive the purifying virtue and influences of the blood of Christ (Deuteronomy 4:4; Joshua 23:8; Acts 11:22). Furthermore, it is chiefly by faith that our lusts and corruptions which defile us are killed, subdued and gradually driven out of our minds (Hebrews 12:15;James 1:14; John 15:3-5).

Faith takes hold of the motives presented to us in order to stir up to holiness, and to use all the ways God has given us by which we can prevent ourselves being defiled by sin, and by which our minds and consciences may be cleansed from dead works.

Two excellent motives are presented to us. The first excellent motive comes from the wonderful promises of God given to us now (2 Corinthians 7:1). The second motive comes from the thought of being like Christ when we see him as he is in eternal glory ( l John 3:2, 3).

AFFLICTIONS AND HOLINESS

God sends troubles to purge us from sin (Isaiah 31:9; 48:10; 1 Corinthians 3:12, 13).

When we are under the dominion of sin and its judgment, troubles are a curse and often result in further sinful acts. But when grace reigns in us, troubles are a means of sanctifying us and the means by which graces are strengthened, resulting in holiness. Christ’s cross cast into the waters of affliction makes them wholesome and a great means of grace and holiness (Exodus 15:22-25). All the pain and suffering that his people experience, he feels first (Isaiah 63:9; Acts 9:5; Colossians 1:24).

All our troubles and distresses are God’s means to make us more and more like his Son (Romans 8:29). They help us to have a deeper sense of the vileness of sin as God sees it. Troubles are used by God to discipline and correct his children. As such, they are not to be despised (Hebrews 12:3-11). Troubles help us to rely less and less on created things for our comfort and to rejoice more in the things of Christ (Galatians 6:14). Troubles help us to kill our lusts or corrupt desires. We are delivered more and more from the pollutions of sin and are made more and more holy, as he is holy (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). Troubles are God’s ways of drawing out from us all the graces of the Spirit in order that they may be constantly and diligently exercised.

THE WAY TO THE CLEANSING FOUNTAIN

Try to understand the loathsomeness of sin with its defiling effects and the great danger of not being cleansed from sin (Rev. 3:16-18). Search the Scriptures and consider seriously what it teaches about our condition after we lost the image and likeness of God (Psalms 53:3). He who has received the testimony of Scripture about his polluted state will try and find the reason for it. He will search out his own sores and cry out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’

Pray too for light and guidance about your pollution and how to deal with it. Natural light is not enough to know the depth of your depravity (Romans 2: 14, 15).

To be purged from the pollution of sin, we must be ashamed of the filth of sin (Ezra 9:6;Jer. 3:25). There are two sorts of shame. There is legal shame which is produced by a legal conviction of sin. For example, Adam, after his fall, felt a shame which led to fear and terror. So he ran and hid from God. There is also evangelical shame which arises from a sense of the vileness of sin and the riches of God’s grace in pardoning and purifying us from it (Ezekiel 16:60-63; Romans 6:21).

Sadly, however, many are completely insensitive to their true condition. They are more ashamed about how they stand in the eyes of men than how their hearts appear in the sight of God. Some are pure in their own eyes (Proverbs 30:12), e.g., the Pharisees (Isaiah 65:4,5). Others even openly boast of their shame and sin. They proclaim their sins like Sodom (Isaiah 3:9; Jeremiah 6:15; 8:12) and not only boast of their own sins, but approve of and delight in those who also sin like them (Romans 1:32).

Our duty to understand God ‘s way of cleansing

The importance of this duty is taught us by God himself. The legal institutions of the Old Testament show us the importance of this duty, for every sacrifice had something in it for purifying from uncleanness. The greatest promises in the Old Testament focus on cleansing from sin (e.g., Ezekiel 36:25, 29). In the gospel, the greatest of our needs is shown to be the need of being cleansed from sin.

The cleansing power of the blood of Christ and the Spirit’s application of that blood to our hearts is presented to us in the covenant promises (2 Peter 1:4). The only way to enjoy personally the good things presented in the promises is by faith (Hebrews 4:2; 11:17; Romans 4:19-21; 10:6-9).

Two things make such faith effectual. The first is the excellence of the grace or duty itself. Faith discards all other ways of cleansing. It gives all glory to God for his power, faithfulness, goodness and grace in spite of all difficulties and oppositions. Faith glorifies God’s wisdom for working out this way for us to be cleansed. It glorifies God’s infinite grace in providing this fountain for all uncleanness when we were lost and under his curse. Thus we are united to Christ from whom alone comes all our cleansing.

Duties of believers

The first duty is to be in continual self-abasement. In your own estimation, put yourself in the lowest seat, as Christ told the Jews to do when at a feast. Remember the defiled and polluted state from which you have been delivered (Dent. 26:1-5; Ezekiel 16:3-5; Psalms 51:5; Ephesians 2:11-13; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Titus3:5).

The second duty is to be continually thankful for that deliverance from the original pollution from sin which Christ has given you (Luke 17:17; Revelations 1:5, 6). We are to value the sprinkling of the blood of Christ in the sanctification of the Spirit. Be aware of that inward joy and satisfaction you may have because you have been delivered from that shame which deprived us of all boldness and confidence in coming to God, and be thankful. Praise God for these things.

We must, therefore, watch against all sin, especially its early stirrings in the heart. Remember its danger and punishment. Consider the terror of the Lord and the threatenings of the law. Do not sink into that servile fear that longs to be rid of God, but seek that fear which keeps from sin and makes the soul more determined to hold on to God. Consider the loathsome, polluting effect of sin (I Colossians : 3:16, 17; 6:15-19).

Walk humbly before the Lord. Remember that the best works we do are as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). When we have done all we are commanded to do, we are still to see ourselves as unprofitable servants (Luke 17:10).

Starve the root of sin (James 1:13-15). Do not feed your sinful desires.

Come continually to Jesus Christ for cleansing by his Spirit and the sprinkling of his blood on your conscience to purge them from dead works – those works by which the soul, neglecting the fountain established for its cleansing, attempts to cleanse itself from sin and its pollution.

Question. But how can he who is holy, harmless, undefiled and separate from sinners be united to and have communion with those who are defiled and in a state of darkness? Does not Scripture tell us that there can be no fellowship between righteousness and unrighteousness, and no communion between light and darkness (2 Corinthians 6:14)?

Answer Those who are wholly under the power of their original defilement neither have nor can have union or communion with Christ (I John 1:6). No unregenerate person can be united to Christ.

Whatever our defilements may be, Christ who is light is not defiled by them. Light is not polluted by shining on a heap of manure. A sore on the leg does not defile the head, though the head suffers with the leg.

Christ’s purpose in uniting himself to us is to purge us from all our sins (Ephesians 5:25-27). It is not necessary that in order to be united to Christ we be completely sanctified. We are united to Christ in order to be completely sanctified (John 15:1-5). Thus, where the work of sanctification and spiritual cleansing is really begun in someone, there the whole person is now considered to be holy. Our union with Christ is directly by the new creation in us. This new creation which is united to Christ was formed in us by the Spirit of holiness and is itself therefore holy.

There are many sins by which believers are defiled. But there is a way of cleansing still open to them. If they continually use that way of cleansing, no defilement of sin can hinder their communion with Christ.

Under the Old Testament, provision was made for defilement. If a person did not make use of this provision when defiled, he was cut off from the people. God has provided us with the blood of Christ to cleanse us from all the defilement of sin, and he expects believers to use it. If we do not make use of it we cannot have communion with Christ, nor can we have real fellowship with other believers (I John 1:6, 7).

We ought to pray as David did (Psalms 19:12, 13). His prayer was a constant humble acknowledgement of sins. ‘Who can understand his errors?’ He sought a daily cleansing from those defilements which the least and most secret sins bring with them. ‘Cleanse me from secret faults.’ He prayed to be kept from ‘presumptuous sins’, or willful sins committed deliberately against known light. So long as believers are kept within the bounds set in David’s prayer, even although they are defiled by sin, yet there is in them nothing inconsistent with their union with Christ. Our blessed head is not only pure and holy, he is also gracious and merciful. He will not cut off a member of his body because it is sick or has a sore in it.

Conclusion. There is, then, a great difference between true holiness wrought in us by the Holy Spirit and a morally decent life produced by self-effort. Moreover the life of holiness wrought in us by the Holy Spirit needs to be kept pure and undefiled by the Spirit of God and the blood of Christ, whereas the morally decent life, produced by self-effort, endeavors to keep itself pure by ‘good resolutions’.