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Repentance – Spurgeon

November 13, 2011 Comments off

Genuine spiritual mourning for sin is the work of the Spirit of God. Repentance is too choice a flower to grow in nature’s garden. Pearls grow naturally in oysters, but repentance never shows itself in sinners unless divine grace works it in them. If you have one particle of real hatred of sin, God must have given it to you, for human nature’s thorns never produced a single fig. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh.” (John3:6). True Repentance has a distinct reference to the Savior. When we repent, we must have one eye on sin and another eye on the cross. But even better is to fix both eyes on Christ and see our transgressions only in the light of His love. True sorrow for sin is eminently practical. People may not say they hate sin if they are living in it. Repentance makes us see the evil of sin, not merely as a theory but experientially as a burnt child dreads fire. We should be as afraid of sin as the victim of a mugger is afraid of thieves. We must shun sin, and shun in it everything, in great and little things, as we shun little vipers as well as great snakes. True mourning for sin will make us guard our tongues, lest we say a wrong word. It will make us watchful over our daily actions, lest we offend in anything. Each evening, let us close the day with painful confessions of our short-comings. Each morning, let us wake with an eager prayer that God will hold us back from sinning against Him. Sincere repentance is continual. Believers repent until their dying day. Repentance is not intermittent. Other sorrows yield to time, but repentance grows with spiritual growth. Repentance is so bittersweet that we thank God we are permitted to experience it until we enter our eternal rest. —

Charles Spurgeon, Morning &Evening

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Eze. 18:21-24 – Calvin commentary

January 23, 2011 Comments off

Eze 18:21  But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die. Eze 18:22  All his transgressions that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him: in his righteousness that he hath done he shall live. Eze 18:23  Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord GOD: and not that he should return from his ways, and live? Eze 18:24  But when the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and doeth according to all the abominations that the wicked man doeth, shall he live? All his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned: in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die.

Eze 18:21  In this sentence God proposes the hope of pardon, and invites and exhorts to penitence all the transgressors of his law. But this doctrine is specially worthy of notice, that God extends his arms, and is prepared to meet and receive all who betake themselves to good fruits: for despair hurls us into madness, and then hardens our hearts by abandoned obstinacy. Hence it is necessary that God should extend his hand towards us, and animate us to penitence. This is the meaning of this passage of the Prophets, as soon as the impious is turned away from his impiety, God will be at peace with him. Now we see that no excuse remains for us if this humane invitation of God does not stir us up when he bears witness that he is propitious to us when we heartily desire to be reconciled to him. But he here requires serious repentance when he says, if the impious has turned away from his impiety, and has kept my statutes, and done justice and judgment, he shall live, says he. For a sort of half conversion is discerned in many who think that in this way they are safe before God, but they are greatly deceived; for many mingle virtues with vices, and imagine their guilt blotted out, if they can only bring forward something as worthy of praise. But this is just as if any one should offer muddy will to his master, because he had mixed it not only with dregs, but even with filth: so are all the works of those who do not put away all depraved desires, and strive to free themselves from all the corruption’s of the flesh. Thus what is here taught is worthy of notice, namely, that the beginning of conversion is, when any one renounces himself and his own lusts. But it is necessary to add another part of duty, that when any one bids farewell to his vices, he must devote himself obediently to God. The Prophet joins the two together, therefore, since one cannot be separated from the other. Hence the Spirit here shortly defines what true and legitimate conversion is. He says, that when any one is thus converted, that his life is prepared for God, since God will forget all his sins. This is a confirmation of the doctrine; for God cannot be entreated as long as he imputes our sins to us: hence, that we may determine him to be propitious to us, he promises, as soon as we repent, that all our sins shall be buried, and no longer come into remembrance. But this is the incomparable goodness of God, since he deigns to forget all our sins as soon as he sees us earnestly desirous of returning to him. On the whole, Ezekiel pronounces that all the penitent pass at once from death to life, since God blots out all their transgressions by voluntary oblivion. It afterwards follows —

Eze 18:24  As in the last lecture the Prophet offered to sinners a sure hope of pardon if they heartily repented, and promised that God would be propitious to them as soon as they shall seek reconciliation with him: so now, on the other hand, he pronounces, if the just shall decline from his justice, whatever he has hitherto done, shall not come into the account before God. He urged sinners to repentance when he assured them that God was prepared to pardon them: but he now frightens those who profess for the occasion to be pure and sincere worshipers of God, if they fall back in the midst of their course: as Paul says, Let him who stands take heed lest he fall. (1Co_10:12.) Besides, we gather from this passage, as Christ teaches, that those only are happy who persevere, (Mat_24:13;) since a temporary righteousness will never profit those apostates who afterwards turn aside from God. We see, then, how these two clauses unite together, namely, that God invites all who are in danger of perdition with extended arms, and promises them salvation if they heartily return to him. Again, that he may restrain within the bounds of duty those who have made some progress, and correct their sloth and stir up their anxiety, he threatens, that unless they pursue the course of a holy and pious life to the end, their former righteousness will not profit them. But here a question arises, Can a truly just person deflect from the right way? for he who is begotten of God is so free from the tyranny of sin that he devotes himself wholly to righteousness: and then if any do turn aside, they prove that they were always strangers to God. If they had been of us, says John, they would never have gone out from us. (1Jo_2:19.) And regeneration is an incorruptible seed: so we must determine that the faithful who are truly regenerate never fall away from righteousness, but are retained by God’s unconquered power: for God’s calling in the elect is without repentance. (Rom_11:29.) Hence he continues the course of his grace even to the end. Nor are they to be listened to, who, in contradiction to Scripture, teach that faith is extinct in the elect, when, through its barrenness, they bring forth no fruit. In what sense, then, does Ezekiel mean that the just fall away? That question is easily answered, since he is not here treating of the living root of justice, but of the outward form or appearance, as we commonly say. Paul reminds us that God knows us, but adds, that this seal remains. (2Ti_2:19.) God therefore claims to himself alone the difference between the elect and the reprobate, since many seem to be members of his Church who are only outwardly such. And that passage of Augustine is true, that there are many wolves within, and many sheep without. (227) For before God demonstrates his election, the sheep wander, and seem altogether strangers to the hope of salvation. Meanwhile many hypocrites make use of the name of God, and openly boast themselves pre-eminent in the Church, but inwardly they are wolves. But because it often happens that some make the greatest show of piety and justice, the Prophet very properly says, that if such fall away, they cannot boast of their former righteousness before God, since its remembrance will be blotted out. In fine, we see that the word righteousness is referred to our senses, and not to God’s hidden judgment; so that the Prophet does not teach anything but what we perceive daily: for those who seem to excel others desert their calling, shake off every yoke, and cast away the fear of God, and sometimes rush on with diabolical fury. When this result occurs we hear what the Spirit pronounces by the mouth of the Prophet, that none of their righteousness shall be taken into account. But weight is added to his words when he says, if you have turned aside from righteousness, and done according to all the abominations of the impious, (or wicked,) shall he live? For the Prophet separates those who desert God and rush into every wickedness from those who fall through infirmity or want of thought, and from those also who would fall headlong into ruin, unless God preserved them, yet do not utterly cast off his fear, and the desire of living piously and righteously. For example: every one is occasionally off his guard; and hence, in numberless ways, we offend God through error: and hence David exclaims, Who can understand his faults? (Psa_19:12.) We fall of our own accord, since we are often conquered by temptations, even when our consciences accuse us; so that, although sanctified, we decline from the path of uprightness through ignorance, and depart from duty through infirmity. But what is far worse, the saints sometimes rush headlong, as though utterly desperate. For the example of David shows that the elect, although regenerated by God’s Spirit, not only sin to a small extent, but, as I have said, plunge into the very lowest abyss. David became a perfidious homicide, and a traitor to the army of God; then that wretched king fell into a series of crimes: yet he failed in only one thing, and showed that God’s grace was only suffocated within him, and not altogether extinguished. For as soon as Nathan reproves him, he confesses that he had sinned, and is prepared to undergo any punishment which God may inflict. Since, therefore, the saints sometimes fall, the Prophet here stretches forth his hand, lest they should despair, and bears witness that God does not reject them unless they turn aside from their righteousness and commit all the abominations which the impious do. By these words, as we see, he expresses a complete revolt, and he so mitigates the severity of the sentence, lest the minds of those who had only partially relapsed should despond. Now we see the meaning of this language: If he has done according to all the abominations of the wicked, shall he live? says he; all the righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered, because he shall perish. Here the Prophet shows that: a mere temporary righteousness will not profit us unless we persevere unto the end in the fear of God. Here again the contrast is worthy of notice, because it enables us to refute a fiction which is current in the schools of the papacy. They say that guilt is remitted by God, but the punishment is retained. Now what says our Prophet? If the impious turn away from his impiety, I will no longer remember any of his iniquities. Here the papists thrust for-ward the foolish distinction, that God does not remember them as to their guilt, but he does as to their punishment. But what follows a little afterwards? If the just turn away from his justice, his justice shall not be taken into account. But if they do not come into the account as to merit, and yet do as to reward, what is the meaning of the passage? how will the Prophet’s meaning stand? But it is necessary thus to receive what the Prophet says; because, if the distinction of guilt and punishment avails, that of merit and reward will avail also. Hence it will follow, that as to merit God forgets all acts of righteousness; but as far as reward is concerned, they are remembered since they are not abolished. Since, then, it is sufficiently clear that the righteousness of the backslider is not taken into account, so as to lead him to hope for reward, it follows, on the other hand, that his sins are abolished not only as to guilt, but also as to punishment. It now follows — (227) Augustine. Comment, in Joh_10:16.

Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand

July 6, 2010 Comments off

Mat 3:2  And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Mat_3:2.Repent ye

Matthew differs from the other two Evangelists in this respect, that he relates the substance of John’s doctrine, as uttered by John himself, while they relate it in their own words; though Mark has one word more than Luke: for he says, he came Baptizing, and preaching the baptism of repentance. But in substance there is the most perfect agreement: for they all connect repentance with the forgiveness of sins. The kingdom of God among men is nothing else than a restoration to a happy life; or, in other words, it is true and everlasting happiness. When John says, that the kingdom of God is at hand, his meaning is, that men, who were alienated from the righteousness of God, and banished from the kingdom of heaven, must be again gathered to God, and live under his guidance. This is accomplished by a free adoption and the forgiveness of sins, by which he reconciles to himself those who were unworthy. In a word, the kingdom of heaven is nothing else than “newness of life,” (Rom_6:4,) by which God restores us to the hope of a blessed immortality. Having rescued us from the bondage of sin and death, he claims us as his own; that, even while our pilgrimage on earth continues, we may enjoy the heavenly life by faith: for he “hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ,” (Eph_1:3.)

Though we are like dead men, yet we know that our life is secure; for it “is hid with Christ in God,” (Col_3:3.)

From this doctrine, as its source, is drawn the exhortation to repentance. For John does not say, “Repent ye, and in this way the kingdom of heaven will afterwards be at hand;” but first brings forward the grace of God, and then exhorts men to repent. Hence it is evident, that the foundation of repentance is the mercy of God, by which he restores the lost. In no other sense is it stated by Mark and Luke, that he preached repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Repentance is not placed first, as some ignorantly suppose, as if it were the ground of the forgiveness of sins, or as if it induced God to begin to be gracious to us; but men are commanded to repent, that they may receive the reconciliation which is offered to them. Now, as the undeserved love of God — by which he receives into his favor wretched men, “not imputing their trespasses unto them,” (2Co_5:19) — is first in order; so it must be observed, that pardon of sins is bestowed upon us in Christ, not that God may treat them with indulgence, but that he may heal us from our sins. And, indeed, without hatred of sin and remorse for transgressions, no man will taste the grace of God. But a definition of repentance and faith may explain more fully the manner in which both are connected; which leads me to handle this doctrine more sparingly.

With regard to the meaning of the present passage, it is proper to observe, that the whole Gospel consists of two parts, —forgiveness of sins, and repentance. Now, as Matthew denominates the first of these the kingdom of heaven, we may conclude, that men are in a state of deadly enmity with God, and altogether shut out from the heavenly kingdom, till God receives them into favor. Though John, when he introduces the mention of the grace of God, exhorts men to repentance, yet it must not be forgotten that repentance, not less than the inheritance of the heavenly kingdom, is the gift of God. As he freely pardons our sins, and delivers us, by his mercy, from the condemnation of eternal death, so also does he form us anew to his image, that we may live unto righteousness. As he freely adopts us for his sons, so he regenerates us by his Spirit, that our life may testify, that we do not falsely, (245) address him as our Father. In like manner, Christ washes away our sins by his blood, and reconciles our Heavenly Father to us by the sacrifice of his death; but, at the same time, in consequence of “our old man being crucified with him, and the body of sin destroyed,” (Rom_6:6) he makes us “alive” unto righteousness. The sum of the Gospel is, that God, through his Son, takes away our sins, and admits us to fellowship with him, that we, “denying ourselves ” and our own nature, may “live soberly, righteously, and godly,” and thus may exercise ourselves on earth in meditating on the heavenly life.

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?

Expelling Worldliness with a New Affection

March 24, 2010 Comments off
By Sinclair Ferguson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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