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The difficulty of salvation – Richard Sibbes

May 10, 2015 Comments off

If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the wicked and ungodly appear?—1 Pet. 4:18.

What is meant here by righteousness, to wit, a man endued with evangelical righteousness. By ‘righteous’ here, is meant that evangelical righteousness which we have in the state of the gospel, namely, the righteousness of Christ imputed to us; for Christ himself being ours, his obedience and all that he hath becomes ours also; and whosoever partaketh of this righteousness which is by faith, hath also a righteousness of sanctification accompanying the same, wrought in his soul by the Spirit of God, whereby his sinful nature is changed and made holy; for ‘if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature,’ 2 Cor. 5:17. The same Spirit that assures us of our interest in Christ, purifies and cleanseth our hearts, and worketh a new life in us, opposite to our life in the first Adam; from whence flows new works of holiness and obedience throughout our whole conversation. There must be an inward inherent righteousness, before there can be any works of righteousness. An instrument must be set in tune before it will make music; so the Spirit of God must first work a holy frame and disposition of heart in us, before we can bring forth any fruits of holiness in our lives. For we commend not the works of grace as we do the works of art, but refer them to the worker. All that flows from the Spirit of righteousness are works of righteousness. When the soul submits itself to the spirit, and the body to the soul, then things come off kindly. Take a man that is righteous by the Spirit of God: he is righteous in all relations; he gives every one his due; he gives God his due; spiritual worship is set up in his heart above all; he gives Christ his due by affiance in him; he gives the holy angels their due, by considering he is always in their presence, that their eye is upon him in every action he doth, and every duty he performs; the poor have their due from him; those that are in authority have their due. If he be under any, he gives them reverence and obedience, &c.; ‘he will owe nothing to any man but love,’ Rom. 13:8; he is righteous in all his conversation; he is a vessel prepared for every good work. I deny not but he may err in some particular; that is nothing to the purpose. I speak of a man as he is in the disposition and bent of his heart to God and goodness, and so there is a thread of a righteous course, that runs along through his whole conversation. The constant tenure of his life is righteous. He hungers and thirsts after righteousness, and labours to be more and more righteous still, every way, both in justification, that he may have a clearer evidence of that, as also in sanctification, that he may have more of the ‘new creature’ formed in him, that so he may serve God better and better all his days. Now, if this man shall scarcely be saved, where shall the sinner and ungodly appear? Where you have two branches.

1. The righteous shall scarcely be saved.

2. The terrible end of sinners and ungodly, where shall they appear? &c.

Now in that the righteous man thus described by me shall scarcely be saved, consider two things.

1. That the righteous shall be saved.

2. That they shall scarcely be saved.

The righteous are saved. What do I say? the righteous shall be saved? He is saved already. ‘This day is salvation come to thine house,’ saith Christ to Zaccheus, Luke 19:9. ‘We are saved by faith, and are now set in heavenly places together with him,’ Eph. 2:6. We have a title and interest to happiness already. There remains only a passage to the crown by good works. We do not, as the papists do, work to merit that we have not, but we do that we do in thankfulness for what we have. Because we know we are in the state of salvation; therefore we will shew our thankfulness to God in the course of our lives.

How can we miss of salvation when we are saved already? Christ our head being in heaven, will draw his body after him. What should hinder us? The world? Alas!* we have that faith in us,’ which overcometh the world,’ 1 John 5:4. As for the flesh, you know what the apostle saith, ‘We are not under the law, but under grace,’ Rom. 6:14. The spirit in us always lusteth against the flesh, and subdues it by little and little; neither can Satan nor the gates of hell prevail against us; for the grace we have is stronger than all enemies against us.

God the Father is our Father in Christ, and his love and gifts are without repentance, Rom. 11:29. When once we are in the state of salvation, ‘he will preserve us by faith to salvation,’ 1 Pet. 1:5; and we are knit to God the Son, who will lose none of his members. The marriage with Christ is an everlasting union; whom he loves, ‘he loves to the end,’ John 13:1. As for God the Holy Ghost, saith Christ, ‘I will send the Comforter, and he shall be with you to the end,’ John 6:14, 16. The blessed Spirit of God never departs where he once takes up his lodging. There is no question, therefore, of the salvation of the righteous; they are, as it were, saved already.

Use. Let this teach us thus much, that in all the changes and alterations which the faith of man is subject unto, he is sure of one thing: all the troubles, and all the enemies of the world shall not hinder his salvation. ‘If it be possible the elect should be deceived,’ Mat. 24:24; but it is not possible. O what a comfort is this, that in the midst of all the oppositions and plottings of men and devils, yet notwithstanding, somewhat we have, that is not in the power of any enemy to take from us, nor in our own power to lose, namely, our salvation. Set this against any evil whatsoever, and it swallows up all. Put case a man were subject to an hundred deaths, one after another, what are all these to salvation? Put case a man were in such grief, that he wept tears of blood; alas! in the day of salvation all tears shall be wiped from his eyes. Set this, I shall be saved, against any misery you can imagine, and it will unspeakably comfort and revive the soul beyond all.

Obj. But it is here said, he shall scarcely be saved.

Ans. This is not a word of doubt, but of difficulty. It is not a word of doubt of the event, whether he shall be saved or no—there is no doubt at all of that—but it is a word of difficulty in regard of the way and passage thither. So it is here taken, which leads me to a second point, that the way to come to salvation is full of difficulties.

1. Because there is much ado to get Lot out of Sodom, to get Israel out of Egypt. It is no easy matter to get a man out of the state of corruption. O the sweetness of sin to an unregenerate man! O how it cuts his very heart to think what pleasures and what profits, and what friends, and what esteem amongst men he must part withal! What ado is there to pull him out of the kingdom of Satan, wherein the strong man, Luke 11:21, held him before!

2. Again, it is hard in regard of the sin that continually cleaves to them in this world, which doth, as it were, shackle them, and compass them about in all their performances. ‘They would do well, but sin is at hand,’ Rom. 7:21, ready to hinder and stop them in good courses; so that they cannot serve God with such cheerfulness and readiness as they desire to do. Every good work they do, it is, as it were, pulled out of the fire; they cannot pray, but the flesh resists; they cannot suffer, but the flesh draws back. In all their doing and suffering they carry an enemy in their own bosoms that hinders them. Beloved, this [is] no small affliction to God’s people. How did this humble Paul, when no other affliction lay upon him! ‘O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from this body of death?’ Rom. 7:24. It was more troublesome to him than all his irons and pressures whatsoever.

3. Besides, it is a hard matter in regard of Satan; for he is a great enemy to the peace of God’s children. When they are once pulled out of his kingdom, he sends floods of reproaches and persecutions after them, and presently sends hue and cry, as Pharaoh after the Israelites. Oh, how it spites him! What! shall a piece of dust and clay be so near God, when I am tumbled out of heaven myself! Though I cannot hinder him from salvation, I will hinder his peace and joy; he shall not have heaven upon earth.* I will make him walk as uncomfortably as I can. Thus the devil, as he is a malignant creature, full of envy against God’s poor saints, so he is a bitter enemy of the peace and comfort which they enjoy; and therefore troubles them with many temptations from himself and his instruments, to interrupt their peace, and make the hearts of God’s people sad all he can.

4. Then, by reason of great discouragements and ill-usage which they find in the world from wicked men, who are the devil’s pipes, led with his spirit to vex and trouble the meek of the earth; for, though they think not of it, Satan is in their devilish natures; he joins and goes along with their spirits in hating and opposing the saints of God; for, indeed, what hurt could they do but by his instigation? How are good men despised in the world! How are they made the only butt† to shoot at! Alas! beloved, we should rather encourage men in the ways of holiness. We see the number of such as truly fear God is but small, soon reckoned up. They are but as grapes after the vintage, or a few berries after the shaking; one of a city, two of a tribe, Micah 7:1, Jer. 3:14. They have little encouragements from any, but discouragements on all sides.

5. Besides this, scandal makes it a hard matter to be saved; to see evil courses and evil persons flourish and countenanced in the world. Oh, it goes to the heart of God’s people, and makes them stagger at God’s providence. It is a bitter temptation, and shakes the faith of holy men, as we see, Ps. 73, Jer. 12:1, 2. Again, it makes the heart of a good Christian bleed within him, to see scandals arise from professors of the gospel, when they are not so watchful as they should be, but bring a reproach upon religion by their licentious lives.

Yea, God’s children suffer much for their friends, whose wicked courses are laid to their charge, and sometimes even by their friends; for whilst they live here, the best of all are subject to some weakness or other, which causeth even those that are our encouragers, through jealousy or corruption, one way or another, to dishearten and trouble us in the way to heaven.

6. This, likewise, makes the way difficult; we are too apt to offend God daily, giving him just cause to withdraw his Spirit of comfort from us, which makes us go mourning all the day long; wanting those sweet refreshments of spiritual joy and peace we had before. The more comfort God’s child hath in communion with God, the more he is grieved when he wants it. When Christ wanted the sweet solace of his Father upon the cross, how did it trouble him! ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ Mat. 27:46. How did he sweat water and blood in the garden, Luke 22:44, when he felt but a little while his Father’s displeasure for sin! Thus is it with all God’s children; they are of Christ’s mind in their spiritual desertions.

And when they have gotten a little grace, how difficult is it to keep it! to keep ourselves in the sense of God’s love! to manage our Christian state aright! to walk worthy of the gospel, that God may still do us good, and delight to be present with us! What a great difficulty is it to be always striving against the stream, and when we are cast back to get forward still, and not be discouraged till we come to the haven! None comes to heaven but they know how they come there.

Why God will have the righteous with such difficulty saved. Now, God will have it thus to sweeten heaven unto us. After a conflicting life peace is welcome; heaven is heaven indeed after trouble. We can relish it then. Because God will discard hypocrites in this life, who take up so much of religion as stands with their ease and credit in the world, avoiding every difficulty which accompanies godliness, but, so they may swim two ways at once, go on in their lusts still and be religious withal. This they approve of. Therefore, God will have it a hard matter to be saved, to frustrate the vain hopes of such wretches. Alas! it is an easy matter to be an hypocrite, but not to live godly.

Use. If the righteous be saved with much ado, then never enter upon the profession of religion with vain hopes of ease and pleasure, that it shall be thus and thus with thee, &c. Herein thou dost but delude thy own soul, for it will prove otherwise. Forecast, therefore, what will fall, and get provision of grace beforehand to sustain thee. As, if a man were to go a dangerous journey, he provides himself of weapons and cordials, and all the encouragements he can, lest he should faint in the way; whereas he that walks for his pleasure provides nothing. He cares not for his weapon or his cloak, because if a storm comes he can run under shelter or into a house, &c. He that makes religion a recreation can walk a turn or two for his pleasure, and when any difficulty arises can retire and draw in his horns again. An hypocrite hath his reservations and politic ends, and therefore what needs he any great provision to support him, when he knows how to wind out of trouble well enough, rather than to stand courageously to anything thing. But a true Christian, that makes it the main work of his life to please God, arms himself for the worst that can befall him, and will be saved through thick or thin, smooth or rough, whatsoever comes on it. So God will save his soul, he cares not, but rejoiceth, with Paul, if by any means he can attain the resurrection of the dead, Phil. 3:11, by any means, it is no matter what. Let fire and fagot meet with him, yet he is resolved not to retire for any trouble or persecution whatsoever that stands between him and happiness. He is purposely armed to break through every opposition to the best things, and whatever may separate his soul from the favour of God. I beseech you, beloved, think of these things, and let it be your wisdom to make the way to heaven as easy as you can. To this end,

1. Beg the Spirit of Christ. You know the Holy Spirit is full of life and strength; it is a Spirit of light and comfort and whatsover is good. The Spirit of God is like the wind; as it is subtle in operation and invisible, so it is strong and mighty, it bears all before it. Oh! therefore, get this blessed Spirit to enlighten thee, to quicken thee, to support thee, &c., and it will carry thy soul courageously along, above all oppositions and discouragements whatsoever in the way to happiness.

2. Get likewise the particular graces of the Spirit, which will much cheer thee in thy Christian course. Above all, labour for a spirit of humility. An humble man is fit to do or suffer anything. A proud man is like a gouty hand, or a swelled arm, unfit for any Christian performance; he is not in a state to do good; but an humble man is thankful that God will honour him so far as to let him suffer for the cause of Christ. He is wondrous empty and vile in his own eyes, and admires* why God should reserve such infinite matters for so base a worm as he is.

When Christ would have us take his yoke upon us, he advises us ‘to learn of him to be meek and lowly,’ &c., Mat. 11:29. Some might say, This yoke is heavy, it will pinch me and gall me. No, saith our Saviour, it shall be very light and easy. But how shall I get it to be so? Why! get but an humble and meek spirit, and that will bring rest to your souls.

3. Again, labour for a spirit of love. ‘Love is strong as death,’ Cant. 8:6; it will carry us through all. The love of Christ in the martyrs, when the fire was kindled about them, made them despise all torments whatsoever. This will warm our hearts and make us go cheerfully to work. Let but a spirit of love be kindled in God’s child, and it is no matter what he suffers; cast him into the fire, cast him into the dungeon, into prison, whatsoever it be, he hath that kindled in his heart, which will make him digest anything. We see the disciples, when they had the Spirit of Christ within them to warm their hearts, what cared they for whipping, or stocks, &c.? You see even base, carnal love will make a man endure poverty, disgrace, what not! and shall not this fire that comes from heaven, when it is once kindled in our hearts, prevail much more? What will make our passage to heaven sweet if this will not? Nothing is grievous to a person that loves.

4. Exercise your hope likewise. Set before your eyes the crown and kingdom of heaven; those admirable things contained in the word of God, which no tongue can express. Let hope feed upon these delicates; cast anchor in heaven, and see if it will not make thee go on cheerfully in a Christian course.

Faith will overcome the world; all the snares of prosperity that would hinder us on the right hand. Faith, it presents things of a higher nature to the soul; better than they. Faith likewise overcomes temptations on the left hand; all terrors and discomforts whatsoever. It considers these are nothing to ‘the terror of the Lord,’ 2 Cor. 5:11. Therefore ‘faith is called the evidence of things not seen,’ Heb. 11:1, because it presents things that are absent as present to the soul. If life and happiness be once truly presented to our hearts, what can all the world do to hinder our passage thither?

5. Lastly, we should much endeavour the mortification of our lusts; for what is it that makes the way to heaven irksome unto us? Is it not this corrupt and proud flesh of ours, which will endure nothing, no, not the weight of a straw, but is all for ease and quiet, &c.? It is not duty which makes our way difficult, ‘for it was meat and drink to Christ, to do the will of his Father,’ John 4:34.

Quest. Why is it not so with us?

Ans. Because he was born without sin. When Satan came he found nothing of his own in him; but when he solicits us, he finds a correspondency betwixt our corrupt hearts and himself, whereby having intelligence what we haunt, and what we love, he will be sure to molest us. The less we have of the works of Satan in us, the less will be our trouble; and the more we do the will of God, and strive against our corruptions, the more will be our comfort. This will make holy duties delightful to us; but if we favour and cherish corruption, it will make religion harsh. For the ways of wisdom are ways of pleasure in themselves, and to the regenerate, &c. I come now to the second clause.

‘Where shall the sinner and ungodly appear?’

What he means by sinner. By sinner he means him that makes a trade of sin. As we say, a man is of such a trade, because he is daily at work of it, and lives by it, so a man is a trader in sin, that lives in corrupt courses. For it is not one act that denominates a sinner, but the constant practice of his life.

Now this question, Where shall the ungodly appear? implies a strong denial, He shall be able to appear nowhere; especially in these three times.

1. In the day of public calamity, when God’s judgments are abroad in the world. The wicked are as chaff before the wind, as wax before the sun, as stubble before the fire. When God comes to deal with a company of graceless wretches, how will he consume and scatter them, and sweep them away as dung from the face of the earth! he will universally make a riddance of them at once. Where shall a Nabal stand when judgment comes upon him? 1 Sam. 25:37. Alas! his heart is become a stone. Where shall Belshazzar appear when he sees the handwriting upon the wall? Dan. 5. Oh how the wicked tremble and quake when God comes to judge them in this world, though they were a terror to others before!

2. But where shall they stand in the hour of death? when the world can hold them no longer; when friends shall forsake them; when God will not receive them; when hell is ready to devour them, &c.

3. And lastly, where shall the sinner appear at the day of judgment, that great and terrible day of account, when they shall see all the world in a combustion round about them, and the Lord Jesus coming in flaming fire, ‘with his mighty angels, to take vengeance on such as obey not the gospel?’ 2 Thess. 1:8. How will they then call for ‘the mountains to cover them, and the hills to fall upon them, to hide them from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb,’ &c., Rev. 6:16. Beloved, I beseech you, let the meditation of these things sink deep into your hearts, dwell upon them, remember that they are matters which nearly concern your soul, and no vain words, touching you and your welfare.

Sibbes, R. (1577). The Works of Richard Sibbes

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Christ quiets the storm – Matthew Henry commentary

July 27, 2012 Comments off

Mat 8:23  And when he was entered into a ship, his disciples followed him.
Mat 8:24  And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep.
Mat 8:25  And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish.
Mat 8:26  And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm.
Mat 8:27  But the men marvelled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!

Christ had given sailing orders to his disciples (Mat_8:18), that they should depart to the other side of the sea of Tiberias, into the country of Gadara, in the tribe of Gad, which lay east of Jordan; thither he would go to rescue a poor creature that was possessed with a legion of devils, though he foresaw how he should be affronted there. Now. 1. He chose to go by water. It had not been much about, if he had gone by land; but he chose to cross the lake, that he might have occasion to manifest himself the God of the sea as well as of the dry land, and to show that all power is his, both in heaven and in earth. It is a comfort to those who go down to the sea in ships, and are often in perils there, to reflect that they have a Saviour to trust in, and pray to, who knows what it is to be at sea, and to be in storms there. But observe, when he went to sea, he had no yacht or pleasure-boat to attend him, but made use of his disciples’ fishing-boats; so poorly was he accommodated in all respects. 2. His disciples followed him; the twelve kept close to him, when others staid behind upon the terra firma, where there was sure footing. Note, They, and they only, will be found the true disciples of Christ, that are willing to go to sea with him, to follow him into dangers and difficulties. Many would be content to go the land-way to heaven, that will rather stand still, or go back, than venture upon a dangerous sea; but those that would rest with Christ hereafter must follow him now wherever he leads them, into a ship or into a prison, as well as into a palace. Now observe here,
I. The peril and perplexity of the disciples in this voyage; and in this appeared the truth of what Christ had just now said, that those who follow him must count upon difficulties, Mat_8:20.
1. There arose a very great storm, Mat_8:24. Christ could have prevented this storm, and have ordered them a pleasant passage, but that would not have been so much for his glory and the confirmation of their faith as their deliverance was: this storm was for their sakes, as Joh_11:4. One would have expected, that having Christ with them, they should have had a very favourable gale, but it is quite otherwise; for Christ would show that they who are passing with him over the ocean of this world to the other side, must expect storms by the way. The church is tossed with tempests (Isa_54:11); it is only the upper region that enjoys a perpetual calm, this lower one is ever and anon disturbed and disturbing.
2. Jesus Christ was asleep in this storm. We never read of Christ’s sleeping but at this time; he was in watchings often, and continued all night in prayer to God: this was a sleep, not of security, like Jonah’s in a storm, but of holy serenity, and dependence upon his Father: he slept to show that he was really and truly man, and subject to the sinless infirmities of our nature: his work made him weary and sleepy, and he had no guilt, no fear within, to disturb his repose. Those that can lay their heads upon the pillow of a clear conscience, may sleep quietly and sweetly in a storm (Psa_4:8), as Peter, Act_12:6. He slept at this time, to try the faith of his disciples, whether they could trust him when he seemed to slight them. He slept not so much with a desire to be refreshed, as with a design to be awaked.
3. The poor disciples, though used to the sea, were in a great fright, and in their fear came to their Master, Mat_8:25. Whither else should they go? It was well they had him so near them. They awoke him with their prayers; Lord, save us, we perish. Note, They who would learn to pray must go to sea. Imminent and sensible dangers will drive people to him who alone can help in time of need. Their prayer has life in it, Lord, save us, we perish. (1.) Their petition is, Lord, save us. They believed he could save them; they begged he would, Christ’s errand into the world was to save, but those only shall be saved that call on the name of the Lord, Act_2:21. They who by faith are interested in the eternal salvation wrought out by Christ, may with a humble confidence apply themselves to him for temporal deliverances. Observe, They call him, Lord, and then pray, Save us. Note, Christ will save none but those that are willing to take him for their Lord; for he is a Prince and a Saviour. (2.) Their plea is, We perish; which was, [1.] The language of their fear; they looked upon their case as desperate, and gave up all for lost; they had received a sentence of death within themselves, and this they plead, “We perish, if thou dost not save us; look upon us therefore with pity.” [2.] It was the language of their fervency; they pray as men in earnest, that beg for their lives; it becomes us thus to strive and wrestle in prayer; therefore Christ slept, that he might draw out this importunity.
II. The power and grace of Jesus Christ put forth for their succour: then the Lord Jesus awaked, as one refreshed, Psa_78:65. Christ may sleep when his church is in a storm, but he will not outsleep himself: the time, the set time to favour his distressed church, will come, Psa_102:13.
1. He rebuked the disciples (Mat_8:26); Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? He does not chide them for disturbing him with their prayers, but for disturbing themselves with their fears. Christ reproved them first, and then delivered them; this is his method, to prepare us for a mercy, and then to give it us. Observe, (1.) His dislike of their fears; “Why are ye fearful? Ye, my disciples? Let the sinners in Zion be afraid, let heathen mariners tremble in a storm, but you shall not be so. Enquire into the reasons of your fear, and weigh them.” (2.) His discovery of the cause and spring of their fears; O ye of little faith. Many that have true faith are weak in it, and it does but little. Note, [1.] Christ’s disciples are apt to be disquieted with fears in a stormy day, to torment themselves with jealousies that things are bad with them, and dismal conclusions that they will be worse. [2.] The prevalence of our inordinate fears in a stormy day is owing to the weakness of our faith, which would be as an anchor to the soul, and would ply the oar of prayer. By faith we might see through the storm to the quiet shore, and encourage ourselves with hope that we shall weather our point. [3.] The fearfulness of Christ’s disciples in a storm, and their unbelief, the cause of it, are very displeasing to the Lord Jesus, for they reflect dishonour upon him, and create disturbance to themselves.
2. He rebukes the wind; the former he did as the God of grace, and the Sovereign of the heart, who can do what he pleases in us; this he did as the God of nature, the Sovereign of the world, who can do what he pleases for us. It is the same power that stills the noise of the sea, and the tumult of fear, Psa_65:7. See, (1.) How easily this was done, with a word’s speaking. Moses commanded the waters with a rod; Joshua, with the ark of the covenant; Elisha, with the prophet’s mantle; but Christ with a word. See his absolute dominion over all the creatures, which bespeaks both his honour, and the happiness of those that have him on their side. (2.) How effectually it was done? There was a great calm, all of a sudden. Ordinarily, after a storm, there is such a fret of the waters, that it is a good while ere they can settle; but if Christ speak the word, not only the storm ceases, but all the effects of it, all the remains of it. Great storms of doubt, and fear in the soul, under the power of the spirit of bondage, sometimes end in a wonderful calm, created and spoken by the Spirit of adoption.
3. This excited their astonishment (Mat_8:27); The men marvelled. They had been long acquainted with the sea, and never saw a storm so immediately turned into a perfect calm, in all their lives. It has all the marks and signatures of a miracle upon it; it is the Lord’s doing, and is marvellous in their eyes. Observe, (1.) Their admiration of Christ; What manner of man is this! Note, Christ is a Nonsuch; every thing in him is admirable: none so wise, so mighty, so amiable, as he. (2.) The reason of it; Even the winds and the sea obey him. Upon this account, Christ is to be admired, that he has a commanding power even over winds and seas. Others pretended to cure diseases, but he only undertook to command the winds. We know not the way of the wind (Joh_3:8), much less can we control it; but he that bringeth forth the wind out of his treasury (Psa_135:7), when it is out, gathers it into his fists, Pro_30:4. He that can do this, can do any thing, can do enough to encourage our confidence and comfort in him, in the most stormy day, within or without, Isa_26:4. The Lord sits upon the floods, and is mightier than the noise of many waters. Christ, by commanding the seas, showed himself to be the same that made the world, when, at his rebuke, the waters fled (Psa_104:7, Psa_104:8), as now, at his rebuke, they fell.

Experimental salvation – AW Pink

December 25, 2011 Comments off

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source

Touch the hem of his garment

May 29, 2011 Comments off

Gospel lessons from the healing of the woman with the issue of blood (Mark 5:24-34)

* This woman who was hemmoraging blood is a picture of every sinner. She was considered unclean by the Law of God and was, in fact, slowly dying of her condition. The Scripture tells us: We are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away (Isaiah 64:6). Our position is actually far worse that this woman’s. She contracted her disease involuntary.  We, on the other hand, have rushed into our sins and therefore must carry the guilt of voluntary involvement.

* This woman had sought healing from many physicians. However, despite doing the rounds of the greatest and best and spending all her money, she not only failed to regain her health, but actually grew worse. Now she was not only ill, but bankrupt also and the future was as bleak as ever. Many folk who are aware of the deadly nature of their sin are most anxious to find pardon nevertheless seek it in the wrong place. Many seek it in religion and even go from church to church, hoping to find relief. Others try self help groups with their various philosophies but when all is said and done, the guilt remains and they are still held captive by the Devil at his will (2 Timothy 2:26). Is my reader such a person?

* This woman saw that only Jesus Christ could give her what she was looking for. Salvation is not in any other person or group of people. Salvation is found in Jesus Christ alone. He proclaimed Himself alone as the door by which we can enter in and be saved (John 10:9). His alone is the name whereby we must be saved (Acts 4:12).

* This woman came in an act of simple faith. She considered that but touching the hem of His garment would lead to her healing. Why the hem of His garment? Usually the hem is the last part of the garment to be made. It represents the finished work. Christ’s last cry but one from the Cross was exactly this: “It is FINISHED” (John 19:30). All that is required by the law of God for our salvation is bundled up entirely in the Life and Death of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is our righteousness before God (Jeremiah 23:6). Saving faith simply lies hold upon this fact and applies it to the need of the soul.

* Her healing was immediately effected by her touch. The virtuous power left Christ and straightway she was made whole. There was nothing progressive about this. He that hath the Son, hath  [present tense] everlasting life (1 John 5:12).

* Her faith was not particularly strong. When asked to reveal herself, she came in fear and trembling. We are not saved on the basis of our faith, but through the instrumentality of our faith. In other words, the strength lies in the One to whom faith is directed, rather than faith itself. Even a weak faith saves, if placed in the Almighty Saviour.

* Many thronged the Saviour, but only one touched him with the touch of faith. Many throng him today through their religious duties. Be the one though who touches him  by faith and experiences his eternal salvation.

Source

Praise God for his glorious works

January 16, 2011 Comments off

Sinner, thou thinkest that because of thy sins and infirmities I cannot save thy soul, but behold My Son is by Me, and upon Him I look, and not on thee, and will deal with thee according as I am pleased with Him. At this I was greatly lightened in my mind, and made to understand that God could justify a sinner at any time; it was but His looking upon Christ, and imputing of His benefits to us, and the work was forthwith done.

Source: Grace abounding to the chief of sinners

Judicial hardening – M Lloyd-Jones

October 5, 2010 Comments off

What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded (according as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day. And David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumblingblock, and a recompence unto them: let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their back alway. – Romans 11:7-10

In these solemn verses the Apostle sums up what he has previously said in this chapter. We certainly are entering into the realm of ultimate mystery. Let us therefore ‘take off our shoes from off our feet, for the place on which we stand is holy ground’. This is a passage that must be approached with reverence, with humility and with care. It does indeed hold us face to face with some of the most mysterious elements of biblical teaching, and of Christian teaching in particular. Let us bear in mind what the Apostle says at the end of the chapter. It is very applicable at this point — ‘O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!’

Now that is the spirit and the way in which we must approach this. We are dealing with the mind and the ways of God and we must therefore anticipate that we shall not be able to understand it fully. But a man who rebels because he does not understand the mind of God is one who puts himself immediately into the very category, I say, of these Jews whose tragic case and condition we are considering. Let us be careful. We are all too ready to speak our opinions and when we do not understand the mind of God we say that something seems to us to be wrong. That was the whole trouble with the Jews. God forbid, therefore, that we should be guilty of the terrible thing of which they were.

First of all, let us get clearly in our minds the basic point which the Apostle is making. He starts off by saying, ‘What then?’ — which means, ‘What therefore?’ In other words, ‘What is the position in the light of what I have been saying?’ His answer is that ‘Israel’ — that is to say the nation as a whole, ‘Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for’.

The word ‘seeketh’ is most important because it means ‘earnest seeking’. The Apostle fixed a preposition to the word that he used in order to give it emphasis. It was not a casual ‘looking at’ but ‘an earnest and persistent seeking’. In addition, he uses the present tense to indicate that Israel was still doing so. What was being sought? Well, there is no question but that it must be ‘righteousness’. They wanted to be right with God.

But he says that though they were ‘earnestly and persistently seeking that, they had not got it, whereas, on the other hand ‘the election hath obtained it’. Now here is a most interesting expression. He does not say ‘the elect’ have obtained it but ‘the election’. Why? If he had said ‘the elect hath obtained it’ we would tend to think of the elect as individuals, and we might fall into the error of thinking that it was as the result of what they were in themselves and what they had done. But in order to obviate any such possibility the Apostle refers to them as ‘the election’. This brings out the great point that it was because of what someone else had done that they had obtained it. This term emphasizes the one who ‘elects’ rather than any choice made by the people and so all the glory is to be given to God alone. The term also describes people corporately rather than individually and that is relevant to the whole argument.

The statement goes on to say ‘and the rest’ which means all in the nation apart from those chosen, ‘were blinded’. We must look at this word ‘blinded’ because all the commentators point out that it really should be translated ‘hardened’. While that is so, the Authorized Version translators had a good reason for translating it as ‘blinded’ as they did in 2 Corinthians 3:14, a parallel chapter, where we read, ‘But their minds were blinded’. I think we can justify this rendering in Romans by pointing out that in the quotation which the Apostle immediately adduces there is a reference to blindness: ‘According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see’. It means, you see, that a callous mask has come over the eyes, and prevented their seeing. Why should there not be an opacity in the eye as well as hardening of the heart? There is, and he goes on from his quotations to elaborate that point. But the thing for us to notice is that this verb is in the passive voice, they ‘were blinded’. We will have to come back to this.

In verses 8 to 10 the Apostle substantiates his basic statement and he does a most extraordinary thing. In the eighth verse he takes a number of quotations from the Scripture and out of them he produces one fresh kind of statement. Here again is another instance of the divine inspiration of the Apostle. The same Spirit who had indited the original statements is here governing this great Apostle, and He is bringing the same meaning out of the three in the form of this one composite declaration. The verses quoted are Isaiah 29:10; Deuteronomy 29:4 and Isaiah 6:9.

Now what does Paul say? He says that ‘God hath given them the spirit of slumber’. This means that God had produced a kind of torpor or numbness in them. The meaning of the word he uses refers to an inability to use one’s faculties. If you are under the influence of a drug, you will be dimly aware of things happening around you, but you will not be able to understand them. You are not completely unconscious but you are not fully conscious either and it is the highest faculties of seeing, hearing, and understanding that are affected.

What the Apostle is saying is this: Israel has been in this condition before. We have these examples of it even in the time of Moses and the time of Isaiah, and it was still happening in Paul’s day. He says there was nothing new about this; and unfortunately, it is still happening. It is the explanation of the fact that the majority of the nation of Israel, all indeed apart from the remnant according to the election of grace, are refusing the gospel and are outside the Christian church.

He quotes from Psalm 69 verses 22 and 23 in verses 9 and 10 which read, ‘And David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumblingblock, and a recompence unto them: Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their back alway’. Now here again is a most important, and, at the same time, difficult statement. David refers to their table which of course means the things that are on it and not the table as such. They have a table laden with food and drink, everything that could be desired. David says let all that become a trap to them, and here, of course, he uses illustrations that an agricultural community would understand so well, the gins and the traps used for catching birds and other animals. These traps would be set and the poor animal would go along unsuspectingly, and suddenly the trap or the snare would catch them. There is no point in going into the distinction between the two words. They are used in order to bring out the imagery in its fulness.

But the significant word is ‘recompence’ rather than trap’ or ‘snare’, or even ‘stumblingblock’. A recompence means that what is happening is by way of a reward for evil done. In other words, what is in view is that they might reap the consequences of their own recalcitrance and obduracy towards the truth of God. What David was praying was that the very benefits that they were receiving from God might become a punishment and a hindrance to them.

Now what does he mean by the table? Well I think this is most important for us. He is saying something like this. Confronted with this kind of condition, David asked God to turn His blessings into a curse. The table stands for the material benefits and spiritual blessing.

There are terrible instances of this very thing in the Old Testament. One reads like this: ‘And he gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul’. That is found in Psalm 106:15, where the psalmist was reviewing the long story of the children of Israel. ‘They believed his words; they sang his praise. They soon forgot his works; they waited not for his counsel: But lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tempted God in the desert’. This was the cry for meat, you remember, and the quails were sent to them and so on, but this is how he sums it up — ‘He gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul’. He gave them prosperity. Their bodies became fat but their souls became lean.

Now that is a part of this statement before us, ‘Let their table become a snare and a trap, and a stumblingblock, and a recompence unto them’. Now I do not think that we can confine this only to the material benefits associated with God’s taking of them into the land of Canaan, ‘a land flowing with milk and honey’. Their table was loaded. But it became a curse to them.

But God had given them spiritual blessings. As Paul has said, they were given God’s ‘lively oracles’. Indeed, he had given them ‘the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises’ [Rom. 9:4-5]. All that is included too. And David’s petition is, that these things which they have abused and misused ‘may become a snare and a trap’ and a kind of evil recompence to them. And this is the very thing, of course, that was true of the children of Israel. It had been partially fulfilled in the past but the Apostle’s point is that the real fulfilment was in his day.

He then adds to that this picture: ‘Let their eyes be darkened that they may not see’ — this is spiritual blindness; and then, ‘bow down their back alway’ — this is the picture of an old man, bent, having lost his strength.

Now then what does this mean? The principle that he is putting before us is this; if we do not obey God, God’s very blessings will become a curse to us. Is not that a part of the explanation of the state of the church and of this country at the present time? The Christian church became big, important and wealthy in the nineteenth century and was no longer a despised little sect. I believe that became a curse to her and that we are inheriting something of the consequences of that. The terrible thing is this — that even God’s blessings, if you look at them in the wrong way and abuse them, they will become a curse to you. That is why tradition is something about which we always ought to be most careful. You look at the long history of the church and you will generally find this, that places which at one time enjoyed unusual blessings are today some of the most barren places in the universe.

Now I happen to know particular instances of that. I was brought up in a place where a mighty man of God was preaching two hundred years ago, the great Daniel Rowland of whom Bishop Ryle said that he was the greatest preacher since the Apostles. Daniel Rowland preached there for fifty years and that place used to experience heaven upon earth, Sunday by Sunday and on other occasions. Now I find it very difficult to think of any place known to me at the present time that is so spiritually dead, and I have no doubt that the explanation is that they tended to live on the tradition. I could name you other places. This has happened to many individual chapels. They have been blessed, God has loaded the table, but the very blessing has become a curse to them, even though the blessing has been the Word of God — the law, the gospel, God’s own Word!

So you see it includes all that. The ‘table’ may mean not only material gifts and blessings from God, it may mean God’s own Word, God’s richest blessing — that can become a curse to the people. These were the very people to whom the ‘oracles of God’ were given, yet they were much more blind than the Gentiles who did not have them and were without any knowledge or instruction whatsoever. This is the terrible thing that is being taught here! And I think this is a word to modern evangelical people. God forbid, my friends, that when God chooses to revive his work again evangelicals should be the people who should be by-passed because they are living on a tradition rather than on a living experience of God; because they have become proud of their knowledge of the Scriptures but have lost the Spirit; because they have enjoyed a kind of affluence, material as well as spiritual.

This is an appalling thought! Is the decline, the declension in this country today not due largely to these things? Our very affluence may be the greatest curse. The danger with an affluent society always is to be content and to slacken, and the poorer nations are working hard. While we become slack they are putting energy into it and so our very blessing becomes a curse to us. I think this has been seen since the last war. The recovery of Germany has been a phenomenon, an amazing phenomenon. She is one of the leading industrial nations. Why? Well, because she was so down that she had to work, whereas the other nations, the more prosperous nations, tend to rest upon their oars. That is the principle that is involved here. And it can happen to a church, it can happen to a Christian individual; and it can apply, I say, not only to material benefits and blessings and affluence, it can even apply to an understanding of the Word and the possession of the truth. The moment we begin to rest upon it and to take pride in it and to think that ‘we are the people’, we have fallen into this very error that brought down this terrible calamity upon the children of Israel.

Now it is important that we should grasp this because our Lord himself said this very thing in his teaching. It is seen in the Parable of the Vineyard in Matthew 21:42 and in the judgment announced in Matthew 23:24. Stephen did the same when he stood before the Sanhedrin. He took them through their whole history and said: ‘Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it’ [Acts 7:51]. And that is the very thing that the Apostle is saying here. This had been the tendency of this people from the very beginning, but now the final calamity has come upon them. All that had been predicted and prophesied has come to a head. They were but suggestions of what was coming. It has now come.

And so, you see, this statement helps us to understand the whole of the teaching of the Old Testament. The whole of the Old Testament is, in a sense, a prophecy of this climactic point when the Son of God came and the chosen people did not recognize Him but crucified Him, preferring Barabbas to Him. So, the judgment of God comes down upon them. And the terrifying thing about that is that it all happened to them because they were the people of God, because they did have the promises when nobody else had them, because they alone had the ‘oracles’, the Word of God, and all the ceremonial and the temple and all that it taught and suggested. These very blessings that God had given to them were the things that had blinded them to the truth as it is in Christ Jesus.

What are the lessons taught here? I suggest there are four of them. First: the great lesson about the wrong way of seeking God’s blessing; secondly: judicial blindness; thirdly and fourthly, how to understand the Imprecatory and the Messianic psalms respectively.

First of all: Why is it true to say that ‘Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for?’ The whole answer is because they were not seeking it in the right way. It is because of their complete misunderstanding of the law and the Prophets and especially of the Messiah in His character and His work when He did come. The Apostle has really said this at the end of chapter 9 where we read: ‘What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith. But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingblock: As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and a rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed’. Their whole tragedy was due to the fact that they did not seek the thing they were seeking in the right way. What they were seeking was right; but here is the terrible lesson, you can be seeking the right thing and yet miss it entirely because you are not seeking it in the right way.

Are we all clear about this? This is where the danger of religion comes in. There are very genuine people who say, ‘I want to know God, I want to be blessed of God’ — but they do not know Him, and if they remain as they are they never will. But they are zealous, they are keen, they read their Bibles, they pray, they do good works, they will do almost anything, some of them make great sacrifices; but they do not know Him!

Now let us not forget what the Apostle has said about these people. ‘Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. I bear them record that they have a zeal for God’. They did have it. They really were seeking intensely, persistently, energetically. The Pharisee was not a man who merely said ‘I fast twice in the week and give a tenth of my goods to the poor’. He did it. It was true. That was the whole tragedy of these people. It is the tragedy of all people who trust to their own religion, or their own seeking of God, or their own good works. There is only one way in which this blessing can be obtained. It is entirely by faith. The tragedy of Israel is that she did not seek it ‘by faith’. She thought she could keep the law; she felt that she could obtain righteousness and get the blessing of God by the possession of the temple and attendance there and the possession of the law and her works. That is why Stephen had to say to them, Do not tell me, ‘We have got the Temple’; God does not dwell in temples made with hands. They thought every time they went into the temple that they were getting a blessing. They did not realize that you could have a heart of stone even in the temple, and the moment you look at the temple in this wrong way. And people are still doing it in their religious life, in their great cathedrals which they think is the worship of God. ‘This mountain’, as the woman of Samaria said, which was Gerizim; the Jews said ‘No, in Jerusalem’. Our Lord says, Neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem. The time cometh, and now is, when the Father shall seek the true worshippers. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

If you are relying upon the fact that you have a Bible or that you are a church member or that you go to a particular building or that you are doing certain good works, you are like the Jews. You are outside, you are blind and you have not got it, and you will never get it along that line. There is only one way of salvation — this is the message of the whole Bible — it is Jesus Christ and Him crucified. It is simple faith in Him, nothing else. If you bring anything else in you have not got it, you will never obtain it. You may get great personal satisfaction, as the Jews had, but the test is this: How do you react to the preaching of justification by faith only? Are you annoyed or irritated by it? Do you feel it is unfair to you? If so, you are like the Jews. That is the tragedy of this people.

I believe we are witnessing something like this at the present time. It is a terrible thing to say, but is it not true that the greatest hindrance to true knowledge of God in Christ and salvation in this country today is the so-called Christian church? It is the greatest hindrance to the people because she is representing a false Christianity. Those who still believe in justification by faith are a very small remnant. Thank God there are still ‘seven thousand who have not bowed the knee’. But we are a remnant and there is no question but that the official church, ‘Christendom’, as it is called, is today the greatest hindrance to the true faith not only in this country but in the whole world. It is a terrifying thing, but it has been true in the past and I believe it is true today.

But let us also be careful if we believe that we belong to the remnant not to boast. We all need to examine ourselves and to be careful. There is only one safe position and it is when we can say honestly, ‘I am nothing. Thou art all’. Here is this terrible lesson of this nation of Israel. She has not obtained it. Why? Well, ‘because she had a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge’. And the knowledge is, Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. May God have mercy upon us all and give us understanding in these great mysterious matters.

Life – JC Philpot

August 21, 2010 Comments off

“And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.” 1 John 5:11

How often we are looking and looking in vain for life in ourselves. True it is that if God has quickened our souls we are partakers of life divine, of life spiritual, of life eternal, of the life that is in Christ and comes from Christ; and yet how often we vainly seek to find it warm and glowing in our breasts. If once given it never dies; but it is often hidden beneath the ashes, and thus though it slowly burns and dimly glows, yet the ashes hide it from view, and we only know it is there by some remains of warmth. “Your life is hid with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3); and therefore not only hidden as treasured and stored up safely in God, but hidden from the world, and even hidden from the eyes of its possessor. Christ is our life. There is no other. To look, then, for life in ourselves independent of and distinct from the fountain of life is to look for that in the creature which is lodged in the divine Creator, is to look for that in man which dwells in the God-man; to look for that in self which is out of self, embosomed in the fulness of the Son of God. And it is not merely that life is in him, but he is the life itself. As the sun not only has light and heat, but is light itself and heat itself, so the blessed Lord not only grants life, but he himself is what he grants. As a fountain not only gives water, but is itself all water, so Christ not only gives what he is, but is all that he gives. Not only, therefore, is he the “resurrection,” centring in himself everything, both for time and eternity, which resurrection contains and resurrection implies, but he is “the life,” being in himself a fountain of life, out of which he gives from his own fulness to the members of his mystical body.

JC Philpot – 1802-1869