April 18: The Gospel In Power

For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit, and in much assurance; . . . And you became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit. 1 Thes. 1:5, 6

THUS does the Spirit of God empty the soul, preparing it for the reception of the grace of Christ. He ‘sweeps and garnishes’ the house. He dislodges the unlawful inhabitant, dethrones the rival sovereign, and thus secures room for the Savior. He disarms the will of its rebellion against God, the mind of its ignorance, and the heart of its hatred. He prostrates the barrier, removes the veil, and unlocks the door, at which the Redeemer triumphantly enters.

In effecting this mighty work, He acts as the Divine Forerunner of Christ. What the Baptist was to our Lord, “crying in the wilderness, Prepare you the way of the Lord,” the Holy Spirit is, in heralding the entrance of Jesus to the soul. He goes before, and prepares His way. The Divinity of the Spirit furnishes Him with all the requisites for the work. He meets with difficulty, and He removes it—with obstruction, and He overcomes it—with opposition, and He vanquishes it. His power is omnipotent, His influence is irresistible, His grace is efficacious. There is no soul, however filled with darkness, and enmity, and rebellion, which He cannot prepare for Christ. There is no heart of stone which He cannot break, no brazen wall which He cannot prostrate, no mountain which He cannot level. Oh, for more faith in the power of the Holy Spirit in the soul of man! How much do we limit, and in limiting how do we dishonor, Him in His work of converting grace!

The providential dealings of God are frequently instrumental in the hand of the Holy Spirit of accomplishing this emptying process, thus preparing the soul for the reception of Christ. The prophet thus strikingly alludes to it: “Moab has been at ease from his youth, and He has settled on his lees, and has not been emptied from vessel to vessel.” It was in this way God dealt with Naomi. Listen to her touching words: “I went out full, and the Lord has brought me home again empty.” Thus it is that the bed of sickness, or the chamber of death, the loss of creature good, perhaps the loveliest and the dearest, has prepared the heart for Christ. The time of bereavement and of solitude, of suffering and of loss, has been the Lord’s time of love. Providence is the hand-maid of grace—and God’s providential dealings with man are frequently the harbingers of the kingdom of grace in the soul.

Ah! how many whose glance falls upon this page may testify “Even thus has the Lord dealt with me. I was rich, and He has impoverished me. I was exalted, and He has laid me low. Not one cup only did He drain, not one vessel only did He dash to the earth, but many. He has emptied me ‘from vessel to vessel.’ ” Happy shall you be if the result of all this emptying and humbling shall be the filling and enriching of your soul with larger communications of grace and truth from Jesus. A cloud of witnesses around you testify to this invariable principle of the Lord’s procedure with His people—that He enriches by impoverishing them; strengthens by weakening them; replenishes by emptying; and exalts by laying them low.

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March 20: Our Foundation Of Election

According as he has chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love. Ephesians 1:4

THE very election of the believer to eternal life provides for and secures his holiness. There could possibly be no holiness without election, because election provides the means of its attainment. Thus clearly does the Spirit of truth unfold it in our motto, and in 2 Thess. 2:13, “We are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren, beloved of the Lord, because God has from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.” Let us be clearly understood. On the ground of no foreseen holiness in the creature, did God thus purpose to save him; but seeing the indispensable necessity of sanctification in order to eternal glory—the impossibility of the one without the other—He chose us in Christ “that we should be holy.”

Let not the Christian reader turn away from, or treat lightly, this precious revealed truth of God’s word—an election of a people unto holiness here and glory hereafter. The prejudice of education—early modes of thought—a preconceived system—and more than all besides, the neglect of a close and prayerful investigation of God’s word for himself, may lead to the rejection of the doctrine. But He who first cavils, and then renounces it, without a thorough and prayerful sifting of its scriptural claims to belief, stands on solemn ground, and assumes a fearful attitude. What God has revealed. “that call not you common.” What He has commanded, that turn not from, lest you be found to have turned from God Himself. Why it has so pleased the Lord to choose a people, it is not our province to inquire, nor, we believe, would it be for our happiness to know. We attempt not to explain the doctrine, much less to account for it. We simply, and we trust scripturally, state it, leaving God to vindicate and bless it. He is the best defender and apologist of His own sacred truth. “Secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”

The secret thing in the doctrine of election is, why God has done it—the thing which is revealed is, that He has done it. Let us not, then, seek to be wise above what is written, though it is our duty, as an acute writer has remarked, to be wise up to what is written; leaving the more perfect knowledge of the things that are now seen as “through a glass darkly” to that period of perfect illumination when we shall “know, even as we are known.” But thus much we know, that it is the eternal purpose of God, revealed and provided for in the covenant of grace, that all who are chosen, called, and justified, shall, with a view to their being glorified, be “partakers of his holiness.”

Heaven is a holy place, its inhabitants are a holy people, and He whose glory fills the temple is a holy God. Behold, then, the provision God has made for the sanctification of the believer in the everlasting covenant of grace. The foundation is laid in the death of Christ, it commences in the effectual calling of the Spirit—and by all the precious assurances of grace, and wisdom, and strength, provided in the covenant, it is carried forward to a glorious completion.

November 20: Predestined According To His Purposes

“In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who works all things after the counsel of his own will: that we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.” Ephesians 1:11, 12

The doctrine of predestination is well calculated to confirm and strengthen the true believer in the fact and certainty of his salvation through Christ. Feeling, as he does, the plague of his own heart, experiencing the preciousness of the Savior, looking up through the cross to God as his Father, exulting in a hope that makes not ashamed, and remembering that God the Eternal Spirit only renews those who are chosen by God the Father, and are redeemed by God the Son, this doctrine is found to be most comforting and confirming to his faith. The faintest lineaments of resemblance to God, and the feeblest breathing of the Spirit of adoption he discovers in his soul, is to him an indisputable evidence of his predestination to Divine sonship and holiness.

Another blessing accruing from the doctrine is, the sweet and holy submission into which it brings the mind under all afflictive dispensations. Each step of his pilgrimage, and each incident of his history, the believer sees appointed in the everlasting covenant of grace. He recognizes the discipline of the covenant to be as much a part of the original plan, as any positive mercy that it contains. That all the hairs of his head are numbered; that affliction comes not out of the earth, and therefore is not the result of accident or thence, but is in harmony with God’s purposes of love; and that thus ordained and permitted, must work together for good—not the least blessing resulting from this truth is its tendency to promote personal godliness.

The believer feels that God has “chosen us to salvation through sanctification and belief of the truth;” that He has “chosen us that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love;” that we are “His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them.” Thus the believer desires to “give all diligence to make his calling and election sure,” or undoubted, by walking in all the ordinances and commandments of the Lord blameless, and standing complete in all the will of God.

And what doctrine more emptying, humbling, and therefore sanctifying, than this? It lays the axe at the root of all human boasting. In the light of this truth, the most holy believer sees that there is no difference between him and the vilest sinner that crawls the earth, but what the mere grace of God has made. Such are some of the many blessings flowing to the Christian from this truth. The radiance which it reflects upon the entire history of the child of God, and the calm repose which it diffuses over the mind in all the perplexing, painful, and mysterious events of that history, can only be understood by those whose hearts have fully received the doctrine.

Whatever betides him—inexplicable in its character, enshrouded in the deepest gloom, as may be the circumstance—the believer in this truth can “stand still,” and, calmly surveying the scene, exclaim: “This also comes forth from the Lord of hosts, who is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working. He who works all things after the counsel of His own will has done it, and I am satisfied that it is well done.”

November 11: Make Your Calling And Election Sure

“Rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if you do these things, you shall never fall: for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:10, 11

The doctrine of an assured belief of the pardon of sin, of acceptance in Christ, and of adoption into the family of God, has been, and yet is, regarded by many as an attainment never to be expected in the present life; and when it is expressed, it is viewed with a suspicion unfavorable to the character of the work. But this is contrary to the Divine word, and to the concurrent experience of millions who have lived and died in the full assurance of hope.

The doctrine of assurance is a doctrine of undoubted revelation, implied and expressed. That it is enforced as a state of mind essential to the salvation of the believer, we cannot admit; but that it is insisted upon as essential to his comfortable and holy walk, and as greatly involving the glory of God, we must strenuously maintain. Else why these marked references to the doctrine?

In Col. 2:1, 2, Paul expresses “great conflict” for the saints, that their “hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding.” In the Epistle to the Hebrews, 7:11, he says, ” We desire that every one of you do show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end.” In chap. 10:22, he exhorts them, “Let us draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith.” And to crown all, the apostle Peter thus earnestly exhorts, “Why the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure.” We trust no further proof from the sacred word is required to authenticate the doctrine. It is written as with a sunbeam, “The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.”

It is the duty and the privilege of every believer diligently and prayerfully to seek the sealing of the Spirit. He rests short of his great privilege, if he slights or undervalues this blessing. Do not be satisfied with the faint impression, which you received in conversion. In other words, rest not content with a past experience. Many are satisfied with a mere hope that they once passed from death unto life, and with this feeble and, in many cases, doubtful evidence, they are content to pass all their days, and to go down to the grave.

Ah, reader, if you are really converted, and your soul is in a healthy, growing, spiritual state, you will want more than this. And especially, too, if you are led into deeper self-knowledge—a more intimate acquaintance with the roughness of the rough way, the straitness of the strait path, you will want a present Christ to lean upon, and to live upon. Past experience will not do for you, save only as it confirms your soul in the faithfulness of God. “Forgetting those things that are behind,” you will seek a present pardon, a present sense of acceptance; and the daily question, as you near your eternal home, will be, “how do I now stand with God?—is Jesus precious to my soul now?—is He my daily food?—what do I experience of daily visits from and to Him?—do I more and more see my own vileness, emptiness, and poverty, and His righteousness, grace, and fullness?—and should the summons now come, am I ready to depart and to be with Christ?”

PAs you value a happy and a holy walk—as you would be jealous for the honor and glory of the Lord—as you wish to be the “salt of the earth,” the “light of the world”—to be a savor of Christ in every place—oh, seek the sealing of the Spirit. Rest not short of it—reach after it—press towards it: it is your duty—oh that the duty may be your privilege; then shall you exclaim with an unfaltering tongue, “Abba; Father,” “my Lord my God!”

October 22: Sanctified By The Word

“Sanctified by the word of God.” 1 Timothy 4:5

It is the natural tendency of Divine truth, when received into the heart, to produce holiness. The design of the whole plan of redemption was to secure the highest holiness and happiness of the creature; and when the gospel comes with the power of God unto the salvation of the soul, this end is preeminently secured.

The renewed man is a pardoned man; the pardoned man becomes a holy man; and the holy man is a happy man. Look, then, at God’s word, and trace the tendency of every doctrine, precept, promise, and threatening, and mark the holy influence of each. Take the doctrine of God’s everlasting love to His people, as seen in their election to eternal life. How holy is the tendency of this truth! “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ; according as He has chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.”

Let not my reader turn from this glorious doctrine, because he may find it irreconcilable with others that he may hold, or because the mists of prejudice may long have veiled it from his mind; it is a revealed doctrine, and therefore to be fully received; it is a holy doctrine, and therefore to be ardently loved. Received in the heart by the teaching of the Holy Spirit, it lays the pride of man in the dust, knocking from beneath the soul all ground for self-glorying, and expands the mind with the most exalted views of the glory, grace, and love of Jehovah. He who receives the doctrine of electing love in his heart by the power of the Spirit, bears about with him the material of a holy walk; its tendency is to humble, abase, and sanctify the man.

Thus holy, too, is the revealed doctrine of God’s free, sovereign, and distinguishing grace. The tendency of this truth is most sanctifying: for a man to feel that God alone has made him to differ from another—that what he has, he has received—that by the free, distinguishing grace of God he is what he is—is a truth, when experienced in the heart, surely of the most holy influence.

How it lays the axe at the root of self! how it stains the pride of human glory, and hushes the whispers of vain boasting! It lays the renewed sinner where he ought ever to lie, in the dust; and places the crown, where it alone ought to shine, bright and glorious, upon the head of sovereign mercy.

“Lord, why me? I was far from You by wicked works; I was the least of my Father’s house, and, of all, the most unworthy and unlikely object of Your love and yet Your mercy sought me—Your grace selected me out of all the rest, and made me a miracle of its omnipotent power. Lord, to what can I refer this, but to Your mere mercy, Your sovereign and free grace, entirely apart from all worth or worthiness that You did see in me? Take, therefore, my body, soul, and spirit, and let them be, in time and through eternity, a holy temple to Your glory.”

All the precepts, too, are on the side of holiness. “If you love me, keep my commandments;” “Be you holy, for I am holy;” “Come out of the world and be you separate, and touch not the unclean thing.”‘ “God has not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness;” “That you might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God.” Holy precepts! May the eternal Spirit engrave them deep upon our hearts.

Not less sanctifying in their tendency are the “exceeding great and precious promises” which the word of truth contains. “Having, therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”

Thus holy and sanctifying are the nature and the effect of Divine truth. It is in its nature and properties most holy; it comes from a holy God and whenever and wherever it is received in the heart, as the good and incorruptible seed of the kingdom, it produces that which is in accordance with its own nature—HOLINESS.

As is the tree, so are the fruits; as is the cause, so are the effects. It brings down and lays low the high thoughts of man, by revealing to him the character of God; it convinces him of his deep guilt and awful condemnation, by exhibiting the Divine law; it unfolds to him God’s hatred of sin, His justice in punishing and His mercy in pardoning it, by unfolding to his view the cross of Christ; and taking entire possession of the soul, it implants new principles, supplies new motives, gives a new end, begets new joys, and inspires new hopes—in a word, diffuses itself through the whole moral man, changes it into the same image, and transforms it into “an habitation of God through the Spirit.”

October 17: Our Security

“These words spoke Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify your Son, that your Son also may glorify you: as you have given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as you have given him.” John 17:1, 2

The certain glorification with Jesus of every believer is a truth as much involving the honor of God, as it does the present comfort and future happiness of the church. The opposite sentiment—the possibility of a child of God falling short of eternal glory (a doctrine, let it be observed, at total variance with the entire Scriptures of truth), by unhinging the soul from God, and throwing it back completely upon itself, must necessarily lead to low and dishonoring views of the Divine character; while it begets in the mind a spirit of bondage, and a sense of the most painful apprehension, both equally inimical to a healthy and fruitful Christianity.

But the most solemn, I may say awful, light in which the doctrine of the believer’s final insecurity presents itself is, that it casts a thick veil over the glory of Immanuel. It touches every perfection of his being. Oh could the dear saints of God, thus tossed in the troubled sea of doubt, and thus agitated with a “fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation,” but be brought to see how the Jesus whom they love is wounded, dishonored, and shorn of His glory by this unscriptural tenet, would they not unhesitatingly renounce it as leading to a result so fearful? Can that, I earnestly ask, be a doctrine of Divine revelation, which tends in the slightest degree to shade the glory of Christ? If one of those given to Him of His Father—one whose sins He carried, whose curse He bore, whose soul He has renewed by the grace of His Spirit—were permitted finally and eternally to perish, where would be His glory? where the glory of His truth? where the glory of His power? where the glory of His love? where the glory of His work? Gone! Every perfection of His Divine being would be impeached, and every beam of His Divine glory would be tarnished.
But all shall be brought safely to heaven. Hark, how distinctly and authoritatively He pleads for this, their crowning blessing, when on the eve of His mysterious passion, and about to spring from His cross to His throne. “Father, I will that they also whom You have given me be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory.” Sublime prayer!—comprehensive and tender petition! How did the Head long to have with Him, where He was, each member of His body! Having had fellowship with Him in His humiliation, it was His desire that they should have fellowship with Him in His glory.

And this He asks not as a gift, but claims as a right. In virtue of His covenant engagement with the Father, His full satisfaction to Divine justice, His perfect obedience to the Divine law, His finished redemption of His people, He reverently bows at the mercy-seat, and pours out His full soul, and unburdens His loving heart, in the most sublime petition that ever ascended from mortal lip: “Father, I will that they also whom You have given me be with me where I am.”

And mark the reason why—”that they may behold my glory.” Consummation of glory!—overflowing cup of bliss!—height of perfect holiness! Was it the parting charge of Joseph to His brethren—”You shall tell my father of all my glory in Egypt, and of all that you have seen; and you shall haste and bring down my father here”? Our Joseph, with love infinitely more intense, desires that all His brethren be brought to heaven, that they may behold His glory there—the glory of His unveiled Deity—the glory of His glorified humanity—and the glory to which, as Mediator, His Father has advanced Him.

Thy Rod & Thy Staff: The Rod Of Separation (3 of 7)

Another use of the shepherd’s “Rod” is that of separation. With it he separates the sheep. By passing under the rod, God thereby intimated that His people were especially separated and set apart from all other nations for Himself. Here we have what, to use a logical term, may be called the corollary of election– the certain conclusion to which it conducts us. All the elect of God are the called of God. “Whom He did predestinate, them He also called.” With this calling, then, we have first and chiefly to do- the antecedent act- your election- so to speak, transposed; that coming last in your experience which is the first in God’s mind.

Grasp in faith this the last and lowest link in the mystic chain of your salvation, and it will by-and-by raise you to the first and highest. The people of God, then- the sheep of Christ’s flock- are a separated people. They have passed under the separating, consecrating rod of the Shepherd. “He calls His own sheep by name, and leads them out. And when He puts forth His own sheep, He goes before them.” Sweet and precious truth! Divine and sovereign grace has taken you out of the world, and set you among those who are” called to be saints,” “the called according to His purpose.” “It pleased God,” says the apostle, “who called me by His grace, to reveal, His Son in me.”

Oh, high and holy calling! What are all others- the most imperious and brilliant- in comparison? Oh let the thought never be absent from your mind, that you are called out of, that you should be separate from, this ungodly world- “a holy nation, a peculiar people, a royal priesthood” -separated, set apart from all others to be Christ’s especial treasure. My soul! have you heard the call of Christ? Outwardly, again and again, the gospel call has fallen upon your ear; but has the inward and effectual call of the Spirit penetrated the ear of your soul, bidding and constraining you to arise and come to Jesus?

Rest not short of this!

November 28

“As many as were ordained to eternal life believed.” Acts 13:48

THERE can be nothing in the Bible adverse to the salvation of a sinner. The doctrine of predestination is a revealed doctrine of the Bible; therefore predestination cannot be opposed to the salvation of the sinner. So far from this being true, we hesitate not most strongly and emphatically to affirm, that we know of no doctrine of God’s word more replete with encouragement to the awakened, sin-burdened, Christ-seeking soul than this. What stronger evidence can we have of our election of God than the Spirit’s work in the heart? Are you really in earnest for the salvation of your soul? Do you feel the plague of sin? Are you sensible of the condemnation of the law? Do you come under the denomination of the “weary and heavy laden”? If so, then the fact that you are a subject of the Divine drawings—that you have a felt conviction of your sinfulness—and that you are looking wistfully for a place of refuge, affords the strongest ground for believing that you are one of those whom God has predestinated to eternal life. The very work thus begun is the Spirit’s first outline of the Divine image upon your soul—that very image to which the saints are predestinated to be conformed.

But while we thus vindicate this doctrine from being inimical to the salvation of the anxious soul, we must with all distinctness and earnestness declare, that in this stage of your Christian course you have primarily and mainly to do with another and a different doctrine. We refer to the doctrine of the Atonement. Could you look into the book of the Divine decrees, and read your name inscribed upon its pages, it would not impart the joy and peace which one believing view of Christ crucified will convey. It is not essential to your salvation that you believe in election; but it is essential to your salvation that you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. In your case, as an individual debating the momentous question how a sinner may be justified before God, your first business is with Christ, and Christ exclusively. You are to feel that you are a lost sinner, not that you are an elect saint. The doctrine which meets the present phase of your spiritual condition is, not the doctrine of predestination, but the doctrine of an atoning Savior. The truth to which you are to give the first consideration and the most simple and unquestioning credence is, that “Christ died for the ungodly”—that He came into the world to save sinners—that He came to call, not the righteous, but sinners to repentance—that in all respects, in the great business of our salvation, He stands to us in the relation of a Savior, while we stand before Him in the character of a sinner.

Oh, let one object fix your eye, and one theme fill your mind—Christ and His salvation. Absorbed in the contemplation and study of these two points, you may safely defer all further inquiry to another and a more advanced stage of your Christian course. Remember that the fact of your predestination, the certainty of your election, can only be inferred from your conversion. We must hold you firmly to this truth. It is the subtle and fatal reasoning of Satan, a species of atheistical fatalism, to argue, “If I am elected I shall be saved, whether I am regenerated or not.” The path to eternal woe is paved with arguments like this. Men have cajoled their souls with such vain excuses until they have found themselves beyond the region of hope! But we must rise to the fountain, by pursuing the stream. Conversion, and not predestination, is the end of the chain we are to grasp. We must ascend from ourselves to God, and not descend from God to ourselves, in settling this great question. We must judge of God’s objective purpose of love concerning us, by His subjective work of grace within us. In conclusion, we earnestly entreat you to lay aside all fruitless speculations, and to give yourself to prayer. Let reason bow to faith, and faith shut you up to Christ, and Christ be all in all to you. Beware that you come not short of true conversion—a changed heart, and a renewed mind, so that you become a “new creature in Christ Jesus.” And if as a poor lost sinner you repair to the Savior, all vile and guilty, unworthy and weak as you are, He will receive you and shelter you within the bosom that bled on the cross to provide an atonement and an asylum for the very chief of sinners.

What Is “Experimental Calvinism”?

When doing any serious research on Winslow, one term that you will always run head long into is “experimental calvinism”, of which Octavius was a huge proponent and evangelist of.

I have been trying my hardest to find a succinct definition of this term and think I have finally found one by none other than B.B. Warfield himself that is found in a wonderful description written by Ian Hamilton.

The article starts off as:

B.B. Warfield, the great Princeton theologian, said that the fountainhead of Calvinism does not lie in its theological system, but in its ‘religious consciousness’. What he meant is that the roots of Calvinism are planted in a specific ‘religious attitude,’ out of which unfolds (as day follows night) a particular theology. He wrote,

“The whole outworking of Calvinism in life is thus but the efflorescence of its fundamental religious consciousness, which finds its scientific statement in its theological system” (5.354)

This is what so many miss in their assessment of, or espousal of, Calvinism. It is not first and foremost a theological system; it is more fundamentally a “religious attitude”, an attitude that gives inevitable birth to a particular, precise, but gloriously God-centred and heart-engaging system of theology.

I invite you to read the rest of the article here. It’s a must read if you want to get into the head of a man like Winslow to get some idea of the motivations behind his writings.

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