May 30: The Lord’s Table

“Whoever eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, has eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, dwells in me, and I in him.” John 6:54-56

FROM where do the ordinances derive their efficacy and power, but from the vitality of the Redeemer’s blood? There could be no life, for instance, in the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper but as that institution presented in a lively picture to the faith of the recipient the life-blood of the Savior. With what clearness and solemnity has He Himself put forth this truth, in the verses of our motto; thus declaring that he who in lowly and simple faith drinks of the blood of Jesus, partakes of the life of Jesus, because the life of Jesus is in the blood.

Should the eye of an unconverted soul light upon this page, or should it arrest the attention of an unbelieving and therefore an unworthy recipient of the ordinance, let that individual seriously ponder these solemn words of Jesus—”Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, you have no life in you.” The ordinance has no life of itself; the mere symbol possesses no spiritual vitality whatever; it cannot impart life, nor can it sustain life. But the life in the ordinance flows from the exercise of faith, through this medium, with the life-blood of Jesus. Therefore, if you rest only in the symbol, if in this ordinance you partake not by faith of the blood of Jesus, your soul is destitute of spiritual life. In the words of Jesus Himself, “You have no life in you.”

But oh what life does the believing communicant find in the atoning blood! what food, that refreshment, what nourishment! Is it any wonder that Jesus should be to Him the chief among ten thousand, and that the blood of Jesus should be the most precious thing in the universe? If the death of Jesus is his life, what must the life of Jesus be! If the humiliation of Jesus is his honor, what must the exaltation of Jesus be! If the cross of Jesus is his glory, what must the throne of Jesus be! If Jesus crucified is his boast, what must be Jesus glorified! “If, when we were enemies, we were reconciled by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”

Reader, is the blood of Jesus the life of your soul? So momentous is this truth, bear with me in pressing it upon your attention. Believe me when, with all affection and solemnity, I say that Your religion, your creed, your profession, are lifeless if they are not vivified, pervaded, and animated by the blood of the Son of God. God have no dealings with you in this great matter your salvation, but through the blood. He cannot “reason” with you about your sins of “crimson” and of “scarlet” dye, but on the footing of the blood. He cannot meet you for one moment in any other character than as a “consuming fire,” but as He meets you at, and communes with you from above the mercy-seat sprinkled with blood.

The blood of atonement is everything to God in the way of satisfaction, of glory, and of honor; and should be everything to you in the way of acceptance, pardon, and communion. There is not a moment in which God’s eye of complacence is withdrawn from the blood of His Son in the perpetual acceptance of the believer; and there should not be a moment in which our eye of faith, in every circumstance of our daily walk before Him, should not also be upon this “blood of sprinkling, that speaks better things than that of Abel.”

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February 22: Examine Yourself

Let a man examine himself. 1 Cor. 11:28.

THERE is nothing clearer than this, that man must be a new creature if he would enjoy heaven. God could not make you happy, unless He made you like Himself. God must make you divine—He must give you new desires, new principles—He must create you “new creatures in Christ Jesus.” And you must ascertain whether this great change has passed over you.

The question must be—Have I “passed from death unto life”? Has my heart been smitten for sin—broken by the Holy Spirit? Have I come as a poor guilty sinner to the Lord Jesus Christ? Do not take all this for granted, but examine yourself, and see whether your heart has been laid upon God’s altar—whether it is a “broken and contrite heart, which He will not despise.”

Examine yourself to ascertain the existence of love to God, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a most certain truth that “love is the fulfilling of the law.” Enmity against God is the great characteristic of the carnal mind—love to God is the great characteristic of the renewed mind. Do you feel that the name of Jesus creates a thrill of joy in your soul? Do you love God because He is holy, and because He is righteous? Are you in love with His government and with His law? Is it your delight and do you desire to be conformed to its teachings? Is it the supreme wish of your heart that God should rule you—and that you should submit to Him? Do you love Him for sending Jesus—His “unspeakable gift”? Do you love God as your Father—and because He sent His dear Son to bleed and die for you? Examine your own heart on these matters.

Examine your heart also, as to its governing principles. There are many deceitful things in the world. The wind is deceitful—the ocean is deceitful; but the most deceitful thing of all is the human heart. God searches the heart, and looks at all the principles by which we are governed; and no service is acceptable in His sight which does not spring from right motives. And oh, what self-seeking, what self-complacency, what desire for human approval is there in all our actions!

But ask yourself—Is my heart governed by love to the Lord Jesus, and by the fear of God? Can I unveil my heart in this transaction as under the eye of one who pierces my inmost thoughts? Can I appeal to God and say—Lord, sinful as I am, I desire to do all for Your glory, and to be governed only by love to You. Examine your heart then, and see what are the principles which actuate you. If they are false—oh cast them away, and ask God so to destroy the power of sin in you, and so to govern you by His love, that you shall only do that which is pleasing in His sight. No service can be acceptable, but that which springs from love to Him, and a simple desire for His glory.

But oh how acceptable, then, is even the smallest offering! It may be only the “widow’s mite”—or the “cup of cold water,”—but it is pleasing in the sight of God. It may be a service trying to yourself, and perhaps despised by others; but God sees your motives, and will accept your offering, if it springs from a principle in harmony with His will: “For the Lord sees not as man sees; for man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

Can You Lose Your Salvation? An Exposition of Hebrews 6:4-6

It is no uncommon thing for the Lord’s backsliding children to be sadly and severely distressed and cast down by certain portions of God’s Word, containing delineations of character and denunciations of woe which they suppose applicable to themselves; and which, so applied, inconceivably aggravate their soul distress, their mental anguish, and incapacitate them from receiving the promises and accepting the comfort which God, in His Word, so profusely and so graciously extends to His children, returning from their backslidings, with weeping and mourning, confession and prayer.

Among the declarations thus referred to, which are supposed to have, the most direct application, and to wear the most threatening aspect, are those, so frequently quoted and as frequently misinterpreted and misapplied, found in the 6th chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews from the 4th to the 6th verse:

“For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.”

Such are the solemn words, often perused and pondered with terror and despair by the child of God, which we now propose briefly to consider and explain. But before venturing upon their exposition let me, in the outset, distinctly and emphatically give it as my judgment that they in nowise refer to the case of the regenerate, and that by no ingenuity of criticism, and by no perversion of error, can they be made to bear strictly upon a state of real grace, or to invalidate in the slightest degree the revealed doctrine of the final salvation of the elect of God. Thus affirming our belief that the persons referred to by the apostle were not true converts to Christianity, had never passed into a state of spiritual regeneration, let us take each separate clause of these remarkable passages, and endeavor, in the fear of God, rightly to explain, and properly to apply His own truth.

“Those who were once enlightened.”

Not spiritually or savingly enlightened. The persons to whom these passages refer had some perception of the doctrines and principles of Christianity,—the mind was intelligent, the judgment informed,—but nothing more. They had received the knowledge of the truth in the intellect, but not the quickening, sanctifying power of the truth in the heart. It was an illumination of the mind only. They were so enlightened as to “see the evil effects of sin, but not the evil that is in sin; to see the good things which come from Christ, but not the goodness that is in Christ; so as to reform externally, but not to be sanctified internally; to have knowledge of the gospel doctrinally, but not experimentally; yes, to have such light into it as to be able to preach it to others, and yet be destitute of the grace of God.” This is the enlightenment of which the apostle speaks, and nothing more. Their religion would, in modern terms, be denominated the religion of the intellect—a religion which, however sound in its orthodoxy and logical in its reasoning, is but as a palace of ice floating amid the snows and gloom of the polar seas.

But this description cannot apply to you, penitent child of God! The truth as it is in Jesus has enlightened your judgment, and from thence has penetrated your heart, and in its light you see the sinfulness of your backslidings, the consciousness of which has brought you in sorrow and confession to the Savior’s feet. It is safe, therefore, to conclude that you are not one of those persons whom the apostle describes as being once enlightened, as having swerved from the truth, whom it was impossible again to recover, seeing they had rejected the evidence upon which they avowed their belief in, and their attachment to, Christianity—the only evidence Christianity offers in proof of its divinity.

“And have tasted of the heavenly gift.”

A slight difference of opinion has existed as to the “gift” here referred to; some expositors, among whom is Owen, make the next clause exegetical of the present one. Without, however, perplexing the reader with needless criticism, we at once offer it as our opinion that the “heavenly gift” is the same as the “unspeakable gift” referred to in another place and by the same writer. It is quite possible for an apostate from the truth, having the illumination we have spoken of, to have possessed a certain knowledge of Christ, “the heavenly gift,” without being renewed, sanctified, or saved. Does not Paul speak of his “no more knowing Christ after the flesh,” as some still do, with a carnal, fleshly knowledge? Does he not, in another place, describe the conduct of some who had so far tasted of the heavenly gift as to “preach Christ,” but to preach Him with “envy and strife, and contention, not sincerely?”

And yet again, is it not true that the same apostle warns certain individuals against the sin of “eating the bread and drinking the cup of the Lord unworthily?” What does all this prove but that those who have tasted of the heavenly gift have no other knowledge of Christ than that which is natural, notional, and speculative? They have not Christ in their affections,—Christ as the object of supreme delight and love,—nor Christ in them the hope of glory. But you have not so learned Christ, O trembling penitent! It has pleased God to reveal His Son in you. You have tasted, felt, and handled, with a living, appropriating faith, the Lord Jesus. Your taste of this heavenly gift has been a heart-experience of His preciousness and fullness. And although you have gone astray like a lost sheep, yet you have not forgotten the power and savor of His precious name, which is now more than ever to you as ointment poured forth. And now your heart pines and your soul yearns to retrace its steps, to walk once more with the Shepherd whom you have forsaken, and to lie down again with the flock from whom you have strayed. What does this stirring within you prove,—this contrition, self-abhorrence, and sin-loathing,—but that you are not an apostate from the faith, a wanderer only from the fold, back to whose pasture and repose the faithful Shepherd is gently conducting you?

“And were made partakers of the Holy Spirit.”

This clause is more clear and definite. How far an individual may be said to partake of the Holy Spirit, and not be savingly converted, has been long a mooted question. These words, however, place the matter beyond doubt. The unhappy persons to whom they refer were undoubtedly partakers of the Holy Spirit, but in what sense? Let it be remembered that it was a distinctive feature of the early Church that there existed within its pale those who were endowed, some with ordinary, and others with extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit; such as the power of working miracles, of prophesying, and of speaking with tongues, and that these persons were possessed of, and exercised in many instances these gifts, as instruments of pride, covetousness, and ambition,—the works of the flesh in alliance with the gifts of the Spirit!

Such, for example, was Simon Magus, who sought these supernatural endowments, not for the glory of God, but as sources of gain, and as ministering to his carnal aspirations. In his famous letter on “charity,” addressed to the Church at Corinth, Paul recognizes the fact, that he might be so far a partaker of the Holy Spirit as to speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and understand all prophecies, and all mysteries, and yet be destitute of the Holy Spirit’s regenerating grace. And clearly it is to such individuals our Lord so pointedly and solemnly refers in His dreadful description of the judgment, when He says, “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name? and in your name have cast out devils? and in your name done many wonderful works?” To whom He will say, “I never knew you; depart from me, you that work iniquity.” In the absence of the miraculous gifts of the Spirit, which we believe to have ceased in the Church with the last of the apostles, men may still be endowed with many ordinary spiritual gifts, conferring upon them a name, placing them upon a pinnacle of the temple, and winning for them the admiration and homage of their fellows, who yet are destitute of the converting grace of the Spirit. This is all that is meant by having been “made partakers of the Holy Spirit.”

But your case, penitent believer, bears no analogy to this. What does your present contrition, your distress and anguish of soul prove, but that you are quickened with spiritual life, and that the Holy Spirit dwells in you? that, despite your sinfulness, waywardness, and follies,—the grieving and wounding and quenching He has received at your hands,— the Spirit has not utterly departed from you, but that still your body is His temple and your heart His home?

“And have tasted the good word of God.”

The meaning of this clause is obvious. The revealed word, more especially the gospel of God, is the only interpretation it will admit. These false professors, these willful apostates, of whom the apostle writes, had heard the word of God with the outward ear, and had so far tasted its power as to yield an intellectual assent to its doctrines, and even to have felt some transient emotion, some stirring of the natural affections by the sublime and dreadful tenderness of its revelations. They had marked, too, the extraordinary power and triumph of the truth in the souls of others, and, moved by the law of sympathy, they were for a while the subjects of a natural and evanescent joy.

They had witnessed the power of Satan in the human soul—how the gospel overcame it; the spell which the world wove around the heart—how the gospel had broke it; the period of perplexity—how the gospel had guided it; the season of sorrow—how the gospel had consoled it; the hour of sickness—how the gospel had strengthened it; the bed of death—how the gospel had smoothed it; the darkness of the sepulcher—how the gospel had illumined it; the fear of perdition—how the gospel had quelled it; the hope of salvation—how the gospel had confirmed it; the glory of immortality—how the gospel had unveiled it;—and their hearts were thrilled with a transient glow of gladness. Such were the emotions of Herod when he sent for John, did many things, and heard him gladly. And such, too, was the case of the stony-ground hearers, who heard the word, and anon received it with joy, but by and by they were offended, and fell away, not having root in themselves. These are they who had “tasted the good word of God,” and this is all that they had experienced of its power.

But not such is your experience, sorrowing soul! You have more than tasted, you have eaten of the good word of God, and His word is unto you the joy and the rejoicing of your heart. In that word your longing, sorrowful soul now hopes,—upon it, weary and sad, your heart now rests, until God shall fulfill its promise, and restore unto you the joy of His salvation.

“And the powers of the world to come.”

The age to come, as the word has been, and we think properly, rendered. Clearly the allusion is to the Messianic age, or the time and dispensation of the Messiah. This was the age, or the “world to come,” to which the apostle refers in another place: “The world to come, whereof we speak.” He is clearly referring to the gospel, in contradistinction to the legal dispensation; in the latter the word was spoken by angels, in the former the word was spoken by Christ. This age, or gospel dispensation, was to be ushered in and distinguished, “both by signs and wonders, and with diverse miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit.” Now, it will not be difficult to trace the application of this to the apostates whom these passages describe. They had lived in the early dawn of the gospel age, and amid its most wondrous and stirring scenes. They had beheld these signs, had marked these wonders, and perhaps had wrought these miracles. And so they had “tasted of the powers of the world to come.” All this finds no application to your case, O backsliding yet returning child of God!

Now follows the sentence of the Holy Spirit upon these apostates from the profession of their faith. That sentence is the most solemn, the most terrible, that ever lighted upon the human soul.

“It is impossible, . . . if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.”

The key to the explanation of this dreadful mystery is found in the word “repentance.” Could they become the subjects of true repentance there might be hope, but with them this was impossible. For the fearful sin which they had committed, no repentance was provided,—for the deep guilt which they had contracted, no sacrifice had been offered,—from the apostasy into which they had plunged, no avenue of return had been made,—in a word, for the crime with which they were charged, no remission was given! Their salvation was IMPOSSIBLE! After having professed to believe in, and to have received the Messiah as the Son of God, as the Savior of men, they had openly and willfully and utterly rejected Him. By so doing they had repaired to Gethsemane, and justified the treacherous betrayal of Christ by Judas; they had gone to Calvary, and ratified the cruel murder of Christ by the Jews; they had fraternized with His enemies, and had joined their shout, “Away with Him! away with Him! Crucify Him! crucify Him!”

And so they had “crucified the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame.” After having passed through all these stages of sin, of crime, and guilt,—having utterly abjured and renounced the only means and object and grace of repentance,—it was IMPOSSIBLE that they could be renewed, recovered, saved! For them “there remained no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which should devour the adversaries.”

But, beloved child of God! we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation. The Holy Spirit has given you the truest, the strongest evidence of spiritual life in your soul—a broken and a contrite heart. Bring this sacrifice, and lay it upon Christ our “Altar,” and God will accept it. Let the holy lessons we learn from the mournful, the irretrievable, the hopeless case of the willful apostate be—not to rest on spiritual illumination, however great, nor on spiritual gifts, however eminent, nor on religious feelings, however ecstatic, but seek after the mortification of sin, a closer communion with the Lord, and still more to abound in those “fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ unto the praise and glory of God.”

Upon you these dreadful words fling no darkling shadow, but your path is that of “the just, which is as the shining light, that shines more and more unto the perfect day.”

Help Heavenward

June 18: The Oil Of Joy

“But the anointing which you have received of him abides in you, and you need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing takes you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it has taught you, you shall abide in him.” 1 John 2:27

“The Lord’s anointed” is the expressive and appropriate designation of all the Lord’s people. This anointing it is that marks them as a “chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people.” It is the Lord’s peculiar mark upon those who distinguishes and designates them as His own.

All who are strangers to this anointing are strangers to the grace of God and the calling of the Holy Spirit. There may be much spiritual light in the judgment, and even an open profession of religion before the world, added to which there shall be something of Jehu’s “zeal for the Lord;” and yet that anointing of the Holy Spirit be still lacking, apart from which all intellectual illumination, and outward profession, and party zeal, pass for nothing with a heart searching God.

As the proper signification of the endeared name, Christ, is anointed, so the true signification of the honored appellation, Christian, points us to the anointing, of which all who have union with Christ personally share. I believe the remark to be as solemn as it is true, that eternity will only fully unfold the amount of evil that has sprung from calling those Christians who call themselves Christians, without any valid title to the high, holy, and distinguished appellation.

How imperfectly are men in general aware of the deep, the significant, the spiritual import of the term! They think not, they know not, that a Christian is one who partakes, in His renewing, sanctifying grace, of that same Divine Holy Spirit with which Christ was anointed of the Father for His great work.

The effects of this anointing are what might be expected from a cause so glorious. It beautifies the soul. It is that anointing spoken of by the Psalmist: “And oil to make his face to shine.” Therefore it is called the “beauties of holiness.” How does a man’s face shine- how is his countenance lighted up- when the joy of the Lord is his strength, when the spirit of adoption is in his soul, when the love of God is shed abroad in his heart! It gladdens too. Therefore it is called the “oil of joy” and “the oil of gladness.”

It causes the heart to sing in its deep sorrows, imparts the “garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness,” and fills the soul with the glory of that “kingdom which consists not in foods and in drinks, but in righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”

Another effect springing from this anointing is the deep teaching it imparts- “You have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things.” Such are some of the effects of this holy anointing. It beautifies, gladdens, and teaches.

June 11: Press Onward

“Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord.” Hosea 6:3

True faith in God supposes him reconciled in Christ. This is the ground-work of all holy, humble converse with God. But here we must be cautious of placing a limit, as too many do.

It is a great display of sovereign grace that we should have peace with God. God reconciled to us in Jesus is, of all divine and experimental truths, the greatest. Until this is experienced, we can affirm of no individual that he is safe for eternity. Yet, alas! what numbers reject this truth, and still dream on of heaven!

But, great as is this grace, it is not less our mercy to be advancing, on the ground of assured peace, to more matured attainments in universal holiness. We are, at best, but dull scholars in the science of spiritual arithmetic. We have imperfectly learned one of its first rules, that of adding grace to grace. “Giving all diligence,” exhorts the apostle, “add to your faith virtue,” etc.

Peace through the atoning blood being obtained, the movement is to be progressive, the course onward; each day, if possible, augmenting the measure of our grace, and adding to the number of the Spirit’s graces.

Reconciliation with God is but the starting-post in the divine life, not the finish-line; it is the commencement, and not the end, of our course. In other words, vast numbers rest in their first reception of Christ. They are hopefully converted, they unite themselves with a particular section of the Church of God, and settle down under an attached ministry. But here they seem to abide. There is no advance, no progress, no forgetting of the things that are behind, pressing upwards to higher rounds in the glorious ladder, which a gracious Father has let down out of heaven, by which we may ascend to heaven.

Content with having placed the foot upon the first step, there they remain. There is no “following on to know the Lord.” And yet why has the Lord removed the burden from the shoulder, but that we might mount upward? Why has He broken the chains from our feet, but that we may go forward? Thus are we constantly forgetting that the cross is our starting-point in our race, and yet ever to be kept in view- while holiness, breathed after upon earth, and in some blessed degree attained, but perfected in heaven, is our bright and certain goal.

June 6: Not All Who Say “Lord, Lord”

“And he that takes not his cross, and follows after me, is not worthy of me.” Matthew 10:38

How few there are, among the many professing Christ, who yet know anything by experience of the great and wondrous life of faith! Only those who are taught by the Spirit the plague of their own hearts can possibly know it. How few there are who appear to possess vital religion in their souls! How few choose Christ with His cross!

The great mass of professors are aiming to separate them. They would sincerely bear the name of Christ, and be accounted as the followers of Christ, and do something for the cause of Christ; but they hide His cross, they are ashamed of His cross, they shrink from His cross. Christ and His outward lowliness, Christ and His poverty, Christ and His humiliation, Christ and the world’s despising, form no part of their creed nor their religion. But Christ and the world, Christ and the popular opinion, Christ and the slavery of sin, Christ and an unhumbled spirit, Christ and a love of money, and ease, and self-indulgence, make up the religion of vast numbers who yet profess and call themselves Christians.

Awful fact! How forcibly does it remind us of the solemn words of Jesus, “Not every one that says unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Let us, in view of this solemn truth, search our hearts, and ask the searching of God’s Spirit; and in ascertaining the real state of our souls, let us take nothing for granted, rest not in past experience, nor in gifts, nor usefulness, but be satisfied only with the present, inward witness of the Holy Spirit.