July 2: The True Temple Restored

“O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!” Romans 11:33

Behold this wisdom, as it shines in the recovery of lost and ruined man by Christ. Here is a manifestation infinitely transcending in greatness and glory the first creation of man in holiness. In the first creation, God had nothing to undo; no dilapidated temple to take down, no occupant to dispossess, no ruin to repair, no rubbish to remove, no enemy to oppose. But in the re-creation of man, how vastly different! The beautiful temple is a ruin—dilapidated and fallen. God is ejected; another and an antagonist occupant dwells in it, and enmity to its Creator is written in letters of darkness upon every part and over every inlet. In rebuilding this structure, all things were to be created anew. “Behold,” says God, “I create a new thing in the earth.”

It was a new and profounder thought of infinite wisdom, unheard, unseen before. Fallen man was to be raised—lost man was to be recovered—sin was to be pardoned—the sinner saved, and God eternally glorified. Now were the treasures of wisdom, which for ages had been hid in Christ, brought forth. Infinite wisdom had never developed such vast wealth, had never appeared clothed in such glory, had never shone forth so majestic, so peerless, and Divine. Oh, how must angels and archangels have wondered, admired, and loved, as this brighter discovery of God burst in glory upon their astonished vision—as this new temple of man rose in loveliness before their view!

The greatest display of infinite wisdom was in the construction of the model upon which the new temple, regenerated man, was to be formed. This model was nothing less than the mysteriously constituted person of the Son of God. In this, its highest sense, is “Christ the wisdom of God.” Here it shone forth in full-orbed majesty. Gaze upon the living picture! Look at Immanuel, God with us—God in our nature—God in our accursed nature—God in our tried nature—God in our sorrowful nature—God in our suffering nature—God in our tempted nature—yet untouched, untainted by sin. Is not this a fathomless depth of Divine wisdom? To have transcended it, would seem to have transcended Deity itself.

The next step in the unfolding of this Divine wisdom is the spiritual restoration of man to a state corresponding in its moral lineaments to this Divine and perfect model. This is accomplished solely by “Christ crucified, the wisdom of God.” And here, again, does the glory of God’s wisdom shine in the person and work of Jesus. Every step in the development of this grand expedient establishes His character as the “only wise God,” whose “understanding is infinite;” while it augments our knowledge, and exalts our views of the Lord Jesus, as making known the Father. Here was a way of salvation for perishing sinners, harmonizing with every perfection of Jehovah, sustaining the highest honor of His government; bringing to Him the richest glory, and securing to its subjects, as the rich bequest of grace, happiness eternal, and inconceivably great.

Oh, how truly did God here “work all things after the counsel of His own will”! How has He “abounded towards us in all wisdom and prudence”! In Jesus’ sacrificial obedience and death we see sin fully punished, and the sinner fully saved—we see the law perfectly honored, and the transgressor completely justified—we see justice entirely satisfied, and mercy glorified to its highest extent—we see death inflicted according to the extreme tenor of the curse, and so vindicating to the utmost the truth and holiness of God; and yet life, present and eternal life, given to all whom it is the purpose and grace of the Father to save. Tell us, is not Jesus the great glory of the Divine wisdom?

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July 1: To Be In Christ

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can you, except you abide in me.” John 15:4

The union of the believer with Jesus, and the consequent fruitfulness, is a glorious truth: the Holy Spirit, in His word, has laid great stress upon it. It is spoken of as a being in Christ—”Every branch in me.” “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature.” “So we, being many, are one body in Christ.” “Those who are fallen asleep in Christ.” But in what sense are we to understand this being “in Christ”?

To be in Christ truly, spiritually, vitally, is to be in that eternal covenant of grace made with Christ, as the Surety and Mediator of His people; one of the number spoken of as the Lord’s “peculiar treasure;”—”For the Lord has chosen Jacob unto himself, and Israel for His peculiar treasure;” and concerning whom the Holy Spirit declares that they are elected in Christ—”Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly things 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.”

To be in Christ truly, is to stand accepted in His righteousness, to be justified by Him freely from all things; it is to be brought to the knowledge of our own vileness, insufficiency, and guilt; to be made to cast aside all self-dependence, that is, all works of human merit, and to come as the thief on the cross came, without any allowed confidence in anything of self, but as a poor, helpless, ruined, condemned sinner, all whose hope of pardon and acceptance is through the free mercy of God in Christ Jesus.

To be in Christ is to be the subject of a living, holy, influential principle of faith; it is to be brought into the blessed state thus described by the apostle as his own—”I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.”

To be in Christ is to be one with Him; it is to be a member of His mystical body, of which He is the spiritual Head: and the Head and members are one. It is to have Christ dwelling in the heart—”Christ in you the hope of glory.” Yes, it is to dwell in the heart of Christ; it is to rest there in the very pavilion of His love, to abide there every moment, to be sheltered there from all evil, and to be soothed there under all sorrow.

Oh blessed state of being in Christ! Who would not experience it? Who would not enjoy it? “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”

These are the living branches, united to the true vine, which bear fruit. From their union to the living vine their fruit comes—”From me is your fruit found.” “As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, no more can you, except you abide in me.” And oh, what precious fruit does such a living branch bear! The broken heart—the contrite spirit—the mourning over sin—the low, abasing, humbling views of self—the venturing by faith on a full, mighty, willing Savior—the going out of self, and resting in His all-atoning work and all-satisfying righteousness. This is followed by a progressive advance in all holiness and godliness, the fruits of faith which are by Jesus Christ abounding in the life, and proving the reality of the wondrous change—the close walk with God—the submission of the will in all things to His—the conformity of the life to the example of Jesus—the “power of His resurrection” felt—the “fellowship of His sufferings,” known—and “conformity to His death,” marking the entire man.

These are some of the fruits of a truly regenerate soul. The Holy Spirit testifies, that the “fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, and righteousness, and truth;” and still more minutely, as consisting of “love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.”

June 21: Press In Humble Faith

“Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?” Romans 8:33

WHO in heaven; who on earth; who in hell? God will not; sin cannot; Satan dare not. Who? If there be in this wide universe an accuser of those whom God has justified, let him appear. There is none! Every mouth is closed.

“Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?” If there remain a sin unpardoned, a stain uneffaced, a precept unkept, by the Mediator of His Church, let it appear. But there is none! The work of Christ is honorable and glorious. It is a finished work. And on the basis of this complete atonement, God, while He remains just, is the justifier of him that believes.

Oh, embrace this truth, you who, in bitterness of soul, are self-accused and self-condemned before God! Satan could accuse, and the world could accuse, and the saints could accuse, but more severe and true than all, is the self-accusation which lays your mouth in the dust, in the deepest, lowliest contrition. Yet, as a poor sinner, looking to Jesus, resting in Jesus, accepted in Jesus; who shall lay anything legally to our charge, since it is God—the God against whom you have sinned—who Himself becomes your Justifier? May you not, with all lowliness, yet with all holy boldness, challenge every foe, in the prophetic words of Christ Himself-“He is near that justifies me: who will contend with me?”

This truth is an elevating, because a deeply sanctifying one. It exalts the principles, and these, in their turn, exalt the practice of the Christian. The thought that it is God who justifies us at an expense to Himself so vast, by a sacrifice to Himself so precious, surely is sufficiently powerful to give the greatest intensity to our pantings, and fervency to our prayers, for conformity to the Divine image. Deep sorrows, and sore trials, and fiery temptations we may have, and must have, if we ever enter the kingdom; but, what is sorrow, what is trial, what is temptation, if they work but in us the fruits of righteousness, fit us more perfectly for heaven, and waft us nearer to our eternal home?

Press, in humble faith, this precious truth to your heart; for God has forgiven all, and has cancelled all, and has forgotten all, and is your God forever and ever. “No weapon that is formed against you shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against you in judgment you shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me, says the Lord.”

April 23: For His Name’s Sake

For the Lord will not forsake his people for his great name’s sake: because it has pleased the Lord to make you his people. I Samuel 12:22

GOD rests in the immutability of His love. It is a love that knows no change in its character, and no variation in its degree. There never has been a period in which the love of God in Christ towards His people has been more or less than it is at this moment. It must have been great before conversion, because then it was that He gave His only begotten Son, that they might live through Him. Then, too, it was He sent His own Spirit to regenerate their minds, and to make them new creatures in Christ Jesus. If He thus loved them before conversion, when they were yet sinners, do you think, dear reader, that His love can be less since conversion! Impossible!

God rests in the unchangeableness of His love towards His saints. Nothing can move Him from it. When He set His heart upon His people, He foresaw and foreknew all that was in them. He knew when they would revolt, when they would start aside like a broken bow, when they would startle and fall. He knew all their waywardness, folly, and ingratitude. “I knew that you would deal very treacherously,” says God. And yet He loved them.

Acquainted with their sin, does He not chasten it? and in chastening, does He withdraw His love from them? Listen to His own words—”If his children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments; if they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments; then will I visit their transgressions with the rod, and their iniquities with stripes. Nevertheless my loving-kindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail.” What language can more strongly set forth the Lord’s determination to correct the departures of His people, while yet resting in the unchangeableness of His love towards them?

If God thus rests in His love towards us, how jealous ought we to be of the fervor and fidelity of our love to Him! Ah! how inconstant, wavering, and restless have been our affections! How little have we rested in our love to Christ! Other objects have attracted us away from it; we have been as changeable as the wind, and as unstable as the sea. But let us watch over this holy affection, apart from which God takes no pleasure in our sacrifices or services. Let it be our aim to yield up whatever rivals Christ. He sacrificed all for the love He bore us; let us sacrifice all that He requires for the love we bear Him.

Jesus is worthy—oh how worthy!—of our deepest, strongest, most self-consuming affection. And God, who gave us His Son, asks nothing in return but that we give Him our hearts. Let His love, then, constrain us to a more unreserved obedience, to a holier walk, to a more ardent, inseparable attachment to Him, to His people, and to His cause. Let us, in this day of easy and abounding profession—this day of papal encroachment and of popish imitation—this day of exaltation of human authority above the word of God—this day of error, of rebuke, and of blasphemy—this day of rapid and of excited action—this last solemn dispensation of the world, the events of which are rapidly ushering in the coming of the Son of man—let us, under the influence of more simple faith, more fervent love, and brightening hope, “go forth unto Jesus without the camp, bearing His reproach,” resting amid our conflict and our toil, where the Father rests—where the sinner rests—where we may rest—in Jesus.

April 14: Divine Grace

Whereof the Holy Spirit also is a witness to us. Hebrews 10:15

THIS is sometimes a sudden work of the Spirit. A soul may be so deeply sealed in conversion—may receive such a vivid impression of Divine grace—such an enlarged communication of the Divine Spirit, as it never afterwards loses. It is sealed “unto the day of redemption;” and that, too, in the most simple way: in the hearing of a single sermon, the reading of a single chapter of God’s word, some promise brought with the power of the Holy Spirit and sealed upon the heart; in a moment the soul is brought into the full assurance of understanding and of faith.

Take for example that one precious promise which the Spirit has sealed, never to be effaced, upon many a poor sinner’s softened heart—”him that comes to me I will in no wise cast out.” Oh, what a sealing is this! God speaking to a poor, distressed, and disconsolate soul, assuring it of a cordial welcome and of a free pardon—that though no tongue can express its vileness and poverty, and no imagination conceive its deep sorrow, yet, coming to Jesus just as it is, it shall in no wise be cast out! Is not this an impression of the seal in the hands of the great Sealer, which is unto the day of redemption?

Sometimes it is as the Holy Spirit unfolds to the anxious soul that great truth, that Christ is the Savior of a sinner. You have been long waiting for some reward, some gift, some price with which to come—long lingering on the margin of the fountain, waiting for some preparation to enter—in other words, for it amounts to this, waiting to feel less vile, less unworthy, in order that you may be more welcome. And now the blessed Spirit opens to your mind that great and precious truth, that “Christ died for the ungodly,”—that He is the mighty and the willing Savior of a sinner—that no gift, no price, is asked—no previous fitness or self-preparation is necessary—that the more vile and unworthy, the more fit and the more welcome.

Oh, what an impression of the seal is this upon a wounded heart! When the glorious announcement is brought home to the soul—a full and free pardon for a poor sinner—the blood of Jesus cleansing from all sin—is it any marvel that no change of time or circumstance can ever obliterate the impression or the remembrance of that moment from the mind? It was a sealing of pardon upon a heart which God had made soft, and which was the sure prelude to, yes, the beginning of, eternal glory.

But, in most cases, the sealing of the Spirit is a more gradual work. It is a work of time. The soul is placed in the school of deep experience—is led on step by step, stage by stage. The knowledge of self and of Christ increases—deeper views of indwelling sin are discovered—the heart’s treachery is more acutely felt—the devices of Satan are better known—the mystery of God’s gracious and providential dealings with His children more clearly unfolded and better understood—and all this, it may be, arrived at through a process of deep and painful, yet sanctified, discipline of the covenant—so that years may elapse before a child of the covenant attains to the full sealing of the Spirit.

And yet, blessed be God, the work of regeneration is so perfect in itself—the blotting out of all a believer’s sins so complete, and his justification so entire—that a saint of God dying in the first stages of the Divine life is safe forever. May we not refer to the thief upon the cross, as an example illustrating and confirming this?

February 15: Salt Of The Earth

You are the salt of the earth. Matthew 5:13

WHEN our Lord reminds His people that they are “the salt of the earth,” He describes the gracious state of all real believers. The grace of God is that “salt,” apart from which all is moral corruption and spiritual decay. Where Divine grace exists not, there is nothing to stunt the growth, or to check the progress, or to restrain the power, of the soul’s depravity. The fountain pours out its streams of corruption and death, bidding defiance to all human efforts either to purify or restrain.

But let one grain of the salt of God’s grace fall into this corrupt fountain, and there is deposited a counteracting and transforming element, which at once commences a healing, purifying, and saving process. And what parental restraint, and the long years of study, and human law, had failed to do, one hour’s deep repentance of sin, one believing glance at a crucified Savior, one moment’s realization of the love of God have effectually accomplished. Oh the intrinsic preciousness, the priceless value, the sovereign efficacy of this Divine salt—God’s converting, sanctifying grace! Effecting a lodgment in the most debased and corrupt heart, it revolutionizes the whole soul—changing its principles, purifying its affections, and assimilating it to the Divine holiness.

Thus all true believers in Jesus, from their gracious character, are denominated “the salt of the earth.” And why so? Because all that is divine, and holy, and precious, exists in them, and in them only. It is found in that nature which the Holy Spirit has renewed, in that heart which Divine grace has changed, in that soul humbled in the dust before God for sin, and now, in the exercise of faith which He has given, reposing on the atoning work of Jesus, exclaiming—
‘ Other refuge have I none,
Hangs my helpless soul on you.”

There, where God’s love is felt—there, where the Holy Spirit is possessed—there, where the Savior’s atonement is received, and His image is reflected—there is found the precious “salt of the earth.” The world does not know it, and even the lowly grace may be veiled from the eye of the Church—few mark the silent tear, or see the deep prostration of the Spirit before the Lord, or are cognizant of its hidden joy, or measure the extent of the holy influence, noiselessly yet effectually exerted; but God, looking from His throne of glory through the ranks of pure intelligences that encircle Him, beholds it; and in that humble mind, and in that believing heart, He sees the divine and precious “salt,” which beautifies, sanctifies, and preserves the world. He sees true holiness nowhere else; He recognizes His own moral image in no other. The Christian is emphatically “the salt of the earth.”

February 9: A Holy Heaven

And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness: the unclean shall not pass over it; but the redeemed shall walk there. Isaiah 35:8, 9

HEAVEN is the abode of a renewed people; it is a holy place, and the home of the holy; and before the sinner can have any real fitness for heaven, any well-grounded hope of glory, he must be a partaker of a nature harmonizing with the purity, and corresponding with the enjoyments, of heaven. Heaven would be no heaven to a carnal mind, to an unsanctified heart. Were it possible to translate an unconverted individual from this world to the abodes of eternal glory, overwhelmed with the effulgence of the place, and having no fellowship of feeling with the purity of its enjoyments, and the blessedness of its society, he would exclaim—”Take me hence—it is not the place for me—I have no sympathy with it—I have no fitness for it—I have no pleasure in it.” Solemn thought!

But the Christian is a renewed creature—he is a partaker of the Divine nature; he has sympathies, affections, and desires, imparted to him by the Spirit, which assimilate him to the happiness and purity of heaven. It is impossible but that he must be there. He possesses a nature unfit for earth, and congenial only with heaven. He is the subject of a spiritual life that came from, and now ascends to, heaven. All its aspirations are heavenly—all its breathings are heavenly—all its longings are heavenly; and thus it is perpetually soaring towards that world of glory from where it came, and for which God is preparing it. So that it would seem utterly impossible but that a renewed man must be in heaven, since he is the partaker of a nature fitted only for the regions of eternal purity and bliss.

But what is it that gives the Christian a valid deed, a right of possession, to eternal glory? It is his justification by faith through the imputed righteousness of Christ. This is the only valid title to eternal glory which God will admit—the righteousness of His dear Son imputed to him that believes. Here is the grand fitness of a poor, lost, polluted, undone sinner; the fitness that springs from the spotless righteousness of the Lord Jesus, “who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.” “He has made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.”

Behold, then, beloved, the high vantage-ground on which a saint of God stands, with regard to his hope of heaven. He stands out of his own righteousness in the righteousness of another. He stands accepted in the Accepted One, he stands justified in the Justified One, and justified, too, by God, the great Justifier.

The spiritual life which God has breathed into our souls will never rest until it reaches its full and perfect development. Deep as are its pulsations, holy as are its breathings, it is yet but in its infancy, compared with that state of perfection to which it is destined. The highest state of sanctification to which the believer can arrive here is but the first dawn of day, contrasted with the “far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,” which will burst upon him in a world of perfect holiness. Heaven will complete the work which sovereign grace has begun upon earth. Heaven is the consummation of the spiritual life of the believer.

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

January 8: Through Faith

What must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved, and your house. Acts 16:30-31

THE faith of the child of God stands in the righteousness of the God-man Mediator—”the righteousness which is of God by faith.” This faith has not been inappropriately termed the “poor man’s grace.” It is so because it comes to Jesus empty-handed. It travels to Christ in poverty and rags, in want and in woe. It is the grace of him who, feeling the working of an inward plague, and repudiating all idea of human merit, appears at the door of mercy, “poor in spirit,” humbly knocking, and earnestly suing, and freely receiving, as a pensioner, the blessing of sovereign grace.

Oh, how glorious to the eye of such an one appears the righteousness of the Incarnate God! How precious to his heart the atoning blood of Jesus! How suitable and attractive to his view the foundation to which he is invited, and upon which, with the confidence of faith, he is encouraged to build his assured hope of future glory! Who would not desire, and who would not seek, establishment in a faith like this? a faith that can read its pardon in the blood—its justification in the righteousness—its sanctification in the grace, and its security in the resurrection, life, and intercession of the great High Priest enthroned in heaven.

Oh, let a man’s faith cling to this, and he is a saved man! And to be saved! Oh, how will eternity prolong the swelling chant!—”Saved, for ever saved! A sinner the very chief—a saint the very least—a child the most unworthy! yet here, through grace, I am saved, forever saved!” Before the glory and importance of this salvation, oh, how do fade and disappear the grandeur and the significance of all other objects! “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?” “This is the record, that God has given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He that has the Son has life, and he that has not the Son has not life.”

But the faith of the true believer is built upon Christ. It has Christ for its basis, Christ for its object, Christ for its beginning and its end. It is built upon the Godhead of His person, the obedience of His life, and the vicariousness of His death. He who builds his faith short of Deity, builds upon the treacherous sand which the first heaving billow sweeps from beneath his feet. We want, in the great matter of our salvation, Deity to become incarnate—Deity to obey—Deity to atone—Deity to justify—Deity to uphold—Deity to comfort—and Deity to bring us at last to the glorious abode of Deity, to dwell amid its splendors forever.

Give Thanks Unto Our Paschal Lamb

“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1

How strong the consolation flowing from this truth to the believer in Jesus! No condemnation is the ground of all comfort to the suffering Christian. What a mighty breakwater is this condition to the rolling surge of sorrow, which else might flow in upon and immerse the soul!

Continue reading “Give Thanks Unto Our Paschal Lamb”