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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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

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!”

September 12: Heirs With God

“And if children, then heirs; heirs of God.” Romans 7:17

NOT only are they begotten by God as His children, and by a sovereign act of His most free mercy have become the heirs of an inheritance; but, subjectively, they are made the heirs of Himself. “Heirs of God.”

Not only are all things in the covenant theirs, but the God of the covenant is theirs. This is their greatest mercy. “I am your part and your inheritance” are His words, addressed to all His spiritual Levites. Not only are they put in possession of all that God has—a boundless wealth—but they are in present possession of all that God is—an infinite portion. And what an immense truth is this, “I will be their God, and they shall be my people”! Take out this truth from the covenant of grace, were it possible, and what remains?

It is the chief wealth and the great glory of that covenant, that God is our God. This it is that gives substance to its blessings, and security to its foundation. So long as faith can retain its hold upon the God of the covenant, as our God, it can repose with perfect security in expectation of the full bestowment of all the rest. Here lies our vast, infinite, and incomputable wealth.

What constitutes the abject poverty of an ungodly man? His being without God in the world. Be you, my reader, rich or poor, high or low in this world, without God, you are undone to all eternity. It is but of trivial moment whether you pass in rags and lowliness, or move in ermine and pomp, to the torments of the lost; those torments will be your changeless inheritance, living and dying without God, and without Christ, and without hope. But contrast this with the state of the poorest child of God. The universe is not only his—”for all things are yours”—but the God of the universe is his: “The Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore will I hope in Him.” We have a deathless interest in every perfection of the Divine nature.

Is it Wisdom? it counsels us. Is it Power? it shields us. Is it Love? it soothes us. Is it Mercy? it upholds us. Is it truth? it cleaves to us. “As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about His people, from henceforth, even for evermore.” What more can we ask than this? If God be ours, we possess the substance and the security of every other blessing. He would bring us to an absolute trust in an absolute God.

Winning us to an entire relinquishment of all expectation from any other source, He would allure us to His feet with the language of the Church breathing from our lips—”Behold, we come unto You, for You are the Lord our God. Truly in vain is salvation hoped for from the hills, and from the multitude of mountains: truly in the Lord our God is the salvation of Israel.” It is in the heart of our God to give us the chief and the best. Had there been a greater, a better, a sweeter, and a more satisfying portion than Himself, then that portion had been ours.

But since there is not, nor can be, a greater than He, the love, the everlasting, changeless love that He bears to us constrains Him to give Himself as our God, our portion, our all. And have we not experienced Him to be God all-sufficient? Have we ever found a want or a lack in Him? May He not justly challenge us, and ask, “Have I been a wilderness unto Israel? a land of darkness?” Oh no!

God is all-sufficient, and no arid wilderness, no dreary land, have we experienced Him to be. There is in Him an all-sufficiency of love to comfort us; an all-sufficiency of strength to uphold us; an all-sufficiency of power to protect us; and all-sufficiency of good to satisfy us; an all-sufficiency of wisdom to guide us; an all-sufficiency of glory to reward us; and an all-sufficiency of bliss to make us happy here, and happy to all eternity.

Such is the inheritance to which, as children of God, we are the heirs.

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!

December 16

“Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” Galatians 2:16

THE term is forensic—employed in judicial affairs, transacted in a court of judicature. We find an illustration of this in God’s word. “If there be a controversy between men, and they come into judgment, that the judge may judge them, then they shall justify the righteous, and condemn the wicked.” It is clear from this passage that the word stands opposed to a state of condemnation, and in this sense it is employed in the text under consideration. To justify, in its proper and fullest sense, is to release from all condemnation. Now, it is important that we do not mix up this doctrine, and the Church of Rome has done, with other and kindred doctrines. We must clearly distinguish it from that of sanctification. Closely connected as they are, they yet entirely differ. The one is a change of state, the other a change of condition. By the one we pass from guilt to righteousness, by the other we pass from sin to holiness. In justification we are brought near to God; in sanctification we are made like God. The one places us before Him in a condition of non-condemnation; the other transforms us into His image. Yet the Church of Rome blends the two states together, and in her formularies teaches an imputed sanctification, just as the Bible teaches an imputed justification. It is to be distinguished, too, from pardon. Justification is a higher act. By the act of pardon we are saved from hell; but by the decree of justification we are brought to heaven. The one discharges the soul from punishment; the other places in its hand a title-deed to glory.

The Lord Jesus Christ is emphatically the justification of all the predestined and called people of God. “By Him all that believe are justified from all things.” The antecedent step was to place Himself in the exact position of His Church. In order to do this, it was necessary that He should be made under the law; for, as the Son of God, He was above the law, and could not therefore be amenable to its precept. But when He became the Son of man, it was as though the sovereign of a vast empire had relinquished his regal character for the condition of the subject. He, who was superior to all law, by His mysterious incarnation placed Himself under the law. He, who was the King of Glory, became by His advent the meanest of subjects. What a stoop was this! What a descending of the Son of God from the height of His glory! The King of kings, the Lord of lords, consenting to be brought under His own law, a subject to Himself, the Law-giver becoming the law-fulfiller.

Having thus humbled Himself, He was prepared, as the sacrificial Lamb, to take up and bear away the sins of His people. The prophecy that predicted that He should “bear their iniquities,” and that He should “justify many,” received in Him its literal and fullest accomplishment. Thus upon Jesus were laid all the iniquities, and with the iniquities the entire curse, and added to the curse, the full penalty, belonging to the Church of God. This personal and close contact with sin affected not His moral nature; for that was essentially sinless, and could receive no possible taint from His bearing our iniquity. He was accounted “accursed,” even as was Israel’s goat, when upon its head Aaron laid the sins of the people; but as that imputation of sin could not render the animal to whom it was transferred morally guilty, though by the law treated as such, so the bearing of sin by Christ could not for a single instant compromise His personal sanctity.

With what distinctness has the Spirit revealed, and with what strictness has He guarded, the perfect sinlessness of the atoning Savior! “He has made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” Oh blessed declaration to those who not only see the sin that dwells in them, but who trace the defilement of sin in their holiest things, and who lean alone for pardon upon the sacrifice of the spotless Lamb of God! To them, how encouraging and consolatory the assurance that there is a sinless One who, coming between a holy God and their souls, is accepted in their stead, and in whom they are looked upon as righteous! And this is God’s method of justification.

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.