July 3: It Is Jesus

“For we who live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak.” 2 Corinthians 4:11, 13

What is the life of faith which the believer lives, but a manifestation of the life of the Lord Jesus? The highest, the holiest, the happiest life lived below, is the life of faith. But nature contributes nothing to this life. It comes from a higher source. It is supernatural—it is opposed to nature. It springs from the life “hid with Christ in God.” “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.”

Here is a glorious manifestation of the life of Jesus. If we desire any evidence that Jesus is risen, that He is alive again, and that He is the life of the soul, here it is! See the faith of a child of God sifted as wheat, yet not one grain falling to the ground—tried as gold, yet not one particle lost—though in the flame, yet never consumed. And why? Because Christ lives in the soul. Dear believer! your faith may be sharply tempted—severely tried—but never, never shall it quite fail; for Jesus lives in you, and lives in you forever.

Oh blessed trial of faith, that manifests in, and endears to, you the life of Jesus! It is the precious trial of “precious faith,”—a faith which the more deeply it is tried, the more deeply it manifests the risen life of its Divine “Author and Finisher.”

And what, too, are all the supports of the believer in seasons of trial, suffering, and bereavement, but so many manifestations of the life of the Lord Jesus? What is our path to glory, but the path of tribulation, of suffering, and of death? Our Lord and Master, in the expression of His wisdom and love, forewarns us of this—”In the world you shall have tribulation.” And His apostles but echo the same sentiment, when they affirm that it is “through much tribulation we must enter the kingdom.”

But the life of our risen Lord is daily manifested in us. This it is that keeps the soul buoyant amid the billows, strong in faith, joyful in hope, soaring in love. Thus is Jesus the life of every grace, the life of every promise, the life of every ordinance, the life of every blessing; yes, of all that is really costly and precious to a child of God, Jesus is the substance, the glory, the sweetness, the fragrance, yes, the very life itself. Oh! dark and lonely, desolate and painful indeed were our present pilgrimage, but for Jesus. If in the world we have tribulation, in whom have we peace?—in Jesus! If in the creature we meet with fickleness and change, in whom find we the “Friend that loves at all times”?—in Jesus!

When adversity comes as a wintry blast, and lays low our comforts, when the cloud is upon our tabernacle, when health, and wealth, and influence, and friends are gone—in whom do we find the covert from the wind, the faithful, tender “Brother born for adversity?”—in Jesus! When temptation assails, when care darkens, when trial oppresses, when bereavement wounds, when heart and flesh are failing, who throws around us the protecting shield, who applies the precious promise, who speaks the soothing word, who sustains the sinking spirit, who heals the sorrow, and dries the tear?—Jesus! Where sin struggles in the heart, and guilt burdens the conscience, and unbelief beclouds the mind, whose grace subdues our iniquities, whose blood gives us peace, and whose light dispels our darkness?—Jesus!

And when the spark of life wanes, and the eye grows dim, and the mind wanders, and the soul, severing its last fetter, mounts and soars away, who, in that awful moment, draws near in form unseen, and whispers in words unheard by all but the departing one, now in close communion with the solemn realities of the invisible world—”Fear not; I am the resurrection and the life: he that believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die”?—still, it is Jesus! “

June 2: Trials Of Faith

“For you, O God, have proved us: you have tried us, as silver is tried.” Psalm 66:10

FAITH has its trials, as well as its temptations. Affliction is a trial of faith; sorrow in any of its multitudinous forms is a trial of faith; the delay of mercy is a trial of faith; the promise unfulfilled is a trial of faith; the prayer unanswered is a trial of faith; painful providences, mysterious dispensations, straitened circumstances, difficulties, and embarrassments, all are so many trials of faith, commissioned and designed by God to place the gold in the crucible, and the wheat in the sieve, that both may be purified and tried.

Ah, is it no trial of the believer’s faith, when the foundation upon which it rests is assailed? Is it no trial of faith to have distorted representations of God presented to its eye, dishonoring thoughts of God suggested to the mind, unbelieving apprehensions of Jesus, His love, His grace, and His works, foisted upon the heart? To entertain for one moment the idea that God is unfaithful to His word, or that in His dealings He is arbitrary and unkind? That Jesus is not what He represents Himself to be, an all-sufficient Savior of the lost, the healer of the broken in heart, the tender, gentle Savior, not breaking the bruised reed, but supporting it, not quenching the smoking flax, but fanning it? Oh yes, these to a holy mind are painful trials of faith, from which the tender conscience shrinks, and the sensitive heart recoils.

It is only true grace that is really tried. No man puts mere dross into his furnace, or mere chaff into his sieve. All his toils and pains-taking would go for nothing, for it would come forth in its nature unaltered and unchanged—the dross would still be dross, and the chaff would still be chaff. Now the Lord tries, and Satan tempts, nothing but genuine grace. It is the wheat, and not the tares, that is made to pass through the fiery trial. Thus do afflictions and trying dispensations prove tests of a man’s religion. When there is nothing but tinsel in a profession of Christianity, the fire will consume it; when there is nothing but chaff, the wind will scatter it. The furnace of temptation and the flail of affliction often prove a man’s work of what sort it is, long before the discovery is made in a world where no errors can be corrected, and when it will be too late to rectify mistakes. Thus it is that so many professors, who have not the root of the matter in themselves, but endure for awhile, are offended and fall away when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word.

And why is the “wheat” thus sifted? Why is so Divine and precious a grace subjected to a process so humiliating and severe? Certainly not because of any intrinsic impurity in the grace itself. All the graces of the Spirit, as they proceed from God, and are implanted in the heart, are pure and holy; as essentially free from sin as the nature from where they flow. But in consequence of the impurity of the heart, and the defilement of the nature in which they are deposited—the body of sin and death by which they are incased—they become mixed with particles of earthliness and carnality, the fine gold with dross, and the pure wheat with chaff. To purify and separate the graces of the Holy Spirit from these things, so foreign to their nature, the Lord permits these temptations, and sends these trials of faith.

Not only may the faith of a child of God be severely assailed, but there are times when that faith may greatly waver. Is this surprising? No, the greatest wonder is, that with all these severe shocks, through which it passes, it does not entirely fail. Nothing but the Divinity that dwells within that grace keeps it. Were it not Divine and incorruptible, fail entirely it must. Look at Abraham—on one occasion in the strength of faith offering up his son, and on another occasion in the weakness of faith denying his wife! Look at David—in the strength of faith slaying Goliath, and in the weakness of faith fleeing from Saul! Look at Job—in the strength of faith justifying God in the severest of His dealings, and in the weakness of faith cursing the day that He was born! Look at Peter—in the strength of faith drawing his sword and smiting a servant of the high priest’s, and in the weakness of faith forced by a little maid to deny the Lord whom he had but just defended! Oh! the wonder of wonders is, that there remains a single grain in the sieve, or a particle of metal in the furnace, or a solitary spark in the ocean—that all is not utterly scattered, consumed, and annihilated! Nothing but the power of God and its own incorruptible and imperishable nature, preserve it.

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.

March 23: Finishing The Course

I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. 2 Tim 4:7

WE are here invited to contemplate the Christian in the character of a conqueror. The battle consists of a moral conflict with inward and outward enemies, all leagued in terrible force against the soul. To this is added—what, indeed, was most peculiar to the early Church—a war of external suffering, in which penury, persecution, and martyrdom constituted the dark and essential elements.

Now it will be instructive to observe in what way Christ provides for the holy warrior’s passage through this fiery contest. It will be perceived that it is not by flight, but by battle; not by retreat, but by advance; not by shunning, but by facing the foe. The Captain of their salvation might have withdrawn His people from the field, and conducted them to heaven, without the hazard of a conflict. But not so. He will lead them to glory, but it shall be by the path of glory. They shall carve their way to the crown by the achievements of the sword. They shall have privations, and distress, and suffering, of every kind; yet while beneath the pressure, and in the very heat of the battle, victory shall crown their arms, and a glorious triumph shall heighten the splendor of their victory. And what spiritual eye does not clearly see, that in conducting His people across the battle-field, the Lord wins to Himself more renown than though He had led them to their eternal rest with entire exemption from conflict and distress?

But in what sense are we conquerors? Just in that sense in which the Holy Spirit obtains the victory. It is not the believer himself who conquers; it is the Divine Spirit within the believer. No movement is seen, no tactics are observed, no war-cry is heard, and yet there is passing within the soul a more important warfare, and there is secured a more brilliant victory, than ever the pen of the historian recorded. In the first place, there is the conquest of faith.

Where do the annals of war present such a succession of victories so brilliant, achieved by a weapon so single and simple, as is recorded in the eleventh chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews? And what was the grace that won those spiritual and glorious victories? It was the grace of faith! “This is the victory that overcomes the world, even your faith.” Faith in the truth of God’s word faith in the veracity of God’s character—faith in the might, and skill, and wisdom of our Commander and Leader—faith, eyeing the prize, gives the victory to the Christian combatant, and secures the glory to the Captain of his salvation.

Then there is the triumph of patience. “That you do not be slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” “And so, after he had patiently endured, He obtained the promise.” Oh, is it no real victory of the Holy Spirit in the believer, when beneath the pressure of great affliction, passing through a discipline the most painful and humiliating, the suffering Christian is enabled to cry, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in him”? “The cup which my Father has given me, shall I not drink it”? “Not my will, but your, be done”? Suffering child of God, “let patience have her perfect work, that you may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”

And then there is the conquest of joy. “Having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit.” “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into diverse temptations,” or trials. Why is trial an occasion of joy? Because it is the triumph of the Holy Spirit in the soul. And does not Christ say, “You shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy”? Who but Jesus can turn our sorrow into joy?—not only assuaging our griefs, alleviating our sufferings, and tempering the furnace-flame, but actually making our deepest, darkest sorrows the occasion of the deepest gladness, praise, and thanksgiving.

Oh, yes! it is a glorious victory of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, in the soul, when it can enable the believer to adopt the words of the suffering apostle, “I am filled with comfort, I am exceedingly joyful in all our tribulation.” Suffering reader! Jesus knows how to turn your sorrow into joy. Confide your grief to Him, and He will cause it sweetly to sing.

March 20: Our Foundation Of Election

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

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

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

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

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

February 13: For Those Suffering

Why let those who suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well-doing, as unto a faithful Creator. 1 Peter 4:19

THE God who is now dealing with you is love, all love—a God in Christ—your covenant God—your reconciled Father. All His thoughts towards you, peace; all His feelings, love; and all His dealings, mercy.

Soon will you be in His heavenly presence, and behold His unveiled glory as it beams forth from the eternal throne. Soon will you be with Jesus, shall see Him, be like Him, and dwell with Him forever. Darkness, and conflict, and sickness, and death shall cease, because sin shall cease. Then, in your blessed experience, will be realized the beatific vision—”And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away.”

Let this prospect reconcile you patiently to wait all the days of your appointed time, until your change come. God is faithful. Christ, in whom you believe, is able to keep that which you have committed unto Him against that glorious day. He will perfect that which concerns you. Nothing shall be consumed in your present fiery trial, but the tin and dross. The precious and imperishable gold shall be “found unto praise, and honor, and glory, at the appearing of Jesus Christ.”

Not more safe were Noah and his family, when they sailed in the ark through the storm, than is that soul who is shut up in Christ. If you have come out of yourself, have left all, and have fled to Jesus, this is your encouragement—not a soul ever perished whom the Father gave in covenant to his Son—whom the Son redeemed—whom the Spirit has regenerated, and in whom He dwells. A threefold cord keeps that precious saint—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. “Kept by the power of God, through faith, unto salvation.”

Oh, precious declaration! Press it with a stronger faith to your heart; for if God be for you, who can be against you? In your present state of suffering you find it difficult to think or to pray. But He, who formed you, knows your frame, “He remembers that we are dust.” There is One who thinks and prays for you. It is Jesus, your Elder Brother; the “brother born for adversity;” the great High Priest, wearing your nature, who has passed within the veil, “now to appear in the presence of God for us.” Jesus intercedes for you moment by moment.

Your faith shall not fail, your grace shall not decline, your hope shall not make ashamed; for He who came down to earth, and was wounded for your transgression, and was bruised for your iniquities, rose again from the dead, and ascended on high, now to appear in the presence of God for you. Christ prays for you, and that, when by reason of confusion of mind and weakness of body you cannot pray for yourself. Precious Jesus! You are that gentle Shepherd, who over-drives not Your little ones. When they cannot run, You do permit them to walk; and when, through feebleness, they cannot walk, You do carry them. You are He of whom it is said, “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd, he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom.”

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

Soul Trouble

“Now my soul is deeply troubled.” –John 12:27

Believer in Jesus, do you possess soul-sorrow? A sense of sin troubles you, the consciousness of guilt distresses you, and you begin to think you know nothing of God’s pardoning love. Oh, what would you not give to be quite sure that your sins were all forgiven for Jesus’ sake!

Continue reading “Soul Trouble”

November 27: More Than Conquerors

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.” Romans 8:37

The apostle had enumerated certain things which, to the obscure eye of faith, and to the yet obscurer eye of sense, would appear to make against the best interests of the Christian, regarded either as evidences of a waning of Christ’s love to him, or as calculated to produce such a result.

He proposes an inquiry—”Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?”—and then proceeds to give the reply. That reply sets the question entirely at rest. He argues, that so far from the things which he enumerates shaking the constancy of Christ’s love, periling the safety of the Christian, or shading the luster of His renown, they but developed the Savior’s affection to him, more strongly confirmed the fact of his security, and entwined fresh and more verdant laurels around his brow. “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors.”

“Through Him that loved us.” Here is the great secret of our victory, the source of our triumph. Behold the mystery explained, how a weak, timid believer, often starting at his own shadow, is yet “more than a conqueror” over his many and mighty foes. To Christ who loved him, who gave Himself for him, who died in his stead, and lives to intercede on his behalf, the glory of the triumph is ascribed. And this is the song he chants: “Thanks be to God, which gives us the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Through the conquest which He Himself obtained, through the grace which He imparts, through the strength which He inspires, through the intercession which he presents, in all our “tribulation and distress, and persecution, and famine, and nakedness, and peril, and sword,” we are “more than conquerors.” Accounted though we are as “sheep for the slaughter,” yet our great Shepherd, Himself slain for the sheep, guides His flock, and has declared that no one shall pluck them out of His hand. We are more than conquerors, through His grace who loved us, in the very circumstances that threaten to overwhelm.

Fear not, then, the darkest cloud, nor the proudest waves, nor the deepest needs—in these very things you shall, through Christ, prove triumphant. Nor shrink from the battle with the “last enemy.” Death received a death-wound when Christ died. You face a conquered foe. He stands at your side a crownless king, and waving a broken scepter. Your death shall be another victory over the believer’s last foe. Planting your foot of upon His prostrate neck, you shall spring into glory, more than a conqueror through Him that loved you.

Thus entering heaven in triumph, you shall go to swell the ranks of the “noble army of martyrs”—those Christian heroes of whom it is recorded, “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb.”

November 14: Delivered And Preserved

“And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom; to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” 2 Timothy 4:18

Things temporary and transient, be they sad or of joyous, pleasant or painful; indwelling sin, temporary trial, occasional temptations, the momentary suspensions of God’s realized love—none of these, or any other things present; shall separate from Christ. What human foresight can predict the future of the earthly history of the child of God? What human hand can uplift the veil that conceals the events that shall yet transpire in his history, before he reaches that perfect world where there will be no future, but one eternal present?

Oh, what goodness hides it from our view! But be that future what it may—shady or sunny, stormy or serene—God will stand fast to His covenant with His church, and Christ to His union with His people. Things to come, be they more terrible than things that are past, or that are now, shall not touch their interest in the Lord’s love.

No elevation to which He may advance them, no height of rank, or wealth, or honor, or influence, or usefulness, shall peril their place in His love. Thus it was the Lord advanced Moses, and David, and Joseph, and Gideon; but in their elevation to worldly distinction, power, and affluence, they were kept walking humbly with God—and this was the secret of their safety. “The Lord God is my strength, and He will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and He will make me to walk in mine high places.” From the loftiest height to the lowest depth of adversity, God can bring His servant, yet love him still with an unchanged and deathless affection. But no depth of soul-distress, no depth of poverty, or suffering, or humiliation, shall disturb the repose, or peril the security, of a believing soul in the love of God.

If there be any other thing or being in the wide universe that wears a threatening or unkindly aspect towards the Christian, Divine power shall restrain its force, saying to the proud waves, “Thus far shall you come, and no farther.” And thus all the billows, amid which the ark has for ages been tossed, shall but bear it gently and triumphantly onward to the mount of God.

On that mount, beloved, where now are gathering all who have the Father’s name written on their foreheads, we too, through grace, shall stand, eternally extolling the Lamb, through Him who, because He died, there is for us no condemnation from Divine justice, and through Him who, because He lives, there is for us no separation from Divine love.