by Bertolt Brecht
Who built the seven gates of Thebes?
The books are filled with names of kings.
Was it the kings who hauled the craggy blocks of stone?
And Babylon, so many times destroyed.
Who built the city up each time? In which of Lima’s houses,
That city glittering with gold, lived those who built it?
In the evening when the Chinese wall was finished
Where did the masons go? Imperial Rome
Is full of arcs of triumph. Who reared them up? Over whom
Did the Caesars triumph? Byzantium lives in song.
Were all her dwellings palaces? And even in Atlantis of the legend
The night the seas rushed in,
The drowning men still bellowed for their slaves.
Young Alexander conquered India.
Caesar beat the Gauls.
Was there not even a cook in his army?
Phillip of Spain wept as his fleet
was sunk and destroyed. Were there no other tears?
Frederick the Greek triumphed in the Seven Years War.
Who triumphed with him?
Each page a victory
At whose expense the victory ball?
Every ten years a great man,
Who paid the piper?
So many particulars.
So many questions.
- All history is His story.
- We must work to differentiate between civilization and Christianity.
- The past is a “foreign country.” – hermeneutics emic vs. etic
- Persecution of Christian during the reign of Domitian (81-96 A.D) came to forefront in Asia Minor where the imperial cult was centered.
- Persecution resulted in two significant literary productions: apologetics and martyrdom.
- Heresy promoted doctrinal systematization.
- Irenaeus important for representing orthodox reaction to heresy (Against Heresies).
- Tertullian’s writings tell us much about alternative understandings of Christianity.
- Origen produced the first systematic theology.
- Claims against Christians included obstinacy, disloyalty, atheism, cannibalism, incest.
- Philosophers such as Celsus, Galen, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius argued that Christians were “weaklings”, irrational, gullible, and fanatics.
- Persecution was sporadic but “always present as a possibility.”
- The early church fathers gave us a rich theological inheritance, but were not immune to error.
- Irenaeus – Trinitarian, fought Gnosticism, but also apostolic succession, emphasis upon tradition, priority of Roman bishop
- Perhaps the most influential second century apologist was Justin Martyr. Others included Tatian, Athenagorus, Thophilus and Minucius Felix.
- The Logos was prominent in apologetic literature (a) The Logos as the reason or wisdom of God, (b) the Logos as God’s spoken word, (c) the Logos as immanent in the world, (d) the Logos as the revealed word of God in the prophets, (e) the incarnate Jesus.
- Martyrdom literature took three forms, letters, passions, and acts.
- “Beginning with Constantine, the church entered imperial history in such a way that one cannot deal with the secular history of the fourth century without discussing the church and cannot deal with the religious history without considering the state.”
- Arius believed that, “Thee was when Christ was not” — that Jesus was the first and highest of God’s creations – a god.
- Arianism was addressed at the Council of Nicea, called by Constantine in 325.
- The council adopted the word homoousious to describe Christ’s relationship with the Father.
- The first four ecumenical councils were Nicea (325), Constantinople (381), Ephesus (431), Chalcedon (451).
- The fourth century dealt with the Trinitarian conflict. The fifth century with the Christological controversy.
- Apollonarianism = the belief that the divine Logos replaced the human soul/spirit of Jesus.
- Nestorianism = Christ exists as two natures, the man Jesus and the divine Son of God, or Logos, rather than as a unified person.
- Eutychianism = Monophysitism – only one nature of Christ, the human nature overcome by the divine nature.
- Ebionites – Denied the full deity of Christ (As the Christ, he functioned as God on earth)
- Docetism – Appeared to be a man
- Eutychianism – Human nature became absorbed into the God nature such that
- Monarchianism/Seballianism – Modalism
- Adoptionism – man in the beginning but adopted as the Son of God and became deity
- Kenoticsm – God became less God to become man, he set aside part of his deity
- We must watch out for language games – equivocation
- Constantine moves capital in 330
- The Eastern Empire becomes seat of power and wealth
- Roman bishop left as single most powerful person in the West
- By the end of the 4th century barbarians serious problem in the west (Visgoths, Huns, etc)
- After the sacking of Rome in 410, Christian views of society and history were put forth, including the most prominent which was Augustine’s City of God.
- Compare Augustine’s Two Cities with Genesis 4-5.
- Other important works of Augustine which we will discuss include his Confessions, and On the Trinity,
- Augustine – bridge between ancient world and Middle Ages
- Roman bishop won primacy over other bishops
- When imperial throne falls into the hands of the barbarians in 476 people look to the Roman bishop for political leadership as well as spiritual leadership
- Western civilization was created in medieval Europe (institutions, mentalities, struggles, books, etc.) No more Roman Lake.
- Spontaneous mission work in 4th & 5th centuries
- “Medieval history, from one point of view, is the story of the movement of the centre of gravity of civilization from one side of the Alps to the other.”
- “The movement of the centres of civilization from south to north and from east to west during the medieval centuries involved a change from the empires of Rome, Byzantium, and the Arabs, empires of vast geographical extent and great military power but which were relatively loosely controlled.” Creation of new societies.
- Christians among the Britons by the end of the second century.
- When Roman missionaries came England in 6th century they found three distinct expressions of Christianity (1)Romano-British Christians in the South, (2) Irish Christians, and (3) Celtic Christianity.
- Boniface evangelizes Teutonic tribes occupying modern Germany
- In the East, political stability achieved through reducing taxes and trimming expenses. (common vision)
- Syriac speaking Christians took gospel to Persian where there was interest in medicine, philosophy, advanced education.
- Persians make peace treaty with Justinian in 532
- Justinian had eyes on Africa and Italy
- 539 Khosru declares War on “Rome”
- Bubonic plague, Slavs, Goths keep Eastern empire from “glory” – Justinian’s reign relentless, austere quality
- Persia becomes stronger than at any time since Darius I
- Time of weak leadership makes susceptible to be conquered.
- In the sixth century many Arabs had converted to Christianity, but most continued to worship tribal deities.
- Mohammad lived 570-632.
- Ten years = 65 raids or campaigns
- Eventually becomes powerful enough to take Mecca, destroys idols, establishes Islam
- Islam means “submission.”
- Muslim means “one who submits.”
- The century of Muslim expansion is traditionally dated as 632-732.
- By 650 his Muslims had overrun the Persian empire, taken Syria, Egypt, and Palestine
- Western empire makes gains in the North through evangelism.
- Missionary task included making sure converts would be loyal to the pope.
- Emperors in Constantinople thought the church should be subordinate to the ruler of the state.
- Pope seeks ally
- Frankish rulers
- Rulers of new empire were Teutons rather than Romans
- Franks had accepted the Roman culture
- Clovis (466-510) had unified the Franks and conquered most of what would be modern France
- Franks accepted Christianity in 496 and became bulwark of papal power in Western Europe
- Eastern Empire barely hold its own against Muslims
- 718 Eastern empire under Leo the Isaurian stops Muslim advance
- Charles Martel stopped the advance of Islam in Spain in 732.
- Muslims, influenced by Greek culture, set out to build a splendid Arabic civilization centered in Bagdad
- Eastern Influence Diminishes (North African church disappears, Egypt and Holy Land lost to Muslims, Roman bishop has been growing stronger and stronger)
- The Franks “snatched western Europe from decline and brought a brief cultural revival” when Charlemagne crowned as true successor to the Roman empire.
- Charlemagne had Augustine’s City of God read to him every night and it was his inspiration for a Frankish-Roman empire.
- Charlemagne saw “missions” as part of a military strategy.
- By the time of the new millennium (1000) almost all of Europe was “officially” Christian.
- Charlemagne was crowned by Pope Leo III on Christmas day of 800, but intentionally avoided having the Pope present when control was passed to his son (816).
- “The Constitution romana (824) spelled out relations of emperor and pope. The emperor had supreme jurisdiction, while the pope as a local ruler was to exercise ordinary judiciary and administrative power in his territories. The pope was to be chosen by the Roman people without constraint. The emperor was to confirm his election, and before his consecration he was to take an oath of loyalty to the emperor. The pope had the right to crown and anoint the emperor.
- Henry III, German emperor, was the last emperor able to dominate the papacy. Deposed three rival popes and installed his own.
- Excommunication of Henry IV by Gregory VII in 1076.
- Pope Boniface VII: Unam Sanctum (1302)For when the Apostles say: ‘Behold, here are two swords’ [Lk 22:38] that is to say, in the Church, since the Apostles were speaking, the Lord did not reply that there were too many, but sufficient. Certainly the one who denies that the temporal sword is in the power of Peter has not listened well to the word of the Lord commanding: ‘Put up thy sword into thy scabbard’ [Mt 26:52]. Both, therefore, are in the power of the Church, that is to say, the spiritual and the material sword, but the former is to be administered _for_ the Church but the latter by the Church; the former in the hands of the priest; the latter by the hands of kings and soldiers, but at the will and sufferance of the priest.
- Erastians –
- Calvin –
- Luther –
- Anabaptists –
- What Does the Bible Say? Deut 17:8ff
- 1 Samuel 13
- 2 Chronicles 26:16-21
- Luke 20:22ff
- First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
- Aristocracy = weakness, meritocracy = strength
- Six things that lead to cultural change: war, politics, religion, migration, economics, education.
These are the textbooks I am using this Spring in classes I am teaching in The College at Southwestern.
HIS 1213 : Western Civilization II
The Penguin Atlas of World History: Volume 2: From the French Revolution to the Present, by Hermann Kinder and Werner Hilgemann — ISBN. 0141012625
Church History, Volume Two: From Pre-Reformation to the Present Day: The Rise and Growth of the Church in Its Cultural, Intellectual, and Political Context, by John Woodbridge and Frank James — ISBN. 0310257433
Literature and Science in the Nineteenth Century: An Anthology, by Laura Otis — ISBN. 019955465X
HIS 2203: Renaissance and Reformation History
Renaissance and Reformation, by William Estep — ISBN. 0802800505
The Protestant Reformation, by Hans Hillerbrand — ISBN. 0061148474
The Portable Renaissance Reader, by James Ross — ISBN. 0140150617
Foxe’s Book of Martyrs: Select Narratives, by John Foxe — ISBN. 0199236844
IDE 2203: Renaissance and Reformation Seminar
The Divine Comedy, by Dante Alighieri — ISBN. 0199535647
Institutes of the Christian Religion, by John Calvin — ISBN. 0801025249
Three Treatises, by Martin Luther — ISBN. 0800616391
Praise of Folly, by Erasmus –ISBN. 0140446087
On Divine Foreknowledge: Part IV of the Concordia, by Luis De Molina — ISBN. 0801489350
Utopia, by Thomas More — ISBN. 0140449108
The Prince, by Machiavelli — ISBN. 0199535698
The Scientific Revolution: A Brief History with Documents, by Margaret C. Jacob — ISBN. 0312653492
Hamlet, by William Shakespeare — ISBN. 0140714545
Julius Caesar, by William Shakespeare — ISBN. 0199536120
[The following discussion questions relate to Charles Finney’s Lectures on Revivals of Religion: Lecture 4 – “Prevailing Prayer”. The full text for Charles Finney’s “Prevailing Prayer” is included below the following discussion questions. When page numbers are mentioned in the discussion questions they refer to the edition of the text published by Alethea in Heart, isbn. 1932370471]
1. Finney says, “There are two kinds of means requisite to promote a revival; one to influence men, the other to influence God.” Is it possible to “influence God”? If we influence God, does that mean we have somehow changed God?
2. Finney says, “Some have zealously used truth to convert men, and laid very little stress on prayer. They have preached, and talked, and distributed tracts with great zeal, and then wondered that they had so little success.” Do you think that some ministries fail simply because they are not bathed in prayer?
3. How, according to Finney, is it possible for “the people of God to pray according to the will of God, when they themselves know not what things they ought to pray for”? Do you agree with Finney?
4. Finney differentiates between submission to the will of God and indifference. How do you recognize the difference in your own prayer life? He also speaks of the difference between submission in prayer and a general confidence that God will do what is right. Do you agree with the distinction he is making?
5. What does Finney think about boldness and importunity in prayer? Does he advise presumptuousness in prayer or advise against it? What do you think about this?
6. How much of your prayer is motivated by selfishness? Why does Finney’s warning against selfish prayer not conflict with what he says about prayer arising out of strong desires?
7. Finney speaks of a “higher principle” that should motivate our prayers.
“They … are only thinking what a dreadful thing it will be for them to go to hell. Ah! unless their thoughts rise higher than this, their prayers will never prevail with a holy God. The temptation to selfish motives is so strong, that there is reason to fear a great many parental prayers never rise above the yearnings of parental tenderness. And that is the reason why so many prayers are not heard, and why so many pious, praying parents have ungodly children. Much of the prayer for the heathen world, seems to be based on no higher principle than sympathy. Missionary agents, and others, are dwelling almost exclusively upon the six hundred millions of heathens going to hell, while little is said of their dishonoring God. This is a great evil; and until the church have higher motives for prayer and missionary effort than sympathy for the heathen, their prayers and efforts will never amount to much.”
What is the “higher principle” to which Finney is trying to direct his audience? Do you agree with him?
8. Finney claims that for prayer to be effectual it must be “by the intercession of the Spirit”. However, he does not say how it is that one accomplishes this? How do you think a Christian arrives at the point that her prayers are by the intercession of the Spirit?
9. Finney quotes Johnathan Edwards in regard to the travail of the soul that a Christlike person experiences over those who are without Christ. Is this material consistent with Finney’s previous call for a higher principle in prayer than sympathy?
10. What does it mean to offer prayers in the name of Christ? Why should one do this?
11. Finney claims that part of renouncing our sins is to “recall them to mind.” Is there a biblical passage that you think he is drawing this teaching from? What practical role do you think this might play in a persons prayer life?
12. How does Finney respond to possible arguments that praying in faith leads to fanaticism? How does one know when he is praying in faith and when he is simply being led along by his own imagination?
TEXT. –The effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.–JAMES V. 16.
THE last lecture referred principally to the confession of sin. To-night my remarks will be chiefly confined to the subject of intercession, or prayer. There are two kinds of means requisite to promote a revival; one to influence men, the other to influence God. The truth is employed to influence men, and prayer to move God. When I speak of moving God, I do not mean that God’s mind is changed by prayer, or that his disposition or character is changed. But prayer produces such a change in us and fulfils such conditions as renders it consistent for God to do as it would not be consistent for him to do otherwise. When a sinner repents, that state of mind makes it proper for God to forgive him. God has always been ready to forgive him on that condition, so that when the sinner changes his mind towards God, it requires no change of feeling in God to pardon him. It is the sinner’s repentance that renders his forgiveness proper, and is the occasion of God’s acting as he does. So when Christians offer effectual prayer, their state of mind renders it proper for God to answer them. He was always ready to bestow the blessing, on the condition that they felt right, and offered the right kind of prayer. Whenever this change takes place in them, and they offer the right kind of prayer, then God, without any change in himself, can answer them. When we offer effectual fervent prayer for others, the fact that we offer such prayer renders it consistent for him to do what we pray for, when otherwise it would not have been consistent.
Prayer is an essential link in the chain of causes that lead to a revival; as much so as truth is. Some have zealously used truth to convert men, and laid very little stress on prayer. They have preached, and talked, and distributed tracts with great zeal, and then wondered that they had so little success. And the reason was, that they forgot to use the other branch of the means, effectual prayer. They overlooked the fact, that truth by itself will never produce the effect, without the Spirit of God, and that Spirit is given in answer to earnest prayer.
Sometimes it happens that those who are the most engaged in employing truth, are not the most engaged in prayer. This is always unhappy. –For unless they, or somebody else have the spirit of prayer, the truth by itself will do nothing but harden men in impenitence. Probably in the day of judgment it will be found that nothing is ever done by the truth, used ever so zealously, unless there is a spirit of prayer somewhere in connection with the presentation of truth.
Others err on the other side. Not that they lay too much stress on prayer. But they overlook the fact that prayer might be offered for ever, by itself, and nothing would be done. Because sinners are not converted by direct contact of the Holy Ghost, but by the truth, employed as a means. To expect the conversion of sinners by prayer alone, without the employment of truth, is to tempt God.
The subject of discourse this evening, is
I. I propose to show what is effectual or prevailing prayer.
II. State some of the most essential attributes of prevailing prayer.
III. Give some reasons why God requires this kind of prayer.
IV. Show that such prayer will avail much.
I. I proceed to show what is prevailing prayer.
1. Effectual, prevailing prayer, does not consist in benevolent desires merely. Benevolent desires are doubtless pleasing to God. Such desires pervade heaven, and are found in all holy beings. But they are not prayer. Men may have these desires as the angels and glorified spirits have them. But this is not the effectual, prevailing prayer, spoken of in the text. Prevailing prayer is something more than this.
2. Prevailing, or effectual prayer, is that prayer which obtains the blessing that it seeks. It is that prayer which effectually moves God. The very idea of effectual prayer is, that it effects its object.
II. I will state some of the most essential attributes of prevailing prayer. I cannot detail in full all the things that go to make up prevailing prayer. But I will mention some things that are essential to it; some things which a person must do in order to prevail in prayer.
1. He must pray for a definite object. He need not expect to offer such prayer, if he prays at random, without any distinct or definite object. He must have an object distinctly before his mind. I speak now of secret prayer. Many people go away into their closets, because they must say their prayers. The time has come that they are in the habit of going by themselves for prayer, in the morning, or at noon, or at whatever time of day it may be. And instead of having any thing to say, any definite object before their mind, they fall down on their knees, and pray for just what comes into their minds, for everything that floats in their imagination at the time, and when they have done, they could not tell hardly a word of what they have been praying for. This is not effectual prayer. What should we think of any body who should try to move a legislature so, and should say, “Now it is winter, and the legislature is in session, and it is time to send up petitions,” and should go up to the legislature and petition at random, without any definite object? Do you think such petitions would move the legislature?
A man must have some definite object before his mind. He cannot pray effectually for a variety of objects at once. The mind of man is so constituted that it cannot fasten its desires intensely upon many things at the same time. All the instances of effectual prayer recorded in the Bible were of this kind. Wherever you see that the blessing sought for in prayer was attained, you will find that the prayer which was offered was prayer for that definite object.
2. Prayer, to be effectual, must be in accordance with the revealed will of God. To pray for things contrary to the revealed will of God, is to tempt God. There are three ways in which God’s will is revealed to men for their guidance in prayer.
(1.) By express promises or predictions in the Bible, that he will give or do certain things. Either by express promises in regard to particular things, or promises in general terms, so that we may apply them to particular things. For instance, there is this promise: “Whatsoever things ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.”
(2.) Sometimes God reveals his will by his providence. When he makes it clear that such and such events are about to take place, it is as much a revelation as if he had written it in his word. It would be impossible to reveal every thing in the Bible. But God often makes it clear to those who have spiritual discernment, that it is his will to grant such and such blessings.
(3.) By his Spirit. When God’s people are at a loss what to pray for, agreeable to his will, his Spirit often instructs them. Where there is no particular revelation, and providence leaves it dark, and we know not what to pray for as we ought, we are expressly told, that “the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities,” and “the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings that cannot be uttered.” A great deal has been said on the subject of praying in faith for things not revealed. It is objected, that this doctrine implies a new revelation. I answer, that, new or old, it is the very revelation that Jehovah says he makes. It is just as plain here, as if it were now revealed by a voice from heaven, that the Spirit of God helps the people of God to pray according to the will of God, when they themselves know not what things they ought to pray for. “And he that searcheth the heart knoweth the mind of the Spirit,” because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God, and he leads Christians to pray for just those things, with groanings that cannot be uttered. When neither the word nor providence enables them to decide, then let them be filled with the Spirit, as God commands them to be. He says, “Be ye filled with the Spirit.” And He will lead their mind to such things as God is willing to grant.
3. To pray effectually, you must pray with submission to the will of God. Do not confound submission with indifference. No two things are more unlike. I once knew an individual come where there was a revival. He himself was cold, and did not enter into the spirit of it, and had no spirit of prayer; and when he heard the brethren pray as if they could not be denied, he was shocked at their boldness, and kept all the time insisting on the importance of praying with submission; when it was as plain as any thing could be, that he confounded submission with indifference
So again, do not confound submission in prayer with a general confidence that God will do what is right. It is proper to have this confidence that God will do what is right in all things. But this is a different thing from submisison. What I mean by submission in prayer, is, acquiescence in the revealed will of God. To submit to any command of God is to obey it. Submission to some supposable or possible, but secret decree of God, is not submission. To submit to any dispensation of Providence is impossible till it comes. For we never can know what the event is to be, till it takes place. Take a case: David, when his child was sick, was distressed, and agonized in prayer, and refused to be comforted. He took it so much to heart, that when the child died, his servants were afraid to tell him that the child was dead, for fear he would vex himself still worse. But as soon as he heard that the child was dead, he laid aside his grief, and arose, and asked for food, and ate and drank as usual. While the child was yet alive, he did not know what was the will of God, and so he fasted and prayed, and said, “Who can tell whether God will be gracious to me, that my child may live?” He did not know but that his prayer and agony was the very thing on which it turned, whether the child was to live or not. He thought that if he humbled himself and entreated God, perhaps God would spare him this blow. But as soon as God’s will appeared, and the child was dead, he bowed like a saint. He seemed not only to acquiesce, but actually to take a satisfaction in it. “I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.” This was true submission. He reasoned correctly in the case. While he had no revelation of the will of God, he did not know but what the child’s recovery depended on his prayer. But when he had a revelation of the will of God, he submitted. While the will of God is not known, to submit, without prayer, is tempting God. Perhaps, and for aught you know, the fact of your offering the right kind of prayer, may be the thing on which the event turns. In the case of an impenitent friend, the very condition on which he is to be saved from hell, may be the fervency and importunity of your prayer for that individual.
4. Effectual prayer for an object implies a desire for that object commensurate with its importance. If a person truly desires any blessing, his desires will bear some proportion to the greatness of the blessing. The desires of the Lord Jesus Christ for the blessing he prayed for, were amazingly strong, and amounted even to agony. If the desire for an object is strong, and is a benevolent desire, and the thing not contrary to the will and providence of God, the presumption is, that it will be granted. There are two reasons for this presumption:
(1.) From the general benevolence of God. If it is a desirable object; if, so far as we can see, it would be an act of benevolence in God to grant it, his general benevolence is presumptive evidence that he will grant it.
(2.) If you find yourself exercised with benevolent desires for any object, there is a strong presumption that the Spirit of God is exciting these very desires, and stirring you up to pray for that object, so that it may be granted in answer to prayer. In such a case no degree of desire or importunity in prayer is improper. A Christian may come up, as it were, and take hold of the hand of God. See the case of Jacob, when he exclaimed in an agony of desire, “I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.” Was God displeased with his boldness and importunity? Not at all; but he granted him the very thing he prayed for. So in the case of Moses. God said to Moses, “Let me alone, that I may destroy them, and blot out their name from under heaven, and I will make of thee a nation mightier and greater than they.” What did Moses do? Did he stand aside and let God do as he said? No, his mind runs back to the Egyptians, and he thinks how they will triumph. “Wherefore should the Egyptians say, For mischief did he bring them out.” It seemed as if he took hold of the uplifted hand of God, to avert the blow. Did God rebuke him for his interference, and tell him he had no business to interfere? No; it seemed as if he was unable to deny any thing to such importunity, and so Moses stood in the gap, and prevailed with God.
It is said of Xavier, the missionary, that he was once called to pray for a man who was sick, and he prayed so fervently that he seemed as it were to do violence to heaven–so the writer expresses it. And he prevailed, and the man recovered.
Such prayer is often offered in the present day, when Christians have been wrought up to such a pitch of importunity and such a holy boldness, that afterwards, when they looked back upon it, they were frightened and amazed at themselves, to think they should dare to exercise such importunity with God. And yet these prayers have prevailed, and obtained the blessing. And many of these persons, that I am acquainted with, are among the holiest persons I know in the world.
5. Prayer, to be effectual, must be offered from right motives. Prayer should not be selfish, but dictated by a supreme regard for the glory of God. A great deal of prayer is offered from pure selfishness. Women sometimes pray for their husbands, that they may be converted, because they say, “It would be so much more pleasant to have my husband go to meeting with me,” and all that. And they seem never to lift up their thoughts above self at all. They do not seem to think how their husbands are dishonoring God by their sins, and how God would be glorified in their conversion. So it is with parents very often. They cannot bear to think that their children should be lost. They pray for them very earnestly indeed. But if you go to talk with them, they are very tender, and tell you how good their children are, how they respect religion, and they think they are almost Christians now; and so they talk as if they were afraid you would hurt their children if you should tell them the truth. They do not think how such amiable and lovely children are dishonoring God by their sins; they are only thinking what a dreadful thing it will be for them to go to hell. Ah! unless their thoughts rise higher than this, their prayers will never prevail with a holy God. The temptation to selfish motives is so strong, that there is reason to fear a great many parental prayers never rise above the yearnings of parental tenderness. And that is the reason why so many prayers are not heard, and why so many pious, praying parents have ungodly children. Much of the prayer for the heathen world, seems to be based on no higher principle than sympathy. Missionary agents, and others, are dwelling almost exclusively upon the six hundred millions of heathens going to hell, while little is said of their dishonoring God. This is a great evil; and until the church have higher motives for prayer and missionary effort than sympathy for the heathen, their prayers and efforts will never amount to much.
6. Prayer, to be effectual, must be by the intercession of the Spirit. You never can expect to offer prayer according to the will of God without the Spirit. In the first two cases, it is not because Christians are unable to offer such prayer, where the will of God is revealed in his word, or indicated by his providence. They are able to do it, just as they are able to be holy. But the fact is, that they are so wicked, that they never do offer such prayer, without they are influenced by the Spirit of God. There must be a faith, such as produced by the effectual operation of the Holy Ghost.
7. It must be persevering prayer. As a general thing, Christians who have backslidden and lost the spirit of prayer, will not get at once into the habit of persevering prayer. Their minds are not in a right state, and they cannot fix their minds, and hold on till the blessing comes. If their minds were in that state, that they would persevere till the answer comes, effectual prayer might be offered at once, as well as after praying ever so many times for an object. But they have to pray again and again, because their thoughts are so apt to wander away, and are so easily diverted from the object to something else. Until their minds get imbued with the spirit of prayer, they will not keep fixed to one point, and push their petition to an issue on the spot. Do not think you are prepared to offer prevailing prayer, if your feelings will let you pray once for an object, and then leave it. Most Christians come up to prevailing prayer by a protracted process. Their minds gradually become filled with anxiety about an object, so that they will even go about their business, sighing out their desires to God. Just as the mother whose child is sick, goes round her house, sighing as if her heart would break. And if she is a praying mother, her sighs are breathed out to God all the day long. If she goes out of the room where her child is, her mind is still on it; and if she is asleep, still her thoughts are on it, and she starts in her dreams, thinking it is dying. Her whole mind is absorbed in that sick child. This is the state of mind in which Christians offer prevailing prayer.
What was the reason that Jacob wrestled all night in prayer with God? He knew that he had done his brother Esau a great injury, in getting away the birthright a long time ago. And now he was informed that his injured brother was coming to meet him, with an armed force altogether too powerful for him to contend against. And there was great reason to suppose he was coming with a purpose of revenge. There were two reasons then why he should be distressed. The first was, that he had done this great injury, and had never made any reparation. The other was, that Esau was coming with a force sufficient to crush him. Now, what does he do? Why, he first arranges everything in the best manner he can to meet his brother, sending his present first, then his property, then his family, putting those he loved most farthest behind. And by this time his mind was so exercised that he could not contain himself. He goes away alone over the brook, and pours out his very soul in an agony of prayer all night. And just as the day was breaking, the angel of the covenant said, “Let me go;” and his whole being was, as it were, agonized at the thought of giving up, and he cried out, “I will not let thee go except thou bless me.” His soul was wrought up into an agony, and he obtained the blessing, but he always bore the marks of it, and showed that his body had been greatly affected by this mental struggle. This is prevailing prayer.
Now, do not deceive yourselves with thinking that you offer effectual prayer, unless you have this intense desire for the blessing. I do not believe in it. Prayer is not effectual unless it is offered up with an agony of desire. The apostle Paul speaks of it as a travail of the soul. Jesus Christ, when he was praying in the garden, was in such an agony, that he sweat as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. I have never known a person sweat blood; but I have known a person pray till the blood started from the nose. And I have known persons pray till they were all wet with perspiration, in the coldest weather in winter. I have known persons pray for hours, till their strength was all exhausted with the agony of their minds. Such prayers prevailed with God.
This agony in prayer was prevalent in President Edwards’ day, in the revivals that then took place. It was one of the great stumbling blocks in those days, to persons who were opposed to the revival, that people used to pray till their bodies were overpowered with their feelings. I will read a paragraph of what President Edwards says on the subject, to let you see that this is not a new thing in the church, but has always prevailed wherever revivals prevailed with power. It is from his Thoughts on Revivals.
“We cannot determine that God never shall give any person so much of a discovery of himself, not only as to weaken their bodies, but to take away their lives. It is supposed by very learned and judicious divines, that Moses’ life was taken away after this manner; and this has also been supposed to be the case with some other saints. Yea, I do not see any solid, sure grounds any have to determine, that God shall never make such strong impressions on the mind by his Spirit, that shall be an occasion of so impairing the frame of the body, and particularly that part of the body, the brain, that persons shall be deprived of the use of reason. As I said before, It is too much for us to determine, that God will not bring an outward calamity in bestowing spiritual and eternal blessings: so it is too much for us to determine, how great an outward calamity he will bring. If God give a great increase of discoveries of himself, and of love to him, the benefit is infinitely greater than the calamity, though the life should presently after be taken away; yea, though the soul should not immediately be taken to heaven, but should lie some years in a deep sleep, and then be taken to heaven; or, which is much the same thing, if it be deprived of the use of its faculties, and be inactive and unserviceable, as if it lay in a deep sleep for some years, and then should pass into glory. We cannot determine how great a calamity distraction is, when considered with all its consequences, and all that might have been consequent, if the distraction had not happened; nor indeed whether (thus considered) it be any calamity at all, or whether it be not a mercy, by preventing some great sin, or some more dreadful thing, if it had not been. It was a great fault in us to limit a sovereign, all-wise God, whose judgments are a great deep, and his ways past finding out, where he has not limited himself, and in things concerning which he has not told us what his way shall be. It is remarkable, considering in what multitudes of instances, and to how great a degree, the frame of the body has been overpowered of late, that persons’ lives have, notwithstanding, been preserved, and that the instances of those that have been deprived of reason, have been so very few, and those, perhaps all of them, persons under the peculiar disadvantage of a weak, vapory habit of body. A merciful and careful Divine hand is very manifest in it, that in so many instances where the ship has begun to sink, yet it has been upheld, and has not totally sunk. The instances of such as have been deprived of reason are so few, that certainly they are not enough to cause us to be in any fright, as though this work that has been carried on in the country was like to be of baneful influence; unless we are disposed to gather up all that we can to darken it, and set it forth in frightful colors.
“There is one particular kind of exercise and concern of mind, that many have been overpowered by, that has been especially stumbling to some; and that is, the deep concern and distress that they have been in for the souls of others. I am sorry that any put us to the trouble of doing that which seems so needless, as defending such a thing as this. It seems like mere trifling, in so plain a case, to enter into a formal and particular debate, in order to determine whether there be any thing in the greatness and importance of the case that will answer and bear a proportion to the greatness of the concern that some have manifested. Men may be allowed, from no higher a principle than common ingenuity and humanity, to be very deeply concerned and greatly exercised in mind at seeing others in great danger of no greater a calamity than drowning, or being burnt up in a house on fire. And if so, then doubtless it will be allowed to be equally reasonable, if they saw them in danger of a calamity ten times greater, to be still much more concerned; and so much more still, if the calamity was still vastly greater. And why, then, should it be thought unreasonable, and looked upon with a very suspicious eye, as if it must come from some bad cause, when persons are extremely concerned at seeing others in very great danger of suffering the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God to all eternity? And besides, it will doubtless be allowed that those that have very great degrees of the Spirit of God, that is, a spirit of love, may well be supposed to have vastly more of love and compassion to their fellow creatures, than those that are influenced only by common humanity. Why should it be thought strange that those that are full of the Spirit of Christ should be proportionably, in their love to souls, like to Christ? who had so strong a love to them and concern for them as to be willing to drink the dregs of the cup of God’s fury for them; and at the same time that he offered up his blood for souls, offered up also, as their high priest, strong crying and tears, with an extreme agony, when the soul of Christ was, as it were, in travail for the souls of the elect; and, therefore, in saving them, he is said to see of the travail of his soul. As such a spirit of love to and concern for souls was the spirit of Christ, so it is the spirit of the church; and, therefore, the church, in desiring and seeking that Christ might be brought forth in the world and in the souls of men, is represented, Rev. xii., as ‘a woman crying, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.’ The spirit of those that have been in distress for the souls of others, so far as I can discern, seems not to be different from that of the apostle, who travailed for souls, and was ready to wish himself accursed from Christ for others. And that of the Psalmist, Psalm cxix. 53, ‘Horror hath taken hold upon me, because of the wicked that forsake the law.’ And v. 136, ‘Rivers of waters run down mine eyes, because they keep not thy law.’ And that of the prophet Jeremiah, Jer. iv. 19, ‘My bowels! my bowels! I am pained at my very heart! My heart maketh a noise in me: I cannot hold my peace, because thou hast heard. O my soul, the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war!’ And so, chap. ix. 1, and xiii. 17, and Isa. xxii. 4. We read of Mordecai, when he saw his people in danger of being destroyed with a temporal destruction, Esther iv. 1, that he ‘rent his clothes, and put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the midst of the city, and cried with a loud and bitter cry.[‘] And why, then, should persons be thought to be distracted, when they cannot forbear crying out at the consideration of the misery of those that are going to eternal destruction?”
I have read this to show that this thing was common in the great revivals of those days. It has always been so in all great revivals, and has been more or less common in proportion to the greatness, and extent, and depth of the work. It was so in the great revivals in Scotland, and multitudes used to be overpowered, and some almost died, by the depth of their agony.
9. If you mean to pray effectually, you must pray a great deal. It was said of the apostle James, that after he was dead it was found his knees were callous like a camel’s knees, by praying so much. Ah! here was the secret of the success of those primitive ministers. They had callous knees.
10. If you intend prayer to be effectual, it must be offered in the name of Christ. You cannot come to God in your own name. You cannot plead your own merits. But you can come in a name that is always acceptable. You all know what it is to use the name of a man. If you should go to the bank with a draft or note, endorsed by John Jacob Astor, that would be giving you his name, and you know you could get the money from the bank just as well as he could himself. Now, Jesus Christ gives you the use of his name. And when you pray in the name of Christ, the meaning of it is, that you can prevail just as well as he could himself, and receive just as much as God’s well-beloved Son would if he were to pray himself for the same things. But you must pray in faith. His name has all the virtue in your lips that it has in his own, and God is just as free to bestow blessings upon you, when you ask in the name of Christ, and in faith, as he would be to bestow them upon Christ, if he should ask.
11. You cannot prevail in prayer, without renouncing all your sins. You must not only recall them to mind, but you must actually renounce them, and leave them off, and in the purpose of your heart renounce them all for ever.
12. You must pray in faith. You must expect to obtain the things you ask for. You need not look for an answer to prayer, if you pray without an expectation of obtaining it. You are not to form such expectations without any reason for them. In the cases I have supposed, there is a reason for the expectation. In case the thing is revealed in God’s word, if you pray without an expectation of receiving the blessings, you just make God a liar. If the will of God is indicated by his providence, you ought to depend on it, according to the clearness of the indication, so far as to expect the blessing if you pray for it. And if you are led by his Spirit to pray for certain things, you have just as much reason to expect the thing to be done as if God had revealed it in his word.
But some say, “Will not this view of the leadings of the Spirit of God lead people into fanaticism?” I answer, that I know not but many may deceive themselves in respect to this matter. Multitudes have deceived themselves in regard to all the other points of religion. And if some people should think they are led by the Spirit of God, when it is nothing but their own imagination, is that any reason why those who know that they are led by the Spirit should not follow? Many people suppose themselves to be converted when they are not. Is that any reason why we should not cleave to the Lord Jesus Christ? Suppose some people are deceived in thinking they love God, is that any reason why the pious saint who knows he has the love of God shed abroad in his heart, should not give vent to his feelings in songs of praise? So I suppose some may deceive themselves in thinking they are led by the Spirit of God. But there is no need of being deceived. If people follow impulses, it is their own fault. I do not want you to follow impulses. I want you to be sober minded, and follow the sober, rational leadings of the Spirit of God. There are those who understand what I mean, and who know very well what it is to give themselves up to the Spirit of God in prayer.
III. I will state some of the reasons why these things are essential to effectual prayer. Why does God require such prayer, such strong desires, such agonizing supplications?
1. These strong desires strongly illustrate the strength of God’s feelings. They are like the real feelings of God for impenitent sinners. When I have seen, as I sometimes have, the amazing strength of love for souls that has been felt by Christians, I have been wonderfully impressed with the amazing love of God, and his desires for their salvation. The case of a certain woman, of whom I read, in a revival, made the greatest impression on my mind. She had such an unutterable compassion and love for souls, that she actually panted for breath almost to suffocation. What must be the strength of the desire which God feels, when his Spirit produces in Christians such amazing agony, such throes of soul, such travail–God has chosen the best word to express it–it is travail–travail of the soul.
I have seen a man of as much strength of intellect and muscle as any man in the community, fall down prostrate, absolutely overpowered by his unutterable desires for sinners. I know this is a stumbling block to many; and it always will be as long as there remain in the church so many blind and stupid professors of religion. But I cannot doubt that these things are the work of the Spirit of God. 0h that the whole church could be so filled with the Spirit as to travail in prayer, till a nation should be born in a day!
It is said in the word of God, that as soon “as Zion travailed, she brought forth.” What does that mean? I asked a professor of religion this question once. He was making exceptions about our ideas of effectual prayer, and I asked him what he supposed was meant by Zion’s travailing. “Oh,” said he, “it means that as soon as the church walk together in the fellowship of the Gospel, then it will be said that Zion travels! This walking together is called travelling.” Not the same term, you see. So much he knew.
2. These strong desires that I have described, are the natural results of great benevolence and clear views of the danger of sinners. It is perfectly reasonable that it should be so. If the women who are in this house should look up there, and see a family burning to death in the fire, and hear their shrieks, and behold their agony, they would feel distressed, and it is very likely that many of them would faint away with agony. And nobody would wonder at it, or say they were fools or crazy to feel so much distressed at such an awful sight. They would think it strange if there were not some expressions of powerful feeling. Why is it any wonder, then, if Christians should feel as I have described, when they have clear views of the state of sinners, and the awful danger they are in? The fact is, that those individuals who never have felt so, have never felt much real benevolence, and their piety must be of a very superficial character. I do not mean to judge harshly, or to speak unkindly. But I state it as a simple matter of fact; and people may talk about it as they please, but I know that such piety is superficial. This is not censoriousness, but plain truth.
People sometimes wonder at Christians having such feelings. Wonder at what? Why, at the natural, and philosophical, and necessary results of deep piety towards God, and deep benevolence towards man, in view of the great danger they see sinners to be in.
3. The soul of a Christian, when it is thus burdened, must have relief. God rolls this weight upon the soul of a Christian, for the purpose of bringing him near to himself. Christians are often so unbelieving, that they will not exercise proper faith in God, till he rolls this burden upon them, so heavy that they cannot live under it, and then they must go to God for relief. It is like the case of many a convicted sinner. God is willing to receive him at once, if he will come right to him, with faith in Jesus Christ. But the sinner will not come. He hangs back, and struggles, and groans under the burden of his sins, and will not throw himself upon God, till his burden of conviction becomes so great that he can live no longer; and when he is driven to desperation, as it were, and feels as if he was ready to sink into hell, he makes a mighty plunge, and throws himself upon God’s mercy as his only hope. It was his duty to come before. God had no delight in his distress, for its own sake. It was only the sinner’s obstinacy that created the necessity for all this distress. He would not come without it. So when professors of religion get loaded down with the weight of souls, they often pray again and again, and yet the burden is not gone, nor their distress abated, because they have never thrown it all upon God in faith. But they cannot get rid of the burden. So long as their benevolence continues it will remain and increase, and unless they resist and quench the Holy Ghost they can get no relief, until at length, when they are driven to extremity, they make a desperate effort, roll the burden off upon the Lord Jesus Christ, and exercise a child-like confidence in him. Then they feel relieved; then they feel as if the soul they were praying for would be saved. The burden is gone, and God seems in kindness to sooth down the mind to feel a sweet assurance that the blessing will be granted. Often, after a Christian has had this struggle, this agony in prayer, and has obtained relief in this way, you will find the sweetest and most heavenly affections flow out–the soul rests sweetly and gloriously in God, and rejoices, “with joy unspeakable and full of glory.”
Do any of you think now, that there are no such things in the experience of believers? I tell you, if I had time, I could show you from President Edwards, and other approved writers, cases and descriptions just like this. Do you ask why we never have such things here in New York? I tell you, it is not at all because you are so much wiser than Christians are in the country, or because you have so much more intelligence or more enlarged views of the nature of religion, or a more stable and well regulated piety. I tell you, no; instead of priding yourselves in being free from such extravagances, you ought to hide your heads, because Christians in New York are so worldly, and have so much starch, and pride, and fashion, that they cannot come down to such spirituality as this. I wish it could be so. Oh that there might be such a spirit in this city, and in this church! I know it would make a noise, if we had such things done here. But I would not care for that. Let them say, if they please, that the folks in Chatham Chapel are getting deranged. We need not be afraid of that, if we could live near enough to God to enjoy his Spirit in the manner I have described.
4. These effects of the Spirit of prayer upon the body are themselves no part of religion. It is only that the body is often so weak that the feelings of the soul overpower it. These bodily effects are not at all essential to prevailing prayer, but only a natural or physical result of highly excited emotions of the mind. It is not at all unusual for the body to be weakened and even overcome by any powerful emotion of the mind, on other subjects besides religion. The door-keeper of Congress in the time of the revolution, fell down dead on the reception of some highly cheering intelligence. I knew a woman in Rochester, who was in a great agony of prayer for the conversion of her son-in-law. One morning he was at an anxious meeting, and she remained at home praying for him. At the close of the meeting, he came home a convert, and she was so rejoiced that she fell down and died on the spot. It is no more strange that these effects should be produced by religion than by strong feeling on any other subject. It is not essential to prayer, but the natural result of great efforts of the mind.
5. Doubtless one great reason why God requires the exercise of this agonizing prayer is, that it forms such a bond of union between Christ and the Church. It creates such a sympathy between them. It is as if Christ came and poured the overflowings of his own benevolent heart into his church, and led them to sympathize and to co-operate with him, as they never do in any other way. They feel just as Christ feels–so full of compassion for sinners that they cannot contain themselves. Thus it is often with those ministers who are distinguished for their success in preaching to sinners; they often have such compassion, such overflowing desires for their salvation, that it shows itself in their speaking, and their preaching, just as though Jesus Christ spoke through them. The words come from their lips fresh and warm, as if from the very heart of Christ. I do not mean that he dictates their words; but he excites the feelings that give utterance to them. Then you see a movement in the hearers, as if Christ himself spoke through lips of clay.
6. This travailing in birth for souls creates also a remarkable bond of union between warm-hearted Christians and the young converts. Those who are converted appear very dear to the hearts that have had this spirit of prayer for them. The feeling is like that of a mother for her first-born. Paul expresses it beautifully, when he says, “My little children!” His heart was warm and tender to them. “My little children, of whom I travail in birth again.” They had backslidden, and he has all the agonies of a parent over a wandering child. “I travail in birth again, till Christ be formed in you, the hope of glory.” In a revival, I have often noticed how those who have had the spirit of prayer, love the young converts. I know this is all algebra to those who have never felt it. But to those who have experienced the agony of wrestling, prevailing prayer, for the conversion of a soul, you may depend upon it, that soul, after it is converted, appears as dear as a child is to the mother who has brought it forth with pain. He has agonized for it, and received it in answer to prayer, and can present it before the Lord Jesus Christ, saying, “Here, Lord, am I, and the children thou hast given me.”
7. Another reason why God requires this sort of prayer is, that it is the only way in which the church can be properly prepared to receive great blessings without being injured by them. When the church is thus prostrated in the dust before God, and is in the depth of agony in prayer, the blessing does them good. While at the same time, if they had received the blessing without this deep prostration of soul, it would have puffed them up with pride. But as it is, it increases their holiness, their love, their humility.
IV. I am to show that such prayer as I have described will avail much. But time fails me to go into a particular detail of the evidence which I intended to bring forward under this head.
Elijah the prophet mourned over the declensions of the house of Israel, and when he saw that no other means were likely to be effectual, to prevent a perpetual going away into idolatry, he prayed that the judgments of God might come upon the guilty nation. He prayed that it might not rain, and God shut up the heavens for three years and six months, till the people were driven to the last extremity. And when he saw that it was time to relent, what does he do? See him go up to the mountain and bow down in prayer. He wished to be alone; and he told his servant to go seven times, while he was agonizing in prayer. The last time, the servant told him there was a little cloud appeared, like a man’s hand, and he instantly arose from his knees–the blessing was obtained. The time had come for the calamity to be turned back. “Ah, but,” you say, “Elijah was a prophet.” Now do not make this objection. They made it in the apostle’s days, and what does the apostle say? Why he brought forward this very instance, and the fact that Elijah was a man of like passions with ourselves, as a case of prevailing prayer, and insisted that they should pray so too.
John Knox was a man famous for his power in prayer, so that bloody Queen Mary used to say she feared his prayers more than all the armies of Europe. And events showed that she had reason to do it. He used to be in such an agony for the deliverance of his country that he could not sleep. He had a place in his garden where he used to go to pray. One night he and several friends were praying together, and as they prayed, Knox spoke and said that deliverance had come. He could not tell what had happened, but he felt that something had taken place, for God had heard their prayers. What was it? Why the next news they had was, that Mary was dead!
Take a fact which was related, in my hearing, by a minister. He said, that in a certain town there had been no revival for many years; the church was nearly run out, the youth were all unconverted, and desolation reigned unbroken. There lived in a retired part of the town, an aged man, a blacksmith by trade, and of so stammering a tongue, that it was painful to hear him speak. On one Friday, as he was at work in his shop, alone, his mind became greatly exercised about the state of the church, and of the impenitent. His agony became so great, that he was induced to lay by his work, lock the shop door, and spend the afternoon in prayer.
He prevailed, and on the Sabbath called on the minister, and desired him to appoint a conference meeting. After some hesitation, the minister consented, observing, however, that he feared but few would attend. He appointed it the same evening, at a large private house. When evening came, more assembled than could be accommodated in the house. All was silent for a time, until one sinner broke out in tears, and said, if any one could pray, he begged him to pray for him. Another followed, and another, and still another, until it was found that persons from every quarter of the town were under deep conviction. And what was remarkable was, that they all dated their conviction at the hour when the old man was praying in his shop. A powerful revival followed. Thus this old stammering man prevailed, and, as a prince, had power with God. I could name multitudes of similar cases, but, for want of time, must conclude with a few.
1. A great deal of prayer is lost, and many people never prevail in prayer, because, when they have desires for particular blessings, they do not follow them up. They may have had desires, benevolent and pure, which were excited by the Spirit of God; and when they have them, they should persevere in prayer, for if they turn off their attention to other objects, they will quench the Spirit. We tell sinners not to turn off their minds from the one object, but to keep their attention fixed there, till they are saved. When you find these holy desires in your minds, take care of two things:
(1.) Do not quench the Spirit.
(2.) Do not be diverted to other objects.
Follow the leadings of the Spirit, till you have offered that effectual fervent prayer that availeth much.
2. Without the spirit of prayer, ministers will do but little good. A minister need not expect much success, unless he prays for it. Sometimes others may have the spirit of prayer, and obtain a blessing on his labors. Generally, however, those preachers are the most successful who have the most of a spirit of prayer themselves.
3. Not only must ministers have the spirit of prayer, but it is necessary that the church should unite in offering that effectual fervent prayer which can prevail with God. You need not expect a blessing, unless you ask for it. “For all these things will I be inquired of by the house of Israel, to do it.”
Now, my brethren, I have only to ask you, in regard to what I have preached to-night, “Will you do it?” Have you done what I preached to you last Friday evening? Have you gone over with your sins, and confessed them, and got them all out of the way? Can you pray now? And will you join and offer prevailing prayer, that the Spirit of God may come down here?
LECTURES ON REVIVALS OF RELIGION
by The Rev. CHARLES G. FINNEY
THE BACKSLIDER IN HEART
[These discussion questions relate to Charles Finney’s Lectures on Revivals of Religion: Lecture 21 – “Backsliders In Heart”. The full text for Charles Finney’s “Backsliders in Heart” is included below the following discussion questions. When page numbers are mentioned in the discussion questions they refer to the edition of the text published by Alethea in Heart, isbn. 1932370471]
1. When I was a child it was common for me to hear of “backsliding” or of “carnal Christianity. I do not hear that language much today. Do you think that this represents a shift in theology and/or praxis?
2. Finney says that “It [backsliding] does not consist in the subsidence of highly excited religious emotions. The subsidence of religious feeling may be an evidence of a backslidden heart, but it does not consist in the cooling off of religious feeling.” What role do you think that emotions play in vital Christianity?
3. Finney lists four things that he describes as backsliding. (p. 406) How do you feel about this predication? How common are the things he mentions?
4. How do you recognize in your own life when you are observing the forms of religion but have lost the power of godliness?
5. In section III, Finney lists all of the following as indicators of a backslidden condition: formality in religious exercises, lack of religious enjoyment, finding religious duties a burden, an ungoverned temper, a spirit of uncharitablenes, a spirit of fault-finding that impugns the motives of others, a want of interest in God’s Word, a want of interest in secret prayer, a want of interest in the conversion of souls and in efforts to promote revivals of religion, lack of interest in missions, the loss of interest in benevolent enterprises, the loss of interest in truly spiritual conversation, the loss of interest in socializing with other Christians, the loss of interest in the question of sanctification, the loss of interest in those newly converted, an uncharitable state of mind in regard to professed converts, the want of the spirit of prayer, ungodly prayers, and selfish prayers, absence from prayer meetings, neglecting family prayer, secret prayer is regarded more as a duty than as a privilege, being given to worldly amusements, spiritual blindness, religious apathy, a disposition to gratify the appetites, passions and propensities, a seared conscience, loose moral principles, prevalence of the fear of man, a rigid attitude in forms, ceremonies and nonessentials, objections measures that are evidently blessed of God. Do you think this is a good list for self-reflection? Do you agree with all that is on his list? Do you think there are other items that could be added to this list?
6. What items on this list did you find particularly interesting? Did you agree? Stongly agree? Disagree? Strongly disagree? Were you moved, motivated, stimulated, aggravated?
7. Finney claims that those whose heart is devoted to God will enjoy serving him. Is he correct? He says that “whenever you lose your religious enjoyment, or the enjoyment of serving God, you may know that you are not serving Him aright.” What is the right course of action if you find service to God burdensome? Is enjoyment and pain mutually exclusive?
8. Finney claims that God “does not accept the service of bondsmen, who serve Him because they must. He accepts none but a love service.” Are there any biblical texts that deal with his issue?
9. Have you ever heard anyone use their “bad temper” as an excuse for bad action? What does Finney say about an ungoverned temper? Do you agree with him? Where does personality and temperament fit into a discussion of spirituality? Do introverts run the risk of being labeled as backslidden or unspiritual by Finney or in the modern church?
10. What additional considerations or qualifications might you add to other items on his list?
11. In section IV Finney describes the consequences of a backslidden heart. What is the distinction he is making between the items on this list and the evidences of a backslidden heart in Section III?
12. What do you think of Finney’s recipe for recovery from backsliding? [Section V]
13. Finney says that you are not in a “justified state” if you are backslidden. What does he mean by that? Is this an indicator of his theology? What do you think of this claim?
14. What is the connection between Finney’s discussion of “backsliding” and the churches responsibility to disciple believers?
15. Finney does not cite many scriptural texts to support his claims. Why? What do you think of this absence?
LECTURE XXI – BACKSLIDERS IN HEART – TEXT:
The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways. – Proverbs 14:14.
I cannot conclude this course of lectures, without warning converts against backsliding. In discussing this subject, I will show:
I. What backsliding in heart is not.
II. What backsliding in heart is.
III. What are evidences of backsliding in heart.
IV. What are consequences of backsliding in heart.
V. How to recover from this state.
I. WHAT A BACKSLIDING HEART IS NOT.
1. It does not consist in the subsidence of highly excited religious emotions. The subsidence of religious feeling may be an evidence of a backslidden heart, but it does not consist in the cooling off of religious feeling.
II. WHAT BACKSLIDING IN HEART IS.
1. It consists in taking back that consecration to God and His service, that constitutes true conversion.
2. It is the leaving, by a Christian, of his first love.
3. It consists in the Christian withdrawing himself from that state of entire and universal devotion to God, which constitutes true religion, and coming again under the control of a self-pleasing spirit.
4. The text implies that there may be a backslidden heart, when the forms of religion and obedience to God are maintained. As we know from consciousness that men perform the same, or similar, acts from widely different, and often from opposite, motives, we are certain that men may keep up all the outward forms and appearances of religion, when in fact, they are backslidden in heart. No doubt the most intense selfishness often takes on a religious type, and there are many considerations that might lead a backslider in heart to keep up the forms, while he had lost the power of godliness in his soul.
III. WHAT ARE EVIDENCES OF A BACKSLIDDEN HEART.
1. Manifest formality in religious exercises. A stereotyped, formal way of saying and doing things, that is clearly the result of habit, rather than the outgushing of the religious life. This formality will be emotionless and cold as an iceberg, and will evince a total want of earnestness in the performance of religious duty. In prayer and in religious exercises the backslider in heart will pray or praise, or confess, or give thanks with his lips, so that all can hear him, perhaps, but in such a way that no one can feel him. Such a formality would be impossible where there existed a present, living faith and love, and religious zeal.
2. A want of religious enjoyment is evidence of a backslidden heart. We always enjoy the saying and doing of those things that please those whom we most love; furthermore, when the heart is not backslidden, communion with God is kept up, and therefore all religious duties are not only performed with pleasure, but the communion with God involved in them is a source of rich and continual enjoyment. If we do not enjoy the service of God, it is because we do not truly serve Him. If we love Him supremely, it is impossible that we should not enjoy His service at every step. Always remember then, whenever you lose your religious enjoyment, or the enjoyment of serving God, you may know that you are not serving Him aright.
3. Religious bondage is another evidence of a backslidden heart. God has no slaves. He does not accept the service of bondsmen, who serve Him because they must. He accepts none but a love service. A backslider in heart finds his religious duties a burden to him. He has promised to serve the Lord. He dare not wholly break off from the form of service, and he tries to be dutiful, while he has no heart in prayer, in praise, in worship, or in any of those exercises which are so spontaneous and delightful, where there is true love to God. The backslider in heart is often like a dutiful, but unloving wife. She tries to do her duty to her husband, but fails utterly because she does not love him. Her painstaking to please her husband is constrained, not the spontaneous outburst of a loving heart; and her relationship and her duties become the burden of her life. She goes about complaining of the weight of care that is upon her, and will not be likely to advise young ladies to marry. She is committed for life, and must therefore perform the duties of married life, but it is such a bondage! Just so with religious bondage. The professor must perform his duty. He drags painfully about it, and you will hear him naturally sing backslider’s hymns:
Reason I hear, her counsels weigh, And all her words approve And yet I find it hard to obey, And harder still, to love.
4. An ungoverned temper. While the heart is full of love, the temper will naturally be chastened and sweet, or at any rate, the will keep it under, and not suffer it to break out in outrageous abuse, or if at any time it should so far escape from the control of the will as to break loose in hateful words, it will soon be brought under, and by no means suffered to take control and manifest itself to the annoyance of others. Especially will a loving heart confess and break down, if at any time bad temper gets the control.
Whenever, therefore, there is an irritable, uncontrolled temper allowed to manifest itself to those around, you may know there is a backslidden heart.
5. A spirit of uncharitableness is evidence of a backslidden heart. By this, I mean a want of that disposition that puts the best construction upon every one’s conduct that can be reasonable – a want of confidence in the good intentions and professions of others. We naturally credit the good professions of those whom we love. We naturally attribute to them right motives, and put the best allowable construction upon their words and deeds. Where there is a want of this there is evidence conclusive of a backslidden or unloving heart.
6. A censorious spirit is conclusive evidence of a backslidden heart. This is a spirit of fault-finding, of impugning the motives of others, when their conduct admits of a charitable construction. It is a disposition to fasten blame upon others, and judge them harshly. It is a spirit of distrust of Christian character and profession. It is a state of mind that reveals itself in harsh judgments, harsh sayings, and the manifestation of uncomfortable feelings toward individuals. This state of mind is entirely incompatible with a loving heart, and whenever a censorious spirit is manifested by a professor of religion, you may know there is a backslidden heart.
7. A want of interest in God’s Word, is also an evidence of a backslidden heart. Perhaps nothing more conclusively proves that a professor has a backslidden heart, than his losing his interest in the Bible. While the heart is full of love, no book in the world is so precious as the Bible. But when the love. is gone, the Bible becomes not only uninteresting but often repulsive. There is no faith to accept its promises, but conviction enough left to dread its threatening. But in general the backslider in heart is apathetic as to the Bible. He does not read it much, and when he does read it, he has not interest enough to understand it. Its pages become dark and uninteresting, and therefore it is neglected.
8. A want of interest in secret prayer is also an evidence of a backslidden heart. Young Christian, if you find yourself losing your interest in the Bible and in secret prayer, stop short, return to God, and give yourself no rest, till you enjoy the light of His countenance. If you feel disinclined to pray, or to read your Bible; if when you pray and read your Bible, you have no heart; if you are inclined to make your secret devotions short, or are easily induced to neglect them; or if your thoughts, affections, and emotions wander, you may know that you are a backslider in heart, and your first business is to be broken down before God, and to see that your love and zeal are renewed.
9. A want of interest in the conversion of souls and in efforts to promote revivals of religion. This of course reveals a backslidden heart. There is nothing in which a loving heart takes more interest than in the conversion of souls – in revivals of religion, and in efforts to promote them. 83 10. A want of interest in published accounts or narratives of revivals of religion, is also an evidence of a backslidden heart. While one retains his interest in the conversion of souls, and in revivals of religion he will, of course, be interested in all accounts of revivals of religion anywhere. If you find yourself, therefore, disinclined to read such accounts, or find yourself not interested in them, take it for granted that you are backslidden in heart.
11. The same is true of missions, and missionary work and operations. If you lose your interest in the work, and in the conversion of the heathen, and do not delight to read and hear of the success of missions, you may know that you are backslidden in heart.
12. The loss of interest in benevolent enterprises generally is an evidence of a backslidden heart. I say, “the loss of interest,” for surely, if you were ever converted to Christ, you have had an interest in all benevolent enterprises that came within your knowledge. Religion consists in disinterested benevolence. Of course, a converted soul takes the deepest interest in all benevolent efforts to reform and save mankind; in good government, in Christian education, in the cause of temperance, in the abolition of slavery, in provision for the needs of the poor, and in short, in every good word and work. Just in proportion as you have lost your interest in these, you have evidence that you are backslidden in heart.
13. The loss of interest in truly spiritual conversation is another evidence of a backslidden heart. “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh” (Matthew 12:34). This our Lord Jesus Christ announced as a law of our nature. No conversation is so sweet to a truly loving heart, as that which relates to Christ, and to our living Christian experience. If you find yourself losing interest in conversing on heart religion, and of the various and wonderful experiences of Christians, if you have known what the true love of God is, you have fallen from it, and are a backslider in heart.
14. A loss of interest in the conversation and society of highly spiritual people, is an evidence of a backslidden heart. We take the greatest delight in the society of those who are most interested in the things that are most dear to us. Hence, a loving Christian heart will always seek the society of those who are most spiritually minded, and whose conversation is most evangelical and spiritual. If you find yourself wanting in this respect, then know for certain that you are backslidden in heart.
15. The loss of interest in the question of sanctification is an evidence of a backslidden heart. I say again, the loss of interest, for, if you ever truly knew the love of God, you must have had a great interest in the question of entire consecration to God, or of entire sanctification. If you are a Christian, you have felt that sin was an abomination to your soul. You have had inexpressible longings to be rid of it forever, and everything that could throw light upon that question of agonizing importance was most intensely interesting to you. If this question has been dismissed, and you no longer take an interest in it, it is because you are backslidden in heart.
16. The loss of interest in those newly converted, is also an evidence of a backslidden heart. The Psalmist says: “They that fear Thee will be glad when they see me; because I have hoped in Thy word” (Psalm 119:74).
This he puts into the mouth of a convert, and who does not know that this is true? There is joy in the presence of the angels of God, over one sinner that repenteth, and is there not joy among the saints on earth, over those that come to Christ, and are as babes newly born into the Kingdom? Show me a professor of religion who does not manifest an absorbing interest in converts to Christ, and I will show you a backslider in heart, and a hypocrite; he professes religion, but has none.
17. An uncharitable state of mind in regard to professed converts, is also an evidence of a backslidden heart. Charity, or love, “believeth all things, hopeth all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7), is very ready to judge kindly and favorably of those who profess to be converted to Christ, and will naturally watch over them with interest, pray for them, instruct them, and have as much confidence in them as it is reasonable to have. A disposition, therefore, to pick at, criticize, and censure them, is an evidence of a backslidden heart.
18. The want of the spirit of prayer is evidence of a backslidden heart.
While the love of Christ remains fresh in the soul, the indwelling Spirit of God will reveal Himself as the Spirit of grace and supplication. He will beget strong desires in the soul for the salvation of sinners and the sanctification of saints. He will often make intercessions in them, with great longings, strong crying and tears, and with groanings that cannot he uttered in words, for those things that are according to the will of God. Or, to express it in Scripture language, according to Paul: “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because He maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26, 27). If the spirit of prayer departs, it is a sure indication of a backslidden heart, for while the first love of a Christian continues he is sure to be drawn by the Holy Spirit to wrestle much in prayer.
19. A backslidden heart often reveals itself by the manner in which people pray. For example, praying as if in a state of self-condemnation, or very much like a convicted sinner, is an evidence of a backslidden heart. Such a person will reveal the fact, that he is not at peace with God. His confessions and self-accusations will show to others what perhaps he does not well understand himself. His manner of praying will reveal the fact that he has not communion with God; that instead of being filled with faith and love, he is more or less convicted of sin, and conscious that he is not in a state of acceptance with God. He will naturally pray more like a convicted sinner than like a Christian. It will be seen by his prayer that he is not in a state of Christian liberty – that he is having a Seventh of Romans experience, instead of that which is described in the Eighth.
20. A backslidden heart will further reveal itself in praying almost exclusively for self, and for those friends that are regarded almost as parts of self. It is often very striking and even shocking to attend a backsliders’ prayer meeting, and I am very sorry to say that many prayer meetings of the Church are little else. Their prayers are timid and hesitating, and reveal the fact that they have little or no faith. Instead of surrounding the Throne of Grace and pouring their hearts out for a blessing on those around them, they have to be urged up to duty, to “take up their cross.” Their hearts do not, will not, spontaneously gush out to God in prayer. They have very little concern for others, and when they do, as they say, “take up their cross and do their duty,” and pretend to lead in prayer, it will be observed that they pray just like a company of convicted sinners, almost altogether for themselves. They will pray for that which, should they obtain it, would be religion, just as a convicted sinner would pray for a new heart; and the fact that they pray for religion as they do, manifests that they have none, in their present state of mind. Ask them to pray for the conversion of sinners, and they will either wholly forget to do so, or just mention sinners in such a way as will show that they have no heart to pray for them.
I have known professed Christian parents to get into such a state that they had no heart to pray for the conversion of their own children, even when those children were under conviction. They would keep up family prayer, and attend a weekly prayer meeting, but would never get out of the rut of praying round and round for themselves. A few years since I was laboring in a revival in a Presbyterian Church. At the close of the evening sermon I found that the daughter of one of the elders of the Church was in great distress of mind. I observed that her convictions were very deep. We had been holding a meeting with inquirers in the vestry, and I had just dismissed the inquirers, when this young lady came to me in great agitation and begged me to pray for her. The people had mostly gone, except a few who were waiting in the body of the church for those friends who had attended the meeting of inquiry. I called the father of this young lady into the vestry that he might see the very anxious state of his daughter’s mind.
After a short personal conversation with her in the presence of her father, I called on him to pray for her, and said that I would follow him, and I urged her to give her heart to Christ. We all knelt, and he went through with his prayer, kneeling by the side of his sobbing daughter, without ever mentioning her case. His prayer revealed that he had no more religion than she had, and that he was very much in her state of mind – under an awful sense of condemnation. He had kept up the appearance of religion. As an elder of the Church, he was obliged to keep up appearances. He had gone round and round upon the treadmill of his duties, while his heart was utterly backslidden. It is often almost nauseating to attend a prayer meeting of the backslidden in heart. They will go round, round, one after the other, in reality praying for their own conversion. They do not so express it, but that is the real import of their prayer. They could not render it more evident that they are backsliders in heart.
21. Absence from stated prayer meetings for slight reasons, is a sure indication of a backslidden heart. No meeting is more interesting to Christians than the prayer meeting, and while they have any heart to pray, they will not be absent from prayer meeting unless prevented from attending by the providence of God. If a call from a friend at the hour of meeting can prevent their attendance, unless the call is made under very peculiar circumstances, it is strong evidence that they do not wish to attend, and hence, that they are backsliders in heart. A call at such a time would not prevent their attending a wedding, a party, a picnic, or an amusing lecture. The fact is, it is hypocrisy for them to pretend that they really want to go, while they can be kept away for slight reasons.
22. The same is true of the neglect of family prayer, for slight reasons.
While the heart is engaged in religion, Christians will not readily omit family devotions, and whenever they are ready to find an excuse for the omission, it is a sure evidence that they are backslidden in heart.
23. When secret prayer is regarded more as a duty than as a privilege, it is because the heart is backslidden. It has always appeared to me almost ridiculous, to hear Christians speak of prayer as a “duty.” It is one of the greatest of earthly privileges. What should we think of a child coming to its parent for its dinner, not because it is hungry, but as a duty. How would it strike us to hear a beggar speak of the “duty” of asking alms of us. It is an infinite privilege to be allowed to come to God, and ask for the supply of all our wants. But to pray because we must, rather than because we may, seems unnatural. To ask for what we want, and because we want it, and because God has encouraged us to ask, and has promised to answer our request, is natural and reasonable. But to pray as a duty and as if we were obliging God by our prayer, is quite ridiculous, and is a certain indication of a backslidden heart.
24. Pleading for worldly amusements is also an indication of a backslidden heart. The most grateful amusements possible, to a truly spiritual mind, are those engagements that bring the soul into the most direct communion with God. While the heart is full of love and faith, an hour, or an evening, spent alone in communion with God, is more delightful than all the amusements which the world can offer. A loving heart is jealous of everything that will break up or interfere with its communion with God.
For mere worldly amusements it has no relish. When the soul does not find more delight in God than in all worldly things, the heart is sadly backslidden.
25. Spiritual blindness is another evidence of a backslidden heart. While the eye is single the whole body will be full of spiritual light, but if the eye be evil (which means a backslidden heart) the whole body will be full of darkness.
Spiritual blindness reveals itself in a want of interest in God’s Word, and in religious truth generally. It will also manifest a want of spiritual discrimination, and will be easily imposed upon by the insinuations of Satan. A backslidden heart will lead to the adoption of lax principles of morality. It does not discern the spirituality of God’s law, and of His requirements generally. When this spiritual blindness is manifest it is a sure indication that the heart is backslidden.
26. Religious apathy, with worldly wakefulness and sensibility, is a sure indication of a backslidden heart. We sometimes see persons who feel deeply and quickly on worldly subjects, but who cannot be made to feel deeply on religious subjects. This clearly indicates a backslidden state of mind.
27. A self-indulgent spirit is a sure indication of a backslidden heart. By self-indulgence, I mean a disposition to gratify the appetites, passions, and propensities, to “fulfill the desires of the flesh and of the mind”
This, in the Bible, is represented as a state of spiritual death. I am satisfied that the most common occasion of backsliding in heart is to be found in the clamor for indulgence of the various appetites and propensities. The appetite for food is frequently, and perhaps more frequently than any other, the occasion of backsliding. Few Christians, I fear, apprehend any danger in this direction. God’s injunction is: “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). Christians forget this, and eat and drink to please themselves, consulting their appetites instead of the laws of life and health. More persons are ensnared by their tables than the Church is aware of. The table is a snare of death to multitudes that no man can number. A great many people who avoid alcoholic drinks altogether, will indulge in tea and coffee, and even tobacco, and in food that, both in quantity and quality, violates every law of health. They seem to have no other law than that of appetite, and this they so deprave by abuse that, to indulge it, is to ruin body and soul together. Show me a gluttonous professor, and I will show you a backslider.
28. A seared conscience is also an evidence of a backslidden heart. While the soul is wakeful and loving, the conscience is as tender as the apple of the eye. But when the heart is backslidden, the conscience is silent and seared, on many subjects. Such a person will tell you that he is not violating his conscience, in eating or drinking, or in self-indulgence of any kind. You will find a backslider has but little conscience. The same will very generally be true in regard to sins of omission. Multitudes of duties may be neglected and a seared conscience will remain silent. Where conscience is not awake, the heart is surely backslidden.
29. Loose moral principles are a sure indication of a backslidden heart. A backslider in heart will write letters on the Sabbath, engage in secular reading, and in much worldly conversation. In business, such a person will take little advantages, play off business tricks, and conform to the habits of worldly business men in the transaction of business; he will be guilty of deception and misrepresentation in making bargains, will demand exorbitant interest, and take advantage of the necessities of his fellow-men.
30. Prevalence of the fear of man is an evidence of a backslidden heart.
While the heart is full of the love of God, God is feared, and not man. A desire for the applause of men is kept down, and it is enough to please God, whether men are pleased or displeased. But when the love of God is abated, “the fear of man,” that “bringeth a snare” (Proverbs 29:25), gets possession of the backslider. To please man rather than God, is then his aim. In such a state he will sooner offend God than man.
31. A sticklish ness about forms, ceremonies, and nonessentials, gives evidence of a backslidden heart. A loving heart is particular only about the substance and power of religion, and will not stickle about its forms.
32. A captiousness about measures in promoting revivals of religion, is a sure evidence of a backslidden heart. Where the heart is fully set upon the conversion of sinners and the sanctification of believers, it will naturally approach the subject in the most direct manner, and by means in the highest degree calculated to accomplish the end. It will not object to, nor stumble at, measures that are evidently blessed of God, but will exert the utmost sagacity in devising the most suitable means to accomplish the great end on which the heart is set.
IV. THE CONSEQUENCES OF BACKSLIDING IN HEART.
The text says, that “the backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways.”
1. He shall be filled with his own works. But these are dead works, they are not works of faith and love, which are acceptable to God, but are the filthy rags of his own righteousness. If they are performed as religious services, they are but loathsome hypocrisy, and an abomination to God; there is no heart in them. To such a person God says: “Who hath required this at your hand?” (Isaiah 1:12). “Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15). “I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you” (John 5:42).
2. He shall be filled with his own feelings. Instead of that sweet peace and rest, and joy in the Holy Ghost, that he once experienced, he will find himself in a state of unrest, dissatisfied with himself and everybody else, his feelings often painful, humiliating, and as unpleasant and unlovely as can be well conceived. It is often very trying to live with backsliders. They are often peevish, censorious, and irritating, in all their ways. They have forsaken God, and in their feelings there is more of hell than of heaven.
3. They will be filled with their own prejudices. Their willingness to know and do the truth has gone. They will very naturally commit themselves against any truth that bears hardly upon a self-indulgent spirit. They will endeavor to justify themselves, will neither read nor hear that which will rebuke their backslidden state, and they will become deeply prejudiced against every one that shall cross their path, who shall reprove them, accounting him as an enemy. They hedge themselves in, and shut their eyes against the light; stand on the defensive, and criticize everything that would search them out.
4. A backslider in heart will be filled with his own enmities. He will chafe in almost every relation of life, will allow himself to be vexed, and to get into such relations with some persons, and perhaps with many, that he cannot pray for them honestly, and can hardly treat them with common civility. This is an almost certain result of a backslidden heart.
5. The backslider in heart will be full of his own mistakes. He is not walking with God. He has fallen out of the Divine order. He is not led by the Spirit, but is walking in spiritual darkness. In this state he is sure to fall into many and grievous mistakes, and may get entangled in such a way as to mar his happiness, and, perhaps, destroy his usefulness for life.
Mistakes in business, mistakes in forming new relations in life, mistakes in using his time, his tongue, his money, his influence; indeed, all will go wrong with him as long as he remains in a backslidden state.
6. The backslider in heart will be filled with his own lustings. His appetites and passions, which had been kept under, have now resumed their control, and having been so long suppressed, they will seem to avenge themselves by becoming more clamorous and despotic than ever.
The animal appetites and passions will burst forth, to the astonishment of the backslider, and he will probably find himself more under their influence and more enslaved by them than ever before.
7. The backslider in heart will be filled with his own words. While in that state, he will not, and cannot, control his tongue. It will prove itself to be an unruly member, full of deadly poison. By his words he will involve himself in many difficulties and perplexities, from which he can never extricate himself until he comes back to God.
8. He will be full of his own trials. Instead of keeping out of temptation, he will run right into it. He will bring upon himself multitudes of trials that he never would have had, had he not departed from God. He will complain of his trials, but yet will constantly multiply them. A backslider feels his trials keenly, but, while he complains of being so tried by everything around him, he is constantly aggravating them, and, being the author of them, he seems industrious to bring them upon himself like an avalanche.
9. The backslider in heart shall be full of his own folly. Having rejected the Divine guidance, he will evidently fall into the depths of his own foolishness. He will inevitably say and do multitudes of foolish and ridiculous things. Being a professor of religion, these things will be all the more noticed, and of course bring him all the more into ridicule and contempt. A backslider is, indeed, the most foolish person in the world.
Having experimental knowledge of the true way of life, he has the infinite folly to abandon it. Knowing the fountain of living waters, he has forsaken it, and “hewed out to himself cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water” (Jeremiah 2:13). Having been guilty of this infinite folly, the whole course of his backslidden life must be that of a fool, in the Bible sense of the term.
10. The backslider in heart will be full of his own troubles. God is against him, and he is against himself. He is not at peace with God, with himself, with the Church, nor with the world. He has no inward rest. Conscience condemns him. God condemns him. All that know his state condemn him.
“There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked” (Isaiah 57:21). There is no position in time or space in which he can be at rest.
11. The backslider in heart will be full of his own cares. He has turned back to selfishness. He counts himself and his possessions as his own. He has everything to care for. He will not hold himself and his possessions as belonging to God, and lay aside the responsibility of taking care of himself and all that he possesses. He does not, will not, cast his cares upon the Lord, but undertakes to manage everything for himself, and in his own wisdom, and for his own ends. Consequently, his cares will be multiplied, and come upon him like a deluge.
12. The backslider in heart will be full of his own perplexities. Having forsaken God, having fallen into the darkness of his own folly, he will be filled with perplexities and doubts in regard to what course he shall pursue to accomplish his selfish ends. He is not walking with, but contrary to God. Hence, the providence of God will constantly cross his path, and baffle all his schemes. God will frown darkness upon his path, and take pains to confound his projects, and blow his schemes to the winds.
13. The backslider in heart will be filled with his own anxieties. He will be anxious about himself, about his business, about his reputation, about everything. He has taken all these things out of the hands of God, and claims them and treats them as his own. Hence, having faith in God no longer, and being unable to control events, he must of necessity be filled with anxieties with regard to the future. These anxieties are the inevitable result of his madness and folly in forsaking God.
14. The backslider in heart will be filled with his own disappointments.
Having forsaken God, and taken the attitude of self-will, God will inevitably disappoint him as he pursues his selfish ends. He will frame his ways to please himself, without consulting God. Of course God will frame his ways so as to disappoint him. Determined to have his own way, he will be greatly disappointed if his plans are frustrated; yet the certain course of events under the government of God must of necessity bring him a series of disappointments.
15. The backslider in heart must be full of his own losses. He regards his possessions as his own, his time as his own, his influence as his own, his reputation as his own. The loss of any of these, he accounts as his own loss. Having forsaken God, and being unable to control the events upon which the continuance of those things is conditioned, he will find himself suffering losses on every side. He loses his peace. He loses his property.
He loses much of his time. He loses his Christian reputation. He loses his Christian influence, and if he persists he loses his soul.
16. The backslider in heart will be full of his own crosses. All religious duty will be irksome, and, therefore, a cross to him. His state of mind will make multitudes of things crosses that in a Christian state of mind would have been pleasant in a high degree. Having lost all heart in religion, the performance of all religious duty is a cross to his feelings. There is no help for him, unless he returns to God. The whole course of Divine providence will run across his path, and his whole life will be a series of crosses and trials. He cannot have his own way. He cannot gratify himself by accomplishing his own wishes and desires. He may beat and dash himself against the everlasting rocks of God’s will and God’s way, but break through and carry all before him he cannot. He must be crossed and recrossed, and crossed again, until he will fall into the Divine order, and sink into the will of God.
17. The backslider in heart will be filled with his own tempers. Having forsaken God, he will be sure to have much to irritate him. In a backslidden state, he cannot possess his soul in patience. The vexations of his backslidden life will make him nervous and irritable; his temper will become explosive and uncontrollable.
18. The backslider in heart will be full of his own disgraces. He is a professor of religion. The eyes of the world are upon him, and all his inconsistencies, worldly-mindedness, follies, bad tempers, and hateful words and deeds, disgrace him in the estimation of all men who know him.
19. The backslider in heart will be full of his own delusions. Having an evil eye, his whole body will be full of darkness. He will almost certainly fall into delusions in regard to doctrines and in regard to practices. Wandering on in darkness, as he does, he will, very likely, swallow the grossest delusions. Spiritism, Mormonism, Universalism, and every other ism that is wide from the truth, will be very likely to gain possession of him. Who has not observed this of backsliders in heart?
20. The backslider in heart will be filled with his own bondage. His profession of religion brings him into bondage to the Church. He has no heart to consult the interests of the Church, or to labor for its up-building, and yet he is under covenant obligation to do so, and his reputation is at stake. He must do something to sustain religious institutions, but to do so is a bondage. If he does it, it is because he must, and not because he may.
Again, he is in bondage to God. If he performs any duty that he calls religious, it is rather as a slave than as a freeman. He serves from fear or hope, just like a slave, and not from love. A gain, he is in bondage to his own conscience. To avoid conviction and remorse, he will do or omit many things, but it is all with reluctance, and not at all of his own cordial goodwill.
21. The backslider in heart is full of his own self condemnation. Having enjoyed the love of God, and forsaken Him, he feels condemned for everything. If he attempts religious duty, he knows there is no heart in it, and hence condemns himself. If he neglects religious duty, he of course condemns himself. If he reads his Bible, it condemns him. If he does not read it, he feels condemned. If he goes to religious meetings, they condemn him; and if he stays away, he is condemned also. If he prays in secret, in his family, or in public, he knows he is not sincere, and feels condemned.
If he neglects or refuses to pray, he feels condemned. Everything condemns him. His conscience is up in arms against him, and the thunders and lightnings of condemnation follow him, whithersoever he goes.
V. HOW TO RECOVER FROM A STATE OF BACKSLIDING.
1. Remember whence you are fallen. Take up the question at once, and deliberately contrast your present state with that in which you walked with God.
2. Take home the conviction of your true position. No longer delay to understand the exact situation between God and your soul.
3. Repent at once, and do your first works over again.
4. Do not attempt to get back, by reforming your mere outside conduct.
Begin with your heart, and at once set yourself right with God.
5. Do not act like a more convicted sinner, and attempt to recommend yourself to God by any impenitent works or prayers. Do not think that you must “reform, and make yourself better” before you can come to Christ, but understand distinctly, that coming to Christ, alone, can make you better. However much distressed you may feel, know for a certainty that until you repent and accept His will, unconditionally, you are no better, but are constantly growing worse. Until you throw yourself upon His sovereign mercy, and thus return to God, He will accept nothing at your hands.
6. Do not imagine yourself to be in a justified state, for you know you are not. Your conscience condemns you, and you know that God ought to condemn you, and if He justified you in your present state, your conscience could not justify Him. Come, then, to Christ at once, like a guilty, condemned sinner, as you are; own up, and take all the shame and blame to yourself, and believe that notwithstanding all your wanderings from God, He loves you still – that He has loved you with an everlasting love, and, therefore, with loving-kindness is drawing you.
by William Reid (1814-1896)
Table Of Contents
I. Forgiveness Of Sins Through The Blood Of Jesus
II. How Our Sins Are Taken Away By The Blood Of Jesus
III. The Blood Of Jesus, Not Conviction Of Sin, the Foundation Of Our Peace And Joy
IV. A Letter About The Blood Of Jesus
V. Salvation Through The Blood Of Jesus, The Gift Of God
VI. The Blood Of Jesus, Our Only Ground Of Peace With God
VII. Regeneration Through The Blood Of Jesus
VIII. Faith In The Blood Of Jesus Essential To Salvation
IX. The Blood Of Jesus The Believer’s Life And Peace
X. Faith In The Blood Of Jesus The Spring Of Holiness
XI. The Blood Of Jesus The Essence Of The Gospel
XII. The Holy Spirit’s Testimony To The Blood Of Jesus
“I have been religiously inclined from my earliest years. When quite little I was wont to say my prayers many times over, for I had heard it said that everything done on earth was written down in heaven, and I wished to have as much as possible recorded there in my favour.
“When about ten years of age, I heard that there were some who did not believe that the Bible was the Word of God, and that led me to surmise that it was not sufficiently clear that it was from God; for if He had given a revelation of His mind to man, it must have come in such a form that it would have been impossible for any person to disbelieve it. I pictured to myself that if God chose to do it, He could put up in great letters along the heavens, ‘I AM THE LORD,’ and everybody would see it and believe; and if the Bible were from Him, its revelation would be so unmistakeably clear, that it would be impossible to doubt its divine origin.
“But this was not a settled conviction; and my incipient scepticism was suddenly dissipated by a dream. I thought that I felt an intense heat; and so terrible did it ultimately become, that the heavens were rent asunder and wrapt in flames, and in the burning sky overhead I saw in large letters of fire, ‘I AM THE LORD;’ but I had at the same time a conviction that it was now too late for the persons who had been unbelieving to profit by it, and those who had not believed the Bible, speaking to them in the name of the Lord, would now find to their everlasting misery that it was true.
“Not having enjoyed an early training in Bible truth, I had many difficulties in reference to the doctrines of revelation, and especially regarding that of the Trinity. I could not comprehend whether God and Christ were one or two beings; and I was too timid at the age of twelve to ask my seniors.
“When at school I was deeply impressed with the solemnity and propriety of daily worship, and fervently wished, on returning home, to be able to have family worship; but my timidity was stronger than my convictions, and it was not attempted. Having no Christian friend to give me counsel, direction, and encouragement, my religious impressions by and by evaporated, and my character was left very much to the formative power of surrounding circumstances. But having been instructed when at school in a neighbouring town in what was right, and counselled, on leaving it, by a Christian lady of the town, as to how I ought to conduct myself on my return home, and being put in a responsible situation, I felt a moral weight upon my spirit, and gravitated towards the good, the right, and the true.
“I was much given to reading, and from having abundance of the choicest books of a historical and literary character, I was permitted to gratify my taste. The acquisition of information was my great aim. I had an ardent thirst for knowledge, and every species of works with the exception of light literature, for which I had a settled contempt, was devoured by me both day and night. Solid literature suited my disposition, and I stored my mind with useful information on a variety of subjects. I was once so engrossed with books, that when about fifteen years old I left off going to church, that I might have the quiet of the Lord’s day for reading. But this I soon discovered to be very wrong, and it was discontinued.
“In the course of years I became acquainted with the most evangelical minister in the town where I resided; and I left an eloquent preacher, whose discourses were to me only ‘a very lovely song,’ and attended the ministry of the gospel of the grace of God. This very materially changed the current of my thinking and the kind of my reading. Being naturally susceptible of religious impressions, I became serious, devout, and religious. I carried my thirst for knowledge with me into my religion, and I searched the Scriptures and read religious books with an earnestness and constancy which were absorbing. I got Fleetwood’s ‘Life of Christ’ and read it many times; and so engrossing was it that I sometimes sat reading it until two or three o’clock in the morning, without weariness. The circumstances in which I was living, and the trials which thickened over my path, were no doubt instumental in sobering my buoyant spirit and throwing me upon a course of religious duty.
“From the instructions of the pulpit, and my own reading, I soon became, in some measure, acquainted with the system of Christian doctrine; and believing that I was a real Christian because I knew about Christian truth and Christian experience, and had a liking for all that was good, I thought it was my duty to join myself to the church. I was quite able to answer all the questions that were put to me, for I was not asked, Are you born again? I was admitted, and, as a member, received the Lord’s Supper regularly. Even at that time I walked a considerable distance every Lord’s Day to attend a prayer-meeting at eight o’clock in the morning; but it was all ‘works’, for I felt as if I were acquiring extraordinary merit by the performance of this extraordinary duty. I had a real pleasure in doing well. After this I attended a Bible class, and prepared so thoroughly for it that I was able to outshine all the rest in my knowledge of the subjects which were submitted for our consideration. In order the more thoroughly to master the contents of the Scriptures, and satisfy my own mind, I set to reading the Bible with a Commentary; and after having read it with one commentary I got another, and perused it with the most assiduous earnestness and perseverance. With these helps I passed many hours in searching the Scriptures, and enjoyed it more than anything else; but it was from no love to God Himself, but simply to acquire information. I do not remember that I had a spiritual sense of sin, either before becoming a church-member, or for a number of years after doing so, and consequently I read the Bible more with my intellect than with my conscience and my heart. I wanted ‘by searching’ to ‘find out God,’ ignorant of the fact that He can be known only through our spiritual necessities. I saw the truth, as I believed, clearly enough, but never having been really convinced that I was an utterly lost sinner, I had never prayed from the heart, ‘Lord, save me, I perish!’
“But in course of years I became less satisfied with my religion and with myself; but when unhappy I did not go direct to Jesus, but, on the contrary, I tried to read myself right, or pray myself right, or work myself right, and for a time I succeeded. I was most strict in all my deportment, conscientious and exemplary; and having a factitious conscience, I felt miserable if I failed any day to read a good deal, or perform other duties. Morning calls often annoyed me, proving, as they frequently did, an interruption in my round of prescribed duty; and when I met with agreeable, intelligent friends, and went thoroughly into their conversation, I forgot all about divine things; and when I was left to myself again, after a time of forgetfulness of God, I sometimes felt that I had tremendous leeway to make up, and I set about doing it with all my might. When thus drawn away from religion, I would sometimes have a protracted season of forgetfulness of God, but it was generally followed by a season of conflict, remorse, struggling, and persevering penance. To keep up a religion on my plan was a very difficult matter, and very unsatisfactory. When I did well, read well, and stored up Scripture truth in my mind, did my duty as a Sunday-school teacher, tract-distributor, and district-visitor, and was sufficiently earnest, I felt myself all right; but if I failed in duty, I continued miserable.
“Being perfectly sincere and conscientious, consistent in my conduct, and considered truly pious by myself and others,-I waded on through this legal mire for many years; and it never occurred to me that there must be a radical defect about my religion. My heart was unsatisfied; my conscience, when in any measure awakened, was silenced by duty, but not satisfied by righteousness, nor purged from dead works by the blood of the Righteous One. My error was in believing that religion consisted in knowing, apart from realising; and my conscience not being spiritually aroused, I persevered in my delusion for about a dozen of years.
“I believe now that there was one error which I committed, which tended more than anything to keep me in my unhappy condition,-I considered my prayers so utterly unworthy to be presented to God, that instead of throwing myself in all my sinfulness and unworthiness before the throne of grace, and getting into immediate contact with the God of salvation, I employed exclusively the prayers of others. I frequently used ejaculatory prayers of my own throughout the course of the day; but when I came before God formally, I felt so utterly unworthy and unable to order my speech before Him, that I was always constrained to use the language of others; for, prayer being regarded as a meritorious duty, I felt that it must be done well in order to be accepted, and I feared to commit myself to a lengthened address to the Diving Majesty. The Holy Ghost would have helped my infirmities, and made intercession within me, but I had not the most remote conception that I might, by a believing glance of my eye towards heaven, secure His gracious aid; and so, instead of ‘praying in the Holy Ghost,’ I prayed merely in the words of my fellow-men, which sometimes met my condition, but more frequently did not, and always seemed to keep me at a distance from God, and from enjoying direct personal intercourse with ‘the Father of mercies,’ (2 Cor 1:3).
“In the unsatisfactory manner which I have just described, I wasted and lost my young years, ‘and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse,’ (Mark 6:26). I had been religious, dutiful, and consistent; but it had been a mere ‘going about to establish my own righteousness’ (Rom 10:3), for my system of service ignored the central fact of Divine Revelation,-that ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,’ (1 Tim 1:15). ‘But God, who is rich in mercy,’ (Eph 2:4), had compassion on me, and by the grace of His Holy Spirit, ‘revealed His ‘Son in me,’ (Gal 1:16) and turned ‘the shadow of death into the morning,’ (Amos 5:8). The first gleam of gospel light which entered my darkened mind was in reading a little tract in which Luther’s conversion is referred to. When the words of the Creed, ‘I believe in the forgiveness of sins,’ were pronounced in his hearing, he took them up and repeated them on his bed of sickness; but he was told he must believe not only in the forgiveness of David’s sins or Peter’s sins, but that he must believe in the forgiveness of his own sins. This truth became the inlet of pardon and peace to his soul; and on reading it I felt that my soul was being visited with celestial light; and I was led to see that pardon of sin was a present and personal blessing. But I was not satisfied that I believed aright.
“Shortly after, I was reading Romaine’s ‘Life of Faith,’ and came upon this sentiment,-That the weakest believer is as precious to Christ and as safe as the strongest. The Dayspring from on high visited me, and, by and by, I felt myself bathed in the noon-tide radiance of Heaven’s glorious light. The great Enlightener filled my soul with His transforming presence. He who commanded the light to shine out of darkness had shined in my heart, ‘to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.’ I was conscious of a Divine Presence with me, and believed that the holy light which had entered my soul came direct from heaven. Christ from that moment became the great central object of my contemplation. Immediately as I became enlightened, Jesus appeared to be the centre, sun, moon, and essence of Revelation, and with Him as a key, I thought I could understand all that ever was written on the subject of religion. My spirit rejoiced in God my Saviour, and self and its services were thought on only to be condemned as utterly vile and worthless. Christ was all.
“And as my soul was filled with divine light, and glowing with the love of Jesus, I said to myself, as, in amazement, I remembered the dreary past,-‘How could I have been so blind as not to see the way of salvation when it is so clearly revealed that “Jesus Christ is all and in all, and we are complete in Him”-not “in Him” and our own doings combined-but in Him alone! The truth is as clear as the sun at noon-day, that Jesus is Himself the Sin-Bearer and the Saviour, and I and my legal duties and conscientious penances are nothing but ‘filthy rags.’ I have read it a hundred times that Jesus came ‘to seek and to save that which was lost,’ and the same truth runs through the whole Word of God, and yet I never saw it until now. Oh, how blind I have been to the glory of Jesus! How sad to think that I have read so much about Him with the veil upon my heart, and have never seen His glory as a Saviour till this blessed hour! I now wished that every one could see the Lord as I saw Him. I wondered that they did not, and I thought I could point Him out to them so clearly and distinctly, as made of God unto us ‘wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption,’ that it would be impossible for them not to believe in Him, receive Him as theirs, and be filled with heavenly joy:-but I found that ‘old Adam was too strong for young Melancthon.’
“About this time I heard a sermon which I wished to get good from; but the minister was drawing to a close, and I had found nothing in all he had said to satisfy my soul, when as a concluding sentence he repeated the words, ‘Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth,’ (Rom 10:4); and that was borne in upon my soul with much power of the Holy Ghost, so that I again found my heart filled with the light, life, and love of God. How clearly it appeared to me that Christ had in my stead satisfied all the demands of the law! He had filled it up with His satisfaction from one end to the other, for thus I understood His being ‘the end of the law.’ He has abolished the law as a ground of justification, by fulfilling every one of its many demands; and He allows us to begin life with a righteousness as perfect as if we had fulfilled perfectly in our own persons every iota that the law of God exacts. I had no idea of this during my years of bondage; and the consequence was, that in my blindness I presumptuously set about doing that which Christ had done for me, and which, had I gone on for ever in the same legal track, I never could have done for myself.
“When one’s eyes are opened by the Holy Ghost, how monstrous does it seem for the sinful creature to have been attempting to work out a righteousness which could be effected only by the Creator! ‘Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth,’ and believing in Jesus, I found that, instead of needing to begin to fulfil the law for myself, I was privileged to begin at ‘the end of the law.’ Instead of looking forward to being able to complete the fulfilment, I found that (on believing in Jesus) what I fancied would be the termination of a life of obedience, I had now presented to me in the gospel of Christ as the point from which I was to start. To get Christ in a moment as my perfect righteousness, after going about for the best part of my past life to establish a righteousness of my own, on account of which I had vainly thought to render myself acceptable to God, that was to me ‘as life from the dead,’ (Rom 11:15).”
Is that my own experience? No, it is not mine; but the experience of another, which, having been submitted to me when about to write this preface, I considered so suitable that I have written it out, and given it as one of the most satisfactory reasons I could present for issuing the present little volume. There can be no doubt but there are many cases like the above. I fear that not a few of the strictly religious in all our churches are ignorant of the “true grace of God,” (1 Pet 5:12), which gives Jesus as “the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” I fear also that, in some cases, on account of a mixture of law and gospel in public instruction, inquirers are left with the impression that they have something to do in order to obtain “justification of life,” (Rom 5:18). And when we consider the hundreds of thousands who are being awakened by the Holy Ghost throughout our own and other lands, I believe that we could not engage in a more needful service than the preparation of a work such as the present, wherein “the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, even the righteousness of God by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe,” (Rom 3:21,22).
We sometimes hear “the claims of Christ” pressed upon sinners; but this is to confound Christ with Moses, and represent His salvation as only an amended republication of the law “given by Moses,” forgetting that “grace and truth came by Jesus Christ,” (John 1:17). “The gospel, strictly taken, contains neither claims, commands, nor threatenings, but is glad tidings of salvation to sinful men through Christ, revealed in doctrines and promises; and these revealed to men as sinners, stout-hearted, and far from righteousness. In the good news from heaven of help in God through Jesus Christ, for lost, self-destroyed creatures of Adam’s race, there are no precepts. All these, the command to believe and repent not excepted, belong to and flow from the law.1 The gospel is the report of a peace purchased by the BLOOD OF CHRIST for poor sinners, and offered to them.2 The gospel brings a sound of liberty to captives, of pardon to condemned criminals, of peace to rebels, a sound of life to the dead, and of salvation to them that lie on the borders of hell and condemnation. 3 It is not, indeed, the gospel of itself, but Christ revealed therein, that heals the sinner. It is Christ that is to be received; but He is received as offered in the gospel, and the gospel holds out Christ to the eye of faith. The gospel is with respect to Christ what the pole was with respect to the serpent.” 4
The gospel does not therefore urge upon us claims which we cannot implement, but it places before us the free grace of God in Christ Jesus, and permits us to claim the Son of God as our Redeemer, and through Him to enjoy “all things” pertaining to the life of faith and the hope of glory. We are asked to give God nothing for salvation. He is the great Giver. Our proper position is to stand before Him as beggars in the attitude of receiving. “He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Rom 8:32).
The Gospel of the grace of God does not consist in pressing the duty defined by the words, “Give your heart to Christ,” although that is often unwisely pressed upon inquirers after salvation as if it were the gospel; but the very essence of the gospel is contained in the words, “Having liberty to enter into the holiest BY THE BLOOD OF JESUS, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; and having an high-priest over the house of God; let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith,” (Heb. 10:19-22).
“Give your heart to Christ,” is rather law than gospel. It is most proper that it should be done, for God himself demands it; but merely urging the doing of it is far short of the gospel. The true gospel is: Accept the free gift of salvation from wrath and sin by receiving Jesus Himself, and all the benefits He purchased with “HIS OWN BLOOD” (Acts 20:28), and your heart will be His in a moment, being given to Him, not as a matter of law, but of love; for, if you have the love of His heart poured into yours by His blessed Spirit, you will feel yourself under the constraining influence of a spontaneous spiritual impulse to give Him in return your heart, and all that you possess. It is right to give Him your heart, but unless you first receive His, you will never give Him yours.
The design of the following pages is to exhibit “the true grace of God” “without the works of the law,” and only “by THE BLOOD OF JESUS,” (Heb 10:19). Our great aim is the glory of Christ in the conversion of souls; and the means employed to accomplish that end are simple statements concerning the great Scripture truth, that we are saved at once, entirely, and for ever, by the grace of God “who is rich in mercy,” and that we have no part at all in the matter of our salvation save the beggar’s part, of accepting it as a “free gift,” procured for us by “THE PRECIOUS BLOOD OF CHRIST,” (1 Pet 1:19).
And, as many are struggling to get up something of their own as a price to bring to God to buy salvation of Him, we have taken pains to shew the entire uselessness of all such efforts; and have pointed out, we think, with some degree of clearness, and by a variety of ways, that all true religion has a distinct beginning, and that beginning dates from the time when a sinner stands at Calvary conscious of his utterly ruined condition, and realises the truth that Jesus so completely satisfied God for sin, that He could say before He gave up the ghost, “It is finished,” (John 19:30); so that “we have redemption through HIS BLOOD, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace,” (Eph 1:8). “He His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree,” (1 Pet 2:24), and thereby, “having made peace by THE BLOOD OF HIS CROSS,” (Col 1:20), we may at once be “made nigh by THE BLOOD OF CHRIST,” (Eph 2:13), without anything of our own. That God who hath set Him forth, “a propitiation through faith in HIS BLOOD, to declare His righteousness” (Rom 3:25) in pardoning sin, will pardon ALL sin through faith in Him, for His own testimony is, that “THE BLOOD OF JESUS CHRIST His Son cleanseth us from all sin,” (1 John 1:7).
“THE BLOOD OF JESUS” is the ground of peace with God to every believing sinner below, and it will be the subject of the everlasting song of the redeemed above. It is our ALL for acceptance with God, for pardon of sin, for “justification of life,” for adoption into God’s family, for holiness and glory. As the altar with its streaming blood stood at the very entrance of the ancient tabernacle, so the Lord Jesus Christ and “THE BLOOD OF HIS CROSS” meet us at the very entrance of the church of the redeemed. The blood-shedding of Jesus as “a propitiation for our sins” (1 John 2:2) lies at the very threshold of the Christian life. It is the alphabet of Christian experience to know the value of “THE BLOOD OF SPRINKLING,” (Heb 12:24). The first step in the Christian course is into the “fountain opened,” (Zech 13:1).
“THE BLOOD OF JESUS” is our great and only theme in the following pages. May the Divine Spirit make them to every reader “the power of God unto salvation,” (Rom 1:16).
In closing these prefatory pages, the writer may remark, that although it would have been both easy and delightful to have written it wholly himself, he has purposely introduced extracts from various writers belonging to different sections of the Church of Christ-Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Independents, Baptists, &c., that the anxious inquirer may enjoy the benefit of having saving truth presented to him in a variety of aspects, and may, at the same time, feel the moral effect of observing the perfect agreement of Spirit-taught Christians, in the different branches of the Church of Christ, with regard to the one way of a sinner’s acceptance with God, “BY THE BLOOD OF JESUS.”
It is again issued with the earnest prayer that the Holy Spirit would so bless it to all inquirers who read it, that they may “enter into the holiest by THE BLOOD OF JESUS,” (Heb 10:19), and learn to sing, “with joyful lips,” the redemption-song:-“Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His OWN BLOOD, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father; to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen,” (Rev 1:5,6).
3 George Square, Edinburgh.
I. FORGIVENESS OF SINS
THROUGH THE BLOOD OF JESUS
The God of love, dear reader, in His written Word, which gives an account of the rich mercy He has provided for the guilty, tells you that you may be saved. His Word assures you that you may be saved from guilt, sin, and wrath. And that Word also informs you that your salvation depends not on anything you may do, but on what God has already done. Good news about God has reached our world, and in believing these glad tidings, you shall be saved. This is the good news, “God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us,” (Rom 5:8). “For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life,” (John 3:16). “Christ died for the ungodly,” (Rom 5:6). “He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him,” (2 Cor 5:21). If, by simply believing the good news about what God through Christ hath done for sinners, we become “partakers of Christ” (Heb 3:14), and are “accepted in the Beloved,” (Eph 1:6), it will become matter of personal consciousness and spiritual joy that “we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins according to the riches of His grace,” (Eph 1:7). “Be it known unto you therefore, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins; and by Him all that believe are justified from all things,” (Acts 13:38).
I beseech you to settle it in your mind that “forgiveness of sins” (Acts 13:38) lies at the very threshold of the Christian life. It is a blessing needed and obtainable now. You must have forgiveness, or perish for ever; you must have it now, or you cannot have peace. It is surely a most delightful thought that you may have the guilt of all your past sins blotted out at once and for ever! God pardons freely and at once. He does not inculcate any preparation in order to pardon. One who knew the blessedness of enjoying His pardoning mercy testifies thus concerning it: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness;” and this testimony was given on the ground of what he had affirmed in the same letter, that “the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin,” (1 John 1:7,9). He does not say: After you have repented more thoroughly, after you have spent days and weeks in agonising prayer, after you become more thoroughly instructed in divine things, and after you pass through years of “trouble and sorrow,” then you may venture to hope for forgiveness. No; but, knowing that Christ died to put away sin, you are warranted, on simply taking the place of a sinner, and accepting of Jesus as your Saviour, to believe that, through the all-perfect merits of Christ, you are pardoned that very moment, and enjoy perfect peace with God; for God “justifieth the ungodly,” (Rom 4:5).
Peace with God through the forgiveness of all your sins may thus be obtained at any moment, seeing that you do not have to repent for it, work for it, or wait for it, but simply believe what God says regarding Christ “having made peace by the blood of His cross,” (Col 1:20). “And being justified freely by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,” (Rom 3:24)-and being fully satisfied that your sin has been forgiven you in a righteous way, being put away by “the precious blood of Christ,” (1 Pet 1:19)-God being “well pleased for His righteousness’ sake,” (Isa 42:21)-“just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus,” (Rom 3:26)-“peace that passeth all understanding” (Phil 4:7) will spring up spontaneously within your soul, like the fresh, flowing current of a perennial fountain.
In reference to the pardon of your sins, there is no time to be lost, for “the Holy Ghost saith, To-day,” (Heb 3:7); and were you now refusing to listen, and dying in your sins ere to-morrow’s sun arose, you would inevitably perish eternally, notwithstanding your conviction of sin, and anxieties of soul; for Jesus Himself assures us that “he that believeth not shall be damned,” (Mark 16:16). Besides, you can do nothing else that will prove satisfactory to yourself, or well-pleasing to God, until you have obtained the forgiveness of your sins. And as pardon of sin is the first thing that you feel in need of, so it is the first thing which is presented by the God of love for your acceptance; for God is still to be found “in Christ reconciling sinners unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them,” (2 Cor 5:19).
Moreover, you will have your whole life and character affected in a most striking way by the scripturalness or unscripturalness of the views you now entertain of “the God of all grace,” (1 Pet 5:10), and the heartiness or hesitance with which you embrace His pardoning mercy. As a man’s position in the world is very materially affected by the character of his elementary education and early training, so is the position of even true believers in Christ materially affected not only in this world, but in the world to come, by their being thoroughly grounded or not grounded in the great elementary truths of the gospel of the grace of God, which preaches present pardon and immediate peace “to every one that believeth,” (Rom 1:16). Your position, as well as destiny for time and for eternity, are now to be determined!
It is, therefore, of the utmost importance that you should have thoroughly scriptural views and an intelligent experience of the grace of God as it is manifested to you, a sinner, in the person and work of His Son Jesus Christ. And again, the character of your service for God, and your success in winning souls, will very greatly depend upon the clearness with which you realise your own salvation through the blood of Christ at the commencement of your Christian course; for how could you labour faithfully to bring others to feel the constraining power of the love of Christ, unless you yourself felt assured that He had loved you personally and put away your sin? The most useful life must ever be that which is firmly based on a knowledge of Christ crucified as the sole ground of acceptance with God, and on being justified, and having peace “through our Lord Jesus Christ who died for us,” (1 Thess 5:9,10). It will be found that those who do most for God and their fellow-sinners are such as he. Rev. Robert M’Cheyne, who knew himself to be forgiven by God and safe for eternity-of whom his biographer says, that “he walked calmly in almost unbroken fellowship with the FATHER and the SON”; and who himself thus describes his own undoubted conversion in the only record he has left of it:-
“When free grace awoke me, by light from on high,
Then legal fears shook me, I trembled to die;
No refuge, no safety in self could I see-
Jehovah Tsidkenu5 my Saviour must be.
“My terrors all vanish’d before the sweet name,
My guilty fears banish’d, with boldness I came
To drink at the Fountain, life-giving and free-
Jehovah Tsidkenu is all things to me.”
II. HOW OUR SINS ARE TAKEN
AWAY BY THE BLOOD OF JESUS
There is every reason why you should now intelligently and believingly behold the Lamb of God, “which taketh away the sin of the world,” (John 1:29). You are not directed in this passage to a Saviour who has already “taken away the sin of the world,” but to Him who “taketh away the sin of the world.” The meaning plainly is, that Jesus is the God-appointed Taker-away of sin for the world. We find him asserting this, when He says, “The Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins,” (Matt 9:6); “All power” (or authority) “is given me in heaven and on earth,” (Matt 28:18). Jesus is the only and the all-sufficient, as He is the authorized, Taker-away of sin, for the world at large. The whole world is brought in guilty before God, “for all have sinned,” (Rom 3:23); and the true gospel of God is, that when any one belonging to our sinful world feels his sin to be oppressive, and comes straight to “the Lamb of God” with it, and frankly acknowledges it, and tells out his anxieties regarding it, and his desire to get rid of it, he will find that Jesus has both the power and the will to take it away; and on seeing it removed from him by “the blood of His cross,” (Col 1:20), “as far as the east is from the west,” (Psa 103:12), he will be enabled to sing with a grateful heart and “joyful lips:”-
“I lay my sins on Jesus,
The spotless Lamb of God;
He bears them all, and frees us,
From the accursed load.”
You can never make an atonement for your past sins, nor by personal obedience procure a title to the inheritance of glory; but Jesus is willing to take away all your sins, and to give you His own title to the glorious kingdom, if you will only consent to intrust Him alone with your salvation.
“Well,” you may perhaps resolve, “I will go to Him, and cast myself upon His mercy, and if I perish, I perish.” Ah, but you need not go to Him in that spirit, for it throws a doubt upon the all-sufficiency of His completed atonement for sin, and His perfect, spotless life of obedience.
Jesus Himself says, “God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life,” (John 3:16). These being the “true sayings of God,” (Rev 19:9), where, O friend, is there the least cause for you saying, with hesitancy and doubt, “If I perish, I perish?” (Esther 4:16). The proper thought you ought to have in reference to the glorious Gospel is this-God has so loved the world as to give His only-begotten Son to die for sinners, and He assures me that if I, a perishing sinner, believe in Him, I shall not perish, but have everlasting life; I believe His Word, and reckon that if He gave His Son to die for us when we were yet sinners, He will with Him also freely give all such things as pardon and purity, grace and glory; and if, in accordance with His own gracious invitation, I rest my soul upon His manisfested love in Christ Jesus, I believe that it will be as impossible for me to perish, as for God to change His nature, or to cancel the word of grace and truth, that the “blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin,” (1 John 1:7).
God the Father loved sinners so much as to send Jesus to die for them. Jesus loved sinners so much as to lay down His life for their redemption. The Holy Spirit loved sinners so much that he has written a record of God’s manifested love to them in Jesus Christ, and He Himself has come down in person, to reveal that love to their souls, that they may be saved. And if you, O anxious one, will now agree to God’s method of transferring all that Divine justice demands of you to Jesus, “who was made of a woman, made under the law,” who perfectly obeyed and pleased the Father in His holy life, and in death endured and exhausted the penalty due to sin, you will obtain pardon, peace, grace, and holiness; the full tide of the love of God, which passeth knowledge, will flow into your soul, and, in the spirit of adoption, you will cry, “Abba, Father,” (Gal 4:6), feel the constraining influence of the love of Christ, and live to the glory of “Him who died for us and rose again.”
That I may make the method of a sinner’s salvation so “plain, that he that readeth it” (Hab 2:2) may have his mind’s eye so full of its meaning, “that he may run” at once to Jesus Christ, as his Divine sin-bearer, I will present the following homely and unmistakeable illustration:-While standing one day on the platform of the Aberdeen Station of the North-Eastern Railway, I observed a carriage with a board on it intimating that it ran all the way from Aberdeen to London. The doors of it were open, the porters were putting passengers’ luggage on the top of it, and a few individuals were entering, or about to enter, its different compartments. They looked for this particular carriage as soon as they had passed through the ticket-office, and on seeing “London” on it, they threw in their travelling-rugs, entered, and seating themselves, prepared for the journey.
Having furnished themselves with tickets and railway guides, and satisfied themselves that they were in the right carriage, they felt the utmost confidence, and I did not observe any one of them coming out of the carriage, and running about in a state of excitement, calling to those around them, “Am I right? Am I right?”
Nor did I see any one refusing to enter, because the carriage provided for only a limited number to proceed by that train. There might be 80,000 inhabitants in and around the city; but still there was not one who talked of it as absurd to provide accommodation for only about seventy persons, for practically it was found to be perfectly sufficient. Trains leave the city several times a-day, and it is found that one carriage for London in the train is quite sufficient for the number of passengers; and on the particular day to which I now refer, I noticed, that so ample was the accommodation, that one of the passengers had a whole compartment to himself. The carriage is for the whole city and neighbourhood, but carries only such of the inhabitants as come and seat themselves in it from day to day.
God, in His infinite wisdom, has made provision of a similar kind for our lost world. He has provided a train of grace to carry as many of its inhabitants to heaven, the great metropolis of the universe, as are willing to avail themselves of the gracious provision.
When we call you by the preaching of the gospel, the meaning is, that all who will may come, and passing through the booking-office of justification by faith alone, seat themselves in a carriage marked, “From Guilt to Glory.” Whenever you hear the free and general offer of salvation, you need not stand revolving the question in your own mind, “Is it for me?”-for just as the railway company carry all who comply with their printed regulations, irrespective of moral character, so if you come to the station of grace at the advertised time, which is “now,”-for “Behold now is the accepted time,” (2 Cor 6:2),-you will find the train of salvation ready; and the only regulation to be complied with by you, in order to your being carried by it, is that you consent to let the Lord Jesus Christ charge Himself with paying for your seat,-which cannot surely be anything but an easy and desirable arrangement, seeing you have no means of paying for yourself.
Were you coming to the railway-station with no money in your pocket, and anxious to travel by a train about to start, in order to be put in possession of a valuable inheritance left to you by a friend; and were any one to meet you at the door of the ticket-office, and say, “I will pay your fare for you,” you would not feel anything but the utmost satisfaction in complying with such a regulation; and is it not an easy matter for you on coming to the station of mercy to submit to the regulation of the gospel, to let Jesus pay your fare for the train of grace, that you may take your seat with confidence, and be carried along the new and living way to everlasting glory?
If we want to know the gospel and be saved, we must know Jesus as our Sin-bearer; for Christ crucified is the sum of the gospel and the richness of it. Paul was so taken with Jesus that nothing sweeter than Jesus could drop from his pen and lips. It is observed that he hath the word JESUS five hundred times in his epistles.
“Jesus” was his constant subject of meditation, and out of the good treasure of the heart his mouth spoke and his pen wrote. He felt that Christ was made of God unto him “wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption,” (1 Cor 1:30), and glorying in the Lord and in His cross, he determined not to know anything among those to whom he preached and wrote, “save Jesus Christ and Him crucified,” (1 Cor 2:2). That faith which is not built on a dying Christ is but a perilous dream: God awaken all from it that are in it!
“Christ alone is our salvation-
Christ the rock on which we stand;
Other than this sure foundation,
Will be found but sinking sand.
Christ, His Cross and resurrection,
Is alone the sinner’s plea;
At the throne of God’s perfection,
Nothing else can set him free.
“We have all things, Christ possessing;
Life eternal, second birth;
Present pardon, peace, and blessing,
While we tarry here on earth;
And by faith’s anticipation,
Foretastes of the joy above,
Freely given us with salvation,
By the Father in His love.
“When we perfect joy shall enter,
‘Tis in Him our bliss will rise;
He’s the essence, soul, and centre,
Of the glory in the skies:
In redemption’s wondrous story,
(Plann’d before our parents’ fall),
From the Cross unto the Glory,
Jesus Christ is all in all.”
III. THE BLOOD OF JESUS, NOT CONVICTION OF SIN, THE FOUNDATION OF OUR PEACE AND JOY
If the Holy Ghost be awakening you to a true apprehension of your danger as a rebel against God’s authority,-a guilty, polluted, hell-deserving sinner,-you must be in a deeply anxious state of mind, and such questions as these must be ever present with you:-“What must I do to be saved? What is the true ground of a sinner’s peace with God? What am I to believe in order to be saved?” Well, in so far as laying the foundation of your reconciliation is concerned, I wish you to observe that you have nothing to do; for the Almighty Surety of sinners said on Calvary, “It is finished,” (John 19:30). Jesus has done all that the Holy Jehovah deemed necessary to be done to insure complete pardon, acceptance, and salvation to all who believe in His name. If you take Jesus as your Saviour, you will build securely for eternity. “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ,” (1 Cor 3:11). He is the foundation-stone of salvation laid by God Himself, and on His finished atoning work alone you are instructed to rest the salvation of your soul, and not on anything accomplished by you, wrought in you, felt by you, or proceeding from you.
It is of the utmost importance to be clear as to the fact that it is the work of Christ without you, and not the work of the Spirit within you, that must form the sole ground of your deliverance from guilt and wrath, and of peace with God. You must beware of resting your peace on your feelings, convictions, tears, repentance, prayers, duties, or resolutions. You must begin with receiving Christ, and not make that the termination of a course of fancied preparation. Christ must be the Alpha and Omega. He must be EVERYTHING in our salvation, or He will be nothing. Beware lest you fall into the common mistake of supposing that you will be more welcome and accepted of Christ if you are brought through a terrible process of “law-work.” You are as welcome to Christ now as you will ever be. Wait not for deeper convictions of sin, for why should you prefer conviction to Christ? And you would not have one iota more safety though you had deeper convictions of sin than any sinner ever had. “Convictions of sin are precious; but they bring no safety, no peace, no salvation, no security, but war, and storm, and trouble. It is well to be awakened from sleep when danger is hanging over us; but to awake from sleep is not to escape from danger. It is only to be sensible of danger, nothing more.
In like manner, to be convinced of your sins is merely to be made sensible that your soul is in danger. It is no more. It is not deliverance. Of itself, it can bring no deliverance; it tells of no Saviour. It merely tells us that we need one. Yet there are many who, when they have had deep convictions of sin, strong terrors of the law, congratulate themselves as if all were well. They say, “Ah, I have been convinced of sin; I have been under terrors; it is well with me; I am safe.” Well with you? Safe? Is it well with the seaman when he awakes and finds his vessel going to pieces upon the rocks amid the fury of the whelming surge? Is it well with the sleeper when he awakes at midnight amid the flames of his dwelling? Does he say, “Ah, it is well with me; I have seen the flames?” In this way sinners are not unfrequently led to be content with some resting-place short of the appointed one. Anxiety to have deep convictions, and contentment with them after they have been experienced, are too often the means which Satan uses for turning away the sinner’s eye from the perfect work of Jesus, who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree. Our peace with God, our forgiveness, our reconciliation, flow wholly from the sin-atoning sacrifice of Jesus.
Behold, then, O Spirit-convinced soul, the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world! In His death upon the cross, behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world! In His death upon the cross, behold the mighty sacrifice, the ransom for the sins of many! See there the sum of all His obedience and sufferings! Behold the finished work!-a work of stupendous magnitude, which He alone could have undertaken and accomplished! Behold our sacrifice, our finished sacrifice, our perfected redemption, the sole foundation of our peace, and hope, and joy. “He His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree,” (1 Pet 2:24). It is not said that our duties, or our prayers, or our fastings, or our convictions of sin, or our repentance, or our honest life, or our almsdeeds, or our fatih, or our grace-it is not said that these bore our sins; it was Jesus, Jesus Himself, Jesus alone, Jesus, and none but Jesus, “bore our sins in His own body on the tree.” Rest, then, in nothing short of peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
“Christ has done the mighty work;
Nothing left for us to do,
But to enter on His toil,
Enter on His triumph too.
“His the labour, ours the rest;
His the death, and ours the life;
Ours the fruits of victory,
His the agony and strife.”
IV. A LETTER ABOUT THE BLOOD OF JESUS
“I urge you,” wrote an eminent author6 to a dying man, “I urge you to cast yourself at once, in the simplest faith, upon the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved. All your true preparation for death is entirely out of yourself, and in the Lord Jesus. Washed in His blood, and clothed upon with His righteousness, you may appear before God divinely, fully, freely, and for ever accepted. The salvation of the chief of sinners is all prepared, finished, and complete in Christ, (Eph 1:6; Col 2:10). Again, I repeat, your eye of faith must now be directed entirely out of and from yourself to JESUS. Beware of looking for any preparation to meet death in yourself. It is all in Christ. God does not accept you on the ground of a broken heart-or a clean heart-or a praying heart-or a believing heart. He accepts you wholly and entirely on the ground of the ATONEMENT of His blessed Son. Cast yourself, in childlike faith, upon that atonement-‘Christ dying for the ungodly,’ (Rom 5:6)-and you are saved! Justification is a poor, law-condemned, self-condemned, self-destroyed sinner, wrapping himself by faith in the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ, ‘which is unto all, and upon all them that believe,’ (Rom 3:22). He, then, is justified, and is prepared to die, and he only, who casts from him the garment of his own righteousnesss, and runs into this blessed ‘City of Refuge’-the Lord Jesus-and hides himself there from the ‘revenger of blood,’ exclaiming, in the language of triumphant faith, ‘There is NOW NO CONDEMNATION to them that are in Christ Jesus,’ (Rom 8:1). Look to Jesus, then, for a contrite heart-look to Jesus for a clean heart-look to Jesus for a believing heart-look to Jesus for a loving heart-and Jesus will give you all.
“One faith’s touch of Christ, and one divine touch from Christ, will save the vilest sinner. Oh, the dimmest, most distant glance of faith, turning its languid eye upon Christ, will heal and save the soul. God is prepared to accept you in His blessed Son, and for His sake He will cast all your sins behind His back, and take you to glory when you die. Never was Jesus known to reject a poor sinner that came to Him empty and with ‘nothing to pay.’ God will glorify His free grace in your salvation, and will therefore save you, just as you are, ‘without money and without price,’ (Isa 55:1). I close with Paul’s reply to the anxious jailer, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved,’ (Acts 16:31). No matter what you have been, or what you are, plunge into the fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness,’ (Zech 8:1), and you shall be clean, ‘washed whiter than snow,’ (Psa 51:7). Heed no suggestion of Satan, or of unbelief. Cast yourself at the feet of Jesus, and if you perish, perish there! Oh no! perish you never will, for He hath said, ‘Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out,’ (John 6:37). ‘Come unto ME,’ (Matt 11:28), is His blessed invitation; let your reply be, ‘Lord, I come! I come! I come! I entwine my feeble, trembling arms of faith around Thy cross, around Thyself, and if I die, I will die, cleaving, clinging, looking unto Thee!’ So act and believe, and you need not fear to die. Looking at the Saviour in the face, you can look at death in the face, exclaiming with good old Simeon, ‘Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace: for mine eyes have seen thy salvation,’ (Luke 2:29). May we, through rich, free, and sovereign grace, meet in heaven, and unite together in exclaiming, ‘Worthy is the Lamb; for He was slain for us!’” (Rev 5:12).
“How glorious is THY NAME,
Through all the ransom’d host,
O WORTHY LAMB, who came,
To seek and save the lost!
“Thou art, beyond compare,
Most precious in our sight!
Than sons of men more fair,
And infinite in might!
“Thy perfect work divine,
Makes us for ever blest;
Here truth and mercy shine,
And men with God do rest.”
V. SALVATION THROUGH THE BLOOD OF JESUS, THE GIFT OF GOD
Dear Reader,-As I am anxious that the one grand theme-salvation through the blood-shedding of Jesus alone-should be set before you in a variety of aspects, that, if you miss it in one, you may realise it in another, I would now present it as a gift of grace. “For by grace are ye saved,” (Eph 2:8). “The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord,” (Rom 6:23). “For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life,” (John 3:16). “Here,” says one of the English Reformers, “God, who is infinite and unspeakable, gives after such a manner as passeth all things. For that which He gives He gives not as the wages of desert, but of mere love. This sort of giving, which has its spring in love, makes this gift more excellent and precious. And the words of Christ are plain that God loveth us. And as God, the Giver, is exceedingly great, so is the gift that He giveth, which is His only Son. Let us understand that God is not said to be angry with the world, but to love it in that He gave His Son for it. God is merciful to us and loveth us, and of very love gave His Son unto us, that we should not perish, but have everlasting life. And as God giveth by love and mercy, so do we take and receive by faith and not otherwise. Faith only-that is, trust in the mercy and grace of God-is the very hand by which we take this gift. This gift is given to make us safe from death and sin. And it is bestowed upon the world, and the world signifies all mankind. Why shouldest thou not suffer thyself to be of this name, seeing that Christ with plain words saith, that God gave not His Son only for Mary, Peter, and Paul, but for the world, that all should receive Him that are the sons of men? Then if thou or I should receive Him as if He did not appertain to us, truly it would consequently follow that Christ’s words are not true, whereas He saith He was given and delivered for the world. Wherefore hereof appears that the contrary thereto is most assuredly true, that this gift belongs as well unto thee as to Peter and Paul, forasmuch as thou also art a man as they were, and a portion of the world…
“Whatsoever I am, God is not to be taken as unfaithful to His promise. I am a portion of the world; wherefore if I take not this gift as mine, I make God untrue. But thou wilt say, ‘Why does He not shew this to me alone? Then I would believe and think surely that it appertained to me.’ But it is for a great consideration that God speaks here so generally, to the intent, verily, that no man should think that he is excluded from this promise and gift. He that excludes himself must give an account why he does so. ‘I will not judge them,’ saith He, ‘but they shall be judged of their own mouth’…We are saved, then, only by the mercy of God, and we obtain this grace only by faith, without virtue, without merits, and without works. For the whole matter, that is necessary to the getting of everlasting life and remission of sins, is altogether and fully comprehended in the love and mercy of God through Christ.”7
“Blessed be God our God!
Who gave for us His well-beloved Son,
His gift of gifts, all other gifts in one.
Blessed be God our God!
“He spared not His Son!
‘Tis this that silences each rising fear,
‘Tis this that bids the hard thought disappear;
He spared not His Son!”
“I must say,” wrote Dr Chalmers in a letter to a friend, “that I never had so close and satisfactory a view of the gospel salvation as when I have been led to contemplate it in the light of a simple offer on the one side, and a simple acceptance on the other. It is just saying to one and all of us, ‘There is forgiveness through the blood of my Son: take it;’- and whoever believes the reality of the offer takes it. It is not in any shape the reward of our own services;…it is the gift of God through Jesus Christ our Lord. It is not given because you are worthy to receive it, but because it is a gift worthy of our kind and reconciled Father to bestow. We are apt to stagger at the greatness of the unmerited offer, and cannot attach faith to it till we have made up some title of our own. This leads to two mischievous consequences. It keeps alive the presumption of one class of Christians, who will still be thinking that it is something in themselves and of themselves which confers upon them a right to salvation, and it confirms the melancholy of another class, who look into their own hearts and their own lives, and find that they cannot make out a shadow of a title to the divine favour. The error of both lies in their looking to themselves when they should be looking to the Saviour. ‘Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth.’
“The Son of man was so lifted up that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life, (John 3:14,15). It is your part simply to lay hold of the proffered boon. You are invited to do so; you are entreated to do so; nay, what is more, you are commanded to do so. It is true you are unworthy, and without holiness no man can see God; but be not afraid, only believe! You cannot get holiness of yourself, but Christ has undertaken to provide it for you. It is one of those spiritual blessings of which He has the dispensation, and which He has promised to all who believe in Him. God has promised that with His Son He will freely give you all things, (Rom 8:32),-that He will walk in you, and dwell in you, (2 Cor 6:16),-that He will purify your heart by faith, (Acts 15:9),-that He will put His law in your heart, and write it in your mind, (Heb 8:10).
“If I were to come as an accredited agent from the upper sanctuary, with a letter of invitation to you, with your name and address on it, you would not doubt your warrant to accept it. Well, here is the Bible, your invitation to come to Christ. It does not bear your name and address, but it says ‘Whosoever’-that takes you in; it says ‘all’-that takes you in; it says if ‘any’-that takes you in. What can be surer or freer than that?”
“We glory,” says old Traill of London, “in any name of reproach of Christ that is cast upon us for asserting the absolute boundless freedom of the grace of God, which excludes all merit, and everything like it; the absoluteness of the covenant of grace, for the covenant of redemption was plainly and strictly a conditional one and the noblest of all conditions was in it. The Son of God’s taking on Him man’s nature, and offering it in sacrifice, was the strict condition of all the glory and reward promised to Christ and His seed, (Isa 53:10,11), wherein all things are freely promised, and that faith that is required for sealing a man’s interest in the covenant is promised in it, and wrought by the grace of it, (Eph 2:8). That faith at first is wrought by, and acts upon, a full and absolute offer of Christ, and of all His fulness; an offer that hath no condition in it, but that native one to all offers, acceptance: and in the very act of this acceptance, the acceptor doth expressly disclaim all things in himself, but sinfulness and misery.
“That faith in Jesus Christ doth justify (although, by the way, it is to be noted that it is never written in the Word that faith justifieth actively, but always passively, that a man is justified by faith, and that God justifieth men by and through faith, yet admitting the phrase) only as a mere instrument, receiving that imputed righteousness of Christ for which we are justified; and that this faith, in the office of justification, is neither condition, nor qualification, nor our gospel righteousness, but in its very act a renouncing of all such pretences.
“We proclaim the market of grace to be free, (Isa 4:1-3). It is Christ’s last offer and lowest, (Rev 22:17). If there be any price or money spoken of, it is no price, no money. And where such are the terms and conditions, if we be forced to call them so, we must say, that they look more like a renouncing, than a boasting of any qualifications or conditions. Surely the terms of the gospel bargain are: God’s free giving, and our free taking and receiving.”
It is quite natural for us, born as we are, under the law, and brought up under the restraining influences of religion and civilisation, to suppose that we can be saved only by conforming to certain rules and implementing certain conditions. It is difficult to lay aside the performing of all duties as a means of being accepted graciously by God, and to submit to be sought and saved simply as lost sinners, by a loving Redeemer, who delivers us from guilt, corruption, and perdition, “without money and without price,” (Isa 55:1).
An eminent writer of last century says truly:-“The gospel is much clouded by legal terms, conditions, and qualifications. If my doctrine were: Upon condition that you did so and so-that you believe, and repent, and mourn, and pray, and obey, and the like-then you shall have the favour of God-I dare not for my life say that is the gospel. But the gospel I desire to preach to you is: Will you have a Christ to work faith, repentance, love, and all good in you, and to stand between you and the sword of Divine wrath? Here there is no room for you to object that you are not qualified, because you are such a hardened, unhumbled, blind, and stupid wretch. For the question is not: Will you remove these evils, and then come to Christ? but, Will you have a Christ to remove them for you? It is because you are plagued with these diseases that I call you to come to the Physician that He may heal them. Are you guilty? I offer Him unto you for righteousness. Are you polluted? I offer Him unto you for sanctification. Are you miserable and forlorn? I offer Him as made of God unto you complete redemption. Are you hard-hearted? I offer Him in that promise, ‘I will take away the heart of stone,’ (Ezek 36:26). Are you content that He break your hard heart? Come, then, and put your hard heart into His hand.”
“I’ve found the pearl of greatest price!
My heart doth sing for joy;
And sing I must, A Christ I have!
Oh what a Christ have I!
“My Christ He is the Lord of lords,
He is the King of kings;
He is the Sun of Righteousness,
With healing in His wings.
“My Christ He is the Tree of Life,
Which in God’s garden grows;
Whose fruits do feed, whose leaves do heal;
My Christ is Sharon’s Rose.
“Christ is my meat, Christ is my drink,
My medicine and my health;
My peace, my strength, my joy,
My crown, my glory, and my wealth.”
VI. THE BLOOD OF JESUS, OUR ONLY GROUND OF PEACE WITH GOD
When you, who are anxious about your soul, are hearing much prayer offered by Christians for the Holy Spirit, you may conclude that the first thing you also have to do is to pray for the Holy Spirit; but Jesus Himself sets you right in this matter when He says, “This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent,” (John 6:29). If you desire to do this at the throne of grace, by all means repair thither, but do not go to it to do anything else at present. Believers in Jesus pray “in the Holy Ghost” (Jude 20) that He may revive the work of God in themselves and in their fellow-believers,-lead awakened souls to Jesus,-and convince sinners of their wickedness and unbelief; but as your only foundation for peace, pardon, purity, and glory, is to be found in the blood-shedding of Jesus, your more immediate occupation is to “behold the Lamb of God,” (John 1:29). No doubt, the quickening presence of the Holy Spirit is most essential to your seeing Jesus to the saving of your soul, and you should by all means expect His gracious presence to be vouchsafed as you contemplate the crucified Redeemer; but it is unscriptural to seek the sanctification of your heart through the Spirit before the justification of your person through Christ, and it is equally unscriptural to mix the two, and depend partly on the one and partly on the other; for Jesus, and Jesus only, is the object on which your anxious eyes must rest for peace with God and a change of heart. “It is Christ that died,” (Rom 8:34); and the Spirit’s office is to direct you to Him who said on Calvary, “It is finished” (John 19:30). It is nowhere written in Scripture: The work of God’s Holy Spirit cleanseth us from sin; but it is written that “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin,” (1 John 1:7). What you are called upon, then, more especially to do, is to receive Jesus as your Redeemer, that you may “have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace,” (Eph 1:7); for it is written, “As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name, (John 1:12).
We are not required to be prepared as sons, and then come and be accepted of God; be justified, and have our sins pardoned through JESUS; but we are instructed to come to Jesus in order to our being justified freely by His grace, and made sons through living union with Him who is the eternal Son of God. We are justified freely as sinners and being thus accepted in the Beloved, we become sons of God, and have the nature, experience, and walk of His children. Awakened sinner! begin at the beginning of the alphabet of salvation, by looking upon Him who was pierced on Calvary’s cross for our sins-look to the Lamb of God, and keep continually looking unto Jesus, and not at your repentings, resolutions, reformation, praying, reading, hearing, or anything of yours as forming any reason why you should be accepted, pardoned, and saved-and you will soon find peace, and take your place among them that “worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh,” (Phil 3:3).
I do not know a more striking illustration of salvation by the blood of Jesus alone, than that which is furnished by the sprinkling of the blood of the passover lamb on the homes of the Israelites, on the eve of their redemption from the bondage of Egypt. The blood on the lintel secured Israel’s peace.
There was nothing more required in order to enjoy settled peace, in reference to the destroying angel, than the application of “the blood of sprinkling.” God did not add anything to the blood, because nothing more was necessary to obtain salvation from the sword of judgment. He did not say, “When I see the blood and the unleavened bread or bitter herbs, I will pass over.” By no means. These things had their proper place, and their proper value; but they never could be regarded as the ground of peace in the presence of God.
“It is most needful to be simple and clear as to what it is which constitutes the ground-work of peace. So many things are mixed up with the work of Christ, that souls are plunged in darkness and uncertainty as to their acceptance. They know that there is no other way of being saved but by the blood of Christ; but the devils know this, and it avails them nought. What is needed is to know that we are saved-absolutely, perfectly, eternally saved. There is no such thing as being partly saved and partly lost; partly justified and partly guilty; partly alive and partly dead, partly born of God and partly not. There are but the two states, and we must be in either the one or the other.
“The Israelite was not partly sheltered by the blood, and partly exposed to the sword of the destroyer. He knew he was safe. He did not hope so. He was not praying to be so. He was perfectly safe. And why? Because God hath said, ‘When I see the blood, I will pass over you,’ (Exod 12:13). He simply rested upon God’s testimony about the shed blood. He set to his seal that God was true. He believed that God meant what He said, and that gave him peace. He was able to take his place at the paschal-feast in confidence, quietness, and assurance, knowing that the destroyer could not touch him, when a spotless victim had died in his stead.
“If an Israelite had been asked as to his enjoyment of peace, Would he have said, ‘I know there is no other way of escape but by the blood of the lamb; and I know it is a divinely perfect way; and, moreover, I know that that blood has been shed and sprinkled on my door-post; but somehow, I do not feel quite comfortable. I am not quite sure if I am safe. I fear I do not value the blood as I ought, nor love the God of my fathers as I ought?’ Would such have been his answer? Assuredly not. And yet hundreds of professing Christians speak thus, when asked if they have peace. They put their thoughts about the blood in place of the blood itself, and thus, in result, make salvation as much dependent upon themselves as if they were to be saved by works.
“Now, the Israelite was saved by the blood alone, and not by his thoughts about it. His thoughts might be deep or they might be shallow; but, deep or shallow, they had nothing to do with his safety. He was not saved by his thoughts or feelings, but by the blood. God did not say, ‘When you see the blood, I will pass over you.’ No; but, ‘When I see the blood.’ What gave an Israelite peace was the fact that Jehovah’s eye rested on the blood. This tranquillised his heart. The blood was outside, and the Israelite inside, so that he could not possibly see it; but God saw it, and that was quite enough.
“The application of this to the question of a sinner’s peace is very plain. Christ, having shed His blood as a perfect atonement for sin, has taken it into the presence of God and sprinkled it there; and God’s testimony assures the believer that everything is settled on his behalf. All the claims of justice have been fully answered, sin has been perfectly put away, so that the full tide of redeeming love may roll down from the heart of God, along the channel which the sacrifice of Christ has opened for it.
“To this truth the Holy Ghost bears witness. He ever sets forth the fact of God’s estimate of the blood of Christ. He points the sinner’s eye to the accomplished work of the cross. He declares that all is done; that sin has been put far away, and righteousness brought nigh-so nigh, that it is ‘to all them that believe,’ (Rom 3:22). Believe what? Believe what God says, because He says it, not because they feel it.
“Now, we are constantly prone to look at something in ourselves as necessary to form the ground of peace. We are apt to regard the work of the Spirit in us rather than the work of Christ for us, as the foundation of our peace. This is a mistake. We know that the operations of the Spirit of God have their proper place in Christianity; but His work is never set forth as that on which our peace depends. The Holy Ghost did not make peace; but Christ did: the Holy Ghost is not said to be our peace; but Christ is. God did not send ‘preaching peace’ by the Holy Ghost, but ‘by Jesus Christ,’ (Acts 10:36; Eph 2:14,17; Col 1:20).
“The Holy Ghost reveals Christ; He makes us to know, enjoy, and feed upon Christ. He bears witness to Christ, takes of the things of Christ, and shews them unto us. He is the power of communion, the seal, the witness, the earnest, the unction. In short, His operations are essential. Without Him, we can neither see, hear, know, feel, experience, enjoy nor exhibit aught of Christ. This is plain, and is understood and admitted by every true and rightly-instructed Christian.
“Yet, notwithstanding all this, the work of the Spirit is not the ground of peace, though He enables us to enjoy the peace. He is not our title, though He reveals our title, and enables us to enjoy it. The Holy Ghost is still carrying on His work in the soul of the believer. He ‘maketh intercession with groanings which cannot be uttered,’ (Rom 8:26). He labours to bring us into more entire conformity to the Lord Jesus Christ. His aim is ‘to present every man perfect in Christ,’ (Col 1:28). He is the author of every right desire, every holy aspiration, every pure and heavenly affection, every divine experience, but His work in and with us will not be complete until we have left this present scene, and taken our place with Christ in the glory. Just as in the case of Abraham’s servant, his work was not complete until he presented Rebekah to Isaac.
“Not so the work of Christ for us; that is absolutely and eternally complete. He could say, ‘I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do,’ (John 17:4); and, again, ‘IT IS FINISHED,’ (John 19:30). The blessed Spirit cannot yet say He has finished the work. He has been patiently and faithfully working for the last nineteen hundred years as the true-the Divine Vicar of Christ on earth. He still works amidst the various hostile influences which surround the sphere of His operations. He still works in the hearts of the people of God, in order to bring them up, practically and experimentally, to the divinely-appointed standard; but He never teaches a soul to lean on His work for peace in the presence of divine holiness. His office is to speak of Jesus. He does not speak of Himself. ‘He,’ says Christ, ‘shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you,’ (John 16:4). He can only present Christ’s work as the solid basis on which the soul must rest for ever. Yea, it is on the ground of Christ’s perfect atonement that He takes up His abode and carries on His operations in the believer. ‘In whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise,’ (Eph 1:13). No power or energy of the Holy Ghost could cancel sin; the blood has done that. ‘The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin,’ (1 John 1:7).
“It is of the utmost importance to distinguish between the Spirit’s work in us and Christ’s work for us. Where they are confounded, one rarely finds settled peace as to the question of sin. The type of the passover illustrates the distinction very simply. The Israelite’s peace was not founded upon the unleavened bread or the bitter herbs, but upon the blood. Nor was it, by any means, a question of what he thought about the blood, but what God thought about it. This gives immense relief and comfort to the heart. God has found a ransom, and He reveals that ransom to us sinners in order that we might rest therein, on the authority of His word, and by the grace of His Spirit. And although our thoughts and feelings must ever fall far short of the infinite preciousness of that ransom, yet, inasmuch as God tells us that He is perfectly satisfied about our sins, we may be satisfied also. Our conscience may well find settled rest where God’s holiness finds rest.
“Beloved reader, if you have not as yet found peace in Jesus, we pray you to ponder this deeply. See the simplicity of the ground on which your peace is to rest. God is well pleased in the finished work of Christ-‘well pleased for His righteousness sake,’ (Isaiah 42:21). That righteousness is not founded upon your feelings or experience, but upon the shed blood of the Lamb of God; and hence your peace is not dependent upon your feelings or experience, but upon the same precious blood which is of changeless efficacy and changeless value in the judgment of God.
“What then remains for the believer? To what is he called? To keep the feast of unleavened bread, by putting away everything contrary to the hallowed purity of his elevated position. It is his privilege to feed upon that precious Christ whose blood has cancelled all his guilt. Being assured that the sword of the destroyer cannot touch him, because it has fallen upon Christ instead, it is for him to feast in holy repose within the blood-stricken door, under the perfect shelter which God’s own love has provided in the blood of the cross. May God the Holy Ghost lead every doubting, wavering heart to find rest in the divine testimony contained in those words, ‘When I see the blood, I will pass over you,’ (Exod 13:13).”
Until I saw the blood, ‘twas hell my soul was fearing;
And dark and dreary in my eyes the future was appearing,
While conscience told its tale of sin,
And caused a weight of woe within.
But when I saw the blood, and look’d at Him who shed it,
My right to peace was seen at once, and I with transport read it;
I found myself to God brought nigh,
And “Victory” became my cry.
My joy was in the blood, the news of which had told me,
That spotless as the Lamb of God, my Father could behold me,
And all my boast was in His name,
Through whom this great salvation came.
And when, with golden harps, the throne of God surrounding,
The white-robed saints around the throne their songs of joy are sounding;
With them I’ll praise that precious blood,
‘Which has redeem’d our souls to God.
VII. REGENERATION THROUGH THE BLOOD OF JESUS
Dear reader, Jesus spoke of regeneration as essential to salvation; and it is possible you may feel as if that experience stood between you and the “precious blood of Christ” (1 Pet 1:19). It seems as if it did, but it does not; for we are saved by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost, which is “shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour” (Titus 3:6). It can do you only good to consider the necessity of being born again, for it will shew you at once your utter helplessness and the all-sufficiency of the blood of JESUS alone to give you peace with God and a new heart. We do not shrink from the fullest statement of the truth of Scripture on this point, for it will be found that it does not clash in the very least with the truth, which I am specially desirous to impart, that we are not accepted as righteous in God’s sight otherwise than in Christ; for, says the Word, “He made Him to be sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” The necessity of being born again will shew us only the more clearly that we must be saved by faith in Jesus Christ alone. Turn to and read the third chapter of the Gospel by John, and then ponder the following thoughts on this vitally important subject, and see how you are stripped of every plea for mercy arising from yourself, and laid down as a lost sinner at the cross of Christ, needing to be saved by “grace” alone.
Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God, asserts the absolute necessity of regeneration, when He says, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). And farther on, He says, as solemnly and decidedly, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). And He gives a fact as the reason of this necessity: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh” (John 3:6). “Flesh,” or corrupt human nature-man as he is-is unfit to enter God’s kingdom, and will ever continue so. No self-regeneration is to be expected. The total depravity of human nature renders a radical spiritual change of absolute necessity. The whole race, and every individual “man,” is utterly depraved in heart, his will averse from good, his conscience is defiled, his understanding is darkened, his affections are alienated from God and set upon unworthy objects, his desires are corrupt, his appetites ungoverned; and, unless the Holy Spirit impart a new nature, and work an entire change on the whole faculties of his mind by “the washing of water through the word,” cleansing away his filthiness of spirit as water cleanses away outward defilement, he must remain an unfit subject for God’s holy kingdom.
And observe that Jesus spoke of two classes only-those who are “fleshy,” and those who are “spiritual.” We are naturally connected-as are all mankind-with those who are “born of the flesh,” who, on that very account, cannot even so much as “see the kingdom of God”; and we can get out of our natural state only by a spiritual birth; for only “that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6). All of us being born of parents who were themselves fallen and corrupt, are necessarily infected by the hereditary taint of depravity of nature; and, besides, “the carnal mind is enmity against God, and is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom 8:7,8), and cannot enter into His kingdom. Attempts at morality are of no account with God. A moral Nicodemus was told he required something deeper and more comprehensive than conformity to a certain standard which passes with the world for morality. God’s standard of holiness is not morality, but spirituality.
But some may say that, by publishing such extreme views, we may make many well-meaning persons feel disgusted at religion, and go off from it altogether.
But it is not our fault if they do so on account of the insufferableness of Divine truth. Are you convinced that Scripture is right when it says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jer 17:9)? Do you believe that, as a man in the flesh, you are more like Satan than God?-incapable of knowing, loving, or serving God, and although in reputation for the highest morality, utterly unfit for entering into His holy kingdom?
It is, no doubt, hard to believe that one’s own self is so bad as I have indicated, and none but the Holy Spirit can truly convince us of it; but does not Jesus represent our condition as utterly depraved-as “flesh? ” Does He not solemnly say, that without a new birth from above, not one-no, not even a moral, learned, inquiring Nicodemus-can see or enter the kingdom of God? He does not say that he may not, but that he cannot, enter-leaving it to be inferred that it is morally impossible. And this arises from the fact of its being a kingdom, as well as from the fact of our depravity. An anarchist has a decided dislike to constitutional and settled government; so a man, who hates the laws by which God’s kingdom is governed, cannot be a loyal subject of His holy administration. God would require to change His nature before He admitted any of us into His kingdom with our nature unchanged. But as God cannot change, we must be changed, if we would see or enter His kingdom. Before we can be happy and loyal subjects of it, we must be “born again”; and, being new creatures, have its laws written in our minds and hearts.
Besides, as a professor in one of our colleges has well remarked, “It is a principle of our nature that, in order to happiness, there must be some correspondence betwixt the tastes, the dispositions, the habits of a man, and the scene in which he is placed, the society with which he mingles, and the services in which he is employed. A coward on the field of battle, a profligate in the house of prayer, a giddy worldling standing by a death-bed, a drunkard in the company of holy men, feel instinctively that they are misplaced-they have no enjoyment there.” And what enjoyment could unregenerate men have in God’s kingdom, on earth, or in heaven?8 Even the outward services of the sanctuary below are distasteful to them, in proportion to their spirituality. As long as preachers keep by the pictorial and illustrative-and speak of the seasons of the year, the beautiful earth, and the ancient sea, mountains and plains, rivers and lakes, fields, flowers and fruits, sun, moon, and stars-they comprehend the discourse and applaud it; but when the deeply spiritual and eternally important form the theme, they feel listless, and characterize it as dull, prosy, and uninteresting. But if we cannot enjoy a highly spiritual discourse, it must be because we are “carnal,” and want the spiritual “sense” which always accompanies the new birth; for “the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor 2:14).
And is it not an alarming truth, that this being “BORN AGAIN” is not a making of ourselves better, but a being made anew spiritually by God himself! This appears evident from what Jesus said during His conversation with Nicodemus. His words are these, “Except a man be born of water and of THE SPIRIT, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). This great change is effected by the Holy Spirit, through means of the living “water” of the Word of God-the testimony of Jesus-and is of a spiritual nature, “for that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” It consists not in outward reformation, but inward transformation. We must be regenerated in soul in order to be truly reformed in life. The change is of such a nature that it is sure to be manifested outwardly if it exist inwardly. If you wish to have a holy life, you must be born again. Praying, weeping, striving against sin, and obeying God’s laws, is just so much labour lost, unless you have in the first place this “born-again” experience.
Ah! but you say, as you read this hard saying, This lays me entirely prostrate before God, a sick and dying sinner; and I may give myself up to despair at once, for such an experience is utterly beyond my reach.
No, not at all! You may well despair of self, for self is incurably bad, but you are by this shut up to trust in “Jesus only” (Mark 9:8). For, remember, Jesus continued to lay before this Jewish ruler atonement through Himself, lifted up as a Mediator, and God’s free love to a perishing world, embodied in the gift and work of His Son. You want to be born again? Well, Jesus would have you look to the Son of man lifted up, as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, and you will thus be pardoned and made to live. You say you are prostrated and helpless-with the poison of the serpent coursing through you-sick and dying, and you want to live-to experience such a new life as shall prove not only a present counteractive to the virus of this terrible death-poison, but also an enduring spiritual reality? Well, Jesus says, in this conversation with the inquiring ruler, that “God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
God sent His Son not to condemn the perishing men of the world to lie in their corrupt and diseased condition, and perish for ever, but that He Himself might die that they might be pardoned and saved! And those who are recovered from the disease of corruption, tell us that they were “born again,” not by lying in their corruption and crying for a new nature, and expecting it to come in some arbitrary and different way from that of faith; but their uniform testimony is, “Of His own will begat He us with the word of truth” (James 1:18); we are new creatures, “being born again by the word of God” (1 Pet 1:23); and “whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God” (1 John 5:1).9 The realization of regeneration being by faith in Jesus, you must fill your eyes with the atoning cross if you would have your guilt removed, and you must direct your eyes to the risen Living One at the right hand of God, and through Him get out of the old creation with its condemnation and death, into the new creation with its justification and life, if you would know what it is to be “born again,” and have your heart filled with divine life (See Rom 6 and Eph 2). This is the truth which Jesus taught in His conversation with Nicodemus; and the whole drift of the Gospel in which it occurs is a copy of the mind of Christ on this point; for the writer says, towards its close, “These are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through His name” (John 20:31).
If you still feel that you know nothing of being “born again,” bring your mind into broad and immediate contact with THE WHOLE of this conversation. Do not close the book and moan over the misery of your state, as it is now discovered to you by the awakening truths contained from verses 3 through 9; but go on until you take in the discovery of the plain, gracious, free, and righteous way of getting out of your death and misery, as you have it laid down by Jesus, when He speaks (from the fourteenth to the seventeenth verse) of His own all-sufficient sacrifice, and His Father’s unexampled love and gracious purpose towards perishing sinners, and His willingness to save and give eternal life to every one who believes in Him. “He that hath the Son hath life” (1 John 5:12).
VIII. FAITH IN THE BLOOD OF JESUS ESSENTIAL TO SALVATION
It is our belief of God’s testimony concerning His own grace and Christ’s work that brings us into possession of the blessings concerning which that testimony speaks. Our reception of God’s testimony is confidence in God Himself, and in Christ Jesus His Son; for where the testimony comes from a person or regards a person, belief of the testimony and confidence in the person are things inseparable. Hence it is that Scripture sometimes speaks of confidence or trust as saving us, (see the Psalms everywhere, e.g., 13:5, 52:8; also 1 Tim 4:10, Eph 1:12), as if it would say to the sinner, “Such is the gracious character of God, that you have only to put your case into His hands, however bad it be-only to trust Him for eternal life-and He will assuredly not put you to shame.” Hence, also, it is that we are said to be saved by the knowledge of God or of Christ; that is, by simply knowing God as He has made Himself known to us, (Isa 5:3,11; 1 Tim 2:4; 2 Pet 2:20); for “this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent,” (John 17:2). And as if to make simplicity more simple, the apostle, in speaking of the facts of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection, says, “By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you,” (1 Cor 15:1,2).
God would have us understand that the way in which we become connected with Christ so as to get eternal life is by “knowing” Him, or “hearing” Him-“trusting” Him. The testimony is inseparably linked to the person testified of; and our connexion with the testimony, by belief of it, thus links us to the person. Thus it is that faith forms the bond between us and the Son of God, not because of anything in itself, but solely because it is only through the medium of truth known and believed that the soul can take any hold of God or of Christ. Faith is nothing, save as it lays hold of Christ, and it does so by laying hold of the truth concerning Him. “By grace are ye saved THROUGH FAITH; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,” (Eph 2:8).
Faith, then, is the link, the one link between the sinner and God’s gift of pardon and life. It is not faith, and something else along with it; it is faith alone; faith that takes God at His word, and gives Him credit for speaking the honest truth when making known His message of grace-His “record” of eternal life concerning “the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world,” (John 1:29).
“If you object that you cannot believe, then this indicates that you are proceeding quite in a wrong direction. You are still laboring under the idea that this believing is a work to be done by you, and not the acknowledgment of a work done by another. You would fain do something in order to get peace, and you think that if you could only do this great thing, ‘believing’-if you could but perform this great act called faith-God would at once reward you by giving you peace. Thus faith is reckoned by you to be the price in the sinner’s hand by which he buys peace, and not the mere holding out of the hand to get a peace which has already been bought by another. So long as you are attaching any meritorious importance to faith, however unconsciously, you are moving in a wrong direction-a direction from which no peace can come.
Surely faith is not a work. On the contrary, it is a ceasing from work. It is not a climbing of the mountain, but a ceasing to attempt it, and allowing Christ to carry you up in His own arms. You seem to think that it is your own act of faith that is to save you, and not the object of your faith, without which your own act, however well performed, is nothing. Accordingly, you bethink yourself, and say, ‘What a mighty work is this believing-what an effort does it require on my part-how am I to perform it?’ Herein you sadly err, and your mistake lies chiefly here, in supposing that your peace is to come from the proper performance on your part of an act of faith, whereas it is to come entirely from the proper perception of Him to whom the Father is pointing your eye, and in regard to whom He is saying, ‘Behold my servant whom I have chosen, look at Him, forget everything else-everything about yourself, your own faith, your own repentance, your own feelings-and look at Him!’ It is in Him, and not in your poor act of faith, that salvation lies, and out of Him, not out of your own act of faith, is peace to come.
“Thus mistaking the meaning of faith, and the way in which faith saves you, you get into confusion, and mistake everything else connected with your peace. You mistake the real nature of that very inability to believe of which you complain so sadly. For that inability does no lie, as you fancy it does, in the impossibility of your performing aright this great act of faith, but of ceasing from all such self-righteous attempts to perform any act, or do any work whatsoever, in order to your being saved. So that the real truth is, that you have not yet seen such a sufficiency in the one great work of the Son of God upon the cross, as to lead you utterly to discontinue your mistaken and aimless efforts to work out something of your own. As soon as the Holy Spirit shews you have this entire sufficiency of the great propitiation, you cease at once from these attempts to act or work something of your own, and take, instead of this, what Christ has done. One great part of the Spirit’s work is, not to enable the man to do something which will help to save him, but so to detach him from his own performances, that he shall be content with the salvation which Christ finished when He died and rose again.
“But perhaps you may object further, that you are not satisfied with your faith. No, truly, nor are you ever likely to be. If you wait for this before you take peace, you will wait till life is done. The Bible does not say, ‘Being satisfied about our faith, we have peace with God;’ it simply says, ‘Being justified by faith, we have peace with God,’ (Rom 5:1). Not satisfaction with your own faith, but satisfaction with Jesus and His work-this is what God presses on you. You say, ‘I am satisfied with Christ.’ Are you? What more, then do you wish? Is not satisfaction with Christ enough for you, or for any sinner? Nay, and is not this the truest kind of faith? To be satisfied with Christ, that is faith in Christ. To be satisfied with His blood, that is faith in His blood. What more could you have? Can your faith give you something which Christ cannot? or will Christ give you nothing till you can produce faith of a certain kind and quality, whose excellences will entitle you to blessing? Do not bewilder yourself. Do not suppose that your faith is a price, or a bribe, or a merit. Is not the very essence of real faith just your being satisfied with Christ? Are you really satisfied with Him, and with what He has done? Then do not puzzle yourself about your faith, but go upon your way rejoicing, having thus been brought to be satisfied with Him, whom to know is peace, and life, and salvation.
“You are not satisfied with your faith, you say. I am glad that you are not. Had you been so, you would have been far out of the way indeed. Does Scripture anywhere speak of your getting peace by your becoming satisfied with your faith? Nay does it not take for granted that you will, to the very last, be dissatisfied with yourself, with your faith, with all about you and within you, and satisfied with Jesus only? Are you then satisfied with Him? Then go in peace. For if satisfaction with Him will not give you peace, nothing else that either heaven or earth contains will ever give you peace. Though your faith should become so perfect that you were entirely satisfied with it, that would not pacify your conscience or relieve your fears. Faith, however perfect, has of itself nothing to give you, either of pardon or of life. Its finger points you to Jesus. Its voice bids you look straight to Him. Its object is to turn away from itself and from yourself altogether, that you may behold Him, and in beholding Him be satisfied with Him; and, in being satisfied with Him have ‘joy and peace.’”10
“Faith is not what we feel or see, it is a simple trust
In what the God of Love has said, of JESUS, as the ‘Just.’
What JESUS is, and that alone, is faith’s delightful plea,
It never deals with sinful self, nor righteous self, in me.
It tells me I am counted ‘dead,’ by God, in His own Word,
It tells me I am ‘born again,’ in CHRIST, my risen Lord.
If He is free, then I am free, from all unrighteousness;
If He is just, then I am just, He is MY righteousness.”
IX. THE BLOOD OF JESUS THE BELIEVER’S LIFE AND PEACE
I now leave off addressing myself specially to the unconverted awakened, that I may lay a few thoughts before brethren in Christ who are awakening to a deeper sense of their obligations and responsibilities.
We are living in a most important era of our world’s history! How melancholy the condition, and how ominous of evil the attitude of earth’s nations! Warlike powers confront each other, and the blood of their embattled hosts is shed in torrents! How persevering and successful is man in carrying forward his gigantic schemes and favourite movements! Strange is it also, that an all but universal cry for regeneration among earth’s nations should be made simultaneously with a cry for the Holy Ghost to achieve for the professing Church a mighty spiritual revival.
We cannot help being stimulated in our exertions for the cause of Christ, by contiguity to unceasing earthly activity manifested on every side; but were this our only incentive to action, our zeal would be spurious; for all effort and activity in promoting the gospel which are the offspring of mere imitation, and originate only in proximity to the activity displayed by the world, instead of being based on personal faith in Christ and living communion with God, form nothing higher and nothing better than “a fair show in the flesh.”
But we have reason to believe that a mighty breath of the Divine Spirit is now passing over the earth. The Church of the living God, scattered throughout the different denominations, has been feeling its influence; and the result of His gracious presence and quickening power is appearing in greatly increased religious activity and zeal for the conversion of souls. This is matter for thankfulness. We need to have a renewal of our youth that we may be healthy, fresh, and vigorous to engage energetically in the great work that is to be done for God in these eventful days that are now passing over us. And let us ever bear in mind that the grand prerequisite to thorough usefulness is, that we ourselves should be “strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height, and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God,” (Eph 3:16-19). If we would be filled with the grace of God and refreshed in our souls, it is essential, at such a time as the present, that we should constantly recall and deeply ponder the great foundation truths on which we rested at the time of our conversion. “Looking unto Jesus” (Heb 12:2) is the most refreshing exercise in which we can engage; and the shortest road to genuine spiritual revival is by the cross of Calvary.
When the Rev. W. H. Hewitson was on his deathbed, and had several texts illustrative of the faithfulness of God quoted to him by a friend, he remarked after his friend had withdrawn:-“Texts like these do not give me so much comfort, as ‘God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life,’ (John 3:16); or, ‘He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?’ (Rom 8:32). Plain doctrinal statements, exhibiting the heart of God, are more sustaining to me than mere promises. I like to get into contact with the living person.” This experience is very common in such circumstances. When the most intelligent Christian draws near to death, he feels that he can rest with confidence on nothing except the great elementary truths of God’s glorious gospel, and the living person of His risen Son. And when we are in a state of spiritual decay; when our “soul is full of troubles, and our life draweth nigh unto the grave,” (Ps 88:3); when our “spirit is overwhelmed, and our heart within us is desolate,” (Ps 113:4); there is nothing so reviving and invigorating as the leading fundamental truths of the gospel of Christ. The faithful saying, “that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief,” (1 Tim 1:15), is at once the means of reviving the Christian, and of giving life to the self-despairing sinner; for the gospel is “the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth,” (Rom 1:16). “None but Jesus” can avail us either for peace of conscience with reference to past transgressions, peace of heart with reference to present circumstances, or for peace of mind with reference to future prospects. This is not theory, but experience, as every child of God knows.
“I feel,” writes another, “that nothing can do me good but personal contact with the living person of the Lord Jesus. Looking at systems and creeds-doctrines and duties-may be all very well in its own place, but if I am to be a healthy, fruit-bearing Christian, I must look steadily and confidingly to the great High Priest who assumed our nature to bear our sins and win our confidence. When, by faith, we are enabled to fix a steady gaze on Jesus, how little do we care for the smile or frown of the world! ‘Looking unto Jesus’ enables the ‘worm Jacob’ to ‘thresh the mountains, and beat them small, and make the hills as chaff,’ (Isa 41:15). But I often feel that it is a very difficult matter to look away from myself, though I am sure I never get anything there to make me feel happy. No, all is in my Redeemer, and it is only when I am looking to Him as all my salvation that I feel satisfied, and think I could face death with composure.”
The late Lady Colquhoun was one who knew the preciousness and power of resting on Christ Jesus alone for peace, comfort, and salvation, and from personal experience she was “able to teach others also.” Writing to a young friend, she gave this excellent counsel:-“As well in our winters as our summers the foundation standeth sure-‘Christ is all.’ With Him is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. Precious truth! Let us rest upon it, and cease from the vain endeavour to find anything in us that can give the shadow of hope. Abiding hope must be fixed on the object that changeth not. We change daily, hourly. He remains glorious in holiness eternally. And this perfection is in the court of heaven our representative. Can we want more? Shall we say, I will add a few of my virtues and graces to the account? When we are guilty of this folly, we weary ourselves seeking for them, for they cannot be found, and our harp hangs upon the willows. But we resume the songs of Zion when we look entirely from ourselves to ‘the Lord our righteousness.’ How is it with you? Can you rejoice in the Lord always? If not, experience will teach you that living on frames and feelings will not do-that comfort ebbs and flows with them-and that you equally delude yourself when you take comfort from the feeling of nearness to God, or when you lose it because you lack that joy in devotional exercises, which is, nevertheless, extremely desirable, and much to be prized. This, however, is distinct from joy in Christ crucified, and in Christ our righteousness; and it is very possible to feel little heart for prayer, and to mourn an absent God, and yet to stand firm on the sure foundation, rejoicing in Christ, and never doubting that we are complete in Him.”
The reason why many real Christians are harassed with doubts, fears, and darkness, is that they leave off leaning entirely upon their beloved Saviour, and rest part of the weight of their souls’ eternal well-being on their own experience. The fruits of righteousness wrought in us by the grace of the Holy Spirit are precious as evidences, but they cannot be trusted as grounds of salvation, unless with much spiritual detriment to our souls. Leigh Richmond, writing to his mother, says:-“Your occasional doubts and fears arise from too much considering faith and repentance as the grounds, rather than the evidences, of salvation. Our salvation is not because we do well, but because ‘He in whom we trust hath done all things well.’ The believing sinner is never more happy and secure than when at the same moment, he beholds and feels his own vileness, and also his Saviour’s excellence. You look at yourself too much, and at the infinite price paid for you too little. For conviction you must look at yourself, but for comfort to your Saviour. Thus the wounded Israelites were to look only at the brazen serpent for recovery. The graces of the Spirit are good things for others to judge us by, but it is Christ Himself received, believed in, rested upon, loved, and followed, that will speak peace to ourselves. By looking unto Him we shall grow holy; and the more holy we grow, the more we shall mourn over sin, and be sensible how very far short we come of what we yet desire to be. While our sanctification is a gradual and still imperfect work, our justification is perfect and complete: the former is wrought in us, the latter for us. Rely simply as a worthless sinner on the Saviour, and the latter is all your own, with its accompanying blessings of pardon, acceptance, adoption, and the non-imputation of sin to your charge. Hence will flow thankful obedience, devotedness of heart, &c. This salvation is by faith alone, and thus saving faith works by love. Embrace these principles freely, fully, and impartially, and you will enjoy a truly scriptural peace, assurance and comfort.”
“For if Christ be born within, Soon that likeness shall appear
Which the heart had lost through sin, God’s own image fair and clear,
And the soul serene and bright, Mirrors back His heavenly light.”
X. FAITH IN THE BLOOD OF JESUS THE SPRING OF HOLINESS
It is noteworthy that the apostle Paul, who most strenuously upholds justification by faith in Jesus, always connects it with holy living, and frequently shews that it is the firm belief of the truth of the doctrine that leads to new obedience in the life. In his Epistle to Titus, after speaking of “Jesus Christ our Saviour,” and “being justified by His grace,” and “made heirs according to the hope of eternal life,” he directs that the doctrine of salvation by free grace alone should be affirmed constantly in order that believers might maintain good works, (Titus 3:4-8). And there can never be “good” works but on the principle of being “justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law,” (Gal 2:16). We never do good works until we do them because we are saved, not in order to be so. A lively sense of many sins forgiven will make us love much and shew it practically, (Luke 7:47). And we should have such a vital connexion with Christ, and such intimate fellowship with Him, as will exclude all surmisings as to our acceptance. If we are to render Paul-like service, we must exercise Paul-like experience. And this is a record of how he believed and lived: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me,” (Gal 2:20). We must be well assured of the love of God in Christ Jesus, to our own souls in particular, before we will be able to say, “This one thing I do: I strive to be holy as God is holy.” “Saving faith,” says one of the best of the old writers “has always a sanctifying and comforting influence. The true believer does not divide righteousness from sanctification, nor pardon from purity. Yea, he comes to Christ for the remission of sins for the right end; and that is, that being freed from the guilt of sin, we may be freed from the dominion of it. Knowing that there is forgiveness with Him that He might be feared, he does not believe in remission of sin that he may indulge himself in the commission of sin. No, no; the blood of Christ, that purges the conscience from the guilt of sin, does also purge the conscience from dead works, to serve the living God. They that come to Christ in a scriptural way come to Him for righteousness, that they may have Him also for sanctification; otherwise, the man does not really desire the favour and enjoyment of God, or to be in friendship with Him who is a holy God. The true believer employs Christ for making him holy as well as happy, and hence draws virtue from Him for killing sin, and quickening him in the way of duty. The faith that can never keep you from sin will never keep you out of hell; and the faith that cannot carry you to your duty will not carry you to heaven. Justifying faith is a sanctifying grace. It is true, as it sanctifies it does not justify; but that faith that justifies does also sanctify. As the sun that enlighteneth hath heat with it; but it is not the heat of the sun that enlightens, but the light therof; so that faith that justifies hath love and sanctity with it; but it is not the love and sanctity that justify, but faith as closing with Christ.
“If a man hath no faith in the Lord’s goodness, no hope of His favour in Christ, where is his purity and holiness? Nay, it is he that hath this hope that purifies himself as God is pure. I know not what experience you have but some of us know, that when our souls are most comforted and enlarged with the faith of God’s favour through Christ, and with the hope of His goodness, then we have most heart to our duties; and when, through unbelief, we have harsh thoughts of God as an angry judge, then we have no heart to duties and religious exercises; and I persuade myself this is the experience of the saints in all ages.” There is thus an inseparable connexion between our believing the love of God to us in Christ Jesus, holiness, and spiritual comfort. Unless we “draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith” we cannot expect to have “our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water,” (Heb 10:22).
And as the blood of Jesus is our ground of confidence in coming to God at the first for forgiveness of our sins, our mainstay in trouble, and the spring of all worthy obedience, so must it be our only plea in approaching our heavenly Father for all needed spiritual blessings. If we wish to have our own souls quickened and revived, or a great work of the Spirit achieved throughout the land, and millions of souls converted, the name of Jesus must be our only plea, as we come to plead for these blessings at the throne of grace. “In all true prayer,” says another, “great stress should be laid on the blood of Jesus: perhaps no evidence distinguishes a declension in the power and spirituality of prayer more strongly than an overlooking of this. Where the atoning blood is kept out of view, not recognised, not pleaded, not made the grand plea, there is a deficiency of power in prayer. Words are nothing, fluency of expression nothing, niceties of language and brilliancy of thought nothing, where the blood of Christ-the new and living way of access to God, the grand plea that moves Omnipotence, that gives admisssion within the holy of holies-is slighted, undervalued, and not made the groundwork of every petition. Oh, how much is this overlooked in our prayers-how is the atoning blood of Immanuel slighted! How little mention we hear of it in the sanctuary, in the pulpit, in the social circle! Whereas it is this that makes prayer what it is with God. All prayer is acceptable with God, and only so, as it comes up perfumed with the blood of Christ; all prayer is answered as it urges the blood of Christ as its plea; it is the blood of Christ that satisfies justice, and meets all the demands of the law against us; it is the blood of Christ that purchases and brings down every blessing into the soul; it is the blood of Christ that sues for the fulfilment of His last will and testament, every precious legacy of which comes to us solely on account of His death; this it is too that gives us boldness at the throne of grace. How can a poor sinner approach without this? How can he look up-how can he ask-how can he present himself before a holy God,-but as he brings in the hand of faith the precious blood of Jesus? Out of Christ, God can hold no communication with us;-all intercourse is suspended-every avenue of approach is closed-all blessing is withheld. God has crowned His dearly-beloved Son, and He will have us crown Him too; and never do we place a brighter crown upon His blessed head than when we plead His finished righteousness as the ground of our acceptance, and His atoning blood as our great argument for the bestowment of all blessing with God.
If, then dear reader, you feel yourself to be a poor, vile, unholy sinner-if a backslider, whose feet have wandered from the Lord, in whose soul the spirit of prayer has declined, and yet still feel some secret longing to return, and dare not, because so vile, so unholy, so backsliding; yet you may return, ‘having boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus,’ (Heb 10:19). Come, for the blood of Jesus pleads; return, for the blood of Jesus gives you welcome.” “If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous,” (1 John 2:1). And if you are stirred in spirit for the souls of the perishing around you that they may be saved, and for the work of God that it may be revived, make mention of THE BLOOD OF JESUS, and you may rest satisfied that you “have the petitions” that you “desired of him,” (1 John 5:15). Jesus has passed His word, that on doing this you shall obtain the desires of your heart; for He says, “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you,” (John 15:7). “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you…Ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full,” (John 16:23,24). If, then, there be no great revival of God’s work, no great awakening and conversion of perishing souls, may it not be because this sin lieth at our door, that we have not used the blood of Jesus as our all-prevailing plea in prayer? Oh! let us no longer employ that “precious blood” so sparingly in our pleadings for revival, but let us urge it as our only and our constant plea, and prove God herewith, whether He will not pour us out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it, (Mal 3:10).
XI. THE BLOOD OF JESUS THE ESSENCE OF THE GOSPEL
Our matured conviction is that the great thing needed at present is not so much revival sermons, or revival prayer-meetings, as REVIVAL TRUTH; and as the very essence of that truth is “the gospel of God concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord,” (Rom 1:1,2),-or, in other words, the testimony of the Holy Ghost (externally in the preaching of the Word, and internally in its spiritual application) to the all-sufficiency and infallible efficacy of “THE PRECIOUS BLOOD OF CHRIST,” (1 Pet 1:19),-that which is pre-eminently required in order to the general revival of religion is a full, clear, intelligent, and earnest utterance of the grand leading doctrines of “the gospel of the grace of God,” (Acts 20:24). True revival is not obtainable by merely preaching about revival, but by the constant proclamation of that all-important truth which is employed by the Holy Ghost to produce it,-that “Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God” (1 Pet 3:18). He will prove the most effective preacher in bringing about a holy, deep, spiritual revival, who gives the greatest prominence to these three great facts,-“That CHRIST DIED for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that He WAS BURIED; and that HE AROSE AGAIN the third day according to the Scriptures,” (1 Cor 15:3,4).
And I am convinced that the reason why so many ministers exhaust nearly all their converting power (I mean instrumentally) during the first few years of their ministry, while some continue to possess it, and finish their course with joy, is greatly owing to the former leaving the simplicity that is in Christ and betaking themselves to sermon-writing about secondary matters, while the latter make CHRIST CRUCIFIED their “Alpha and Omega.” Oh, that all the ministers of Jesus Christ would return, for a few months at least every year, to all the common texts from which they preached discourses which seemed to be so much blessed to awaken and save souls in the early days of their ministry! Were they to take a series of such texts as Matthew 11:28: John 3:16: Romans 1:16: 1 Corinthians 2:2; 1 Timothy 1:12-17; 1 John 1:7; and, after restudying them, and bringing all the light of their reading, spiritual insight, and experience to bear upon the exposition and enforcement of them, to preach from them with the Holy Ghost, and with a lively faith, that, by the grace of the Holy Spirit accompanying their preaching, the unconverted among their people would be immediately converted, there might be a great and general awakening, and tens of thousands might be added to the Lord.
It is also of vast importance to present “the truth of the gospel” as the Holy Ghost Himself has presented it to us in “the word of Christ,” (Col 3:16). It has been well said: “The derangement of God’s order of truth is quite as dangerous and far more subtle than the denial of the truth itself. In fact, to reverse the order is to deny the truth. We are not merely to maintain both Christ’s work and the Spirit’s work in their individual integrity, but in their exact scriptural order.” We believe that the refreshing truth, that “the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin,” (1 John 1:7), is the great central sun which sheds a flood of light on the whole system of divine revelation. Atonement by the blood-shedding of Christ is the substratum of Christianity; for the sole ground of a sinner’s peace with God is “THE BLOOD OF JESUS.” We who were at one time “far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ; for He is our peace,” (Eph 2:13,14), “in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins,” (Eph 1:7); and so, “being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood,” (Rom 3:24,25), “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God,” (Rom 5:1,2).
In the Westminster Assembly’s “Shorter Catechism,” which is considered by all orthodox people to be an excellent summary of Christian doctrine, you will find the very same truth stated which we have advanced and confirmed by the above quotations, and which we have been writing for publication almost daily for the last ten years.
The answer to the question in that Catechism, “What doth God require of us that we may escape His wrath and curse due to us for sin?” commences with, “God requireth of us faith in Jesus Christ, repentance unto life,” &c. Now, this shews that the framers of that symbol of sound doctrine were accurate in their conceptions, and precise in their statement of the order and position of this great scriptural truth. They suppose an anxious inquirer desirous of knowing how he is to escape the wrath and curse of God due to him for sin; and do they say that the first thing he is to do is to pray for the Holy Spirit, and get his mind changed, and his unholy heart sanctified, previously to his believing in Jesus? No. The very first thing they teach the awakened sinner to do is, to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved. Now this is all the more remarkable, considering that, when laying down the system of divine truth theologically, they had placed effectual calling by the Divine Spirit before justification by faith. There they speak to the intellect of the converted man and instructed Christian; but here the matter is reversed when an anxious sinner is to be guided as to what he is to do to be saved, and we have faith in Jesus Christ placed before repentance unto life; shewing us that they held, that while we must ever acknowledge the necessity of the Holy Spirit’s work in order to the creation, and exercise of saving faith, we should never direct an anxious sinner to look to the Spirit as his Saviour, but to Christ alone; never direct an inquirer to seek first an inward change, but an outward one-a justified state in order to enjoying a sanctified heart-the former being the necessary precursor of the latter.
Repentance is, properly speaking, a change of mind, or a new mind about God; regeneration is a change of heart, or a new heart towards God; conversion is a change of life, or a new life for God; adoption is a change of family, or a new relationship to God; sanctification is a change of employment, or a consecration of all to God; glorification is a change of place, or a new condition with God, but justification, which is a change of state, or a new standing before God, must be presented to the anxious inquirer as going before all, for being “accepted in the Beloved” is the foundation and cause of all, or more properly speaking, the “precious seed” from which all the rest spring, blossom, and bear fruit: and, consequently, the first and great duty of those who have to deal with awakened souls is to make this very clear, and to keep them incessantly in contact with the blessed evangelical truth: “A man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ,” (Gal 2:16).
From all this you will observe, dear reader, that I am not settling the position which a doctrine in theology ought to hold, but simply dealing with the practical necessities of an anxious inquirer. Were I called upon to state my views theoretically, I would say, they are described by what another has termed Jehovahism, “for of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things; to whom be glory for ever,” (Rom 11:36); but I am not contemplating the sinner as standing before the throne of glory, but before the throne of grace, and I am not endeavouring to settle a subtle question in theology, but to give the practical solution of an urgent question of salvation. I am not attempting to lay down a system of divinity, but to discover the kind and order of truth divinely appointed and fitted to bring immediate peace to awakened and inquiring souls. And hoping to accomplish this most important end, I present “JESUS ONLY,” “for He is our peace,” who “having made peace through the blood of His cross,” (Col 1:20), has come “and preached peace,” (Eph 2:17), by His “everlasting gospel,” to them “who were afar off, and to them that were nigh.”
The first practical step towards realising and acknowledging the sovereignty of God, is to “let the peace of God rule in your hearts,” (Col 3:15). You may hold a sound creed with a proud, unbroken heart, and be more deeply damned on that very account. But if you wish to know God in all the glory of His being and attributes, you must grasp the manifestation of that glory as it is embodied and manifested in the person of Jesus Christ. You can know the glory of God as a Sovereign only by realising His grace as a Saviour. For “God was manifest in the flesh,” (1 Tim 3:16). “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth,” (John 1:14). “Neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him,” (Matt 11:27).
“A mind at ‘perfect peace‘ with God; Oh, what a word is this!
A sinner reconciled through blood; This, this, indeed, is peace!
“By nature and by practice far-How very far!-from God;
Yet now by grace brought nigh to Him, through faith in Jesus’ blood.
“So nigh, so very nigh to God, I cannot nearer be;
For in the Person of His Son, I am as near as He.
“So dear, so very dear to God, More dear I cannot be;
The love wherewith He loves the Son, Such is His love to me.
“Why should I ever careful be, Since such a God is mine?
He watches o’er me night and day, And tells me, ‘Mine is thine.’”
XII. THE HOLY SPIRIT’S TESTIMONY TO THE BLOOD OF JESUS
The great work which the Holy Spirit is now occupied in performing, is that of directing sinners to Jesus, and inclining and enabling them to come to Him, that they may be saved; and since this is the case, I am a fellow-worker with God the Holy Spirit only in so far as I tell anxious sinners TO LOOK TO JESUS ONLY, and have “redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins,” as their first and great business; and “this one thing I do.”
The question is not, whether do we think it scriptural for an awakened sinner to desire the secret and power-giving presence of the Holy Spirit to open the eyes of his understanding, and shew him the all-sufficiency of Christ. That is what neither we nor any other true Christian would for a moment think of forbidding. Nor is it the question, whether the work of the Holy Spirit be necessary in order to salvation. The very fact of writing as we have done on regeneration in a previous chapter, as well as writing11 to encourage our brethren to meet together, and also meeting ourselves, to pray for the Holy Spirit to put forth His reviving, sanctifying, convincing, and converting power, will satisfy all ingenuous minds that we hold the absolute necessity of the work of the Holy Spirit in order to the regeneration and conversion of perishing souls.
The only question, then, which falls to be considered is, What am I to say to an awakened and anxious sinner? Am I to say simply “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31), as said the apostle of the Gentiles to the trembling jailor of Philippi? or am I, as the first thing I do, to exhort him to pray for the Holy Spirit to convince him more deeply of his sin, enlighten his darkened understanding, renew his perverse will, and enable him to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ to the saving of his soul? Am I to direct him, as the grand thing he has to do, to believe in Jesus, and accept His blood-shedding as the only foundation of his peace with God; or to seek the work of the Spirit as an addition to Christ’s work, in order that he may be justified? The former leads to justification by faith alone, the true Apostolic doctrine of the churches of the first age; the latter leads to justification by sanctification, the pernicious doctrine of a later era, by embracing which a man can never reach any satisfactory assurance that his sins are pardoned, even after a lifetime’s religious experience and devout and sincere performance of religious duties; whereas, by teaching salvation by the blood of Christ alone, a man may, like the Philippian jailor, “rejoice, believing in God with all his house,” (Acts 16:34), “in the same hour” in which Christ is presented as the alone object of personal faith and consequent reconciliation.
There is, we regret to think, a large class of professing Christians who seem to have the unfounded notion engrained in their minds, that Christ came as a Saviour in the fulness of time, and on being rejected and received up into glory, the Holy Spirit came down to be the Saviour of sinners in His stead, and that whether men are now to be saved or lost depends entirely on the work of the Holy Spirit in them, and not on the work of Christ done for them; whereas the Holy Spirit was given as the crowning evidence that JESUS IS STILL THE SAVIOUR, even now that He is in heaven; and the great work of the Spirit is not to assume the place of Jesus as our Saviour, but to bear witness to Christ Jesus as the only Saviour, and by His quickening grace bring lost sinners to Him, that they may become “the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:26). This He did on the blessed day of Pentecost, when thousands of divinely quickened souls received His testimony, believed “in the name of Jesus,” and obtained “remission of sins” (Acts 2:38).
The Holy Ghost is not the Saviour, and He never professed to be so, but His great work, in so far as the unconverted are concerned, is to direct sinners to the Saviour, and to get them persuaded to embrace Him and rely upon Him. When speaking of the Holy Spirit, Jesus said distinctly to His disciples, “He shall not speak of Himself…HE SHALL GLORIFY ME” (John 16:13,14). If to glorify Christ be the grand aim and peculiar work of the Holy Spirit, should it not also be the grand aim and constant work of those who believe in Him, and more especially of the ministers of His gospel?
The whole drift of the Holy Spirit’s inspired oracles, as we have them in the Bible, is to glorify Christ; and the gospel ministry has been granted by Him (Eph 4:11,12), to keep the purport of those Scriptures incessantly before the minds of men, and in so doing to beseech sinners to be reconciled to God. Now, Holy Scripture throughout clearly teaches that, simply on account of the one finished, all-sufficient and eternally efficacious work of Christ, sinners who believe in Him are “justified from all things”; that we are “justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood” (Rom 3:24,25); and we are justified as “sinners,” as “ungodly,” (Rom 5:6,8) and not as having an incipient personal righteousness wrought in us by the Holy Ghost. Few men, with the Word of God in their hands, would subscribe to such a doctrine; and yet it is the latent creed of the great majority of professing Christians. It is, in fact, the universal creed of the natural heart. Fallen human nature, when under terror, says, Get into a better state by all means; feel better, pray better, do better; become holier, and reform your life and conduct, and God will have mercy upon you! But grace says, “Behold, God is my salvation!” (Isa 12:2). To give God some equivalent for His mercy, either in the shape of an inward work of sanctification, or of an outward work of reformation, the natural man can comprehend and approve of; but to be justified by faith alone, on the ground of the finished work of Christ, irrespective of both, is quite beyond his comprehension. But “the foolishness of God is wiser than men” (1 Cor 1:25); for, instead of preaching holiness as a ground of peace with God, “we preach Christ crucified” (1 Cor 1:23), “for other foundation can no man lay”-either for justification or sanctification-“than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 3:11); and, whatever others may do, I am “determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2).
“O my Redeemer, who for me wast slain,
Who bringest me forgiveness and release,
Whose death has ransom’d me to God again,
And now my heart can rest in perfect peace!
Still more and more do Thou my soul redeem,
From every bondage set me wholly free;
Though evil oft the mightiest power may seem,
Still make me more than conqueror, Lord, in Thee!”
1 – Representers’ Answers to Queries (Marrow of Modern Divinity).
2 – Thomas Boston.
3 – Ebenezer Erskine.
4 – Ralph Erskine.
5 – Translation-The Lord our Righteousness
6 – Some time ago, the Rev. Dr. Winslow of Bath received a letter from a youth, apparently near death, asking him to reply to it in the columns of our periodical, which he did, and the above quotation contains the most important part of his reply. The subjoined are Dr. Winslow’s note to the author, and the youth’s interesting note to Dr. Winslow:-
“MY DEAR SIR,- A few days ago, I received the following note. Will you allow a brief reply to the all-important question it contains, through the columns of your wide-spread and most useful journal? I write hurriedly, and on a journey, but I will endeavour to make the apostle’s reply to the awakened jailor my model for point and conciseness. And oh may the same Divine Spirit apply the answer with like immediate and saving result!-
“‘TO THE REV. DR WINSLOW.
“‘DEAR SIR,-You would greatly oblige a sinner, if you would write a piece for September, and tell him what he must do to prepare to die-what is the preparation required by God-and when he is fit to die. By your doing so, you will greatly oblige a young person who feels that his time is short in this world. Now, what is justification? and when is a sinner justified?’”
7 – Works of Thomas Bacon, Born 1510
8 – Dr. Owen says, “If a man of carnal mind is brought into a large company, he will have much to do; if into a company of Christians, he will feel little interest; if into a smaller company engaged in religious exercises, he will feel less; but if taken into a closet and forced to meditate upon God and eternity, this will be insupportable.”
9 – “Every one who really believes is said to be born of God; and as every true believer is a converted man, it follows that the production of saving faith is equivalent to the work of regeneration…Conversion properly consists in a sinner being brought actually, intelligently, and cordially, to close and comply with God’s revealed will on the subject of His salvation.”-Professor Buchanan, D.D., LL.D.
10 – Taken from “God’s Way of Peace,” by Horatius Bonar.
11 – The author refers to his book, “The Spirit of Jesus,” which is entirely devoted to the elucidation of the work of the Holy Ghost in the conversion of souls.
by William Romaine (1714-1795)
I said therefore unto you that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I AM, ye shall die in your sins.- John 8:24
This is a very awakening scripture, and ought to rouse up your particular attention. The doctrine here maintained is the self-existence of Jesus Christ; which is not a mere speculative point, it is not an indifferent thing, whether you believe it or not; but your eternal salvation is so much concerned in it, that if you do not believe it, you will die in your sins, and will have every one of them to answer for at the tribunal of God. Is not this an interesting subject? Is not every one of us nearly concerned in what is to befall us after death? And has not our Lord here forewarned us of what is to befall them who deny His divinity? “They shall die in their sins.” And this He repeats twice in the text, the more strongly to impress it upon their memories. And what is it then to die in their sins? Is it a light trifling matter not worth your care and consideration?
To die in the midst of the pollution of a sinful life, to be taken away with all the guilt of it upon your heads, and to find after death no atonement, no Mediator, to protect you from the just indignation of the most holy God, who has declared that He is of purer eyes than to behold the least iniquity – Is all this of no consequence to you? Does not the danger come near enough to alarm even the most stupid and insensible sinner? But yet this is not the worst of dying in their sins. It is the most striking circumstance to consider to what a depth of misery your pollution and guilt must sink you. Sin and misery are inseparably connected, and none can deliver you from sin, but He who came to take away the sins of the world; and He cannot deliver you as man, He must be God who can have merit sufficient to take away sin, therefore if you deny Him to be God, your sins remain, and misery must be your portion – misery, the greatest you can suffer in soul and body, among the condemned spirits in hell for ever and ever.
This is the meaning of dying in your sins; and can there be any truth more affecting, or any subject more interesting? Does not the very proposing it awaken your hopes and fears? Every one of you is concerned at the peril of his eternal happiness to come to a point in this case, and to be determined; and therefore, men and brethren, let me intreat you to examine the matter strictly and solemnly. The divinity of Jesus Christ is the very foundation of the Christian religion. It is the first and principal article. The whole rests upon it; even what is called the morality of the gospel receives its obligation from His being the true God. If He was in any respect inferior to the Father, Christianity would be altogether the most stupid and absurd system of religion, and the most gross piece of idolatry that was ever invented in the world; for the Christian Church has always acknowledged Jesus Christ to be God co-equal and co-eternal with the Father, and has offered prayers and praises unto Him, and served Him with every act of religious worship; and the church of England has given Him divine honor in the same full and ample manner as He claimed it, “That all men should honour the Son even as they honor the Father” (John 5:23). May He send His Spirit into all your hearts and convince you that He is God indeed, while I am speaking upon the two propositions contained in the text.
First, Jesus Christ is the self-existent God.
Secondly, If ye believe it not, ye shall die in your sins: “therefore I said unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I AM, ye shall die in your sins.”
First, the self-existence of Jesus Christ is declared in these words, believe that I AM, that I have existence in Myself, and exist by a necessity of nature: For I made all things, and without Me was not any thing made that is made. I am the Creator, they are My creatures. And the Creator must exist in a different manner from the creatures. All things are dependent upon Me, and have only a derived existence – they are what I made them, and they continue as long as I support them. No creature ever came into life without My power, and when I take away their breath, they die, and turn again to their dust; so that they have only a dependent being, whereas My existence is necessary and underived. I AM is My incommunicable name, and what it means is My incommunicable attribute.
Thus our blessed Savior is the great and eternal I AM. He is Jehovah: for He exists in a different manner from all other beings and things, as the word Jehovah denotes. The Christian writers, as far as I know, are unanimous in their interpretation of this divine name; they all agree that it relates to the existence of the divine essence, and is descriptive of that independent property by which Jehovah has existence in Himself, whereas all other beings and things derive their existence from Him. And to this the very Jews assent, acknowledging that Jehovah signifies the essence which necessarily exists. This therefore is a settled point. Now our Savior is frequently called Jehovah in the Old Testament, and thereby the self-existence of the divine nature is ascribed to Him. Thus the prophet, Isa. 43:11, “I, even I, am Jehovah, and besides me there is no Savior.” There was no Jesus, no Savior but Jehovah: therefore Jehovah and Jesus are one. And again we read, chap 49:26, “All flesh shall know that I Jehovah am thy Savior and thy Redeemer, the mighty one of Jacob.” And the prophet Jeremiah says, “Their Redeemer is strong, Jehovah of hosts is his name” (Jer. 50:34); the name Jehovah belongs to the Redeemer; it is His incommunicable title. And since it is agreed on all hands, that Jehovah signifies the self-existent essence, consequently Jesus Christ is self-existent, for He is Jehovah. This argument is, I think, very clear and full, and the force of it may be thus summed up: Jehovah is self-existent, but Jesus Christ is Jehovah, therefore He is self-existent.
In this sense our Lord says in the text, If ye believe not that I AM, that Jehovah is in Me of a truth, ye shall die in your sins. I AM cannot relate to His created being: all the sophistry of Arianism and Socinianism cannot wrest the words to such a sense, because the Jews could not but believe that He existed, when they heard Him say, I AM; or if it was possible to disbelieve it, yet it would not have been a capital crime, unless He had been something more than a created being: therefore the very reason of the thing proves that He claimed some manner of existence different from human, and which it is absolutely necessary for every man to believe, unless he would die in his sins, and suffer the punishment due to them for ever. The translators have done great injury to this scripture by inserting the word he, I AM he, which is not in the original, and by putting it in, they have destroyed both the sense of the passage, and also the force of the argument: for, I am he, ought to refer to something said; but it has no reference, no sort of connection, either with what goes before or follows after. And therefore it is as absurd to insert the word here, as it would be in Exodus, where, upon Moses’ inquiring for some descriptive name, by which the Israelites might know that the God of their fathers had sent him to deliver them, “God said unto him, I AM THAT I AM, and thou shalt say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.” Would it not be abominable nonsense to read the words, I am he that I am he, and I am he hath sent me unto you? The learned world, Christians and Jews, would not allow of this glaring absurdity; for they have allowed that this passage in Exodus is expressive of the self-existence of the Deity. I AM denotes the necessary manner in which He exists, and since this is the meaning of it in one part of Scripture, certainly it must mean the same thing in every part of Scripture, especially when it is used by that Person who claimed to Himself all the attributes of divinity: and therefore the meaning of the expression if there was any obscurity in the usage of it in the New Testament may be clearly ascertained from its usage in the Old. When God sent Moses to the Israelites, with this divine name I AM, and when Christ, who never scrupled to call Himself God, assumed the same name I AM, certainly the same words spoken on the same subject must convey the same idea of self-existence, and whoever is self-existent is the true God, but Christ is self-existent, therefore He is the true God.
When the Arians and Socinians are pressed hard with Scripture arguments, they will allow Christ to be God in some limited and restrained sense of the word; but they cannot bear to hear of His self-existence, because this makes Him equal with the Father, which they deny: for it seems an insuperable difficulty to them, that He whom the Scripture calls a Son, should have the same self-existence with the Father. This is a standing objection with them, and with every other species of infidels, but this objection upon the true state of the case vanishes at once: for it is founded upon a very gross mistake, both of the nature of the doctrine, and also of the scripture explanation of it.
The nature of the doctrine is this. In the unity of the divine essence there are Three persons equal in all perfections and attributes, so that none is before or after another, none is greater or less than another, but the glory is equal, the majesty co-eternal. The trinity in unity is thus expressed in Scripture, “There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one” (1 John 5:7). “One,” says the unbeliever, “how can that be? How can Three be One? That’s a contradiction.” If it be, it is a contradiction of his own making: for unless they be Three in the same respect as they are One, which opinion could never be maintained by any man in his senses, then he must take the contradiction upon himself; and there may be, for any thing he knows to the contrary, Three persons in one essence, unless he can prove that the unity of the essence absolutely excludes personality. But before we can allow him this, he must first give us a plain account of the manner of the existence of the divine essence, and must demonstrate that it cannot admit of any persons in it; which he cannot possibly demonstrate by the light of nature. The most acute and enlightened genius is not equal to the subject. It is as far above his capacity, as the heavens are above the earth. Let him soar aloft upon the strongest pinions of moral reasoning, and try to measure infinity with the longest chain of metaphysical argument; yet when he came down from his towering flight, he could give us no fresh intelligence concerning the divine existence. The mode and manner of it would be still unknown. We know that there is an immortal spirit united to the body; but does any philosopher pretend to determine the mode of the existence of this created spirit? What idea can he form of it? Whence does he borrow this idea? Or in what kind of language will he communicate it unto another? If he be not clear in this more easy point, how can he form an idea of the mode of the existence of Jehovah? Can he determine how an infinite spiritual essence exists? What idea has he of the manner of the existence of an essence which was from eternity, and which was the first cause of all other beings? When unbelievers will write upon this subject, and settle the mode of existence of an uncreated essence, then they may speak with some certainty upon it. But while they are forced to confess that they know not the mode of the divine existence, and yet maintain that Jehovah cannot exist but in one Person, is it not evident that their conduct is inconsistent? For the personality is founded on the manner in which the essence exists; this they do not pretend to determine, and yet they deny the personality of the essence, and venture their eternity upon it. Is not this conduct absurd and irrational? And will you then ever listen to what unbelievers may assert concerning the manner of the divine existence? For they are indeed absolutely ignorant of it, and you may be assured of their ignorance, if you only ask them to account for the manner of the existence of a created spirit. And when they give up this point, which they must, then urge this question to them, How can you pretend to account for the manner of the existence of an infinite uncreated Spirit, after you have owned that you cannot account for the manner of the existence of a finite created spirit? Even to pretend to it is a most glaring absurdity; and therefore we may conclude, upon the footing of sound reasoning, that there may be three Persons in the unity of the divine essence; and the Scripture positively maintains there are Three, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and these Three are One. And
If nothing remain for the infidel to object to the state of the doctrine, what can he offer against the Scripture explanation of it? There can be no difficulty but what arises from the names of the divine Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and these have been a great handle of objection, and are still with unbelievers who are so blinded with their vices, that they know nothing of the true sense and meaning of Scripture, but only look into it for matter of cavil: they suppose, with ignorance common to infidelity, that these names were to give us ideas of the manner in which the Persons exist in the essence, but the Scripture had a quite different view in using them. The ever-blessed Trinity took the names of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, not to describe in what manner they exist as divine Persons, but in what manner the divine Persons have acted for us men and for our salvation. These names were to give us ideas of the distinct offices, which the Trinity had agreed to sustain in the economy of our redemption. The Scripture informs us, St. Paul frequently, (Eph. 1:4; 3:11; 2 Tim. 1:9; Titus 1:2, etc. and 1 Pet. 1:20), that the covenant of grace was made before the world, and the gracious plan of man’s salvation was settled before he had his being. According to the plan of this covenant, one of the divine Persons agreed to demand infinite satisfaction for sin, when mankind should offend, and to be the Father of the human nature of Jesus Christ, and our Father through Him; and therefore He is called God the Father, not to describe His nature, but His office. Another of the divine Persons covenanted to become a Son, to take our nature upon Him, and in it to pay the infinite satisfaction for sin, and therefore He is called Son, Son of God, and such like names, not to describe His divine nature, but His divine office. Another of the divine Persons covenanted to make the infinite satisfaction of the Son of God effectual, by inspiring the spirits of men, and disposing them to receive it, and therefore He is called the Holy Inspirer, or Holy Spirit, and the Spirit of God, not to describe His divine nature, but His divine office. The terms Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are terms of economy, and are accordingly used in Scripture, to describe the distinct parts which the ever-blessed and adorable Trinity sustained in our redemption.
I wish it was in my power to explain the Scripture doctrine in such words, as you may all easily understand. The doctrine of the Trinity is the most necessary article of the Christian religion, and we cannot take one safe step in the way to heaven without being clear in it. And since it is the very foundation of your faith, I therefore intreat your more particular attention, while I am considering it. The Scripture makes no difference between the divine Persons, except what is made by the distinct offices, which they sustain in the covenant of grace. The Persons are each equal in every perfection and attribute; none is before or after another, none is greater or less than another; but the whole three Persons are co-eternal together and co-equal. And consequently Christ, who was from eternity co-equal with the Father, did not make Himself inferior, because He covenanted to become a Son, nor did the Holy Spirit, who was from eternity co-equal with the Father and the Son, make Himself inferior, because He covenanted to make the spirits of men holy by His grace and influence. Son and Holy Spirit are names of office, and the names of their offices certainly cannot lesson the dignity of their nature, but should rather exalt them in our eyes, for whose salvation they condescended to sustain these offices. Our blessed Lord was Jehovah, when He covenanted to be made flesh, and to become a Son: and the very nature and terms of the covenant prove, that at the making of it He must have been a Person of the self-existent essence, because He had thereby such offices committed to Him, as none but the true God was able to sustain. The whole economy and government of the world, from the time of its creation to the final dissolution, was put into His hands; and therefore the Scripture expressly assures us, that He created it, that He governs it by His providence, that He redeemed His people by His blood, and that He is to come again at the last day, in all His glory to judge it. And He, who was almighty to create all things, who was all-wise to govern all things, who had infinite merit to redeem His body the church, and who is to be God the Judge of all at the last great day, certainly this almighty, this all-wise, this all-meritorious, and divine Judge, must be self-existent. And being possessed of these offices, He might truly say, I AM; because he could not but have necessary existence in Himself, who was the first cause, and who gave existence to every other being and thing.
What has been said in defense of the first proposition in the text may be summed up with this argument. The divine essence is self-existent; therefore the persons in the essence are also self-existent; but Jesus Christ is one of the persons in the essence, for He is frequently called Jehovah in the Old Testament, and the New declares, that He and the Father are one, consequently He is self-existent; from whence I raise this syllogism. Whoever is self-existent is the true God, but Jesus Christ is self-existent, therefore He is the true God. This is a plain argument, and is so evident upon Scripture principles, that I defy all the Arians and Socinians in the world to answer it; for it seems as certain that Jesus Christ is a person of the self-existent essence, as that there is a self-existent essence. Christ is the great and eternal I AM, true and very God, equal in all things with the Father and the Holy Spirit, as touching His Godhead; and therefore to the holy, blessed, and glorious Trinity, we ascribe equal dominion, and honor, and worship, now and forever, according to the doctrine of the Scripture and the constant practice of the Christian church. And,
Let no person think, that this is a speculative point. It is not an indifferent thing whether you receive it or not; but your eternal state depends upon it, you must receive it, or perish forever; for whosoever disbelieves it shall be damned. This may sound very harsh in the ears of free and candid disquisitors, but I really cannot soften it. I am not fond of thundering out damnation any more than men in these moderate times may be of hearing it, and you know that I very seldom have the word in my mouth; but there is certainly such a thing as damnation, and the Almighty has threatened to inflict it upon the deniers of Christ’s divinity, and let men make ever so light of it, He will infallibly inflict it; and therefore I must again admonish you, that whoever does not believe Jesus Christ to be self-existent, and thereby equal to the Father, shall be damned. And does not the text declare the same thing? “They shall die in their sins,” and this is so far from being any thing short of damnation, that dying in sin is the very lowest state of infernal misery, as I am to prove under the
Secondly, “If ye believe not that I AM,” says Christ, “ye shall die in your sins.” Dying in sin is a clear expression, whose meaning cannot easily be mistaken. It denotes the most dreadful state of departing sinners, who have no mediator or atonement in the world of spirits to which they are going, but they leave this world with all the pollution and guilt of their crimes upon the soul; and when they appear before the tribunal of infinite justice, the horrid deformity and wickedness of them will then be manifest; they will then have no robe to cover the offensive and nauseous leprosy of their impurities; their abominable filthiness will then break out, and how can the most holy and pure God look with delight upon those loathsome lepers? He declares He cannot. He is of purer eyes than to behold the least iniquity. He cannot behold them; and therefore they must be shut out of His presence, as the lepers were shut out of the camp; and since they never can be made clean, they must be shut out forever. Nothing can purge the conscience from sin, but that offering which perfecteth forever. This alone cleanseth us from all sin; but this unbelievers reject, therefore their sin remaineth. They must answer for it at the bar of justice, and whatever punishment it deserves they must suffer it in soul and body, and if there be truth in God, their punishment must be eternal. These are His own words, at which one might reasonably think the heart of the most obdurate infidel would tremble. “Hear, ye that are far off, what I have done; and, ye that are near, acknowledge my might. The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?” (Isa. 33:13-14). Who shall? Certainly they who die in their sins. Sin first kindled these flames of hell, and sinners must endure them. And the chief of sinners, the Arians and Socinians, must dwell with the devouring fire, and with everlasting burnings.
I have seen the deniers of Christ’s divinity very warm and angry at this state of the case, and have heard them complain loudly of our want of charity. They do not love to be told of hell torments, and they think it very hard, that they should be sent to hell for a speculative point, (as they softly term rejecting Christ’s self-existence) quite an harmless opinion with them, a mere subject of debate and free enquiry. It may seem very light to them, but it is in fact of the same consequence as denying the being of God: and if they will make their free enquiries and debates about it, and after enquiring and debating, reject it, they should remember that they do this at the peril of their lives. Denying Christ to be self-existent is not a small crime, it is the greatest that a man can commit; for what is it to deny the king’s title to the crown? Is it not high treason? And what is it then to deny the Godhead of the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords? Is not this high treason against the supreme Majesty of heaven? And when unbelievers deny the Godhead of Jesus Christ, try to rob Him of His self-existence, erect societies on purpose to stab Him with their insolent blasphemies, and would pull Him out of His eternal throne, and then endeavor what in them lies to strip Him of His divine glory, degrading and sinking Him down into a mere creature, and trampling under foot, as if He were but dross and dung, the most adorable God of heaven and earth; what will you call these offenses? Are they not overt acts of open rebellion and of high treason? And if the least of these against an earthly king would render the offenders unnatural rebels and worthy of death, must not the crimes increase in proportion to the infinite dignity of the King against whom they are committed? High treason against the Godhead of Jesus Christ, how much soever unbelievers may try to palliate it, is certainly an infinite crime, and if God be true, it will meet with an infinite punishment; for if ye believe not that I AM, says the self-existent God Himself, ye shall die in your sins, and these unatoned for shall not only exclude you from the glories of heaven, but shall also justly sentence you to the endless torments of hell.
As this method of proceeding against the deniers of Christ’s self-existence is not, as they would insinuate, harsh and rigorous, but is founded in truth and equity; because every man is a sinner, and guilty in the sight of God, not only by actual, but also by original transgression, “by the offence of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation,” and therefore all men being under sentence of condemnation, want an atonement for their sins. This atonement is required by, and is to be made to, infinite justice, and whoever makes it must be an infinite Person, capable of doing an infinitely meritorious act; so that He cannot be any thing less than a Person of the self-existent essence. If he were a creature of ever so great dignity, the very highest in the rank of beings, yet as he is but a creature, he could do no action which could merit for another, much less which could have infinite merit; consequently he could make no atonement to infinite justice, and therefore unless Christ be self-existent, we must all die in our sins, and answer for them before the tribunal of God: and the just wages of sin is death, death of the body to this world, and death both of body and soul from God and His glory in the next world, for ever and ever. And this is indeed the melancholy case of every infidel. He denies the virtue of Christ’s merits to atone as God, and, of course, he can have no atonement; for nothing less than an infinite Being can make an infinite atonement; and the infidel, without such an atonement, must be under the guilt both of original and actual transgression. He has no sacrifice, no atonement, to propitiate the justice of God the Father, by whom a firm and sure decree has been in this case made and provided, that, “without shedding of blood there is no remission.” But he rejects the merits of the blood of the Lamb of God, which has been shed for sin, and which alone can take away the sins of the world; for which reason there is no remission for him, but he dies in his sins, with all the pollution and the guilt of them upon his conscience, and when he appears at the bar of justice, he will find his Judge a jealous God, and a consuming fire. And how will he then be able to protect himself from the wrath of the Almighty? Offended Omnipotence he cannot escape, he cannot resist; and who can say what a degree of misery offended Omnipotence will inflict? Oh, it is a dreadful thing, beyond imagination dreadful, to fall into the hands of the living God! And whoever rejects the divine merits of Christ’s atonement, will feel His everlasting displeasure: for after rejecting them, “there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. And if he who despised Moses’s law died without mercy, under two or three witnesses; of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God?” Hath trodden under foot His divinity (as all infidels do), hath trampled, and even stamped upon the glory of the self-existent God, as if He was something baser than a worm, “and hath counted the blood of the covenant wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace.” Doing despite unto the Spirit of grace is the last stage of infidelity, and may the almighty God keep every one of you from it, lest you should die in your sins and perish forever.
I chose to finish the second proposition in the text with these striking words of St. Paul, (Heb. 10:26, 27, etc.) because they are clear and full to the point, and expressly declare the judgment and fiery indignation, which every one will meet with who treads under foot the Son of God. Let the infidel consider, whether he does not tread Him under his feet, when he ridicules the almighty Creator of the world, and with treason blacker than ever was hatched in hell, tries to rob the eternal God of His divinity. Does not he account the blood of the covenant an unholy thing, who sets no value upon the most precious blood of the Lamb of God? And must not he die in his sins, and rise from the dead in his sins, and appear in his sins at the last great day, and go with his sins to the place of eternal punishment, who contrary to God’s decree has resolved to put his trial upon this issue; that without shedding of blood there may be remission? Before any remission can be obtained, there must not only be blood shed, but also blood of an infinite value, and there cannot be infinite value in any sacrifice, except in the precious blood of Christ, as of a Lamb without blemish and without spot. The merits of this unblemished and spotless Lamb the infidels deny, whereby they reject the only method which God has appointed for the remission of sins. This crime approaches so very near to doing despite to the Spirit of grace, and to grieving and quenching Him, that my heart mourns for these deluded men, and I cannot but wish they were as much concerned for their own salvation as I am for them. I see their guilt, to which they are blind. I see their danger, against which they shut their eyes. I behold them ready to die in their sins, and the pit of destruction open to receive them, they are on the very precipice, and in a moment may fall into hell. My dear fellow-creatures, would to God I could call you fellow-Christians, if you have any love left for your immortal souls, stop and consider. Pray God to open your eyes, that you may see your danger. Oh! see how near you are to the pit! If you take one step more, you may perish forever. And why will you choose eternal misery? I call upon and intreat you, while there is yet a possibility of escaping it, to awaken your hopes and fears: if it be given you to throw down your arms and submit, still you may find mercy. For He is gracious and full of compassion. He has gifts for men, even for the rebellious. He can give the spirit of wisdom in the knowledge of Himself. Ask, seek, and you shall find faith and repentance from His sovereign grace. With Him is plenteous redemption. Oh that you may from your own experience acknowledge Him to be a God almighty to pardon. And if none of these motives prevail with you to open your eyes, may He, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, shine into your hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
And now having gone through the argument, I intreat you, my brethren, to give me your favorable attention, while I am endeavoring to make some improvement of what has been said, and to bring it home with power and conviction to your hearts. The Scripture which we have been considering is most awful and solemn, and holds out to us a doctrine of eternal importance, viz. that we must die in our sins, unless we believe the self-existence of Jesus Christ. This doctrine I divided into two propositions; under the first it was proposed to prove that Jesus Christ is a person of the self-existent essence, from whence it followed, secondly, that every one must die in his sins, unless he believes Christ’s self-existence. And if Scripture and fair argument could prevail against men’s prejudices and sins, these two propositions would appear as evident as the sun at noon day. Indeed they do appear with complete evidence to every true Christian; and I openly declare, that I am as fully convinced of the self-existence of Jesus Christ, as I am of any matter of fact, and therefore with this full conviction upon my mind, it was incumbent upon me to speak with great openness and freedom to those persons, if there be any of them among you, who deny the self-existence of Jesus Christ. And I hope He will second my intreaties with His grace, and accompany them with His divine blessing, while I am calling upon you once more to consider and to weigh impartially the arguments which have now been laid before you. They contain a very small part of the evidence of our Lord’s divinity. The Scripture has offered us several proofs, which have not been at present touched upon; but I hope enough has been said to convince you, if your minds lay open to conviction. The great infidel objection against Christ’s self-existence is taken from the unity of the divine essence; this unity we allow, for it is written, “The Lord our God is one Lord, Jehovah our Elohim is one Jehovah” (Deut. 6:4); but then we maintain that the unity of the essence cannot exclude personality, unless it could be demonstrated, that the manner in which the essence exists will not admit of any persons in it. But this you cannot demonstrate, It is impossible to demonstrate it; because you do not know the manner of the existence of any spiritual being, and consequently it is impossible for you to demonstrate, that the Scripture account of personality is false, and yet at the peril of your eternal salvation you will venture to deny what it is impossible you should disprove. Do you not see what an inconsistent and absurd part you herein act? Do you not openly fight against reason, as well as against Scripture and your own happiness? You have not the shadow of an argument against Christ’s divinity, and yet you are not afraid to commit high treason against His supreme Majesty who is almighty to punish. Why, my brethren, will you fight against the Almighty? Rebel no longer, throw down your arms, submit to Jesus, prostrate yourselves before Him, and acknowledge Him to be the self-existent God.
If I have not been able to offer any thing sufficient to awaken and convince you, I have therefore more reason, in the last place, to pray for you. And I am sure all believers will join heartily with me in prayer to God for your conversion. We cannot but mourn over your present guilt, and your approaching ruin, and pour out our requests before the throne of grace for you, because we are assured, that you have departed from the living God. And let us now, my Christian brethren, conclude, as we always begin, with looking up to God for His blessing, that our labors may not be in vain in the Lord.
Oh most adorable Jesus, our Almighty God and Savior, who hast declared, that unless ye believe that I AM, ye shall die in your sins, we bless and praise You for giving us grace to believe in Your self-existence. Keep us, we beseech You, steadfast in this faith, and grant that it may not dwell in our heads, and rest there as a speculative point of science, but enable it to operate upon our hearts, and rest there to produce in us all Your sweet and heavenly tempers, making us holy as You are holy. And, oh Lord, be pleased to awaken and convert all the deniers of Your divinity, and convince them that You are God indeed, by the happy work of Your good Spirit upon their hearts, turning them from the error of their ways, and bringing every one of them into Your flock, that we may become one fold under one Shepherd; and may with one heart and voice give thanks and praise to the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, the holy, blessed and glorious Trinity; to whom be equal honor, and worship, and dominion, now and forever. Amen.
Speaker: R.C. Sproul
Message Title: No Compromise, No Surrender
Scripture Text: Luke 24:46-
[2013 National Ligonier National Conference]
Summary: Jesus Christ has ascended to the right hand of God and has received all authority in heaven and on earth. He is Lord. In this message, Dr. R.C. Sproul reminds the church that the very first creed for which tens of thousands died is “Christ is Lord.” He will remind us that Jesus Christ is still Lord and that every assault on His kingdom is doomed to failure because the decisive battle has already been won.
Who was Polycarp? Why does R.C. Sproul tell his story to introduce this message?
Polycarp could have easily avoided his execution. Why didn’t he say the two words that would have been necessary?
What was the first Christian creed?
In sacred Scripture, the word “Lord” is used in three different ways. Can you name and explain them?
What is the etymological significance of the word “church”?
Why did the disciples rejoice at the ascension of Jesus?
So, again, how does the Lordship of Christ relate to the story of Polycarp’s execution?
In light of this message, what would it mean for you to “Play the man”? To “play the man” at work? To “play the man” at school? To “play the man” with your peers? To “play the man” with your family?
46 He also said to them, “This is what is written: The Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead the third day, 47 and repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And look, I am sending you what My Father promised. As for you, stay in the city until you are empowered from on high.”
50 Then He led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up His hands He blessed them. 51 And while He was blessing them, He left them and was carried up into heaven. 52 After worshiping Him, they returned to Jerusalem with great joy. 53 And they were continually in the temple complex praising God.