SATAN IS NOT AN INITIATOR but an imitator. God has an only begotten Son-the Lord Jesus, so has Satan-“the son of Perdition” (2 Thessalonians 2:3). There is a Holy Trinity, and there is likewise a Trinity of Evil (Revelation 20:10). Do we read of the “children of God,” so also we read of “the children of the wicked one” (Matthew 13:38). Does God work in the former both to will and to do of His good pleasure, then we are told that Satan is “the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2). Is there a “mystery of godliness”(1 Timothy 3:16), so also is there a “mystery of iniquity” (2 Thessalonians 2:7). Are we told that God by His angels “seals” His servants in their foreheads (Revelation 7:3), so also we learn that Satan by his agents sets a mark in the foreheads of his devotees (Revelation 13:16). Are we told that “the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10), then Satan also provides his “deep things” (Greek- Revelation 2:24). Did Christ perform miracles, so also can Satan (2 Thessalonians 2:9). Is Christ seated upon a throne, so is Satan (Greek- Revelation 2:13). Has Christ a Church, then Satan has his “synagogue” (Revelation 2:9). Is Christ the Light of the world, then so is Satan himself “transformed into an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14). Did Christ appoint “apostles,” then Satan has his apostles, too (2 Corinthians 11:13). And this leads us to consider: “The Gospel of Satan.”
Satan is the arch-counterfeiter. The Devil is now busy at work in the same field in which the Lord sowed the good seed. He is seeking to prevent the growth of the wheat by another plant, the tares, which closely resembles the wheat in appearance. In a word, by a process of imitation he is aiming to neutralize the Work of Christ. Therefore, as Christ has a Gospel, Satan has a gospel too; the latter being a clever counterfeit of the former. So closely does the gospel of Satan resemble that which it parodies, multitudes of the unsaved are deceived by it.
It is to this gospel of Satan the apostle refers when he says to the Galatians “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from Him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: which is not another, but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the Gospel of Christ” (Galatians 1:6,7).
This false gospel was being heralded even in the days of the apostle, and a most awful curse was called down upon those who preached it. The apostle continues, “But though we, or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” By the help of God we shall now endeavor to expound, or rather, expose this false gospel.
The gospel of Satan is not a system of revolutionary principles, nor yet a program of anarchy. It does not promote strife and war, but aims at peace and unity. It seeks not to set the mother against her daughter nor the father against his son, but fosters the fraternal spirit whereby the human race is regarded as one great “brotherhood.” It does not seek to drag down the natural man, but to improve and uplift him. It advocates education and cultivation and appeals to “the best that is within - It aims to make this world such a comfortable and congenial habitat that Christ’s absence from it will not be felt and God will not be needed. It endeavors to occupy man so much with this world that he has no time or inclination to think of the world to come. It propagates the principles of self-sacrifice, charity and benevolence, and teaches us to live for the good of others, and to be kind to all. It appeals strongly to the carnal mind and is popular with the masses, because it ignores the solemn facts that by nature man is a fallen creature, alienated from the life of God, and dead in trespasses and sins, and that his only hope lies in being born again.
In contradistinction to the Gospel of Christ, the gospel of Satan teaches salvation by works. It inculcates justification before God on the ground of human merits. Its sacramental phrase is “Be good and do good”; but it fails to recognize that in the flesh there dwelleth no good thing. It announces salvation by character, which reverses the order of God’s Word—character by, as the fruit of, salvation. Its various ramifications and organizations are manifold. Temperance, Reform Movements, “Christian Socialist Leagues,” Ethical Culture Societies, “Peace Congresses” are all employed (perhaps unconsciously) in proclaiming this gospel of Satan—salvation by works. The pledge card is substituted for Christ; social purity for individual regeneration, and politics and philosophy, for doctrine and godliness. The cultivation of the old man is considered more practical than the creation of a new man in Christ Jesus; whilst universal peace is looked for apart from the interposition and return of the Prince of Peace.
The apostles of Satan are not saloon-keepers and white-slave traffickers, but are for the most part ordained ministers. Thousands of those who occupy our modern pulpits are no longer engaged in presenting the fundamentals of the Christian Faith, but have turned aside from the Truth and have given heed unto fables. Instead of magnifying the enormity of sin and setting forth its eternal consequences, they minimize it by declaring that sin is merely ignorance or the absence of good. Instead of warning their hearers to “flee from the wrath to come” they make God a liar by declaring that He is too loving and merciful to send any of His own creatures to eternal torment. Instead of declaring that “without shedding of blood is no remission,” they merely hold up Christ as the great Exemplar and exhort their hearers to “follow in His steps.” Of them it must be said,
Their message may sound very plausible and their aim appear very praiseworthy, yet we read of them—
“for such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves (imitating) into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore, it is no great thing [not to be wondered at] if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness, whose end shall be according to their works” (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).
In addition to the fact that today hundreds of churches are without a leader who faithfully declares the whole counsel of God and presents His way of salvation, we also have to face the additional fact that the majority of people in these churches are very unlikely to learn the Truth themselves. The family altar, where a portion of God’s Word was wont to be read daily is now, even in the homes of nominal Christians, largely a thing of the past. The Bible is not expounded in the pulpit and it is not read in the pew. The demands of this rushing age are so numerous, that multitudes have little time and still less inclination to make preparation for the meeting with God. Hence the majority who are too indolent to search for themselves, are left at the mercy of those whom they pay to search for them; many of whom betray their trust by studying and expounding economic and social problems rather than the Oracles of God.
In Proverbs 14:12 we read, “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man; but the end thereof are the ways of death.” This “way” which ends in” death” is the Devil’s Delusion—the gospel of Satan—a way of salvation by human attainment. It is a way which “seemeth right,” that is to say, it is presented in such a plausible way that it appeals to the natural man: it is set forth in such a subtle and attractive manner, that it commends itself to the intelligence of its hearers. By virtue of the fact that it appropriates to itself religious terminology, sometimes appeals to the Bible for its support (whenever this suits its purpose), holds up before men lofty ideals, and is proclaimed by those who have graduated from our theological institutions, countless multitudes are decoyed and deceived by it.
The success of an illegitimate coiner depends largely upon how closely the counterfeit resembles the genuine article. Heresy is not so much the total denial of the truth as a perversion of it. That is why half a lie is always more dangerous than a complete repudiation. Hence when the Father of Lies enters the pulpit it is not his custom to flatly deny the fundamental truths of Christianity, rather does he tacitly acknowledge them, and then proceed to give an erroneous interpretation and a false application. For example: he would not be so foolish as to boldly announce his disbelief in a personal God; he takes His existence for granted and then gives a false description of His character. He announces that God is the spiritual Father of all men, when the Scriptures plainly tell us that we are “the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26), and that
Further, he declares that God is far too merciful to ever send any member of the human race to Hell, when God Himself has said,
“Whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the Lake of Fire” (Revelation 20:15).
Again; Satan would not be so foolish as to ignore the central figure of human history—the Lord Jesus Christ; on the contrary, his gospel acknowledges Him to be the best man that ever lived. Attention is drawn to His deeds of compassion and works of mercy, the beauty of His character and the sublimity of His teaching. His life is eulogized, but His vicarious Death is ignored, the all-important atoning work of the cross is never mentioned, whilst His triumphant and bodily resurrection from the grave is regarded as one of the credulities of a superstitious age. It is a bloodless gospel, and presents a crossless Christ, who is received not as God manifest in the flesh, but merely as the Ideal Man.
In 2 Corinthians 4:3 we have a scripture which sheds much light upon our present theme. There we are told, “if our Gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world [Satan] hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ, who is the image of God should shine unto them.” He blinds the minds of unbelievers through hiding the light of the Gospel of Christ, and he does this by substituting his own gospel. Appropriately is he designated “The Devil and Satan which deceiveth the whole world” (Revelation 12:9). In merely appealing to “the best that is within man,” and in simply exhorting him to “lead a nobler life” there is afforded a general platform upon which those of every shade of opinion can unite and proclaim this common message.
Again we quote Proverbs 14:12—“There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” It has been said with considerable truth that the way to Hell is paved with good intentions. There will be many in the Lake of Fire who commended life with good intentions, honest resolutions and exalted ideals—those who were just in their dealings, fair in their transactions and charitable in all their ways; men who prided themselves in their integrity but who sought to justify themselves before God by their own righteousness; men who were moral, merciful and magnanimous, but who never saw themselves as guilty, lost, hell-deserving sinners needing a Saviour. Such is the way which “seemeth right.” Such is the way that commends itself to the carnal mind and recommends itself to multitudes of deluded ones today. The Devil’s Delusion is that we can be saved by our own works, and justified by our own deeds; whereas, God tells us in His Word : “By grace are ye saved through faith...not of works lest any man should boast.” And again, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us.”
A few years ago the writer became acquainted with one who was a lay preacher and an enthusiastic “Christian worker.” For over seven years this friend had been engaged in public preaching and religious activities, but from certain expressions and phrases he used, the writer doubted whether this friend was a “born again” man. When we began to question him, it was found that he was very imperfectly acquainted with the Scriptures and had only the vaguest conception of Christ’s Work for sinners. For a time we sought to present the way of salvation in a simple and impersonal manner and to encourage our friend to study the Word for himself, in the hope that if he were still unsaved God would be pleased to reveal the Saviour he needed.
One night to our joy, the one who had been preaching the Gospel (?) for several years, confessed that he had found Christ only the previous night. He acknowledged (to use his own words) that he had been presenting “the Christ ideal” but not the Christ of the Cross. The writer believes there are thousands like this preacher who, perhaps, have been brought up in Sunday School, taught about the birth, life, and teachings of Jesus Christ, who believe in the historicity of His person, who spasmodically endeavor to practice His precepts, and who think that that is all that is necessary for their salvation. Frequently, this class when they reach manhood go out into the world, encounter the attacks of atheists and infidels and are told that such a person as Jesus of Nazareth never lived. But the impressions of early days cannot be easily erased, and they remain steadfast in their declaration that they “believe in Jesus Christ.” Yet, when their faith is examined, only too often it is found that though they believe many things about Jesus Christ they do not really believe in him. They believe with the head that such a person lived (and, because they believe this imagine that therefore they are saved), but they have never thrown down the weapons of their warfare against Him, yielded themselves to Him, nor truly believed with their heart in Him.
The bare acceptance of an orthodox doctrine about the person of Christ without the heart being won by Him and the life devoted to Him, is another phase of that way “which seemeth right unto a man” but the end thereof are “the ways of death.” A mere intellectual assent to the reality of Christ’s person, and which goes no further, is another phase of the way which “seemeth right unto a man” but of which the end thereof “are the ways of death,” or, in other words, is another aspect of the gospel of Satan.
And now, where do you stand? Are you in the way which “seemeth right,” but which ends in death; or, are you in the Narrow Way which leadeth unto life? Have you truly forsaken the Broad Road which leadeth to death? Has the love of Christ created in your heart a hatred and horror of all that is displeasing to Him? Are you desirous that he should “reign over” you? (Luke 19:14). Are you relying wholly on His righteousness and blood for your acceptance with God?
Those who are trusting to an outward form of godliness, such as baptism or “confirmation!” those who are religious because it is considered a mark of respectability; those who attend some Church or Chapel because it is the fashion to do so; and, those who unite with some Denomination because they suppose that such a step will enable them to become Christians, are in the way which “ends in death”—death spiritual and eternal. However pure our motives, however noble our intentions, however well-meaning our purposes, however sincere our endeavors, God will not acknowledge us as His sons, until we accept His Son.
A yet more specious form of Satan’s gospel is to move preachers to present the atoning sacrifice of Christ and then tell their hearers that all God requires from them is to “believe” in His Son. Thereby thousands of impenitent souls are deluded into thinking they have been saved. But Christ said, “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3). To “repent” is to hate sin, to sorrow over it, to turn from it. It is the result of the Spirits making the heart contrite before God. None except a broken heart can savingly believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.
Again, thousands are deceived into supposing that they have “accepted Christ” as their “personal Saviour,” who have not first received Him as their LORD. The Son of God did not come here to save His people in their sin, but “from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). To be saved from sins, is to be saved from ignoring and despising the authority of God, it is to abandon the course of self-will and self-pleasing, it is to “forsake our way” (Isaiah 55:7). It is to surrender to God’s authority, to yield to His dominion, to give ourselves over to be ruled by Him. The one who has never taken Christ’s “yoke” upon him, who is not truly and diligently seeking to please Him in all the details of life, and yet supposes that he is “resting on the Finished Work of Christ” is deluded by the Devil.
In the seventh chapter of Matthew there are two scriptures which give us approximate results of Christ’s Gospel and Satan s counterfeit.
First, in verses 13-14, “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat. Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”
Second; in verses 22-23, “Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied [preached] in Thy name? and in Thy name cast out demons, and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you; depart from Me, ye that work iniquity.” Yes, my reader, it is possible to work in the name of Christ, and even to preach in his name, and though the world knows us, the Church knows us, yet to be unknown to the Lord! How necessary is it then to find out where we really are; to examine ourselves and see whether we be in the faith; to measure ourselves by the Word of God and see if we are being deceived by our subtle Enemy; to find out whether we are building our house upon the sand, or whether it is erected on the Rock which is Jesus Christ. May the Holy Spirit search our hearts, break our wills, slay our enmity against God, work in us a deep and true repentance, and direct our gaze to the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.
SALVATION may be viewed from many angles and contemplated under various aspects, but from whatever side we look at it we must ever remember that “Salvation is of the Lord.” Salvation was planned by the Father for His elect before the foundation of the world. It was purchased for them by the holy life and vicarious death of His incarnate Son. It is applied to and wrought in them by His Holy Spirit. It is known and enjoyed through the study of the Scriptures, though the exercise of faith, and though communion with the triune Jehovah.
Now it is greatly to be feared that there are multitudes in Christendom who verily imagine and sincerely believe that they are among the saved, yet who are total strangers to a work of divine grace in their hearts. It is one thing to have clear intellectual conceptions of God’s truth, it is quite another matter to have a personal, real heart acquaintance with it. It is one thing to believe that sin is the awful thing that the Bible says it is, but it is quite another matter to have a holy horror and hatred of it in the soul. It is one thing to know that God requires repentance, it is quite another matter to experimentally mourn and groan over our vileness. It is one thing to believe that Christ is the only Savior for sinners, it is quite another matter to really trust Him from the heart. It is one thing to believe that Christ is the Sum of all excellency, it is quite another matter to LOVE HIM above all others. It is one thing to believe that God is the great and holy One, it is quite another matter to truly reverence and fear Him. It is one thing to believe that salvation is of the Lord, it is quite another matter to become an actual partaker of it through His gracious workings.
While it is true that Holy Scripture insists on man’s responsibility, and that all through them God deals with the sinner as an accountable being; yet it is also true that the Bible plainly and constantly shows that no son of Adam has ever measured up to his responsibility, that every one has miserably failed to discharge his accountability. It is this which constitutes the deep need for GOD to work in the sinner, and to do for him what he is unable to do for himself. “They that are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:8). The sinner is “without strength” (Romans 5:6). Apart from the Lord, we “can do nothing” (John 15:5). While it is true that the Gospel issues a call and a command to all who hear it, it is also true that ALL disregard that call and disobey that command— “They all with one consent began to make excuse” (Luke 14:18). This is where the sinner commits his greatest sin and most manifests his awful enmity against God and His Christ: that when a Savior, suited to his needs, is presented to him, he “despises and rejects” Him (Isaiah 53:3).
This is where the sinner shows what an incorrigible rebel he is, and demonstrates that he is deserving only of eternal torments. But it is just at this point that God manifests His sovereign and wondrous GRACE. He not only planned and provided salvation, but he actually bestows it upon those whom He has chosen.
Now this bestowal of salvation is far more than a mere proclamation that salvation is to be found in the Lord Jesus: it is very much more than an invitation for sinners to receive Christ as their Savior. It is God actually saving His people. It is His own sovereignty and all-powerful work of grace toward and in those who are entirely destitute of merit, and who are so depraved in themselves that they will not and cannot take one step to the obtaining of salvation. Those who have been actually saved owe far more to divine grace than most of them realize. It is not only that Christ died to put away their sins, but also the Holy Spirit has wrought a work in them—a work which applies to them the virtues of Christ’s atoning death.
It is just at this point that so many preachers fail in their exposition of the Truth. While many of them affirm that Christ is the only Savior for sinners, they also teach that He actually became ours only by our consent. While they allow that conviction of sin is the Holy Spirit’s work and that He alone shows us our lost condition and need of Christ, yet they also insist that the decisive factor in salvation is man’s own will. But the Holy Scriptures teach that “salvation is of the LORD” (Jonah 2:9), and that nothing of the creature enters into it at any point. Only that can satisfy God which has been produced by God Himself. Though it be true that salvation does not become the personal portion of the sinner until he has, from the heart, believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, yet is that very BELIEVING wrought in him by the Holy Spirit:
“By grace are ye saved through faith, and that NOT OF YOURSELVES;
it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).
It is exceedingly solemn to discover that there is a “believing” in Christ by the natural man, which is NOT a believing unto salvation. Just as the Buddists believe in Budda, so in Christendom there are multitudes who believe in Christ. And this “believing” is something more than an intellectual one. Often there is much feeling connected with it – the emotions may be deeply stirred. Christ taught in the Parable of the Sower that there is a class of people who hear the Word and with joy receive it, yet have they no root in themselves (Matthew 13:20, 21). This is fearfully solemn, for it is still occurring daily. Scriptures also tell us that Herod heard John “gladly “ Thus, the mere fact that the reader of these pages enjoys listening to some sound gospel preacher is no proof at all that he is a regenerated soul. The Lord Jesus said to the Pharisees concerning John the Baptist, “Ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light,” yet the sequel shows clearly that no real work of grace had been wrought in them. And these things are recorded in Scripture as solemn warnings!
“For Herod feared John (not ‘God’!), knowing that he as a just man and an holy, and observed him; and when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly.”
It was the personality of John which attracted Herod. How often is this the case today! People are charmed by the personality of the preacher: they are carried away by his style and won by his earnestness for souls. But if there is nothing more than this, there will one day be a rude awakening for them. That which is vital is a “love for the truth,” not for the one who presents it is this which distinguishes the true people of God from the “mixed multitude” who ever associate with them.
So in John 5:35 Christ said to the Pharisees concerning His forerunner: “Ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light,” not “in the light”! In like manner, there are many today who listen to one whom God enables to open up some of the mysteries and wonders of His Word and they rejoice “in his light” while in the dark themselves, never having personally received “an unction from the Holy One.” Those who do “love the truth” (2 Thessalonians 2:10) are they in whom a divine work of grace has been wrought. They have something more than a clear, intellectual understanding of the Scripture: it is the food of their souls, the joy of their hearts (Jeremiah 15:16). They love the truth, and because they do so, they hate error and shun it as deadly poison. They are jealous for the glory of the Author of the Word, and will not sit under a minister whose teaching dishonors Him; they will not listen to preaching which exalts man into the place of supremacy, so that he is the decider of his own destiny.
“LORD, Thou wilt ordain peace for us: for Thou also hast wrought all our works in us” (Isaiah 26:12).
Here is the heart and unqualified confession of the true people of God. Note the preposition: “Thou also hast wrought all our works in us.” This speaks of a divine work of grace wrought in the heart of the saint. Nor is this text alone. Weigh carefully the following:
“Unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us” (Ephesians 3:20).
“It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).
“I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them” (Hebrews 10:16).
Here are seven passages which speak of the inward workings of God’s grace; or in other words of experimental salvation.
Is there an echoing response in our heart to this, my reader? Is your repentance something deeper than the remorse and tears of the natural man? Does it have its root in a divine work of grace which the Holy Spirit hath wrought in your soul? Is your believing in Christ something more than an intellectual one? Is your relation to Him something more vital than what some act of yours has brought about, having been made one with Him by the power and operation of the Spirit? Is your love for Christ something more than a pious sentiment, like that of the Romanist who sings of the “gentle” and “sweet” Jesus? Does your love for Him proceed from an altogether new nature, that God has created within you? Can you really say with the Psalmist:
“Whom have I in heaven but Thee? And there is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee.” Is your profession accompanied by true meekness and lowliness of heart? It is easy to call yourself names, and say, “I am an unworthy and unprofitable creature.” But do you realize yourself to be such? Do you feel yourself to be “less than the least of all saints?” Paul did! If you do not; if instead, you deem yourself superior to the rank and file of Christians, who bemoan their failures, confess their weakness, and cry, “O wretched man that I am!”—there is grave reason to conclude you are a stranger to God!
That which distinguishes genuine godliness from human religiousness is this: the one is external, the other internal. Christ complained of the Pharisees,
A carnal religion is all on the surface. It is at the heart God looks and with the heart God deals. Concerning His people He says:
“Lord, Thou wilt ordain peace for us: for Thou also hast wrought all our works in us.” How humbling is this to the pride of man! It makes everything of God and nothing of the creature! The tendency of human nature the world over, is to be self-sufficient and self-satisfied; to say with the Laodiceans,
“I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing” (Revelation 3:17).
“What hast thou that thou didst not receive? Now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7).
And who are the ones in whom God thus works? From the divine side; His favored, chosen, redeemed people. From the human side: those who, in themselves have no claim whatever on His notice; who are destitute of any merit; who have everything in them to provoke His holy wrath; those who are miserable failures in their lives, and utterly depraved and corrupt in their persons. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound, and did for them and in them what they would not and could not do for themselves.
And what is it God “works” in His people?—All their works.
First, He quickens them:
“It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing” (John 6:63).
Second, He bestows repentance:
“Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life” (Acts 11:18; 2 Timothy 2:25).
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).
Fourth, He grants a spiritual understanding:
Fifth, He effectuates our service:
Sixth, He secures our perseverance:
“who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation” (1 Peter 1:5).
Seventh, He produces our fruit:
“From Me is thy fruit found” (Hosea 14:8).
Yes, He has wrought all our works in us.
Why has God thus “wrought all our works in us?”
First, because unless He had done so, all had eternally perished (Romans 9:29). We were “without strength,” unable to meet God’s righteous demands. Therefore, in sovereign grace, He did for us what we ought but could not do for ourselves.
Third, that our salvation might be effectually and securely accomplished. Were any part of our salvation left to us it would be neither effectual nor secure. Whatever man touches he spoils: failure is written across everything he attempts. But what God does is perfect and lasts for ever: “I know that whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before Him” (Ecclesiastes 3:14).
But how may I be sure that my works have been “wrought in me” by God? Mainly by their effects. If you have been born again, you have a new nature within. This new nature is spiritual and contrary to the flesh—contrary in its desires and aspirations. Because the old and new natures are contrary to each other, there is a continual war between them. Are you conscious of this inward conflict?
If your repentance be a God-wrought one, then you abhor yourself If your repentance be a genuine and spiritual one, then you marvel that God did not long ago cast you into hell. If your repentance be the gift of Christ, then you daily mourn the wretched return which you make to God’s wondrous grace; you hate sin, you sorrow in secret before God for your manifold transgressions. Not simply do you do so at conversion, but daily do so now.
If your faith be a God-communicated one, it is evidenced by your turning away from all creature confidences, by a renunciation of your own self-righteousness, by a repudiation of all your own works. If your faith be “the faith of God’s elect” (Titus 1:1), then you are resting alone on Christ as the ground of your acceptance before God. If your faith be the result of “the operation of God,” then you implicitly believe His Word, you receive it with meekness, you crucify reason, and accept all He has said with childlike simplicity.
If your love for Christ be the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:25), then it evidences itself by constantly seeking to please Him, and by abstaining from what you know is displeasing to Him: in a word, by an obedient walk. If your love for Christ be the love of “the new man,” then you pant after Him, you yearn for communion with Him above everything else. If your love for Christ be the same in kind (though not in degree) as His love for you, then you are eagerly looking forward to His glorious appearing, when He shall come again to receive His people unto Himself, that they maybe forever with the Lord. May the grace of spiritual discernment be given the reader to see whether his Christian profession be real or a sham whether his hope is built upon the Rock of Ages or the quicksands of human resolutions, efforts, decisions, or feelings; whether, in short, his salvation is “OF THE LORD” or the vain imagination of his own deceitful heart.
“But the Word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in that heard it,” (Hebrews 4:2)
THE LINKING TOGETHER of these verses shows us the worthlessness of all religious activities where faith be lacking. The outward exercise may be performed diligently and correctly, but unless faith be in operation God is not honored and the soul is not profited. Faith draws out the heart unto God, and faith it is which receives from God; not a mere intellectual assent to what is revealed in Holy Writ, but a supernatural principle of grace which lives upon the God of Scripture. This, the natural man, no matter how religious or orthodox he be, has not; and no labours of his, no act of his will, can acquire it. It is the sovereign gift of God.
First, in the reading of the Word:
“But these are written, that ye might believe” (John 20:31).
Second, in listening to the preaching of God’s servants:
“The hearing of faith” (Galatians 3:2).
“Let him ask in faith, nothing wavering” (James 1:6).
Fourth, in our daily life:
“For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7);
“the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God” (Galatians 2:20).
Fifth, in our exit from this world:
“These all died in faith” (Hebrews 11:13).
What the breath is to the body, faith is to the soul; for one who is destitute of faith to seek to perform spiritual actions, is like putting a spring within a wooden dummy and making it go through mechanical motions.
Now an unregenerate professor may read the Scriptures and yet have no spiritual faith. Just as the devout Hindu peruses the Upanishads and the Mohammedan his Koran, so many “Christian” countries take up the study of the Bible, and yet have no more of the life of God in their souls than have their heathen brethren. Thousands in this land read the Bible, believe in its Divine authorship, and become more or less familiar with its contents. A mere professor may read several chapters every day, and yet never appropriate a single verse. But faith applies God’s Word: it applies his fearful threatenings, and trembles before them; it applies His solemn warnings, and seeks to heed them; it applies His precepts, and cries unto Him for grace to walk in them.
It is the same in listening to the Word preached. A carnal professor will boast of having attended this conference and that, of having heard this famous teacher and that renowned preacher, and be no better off in his soul than if he had never heard any of them. He may listen to two sermons every Sunday, and fifty years hence be as dead spiritually as he is today. But the regenerated soul appropriates the message and measures himself by what he hears. He is often convicted of his sins and made to mourn over them. He tests himself by God’s standard, and feels that he comes so far short of what he ought to be, that he sincerely doubts the honesty of his own profession. The Word pierces him, like a two-edged sword, and causes him to cry, “O wretched man that I am!”
So in prayer. The mere professor often makes the humble Christian feel ashamed of himself. The carnal religionist who has “the gift of the gab” is never at a loss for words: sentences flow from his lips as readily as do the waters of a babbling brook; verses of Scripture seem to run through his mind as freely as flour passes though a sieve. Whereas the poor burdened child of God is often unable to do any more than cry “God be merciful to me a sinner.” Ah, my friends, we need to distinguish sharply between a natural aptitude for “making” nice prayers and the spirit of true supplication: the one consists merely of words, the other of “groanings which cannot be uttered”; the one is acquired by religious education, the other is wrought in the soul by the Holy Spirit.
Thus it is too in conversing about the things of God. The frothy professor can talk glibly and often orthodoxly of “doctrines,” yes, and of worldly things, too: according to his mood, or according to his audience, so is his theme. But the child of God, while being swift to hear that which is unto edification, is “slow to speak.” Ah, my reader, beware of talkative people; a drum makes a lot of noise but it is hollow inside!
When a saint of God does open his lips about spiritual matters, it is to tell of what the Lord, in His infinite mercy, has done for him; but the carnal religionist is anxious for others to know what he is “doing for the Lord.”
The difference is just as real between the genuine Christian and the nominal Christian in connection with their daily lives: while the latter may appear outwardly righteous, yet within they are “full of hypocrisy and iniquity” (Matthew 23:28). They will put on the skin of a real sheep, but in reality they are “wolves in sheeps’ clothing.” But God’s children have the nature of sheep, and learn of Him who is “meek and lowly in heart,” and, as the elect of God, they put on
“mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering” (Colossians 3:12).
They are in private what they appear in public. They worship God in spirit and in truth, and have been made to know wisdom in the hidden parts of the heart.
So it is on their passing out of this world. An empty professor may die as easily and as quietly as he lived deserted by the Holy Spirit, undisturbed by the Devil; as the psalmist says, “there are no bands in their death” (Psalm 73:4). But this is very different from the end of one whose deeply ploughed and consciously-defiled conscience has been “sprinkled” with the precious blood of Christ:
yes, a peace which “passeth all understanding”: Having lived the life of the righteous, he dies “the death of the righteous” (Numbers 23:10).
And what is it which distinguishes the one character from the other, wherein lies the difference between the genuine Christian and he who is one in name only? This: a God-given, Spirit-wrought faith in the heart. Not a mere head-knowledge and intellectual assent to the Truth, but a living, spiritual, vital principle in the heart—a faith which “purifies the heart” (Acts 15:9), which “worketh by love” (Galatians 5:6), which “overcometh the world” (1 John 5:4). Yes, a faith which is Divinely sustained amidst trials within and opposition without; a faith which exclaims “though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him” (Job 13:15).
True, this faith is not always in exercise, nor is it equally strong at all times. The favored possessor of it must be taught by painful experience that as he did not originate it neither can he command it; therefore does he turn unto its Author, and say, “Lord I believe, help Thou mine unbelief.” And then it is that, when reading the Word he is enabled to lay hold of its precious promises; that when bowing before the Throne of Grace, he is enabled to cast his burden upon the Lord; that when he rises to go about his temporal duties, he is enabled to lean upon the everlasting arms; and that when he is called upon to pass through the valley of the shadow of death, he triumphantly cries “I will fear no evil for Thou art with me.” “Lord, increase our faith.”
“I am a companion of all that fear thee, and of them that keep thy precepts” (Psalm 119:63)
In the above verse we have a description of God’s people according to the course of their lives and conduct. They are a people marked by two things: fear and submission, the latter being the fruit of the former. Regenerated souls obey God conscientiously out of reverence to His majesty and goodness, and from a due regard of His will as made known in His Word.
The same description is given of them in Acts 10:35, “In every nation he that feareth God and worketh righteousness is accepted with Him.,” It is a filial fear which is awed by God’s greatness and is careful not to offend Him, which is constrained by His love and is anxious to please Him. Such are the only ones fit to be a Christian’s “companions.” A “companion” is, properly speaking, one whom I choose to walk and converse with in a way of friendship. Inasmuch as the companions we select is an optional matter, it is largely true that a person may be known by the company he or she keeps; hence the old adage, “Birds of a feather flock together.” Scripture asks the searching question, “Can two walk together but except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3). A Christian, before his conversion, was controlled by the Prince of darkness and walked according to the course of this world (Ephesians 2:2,3), and therefore did he seek and enjoy the company of worldlings. But when he was born again the new nature within him prompted new tastes and desires, and so he seeks a new company, delighting only in the saints of God. Alas, that we do not always continue as we began.
The Christian is to have good will toward all with whom he comes in contact, desiring and seeking their best interests (Galatians 6:10), but he is not to be yoked to (2 Corinthians 6:14) nor have any fellowship with (Ephesians 5:11) those who are unbelievers, nor is he to delight in or have complacency toward those who despise his Master.
“Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the Lord?” (2 Chronicles 19:2).
Would you knowingly take a viper into your bosom?
“The wicked is an abomination unto the righteous” (Proverbs 29:26).
So said David,
“He that walketh with wise men shall be wise; but a companion of fools shall be destroyed” (Proverbs 13:20).
Nor is it only the openly lawless and criminal who are to be shunned, but even, yea especially, those professing to be Christians yet who do not live the life of Christians. It is this latter class particularly against which the real child of God needs to be most on his guard: namely, those who say one thing and do another; those whose talk is pious, but whose walk differs little or nothing from the non-professor, The Word of God is plain and positive on this point:
“Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away” (2 Timothy 3:5).
This is not merely good advice, but a Divine command which we disregard at our peril. In selecting your “companions” let not a pleasing personality deceive you. The Devil himself often poses as “an angel of light,” and sometimes his wolfish agents disguise themselves in “sheep’s clothing” (Matthew 7:15). Be most careful in seeing to it that what draws you toward and makes you desire the companionship of Christian friends is their love and likeness to Christ and not their love and likeness to you. Shun as you would a deadly plague those who are not awed by the fear of God, i.e., a trembling lest they offend Him. Let not the Devil persuade you that you are too well established in the faith to be injured by intimacy with worldly “Christians” (?). “Be not deceived, evil communications corrupt good manners” (1 Corinthians 15:33). Rather
“Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners” (1 Corinthians 15:33).
The Greek word here for “communications” properly means “a bringing together, companionships.” And evil companionships “corrupt.” All evil is contagious and association with evildoers, whether they be “church members” or open infidels, has a defiling and debasing effect upon the true child of God. Mark well how the Holy Spirit has prefaced His warning: “be not deceived.” Evidently there is a real danger of God’s people imagining that they can play with fire without getting burned. Not so: God has not promised to protect us when we fly in the face of his danger signals. Observe too the next verse which is inseparably connected with the one to which we have directed attention.
The word “awake” signifies to arouse as from a torpor or state of lethargy. It is a call to shake off the delusive spell that a Christian may company with Christless companions without being contaminated by them. “And sin not” in this respect. To cultivate friendship with religious worldlings Is SIN, for such “have not the knowledge of God”: they have no experimental acquaintance with Him, His fear is not on them, His authority has no weight with them. “I speak (this) to your shame.” The child of God ought to be abashed and filled with confusion that he needs such a word as this. I am a companion of all that fear thee, and of them that keep thy precepts.” Such are the only “companions” worth having, the only ones who will give you any encouragement to continue pressing forward along the “Narrow Way.” It is not those who merely pretend to “believe” God’s precepts, or profess to “stand for” them, but those who actually “keep” them. But where are such to be found these days? Ah, where indeed. They are but “few” in number (Matthew 7:14) one here and one there. Yea, so very “few” are they that we are constrained to cry,
“Help, Lord, for the godly man ceaseth; for the faithful fail from among the children of men” (Psalm 12:1).
It is indeed solemn to read the words that immediately follow the last-quoted scripture and find how aptly they apply to and how accurately they describe the multitude of godless professing “Christians” all around us: “they speak vanity every one with his neighbour, with flattering lips, with a double heart do they speak” (v. 2). Note three things about them.
First, they “speak vanity” or “emptiness.” Their words are like bubbles, there is nothing edifying about them. It cannot be otherwise for
Their poor hearts are empty (Matthew 12:44). So their speech is empty too.
Second, they have “flattering lips,” which is the reason why they are so popular with the ungodly. They will seek to puff you up with a sense of their own importance, pretend to admire the “much light” you have, and tell you it is your duty to “give it out to others”.
Third. they have a “double heart.” They are (vainly) seeking to serve two masters: (cf. 2 Kings 17:32, 33).
“I am a companion of all that fear thee, and of them that keep thy precepts.” There is a very real sense in which this is true even where there is no outward contact with such. Faithfulness to God, obedience to His Word, keeping His precepts, companying only with those who do so, turning away from everybody else, has always involved a lonely path. It was thus with Enoch (Jude 14). It was thus with Abraham (Isaiah 51:2). It was thus with Paul (2 Timothy 1:5). It is the same today. Every city in the land is tilled with “churches,” “missions,” “Gospel Halls,” “Bible Institutes,” etc., etc., but where are those who give plain evidence that they are living in this world as “strangers and pilgrims” and as such abstaining “from fleshly lusts which war against the soul” (1 Peter 2:11)?
But thank God. though the path of faithfulness to Him be a lonely one, it brings me into spiritual fellowship with those who have gone before. We are to walk by faith and not by sight, and faith perceives that walking with Christ “outside the camp” (Hebrews 13:13) necessarily brings into communion with “all” His redeemed, be they on earth or be they in heaven. Thus the apostle John in his lonely exile on Patmos referred to himself as “your brother and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 1:9). Yes, Christian reader, for a little while it means companionship “in tribulation,” but, praise God it will not mean enduring the throes of the swiftly- approaching portion of Christless professors left behind when Christ comes for His own (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12). For a little while it means companionship in “the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ,” soon it will be in the kingdom and glory of Christ. May Divine mercy so enable us to live now that in that Day we shall receive His “Well done.”
There are those who misrepresent the doctrine of election in this way. Here I am sitting down at my table tonight with my family to tea. It is a cold winter’s night, and outside on the street are some hungry starving tramps and children, and they come and knock on my door and they say, “We are so hungry, Sir, Oh, we are so hungry and cold, and we are starving: won’t you give us something to eat?”
Give you something to eat? No, you do not belong here, get off with you.” Now people say that is what election means, that God has spread the gospel feast and some poor sinners conscious of their deep need come to the Lord and say, “Have mercy upon me, and the Lord says, “No, you are not among My elect.” Now, my friends, that is not the teaching of this Book, nor anything like that. That is absolutely a false representation of God’s truth. I do not believe anything like that, my friends, and I would not insult you by asking you to come here night by night and listen to anything like that.
1. COMPEL THEM TO COME IN
Now then, here is the truth. God has spread the feast but the fact is that nobody is hungry. and nobody wants to come to the feast, and everybody makes an excuse to keep away from the feast. and when they are bidden to come they say, “No, we do not want to, or We are not ready yet.” Now God knew that from the beginning, and if God had done nothing more than spread the feast every seat at His table would have been vacant for all eternity! I have no hesitation in saying there is not one man or woman in this church tonight, but who made excuses time after time before you first came to Christ. You are just like the rest. You made excuses. so did I, and if God had done nothing more than just spread the feast every chair would have been vacant, therefore what do you read in that parable in Luke 14? Because the feast was not furnished with guests God sent forth His “servants”. Oh, put your glasses on. It does not say “servants”, it says God sent forth His “servant” and told Him to “compel” them to come in that His feast might be furnished with guests. And there is not a man or a woman In this church tonight or in any other church that would ever sit down at the marriage-supper of the Lamb unless you had been compelled to come in, and compelled by God.
Well, you say, what do you mean by “compelled?” I mean this, that God had to overcome the resistance of your will, God had to overcome the reluctance of your heart, God had to overcome your loving of pleasure more than loving of God, your love of the things of this world more than Christ. I mean that God had to put forth His power and draw you, and if any of you know anything of the Greek or have a Strong’s Concordance, look up that Greek verb for “draw” in John 6:44, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him” —It means “use violence”. It means to drag by force. There is not a Greek scholar on earth that can challenge that statement—I mean—and back it up with proof. It’s the same Greek word that is used in John 21 when they drew the net to the land full of fishes. They had to pull with all their might for it was full of fishes. They had to drag it, Yes, my friend, and that is how you were brought to Christ. You may not have been conscious of it. you may not have known inside yourself what was taking place, but every last one of us was a rebel against God, fighting against Christ, resisting His Holy Spirit, and God had to put forth almighty power and overcome that resistance and bring us to our knees, and if any of you object to that strong language, then I am here to tell you, you do not believe in the teaching of this Book on the absolute depravity of man.
Man is lost, and man is dead in trespasses and sins by nature. Listen, it is not simply that man is sick and needs a little medicine: it is not simply that man is ignorant and needs a little teaching: it is not simply that man is weak and needs a little hope: man is dead, dead in trespasses and sins, and only almighty power from heaven can ever resurrect him and bring him from death unto life. That is the gospel I believe in and I do not preach the gospel because I believe the sinner has power in himself to respond to it. Well, you say, then what is the use of preaching the gospel if men are dead? What is the use of preaching it? I will tell you. Listen! Here was a man with a withered hand, paralyzed, and Christ says. “Stretch forth thine hand”; It was the one thing that he could not do! Christ told him to do a thing that was impossible in himself. Well then you say why did Christ tell him to stretch forth his hand? Because Divine power went with the very word that commanded him to do it! Divine power enabled him to. The man could not do it of himself. If you think that he could you are ready for the lunatic asylum, I don’t not care who you are. Any man or woman here who thinks that that man was able to stretch forth his paralyzed arm by an effort of his own will is ready for the lunatic asylum! How can paralysis move?
Well, I will give you something stronger than that. You need something strong today, you need something more than skim-milk, you need strong meat if ever you are going to be built up and grow and become strong in the Lord and the power of His might—Here is a man who is dead and buried and his body has already begun to corrupt so that it stank. There he was in the grave and someone came to that graveside and said, “Lazarus. come forth”, and if that someone had been anyone else than God Himself manifest in flesh. he might have stood there till now calling, “Come forth”. What on earth was the use of telling a dead man to come forth? None at all, unless the One Who spoke that word had the power to make that word good.
Now then my friends, I preach the gospel to sinners, not because I believe the sinner has any power at all in himself to respond to it: I do not believe that any sinner has any capacity in himself whatever. But Christ said, “the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life”, and by God’s grace I go forth preaching this Word because it is a word of power, a word of spirit, a word of life. The power is not in the sinner, it is in the Word when God the Holy Spirit is pleased to use it. And my friends, I say in all reverence; if God told me in this Book to go out and preach to the trees. I would go! Yes sir. God once told one of His servants to go and preach to bones and he went. I wonder if you should have gone! Yes, that has a local application as well as a future interpretation prophetically:
Now the question arises again, why are we to preach the gospel to every creature?—if God has only elected a certain number to be saved? The reason is, because God commands us to do so. Well, but, you say, it does not seem reasonable to me That has got nothing to do with it; your business is to obey God and not to argue with Him. God commands us to preach the gospel to every creature and it means what it says—every creature and it is solemn thing. Every Christian in this room tonight has yet to answer to Christ why he has not done everything in his power to send that gospel to every creature! Yes, I believe in missions—probably stronger than most of you do, and if I preached to you on missions perhaps I would hit you harder than you have been hit yet. The great majority of Gods people who profess to believe in missions, are just playing at them—I make so bold as to say of our evangelical denominations today that we are just playing at missions and that is all. Why my friends, there is almost half of the human race—think of it—in this 20th century—travel so easy and cheap. Bibles printed in almost every language under heaven, and as we sit here tonight there is almost half of the human race that never yet heard of Christ, and we have got to answer to Christ for that yet! You have and I have. Oh yes, I believe in man’s responsibility. I do not believe in man’s “freedom” but I do in man’s responsibility, and I believe in the Christian’s responsibility in a double way, and everyone of us here tonight has yet got to face Christ and look into those eyes as a flame of fire, and He is going to say to us, I entrusted to you My gospel. It was committed as a “trust” to you, (See 1 Thessalonians 2:4) It is required in stewards that a man be found faithful.
Oh, my friends, we are playing at things. We have not begun to take religion seriously, any of us. We profess to believe in the coming of Christ, and we profess to believe that the one reason why Christ has not come back yet is because His Church, His Body, is not yet complete. We believe that when His body is complete He will come back. And my friends, His “body” never, never, will be complete until the last of His elect people will be called out, and His elect people are called out under the preaching of the gospel by the power of the Holy Spirit, and if you are really anxious for Christ to come back soon, then you had better be more wide awake to your responsibility in connection with taking or sending the gospel to the heathen!
Christ’s word, and it is Christ’s word to us, is “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel”, He does not say “Send ye”, He says “Go ye”, and you have to answer to Christ yet because you have not gone! Well, you say, do you mean by that that everyone of us here tonight ought to go out to the mission field? I have not said that, I am not any man’s judge, Many of you here tonight have a good reason which will satisfy Christ why you have not gone. He gave you work to do here. He put you in a position here. He has given you responsibilities to discharge here, but every Christian who is free to go, and does not go, has got to answer to Christ for it yet.
“Go ye into all the world.” Well then you say, Where am I to go? Oh, that is very easy. You say, easy? Yes, I mean it: it is very easy. There is nothing easier in the world than to know where you ought to begin missionary work. You have it in the first chapter of Acts and the eighth verse: “Ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto Me both in Jerusalem (that is the city in which they were) and in all Judea (that is the State in which their city was), and in Samaria (that is the adjoining State), and unto the uttermost part of the earth”, If you want to begin missionary work, you have to begin it in your home-town, and my friends if you are not interested in the salvation of the Chinese in Sydney, then you are not really interested in the salvation of the Chinese in China, and you are only fooling yourselves if you think you are! Oh, I am calling a spade a spade tonight. If you are anxious about the souls of the Chinese in China, then you will be equally anxious about the souls of the Chinese here in Sydney, and I wonder how many in this building tonight have ever made any serious effort to reach the Chinese in Sydney with the gospel! I wonder? I wonder how many here tonight have been round to the Bible House in Sydney and have said to the Manager there, “Do you have any New Testaments in the Chinese language, or do you have any Gospels of John in the Chinese language? How much are they per hundred? or per dozen?” And I wonder how many of you have bought a thousand or a hundred, and then have gone round to the houses in the Chinese quarter and have said, “My friend, this is a little gift that will do your soul good if you will read it.”
Ah, my friends, we are playing at missions, it is just a farce, that is all! “Go ye” is the first command. Go where? Those around me first. Go what with? The gospel. Well, you say, “Why should I go?” Because God has commanded you to! Well, you say, “What is the use of doing it if He has just elected certain ones?” Because that gospel is the means that God uses to call out His own elect, that is why! You do not know, and I do not know, and nobody here on earth knows, who are God’s elect and who are not. They are scattered over the world, and therefore we are to preach the gospel to every creature, that it may reach the ones that God has marked out among those creatures.
From a sermon preached in Sydney during his Australian ministry in the 1920’s.
“When Jesus had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he gave up the ghost.”
How terribly have these blessed words of Christ been misunderstood, misappropriated and misapplied! How many seem to think that on the cross the Lord Jesus accomplished a work which rendered it unnecessary for the beneficiaries of it to live holy lives on earth. So many have been deluded into thinking that, so far as reaching heaven is concerned, it matters not how they walk provided they are “resting on the finished work of Christ.” They may be unfruitful, untruthful, disobedient, yet (though they may possibly miss some millennial crown) so long as they repudiate all righteousness of their own and have faith in Christ, they imagine they are “eternally secure.”
All around us are people who are worldly-minded, money-lovers, pleasure-seekers, Sabbath-breakers, yet who think all is well with them because they have “accepted Christ as their personal Saviour.” In their aspiration, conversation, and recreation, there is practically nothing to differentiate them from those who make no profession at all. Neither in their home-life nor social-life is there anything save empty pretensions to distinguish them from others. The fear of God is not upon them, the commands of God have no authority over them, the holiness of God has no attraction for them.
“It is finished.” How solemn to realize that these words of Christ must have been used to lull thousands into a false peace. Yet such is the case. We have come into close contact with many who have no private prayer-life, who are selfish, covetous, dishonest, but who suppose that a merciful God will overlook all such things provided they once put their trust in the Lord Jesus. What a horrible perversion of the truth! What a turning of God’s grace “into lasciviousness”! (Jude 4). Yes, those who now live the most self-seeking and flesh-pleasing lives, talk about their faith in the blood of the Lamb, and suppose they are safe. How the devil has deceived them!
“It is finished.” Do those blessed words signify that Christ so satisfied the requirement of God’s holiness that holiness no longer has any real and pressing claims upon us? Perish the thought. Even to the redeemed God says, “Be ye holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16). Did Christ “magnify the law and make it honorable” (Isaiah 42:21) that we might be lawless? Did He “fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15) to purchase for us an immunity from loving God with all our hearts and serving Him with all our faculties? Did Christ die in order to secure a divine indulgence that we might live to please self? Many seem to think so. No, the Lord Jesus has left His people an example that they should “follow (not ignore) His steps.”
“It is finished.” What was “finished? The need for sinners to repent? No indeed. The need for turning to God from idols? No indeed. The need for mortifying my members which are upon earth? No indeed. The need for being sanctified wholly, in spirit, and soul, and body? No indeed. Christ died not to make my sorrow for, hatred of, and striving against sin, useless. Christ died not to absolve me from the full discharge of my responsibilities unto God. Christ died not so that I might go on retaining the friendship and fellowship of the world. How passing strange that any should think that He did. Yet the actions of many show that this is their idea.
“It is finished.” What was “finished?” The sacrificial types were accomplished, the prophecies, of His sufferings were fulfilled, the work given Him by the Father had been perfectly done, a sure foundation had been laid on which a righteous God could pardon the vilest transgressor of the law who threw down the weapons of his warfare against Him. Christ had now performed all that was necessary in order for the Holy Spirit to come and work in the hearts of His people; convincing them of their rebellion, slaying their enmity against God, and producing in them a loving and obedient heart.
O, dear reader, make no mistake on this point. The “finished work of Christ” avails you nothing if your heart has never been broken through an agonizing consciousness of your sinfulness. The “finished work of Christ” avails you nothing unless you have been saved from the power and pollution of sin (Matthew 1:21). It avails you nothing if you still love the world (1 John 2:15). It avails you nothing unless you are a “new creature” in Him (2 Corinthians 5:17). If you value your soul, search the Scriptures to see for yourself; take no man’s word for it.
By our fall in Adam we not only lost the favor of God but also the purity of our nature and therefore we need to be both reconciled to God and renewed in our inner man, for without personal holiness “no man shall see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).
“As He which hath called you is holy; so be ye holy in all manner of conversation (behavior); because it is written, Be ye holy for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15, 16),
God’s nature is such that unless we be sanctified there can be no intercourse between Him and us. But can persons be sinful and holy at one and the same time? Genuine Christians discover so much carnality, filth, and vileness in themselves that they find it almost impossible to be assured they are holy. Nor is this difficulty solved, as in justification, by recognizing that though completely unholy in ourselves we are holy in Christ, for Scripture teaches that those who are sanctified by God are holy in themselves, though the evil nature has not been removed from them.
None but “the pure in heart” will ever” see God” (Matthew 5:8). There must be that renovation of soul whereby our minds, affections and wills are brought into harmony with God. There must be that impartial compliance with the revealed will of God and abstinence from evil which issues from faith and love. There must be that directing of all our actions to the glory of God, by Jesus Christ, according to the Gospel. There must be a spirit of holiness working within the believer’s heart so as to sanctify his outward actions if they are to be acceptable unto Him in whom “there is no darkness” True, there is perfect holiness in Christ for the believer, but there must also be a holy nature received from him. There are some who appear to delight in the imputed obedience of Christ who make little or no concern about personal holiness. They have much to say about being arrayed in “the garments of salvation and covered with the robe of righteousness” (Isaiah 61:10), who give no evidence that they “are clothed with humility” (1 Peter 5:5) or that they have
“put on... bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering, forebearing one another and forgiving one another” (Colossians 3:12).
How many there are today who suppose that if they have trusted in Christ all is sure to be well with them at the last even though they are not personally holy. Under the pretense of honoring faith, Satan, as an angel of light, has deceived and is now deceiving multitudes of souls. When their “faith” is examined and tested, what is it worth? Nothing at all so far as insuring an entrance into Heaven is concerned: it is a powerless, lifeless, fruitless thing. The faith of God’s elect is unto “the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness” (Titus 1:1). It is a faith which purifieth the heart (Acts 15:9), and it grieves over all impurity. It is a faith which produces an unquestioning obedience (Hebrews 11:8). They therefore do but delude themselves who suppose they are daily drawing nearer to Heaven while they are following those courses which lead only to Hell. He who thinks to come to the enjoyment of God without being personally holy, makes Him out to be an unholy God, and puts the highest indignity upon Him. The genuiness of saving faith is only proved as it bears the blossoms of experimental godliness and the fruits of true piety.
In Christ God has set before His people that standard of moral excellence which He requires them to aim and strive after. In His life we behold a glorious representation in our own nature of the walk of obedience which He demands of us. Christ conformed Himself to us by His abasing incarnation, how reasonable therefore it is that we should conform ourselves to Him in the way of obedience and sanctification.
He came as near to us as was possible for Him to do, how reasonable then is it that we should endeavor to come as near as it is possible for us to do.
If “even Christ pleased not Himself”(Romans 15:3). how reasonable is it that we should be required to deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow Him (Matthew 16:24), for without so doing we cannot be His disciples (Luke 14:27). If we are to be conformed to Christ in glory how necessary that we first be conformed to Him in holiness:
“he that saith he abideth in Him ought himself so to walk even as He walked:”(1 John 2:6).
let him either put on the life of Christ or drop the name of Christ.
“Be ye doers of the Word, and not hearers only; deceiving your own selves” (James 1:22)
It is much, very much to be thankful for when the Holy Spirit has illumined a man’s understanding, dispersed the mists of error, and established him in the Truth. Yet that is only the beginning. The Holy Scriptures are “profitable” not only for “doctrine” but also for “reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). Observe well the order there: before we are ready to be instructed “in righteousness” (right doing), there is much in our lives that God “reproves” and which we must “correct.” Necessarily so, for before conversion everything in our lives was wrong! For all we did was for the gratifying of self, with no thought or concern for God’s honour and glory. Therefore, the first great need, and the primary duty of every young convert is not to study the Old Testament types, or puzzle his brains over prophecy, but to diligently search the Scriptures in order to find out what is pleasing and displeasing to God, what He forbids and what He commands.
If you have been genuinely converted, then your first concern must be to form all the details of your life-in the home, in the church, in the world-so as to please God. And in the actual bringing of this to pass, the order will be “cease to do evil; learn to do well” (Isaiah 1:16-17); “Depart from evil, and do good” (Psalm 34:14 and cf. Psalm 37:27). There has to be a breaking down before there can be a building up (Ecclesiastes 3:3). There has to be an emptying of self before there is the filling of the Spirit. There has to be an unlearning before there is a true learning. And there has to be a hating of ‘evil” before there is a loving of the “good” (Amos 5:15 and cf. Romans 12:9).
Now to the extent the young Christian does use the Holy Scriptures in a practical way, regulating his thoughts, desires and actions by their warnings and encouragements, their prohibitions and precepts, will very largely determine the measure in which he will enjoy God’s blessing on his life. As the moral Governor of the world God takes note of our conduct, and sooner or later manifests His displeasure against our sins, and His approval of a righteous walk, by granting that measure of prosperity which is most for our good and His glory. In the keeping of His commandments “there is great reward” (Psalm 19:11) in this life (1 Timothy 4:8). O how much temporal and spiritual blessing most Christians miss through careless and disobedient conduct: see Isaiah 48:18!
The tragic thing is that instead of the average young Christian studying diligently God’s Word so as to discover all the details of the divine will for him, he does almost anything and everything else. Many a one engages in “personal work” or some form of Christian “service” while his own life remains full of things displeasing to God! The presence of those displeasing things in his life hinders God’s blessings upon his soul, body, and temporal affairs; and to him it has to be said:
“Your sins have withholden good things from you” (Jeremiah 5:25).
God’s Word to His people is:
But O how little of this “fear and trembling” is to be found anywhere today! Instead, here is self-esteem, self-confidence, boasting and carnal security.
There are others who give themselves unto the diligent study of doctrine, but, generally, they fail to realize that the doctrine of Scripture is not a series of intellectual propositions, but is the “doctrine which is according to godliness” (1 Timothy 6:3). The “doctrine” or “teaching” of God’s Holy Word is given not for the instruction of our brains, but for the regulation of all the details of our daily lives; and this in order that we may
“adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things” (Titus 2:10).
But that can only be realized by a constant reading of the Word with one dominant purpose-to discover what God forbids and what he commands; by our meditating frequently on what we have read, and by fervent prayer for supernatural grace to enable us to obey. If the young convert does not early form the habit of treading the path of practical obedience to God, then he will not have His ear when he prays! John states plainly one of the main conditions which we must constantly seek grace to heed, if our petitions are to meet with acceptance:
“and whatsoever we ask we receive of Him, because we keep His commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in His sight” (1 John 3:22).
“Your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, that He will not hear” (Isaiah 59:2).
Not only does the young Christian, by following a course of self-pleasing, reduce his prayers to empty words, but he brings down upon himself the rod of God, and everything goes wrong in his life. That is one reason why many Christians are suffering just as sorely as the poor worldlings are: God is displeased with their ways, and does not show Himself strong on their behalf (2 Chronicles 16:9). In this connection we have sought to point out in the past the remedy, which calls for real heart-humbling before the Lord, godly sorrow, true repentance, unsparing confession, the firm determination to reform our ways; and then (and not before) faith’s counting on God’s mercy and a patient expectation that He will work wonders for us if we now tread the path of full submission to Him.
THESE were the words of the incarnate Son of God. They have never been cancelled; nor will they be as long as this world lasts. Repentance is absolute and necessary if the sinner is to make peace with God (Isaiah 27:5), for repentance is the throwing down the weapons of rebellion against Him. Repentance does not save, yet no sinner ever was or ever will be saved without it. None but Christ saves, but an impenitent heart cannot receive Him.
A sinner cannot truly believe until he repents. This is clear from the words of Christ concerning His forerunner,
“For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him” (Matthew 21:32).
“repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21).
In requiring repentance from us, God is pressing His righteous claims upon us. He is infinitely worthy of supreme love and honor, and of universal obedience. This we have wickedly denied Him. Both an acknowledgement and amendment of this is required from us. Our disaffection for Him and our rebellion against Him are to be owned and made an end of. Thus repentance is a heartfelt realization of how dreadfully I have failed, all through my life, to give God His rightful place in my heart and daily walk.
The righteousness of God’s demand for my repentance is evident if we consider the heinous nature of sin. Sin is a renouncmg of Him who made me. It is refusing Him His right to govern me. It is the determination to please myself; thus, it is rebellion against the Almighty. Sin is spiritual lawlessness, and utter disregard for God’s authority. It is saying in my heart: I care not what God requires, I am going to have my own way; I care not what be God’s claim upon me, I am going to be lord over myself. Reader, do you realize that this is how you have lived?
Now true repentance issues from a realization in the heart, wrought therein by the Holy Spirit, of the exceeding sinfulness of sin, of the awfulness of ignoring the claims of Him who made me, of defying His authority. It is therefore a holy hatred and horror of sin, a deep sorrow for it, and acknowledgement of it before God, and a complete heart-forsaking of it. Not until this is done will God pardon us.
In true repentance the heart turns to God and acknowledges My heart has been set upon a vain world, which could not meet the needs of my soul; I forsook Thee, the fountain of living waters, and turned unto broken cisterns which held none: I now own and bewail my folly. But more, it says: I have been a disloyal and rebellious creature, but I will be so no longer. I now desire and determine with all my might to serve and obey Thee as my only Lord. I betake myself to Thee as my present and everlasting Portion.
Reader, be you a professing Christian or no, it is repent or perish. For every one of us, church members or otherwise, it is either turn Or burn; turn from your course of self-will and self-pleasing; turn in brokenness of heart to God, seeking His mercy in Christ; turn with full purpose of heart to please and serve HIM: or be tormented day and night, for ever and ever, in the Lake of Fire. Which shall it be? Oh, get down on your knees right now and beg God to give you the spirit of true repentance.
“Him hath God exalted with His right hand to be a Prince and a Savior, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins” (Acts 5:31).
THE CURE FOR DESPONDENCY
“Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me?” (Psalm 42:5).
When the Psalmist gave utterance to these words, his spirit was dejected and his heart was heavy within him. In the checkered career of David there was not a little which was calculated to sadden and depress: the cruel persecutions of Saul, who hunted him as a partridge upon the mountains, the treachery of his trusted friend Ahitophel, the perfidy of Absalom, and the remembrance of his own sins, were enough to overwhelm the stoutest. And David was a man of like passions with us: he was not always upon the mountain-top of joy, but sometimes spent seasons in the slough of despond and the gorge of gloom.
But David did not give way to despair, nor succumb to his sorrows. He did not lie down like a stricken beast and do nought but fill the air with his howling. No, he acted like a rational creature, and like a man, looked his troubles squarely in the face. But he did more; he made diligent inquiry, he challenged himself, he sought to discover the cause of his despondency: he asked, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul?” He desired to know the reason for such depression. This is often the first step toward recovery from dejection of spirit. Repining arid murmuring get us nowhere. Fretting and wringing our hands bring no relief either temporally or spiritually. There needs to be self-interrogation, self-examination, self condemnation.
“Why art thou cast down, O my soul?” We need to seriously take ourselves to task. We need to fearlessly face a few plain questions. What is the good of giving way to despair? What possible gain can it bring me? To sit and sulk is not “redeeming the time” (Ephesians 5:16). To mope and mourn will not mend matters. Then let each despondent one call his soul to account, and inquire what adequate cause could be assigned for peevishness and fretting.
“We may have great cause to mourn for sin, and to pray against prevailing impiety: but our great dejection, even under the severest outward afflictions or inward trials, springs from unbelief and a rebellious will: we should therefore strive and pray against it” (Thomas Scott).
“Why art thou cast down, O my soul?” Cannot you discover the real answer without asking counsel from others? Is it not true that, deep down in your heart, you already know, or at least suspect, the root of your present trouble? Are you “cast down” because of distressing circumstances which your own folly has brought you into? Then acknowledge with the Psalmist,
“I know, O Lord, that Thy judgments are right, and Thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me” (Psalm 119:75).
Is it because of some sin, some course of self-will, some sowing to the flesh, that you are now of the flesh reaping corruption? Then confess the same to God and plead the promise found in Proverbs 28:13:
Or are you grieved because Providence has not smiled upon you so sweetly as it has on some of your neighbors? Then heed that injunction,
Perhaps the cases suggested above do not exactly fit that of some of our readers. Not a few may say, “My soul is cast down and my heart is heavy because my finances are at so low an ebb, and the outlook is so dark.” That is indeed a painful trial, and one which mere nature often sinks under. But, dear friend, there is a cure for despondency even when so occasioned. He who declares “the cattle upon a thousand hills are Mine,” still lives and reigns! Cannot He who fed two million Israelites in the wilderness for forty years minister to you and your family? Cannot He who sustained Elijah in the time of famine keep you from starving?
“If God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall He not much more clothe you. O ye of little faith!” (Matthew 6:30).
Returning to our opening text, let us observe how that David not only succumbed not to his sorrows, interrogated his soul, and rebuked his unbelief, but he also preached to himself: “Hope thou in God!” Ah, that is what the despondent needs to do: nothing else will bring real relief to the hearer. The immediate outlook may be dark, but the Divine promises are bright. The creature may fail you, but the Creator will not, if you truly put your trust in Him. The world may be at its wits’ end, but the Christian needs not be so. There is One who is “a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1), and He never deserts those who really make Him their refuge. The writer has proved this, many, many a time, and so may the reader. The fact is that present conditions afford a grand opportunity for learning the sufficiency of Divine grace. Faith cannot be exercised when everything needed is at hand to sight.
“Hope thou in God”—In His mercy: You have sinned, sinned grievously in the past, and now you are receiving your just deserts. True, but if you will penitently confess your sins, there is abundant mercy with the Lord to blot them all out (Isaiah 55:7).
In his power: Every door may he shut against you, every channel of help be closed fast; but nothing is too hard for the Almighty!
In His love:
“For I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance.” Such is ever the blessed assurance of those who truly hope in God. They know that,
“Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivereth him out of them all” (Psalm 34:19).
God has told them that “weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning” (Psalm 30:5). So Christian reader, when the fiery trial has done its work, and your bonds are burned off (Daniel 3:25), you will thank Him for the trials which are now so unpleasant; Then hopefully anticipate the future. Count upon God, and He will not fail you.
Let each Christian reader who is not now passing through deep waters join with the writer in fervent prayer to God, that He will graciously sanctify the “present distress” unto the spiritual good of His own people, and mercifully supply their temporal needs.
We are rather afraid that its title will deter some from reading this article: we hope it will not be so. True, it does not treat of a popular theme, nay one which is now very rarely heard in the pulpit; nevertheless, it is a scriptural one. Fallen man is “vile,” so vile that it has been rightly said “he is half brute, half devil.” Nor does such a description exceed the truth. Man is “born like a wild ass’s colt” (Job 11:12), and he is “taken captive by the devil at his will” (2 Timothy 2:26). Perhaps the reader is ready to reply, Ah, that is man in his unregenerate state, but it is far otherwise with the regenerate. From one viewpoint that is true; from another, it is not so.
“So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was a beast before Thee” (Psalm 73:22)
“Surely I am more brutish than any man” (Proverbs 30:2).
True, we never hear such lamentations as these from those who claim to have received their “Pentecost” or “second blessing,” nor from those who boast they are living “the victorious life.” But to those who are painfully conscious of the “plague” of their own heart, such words may often describe their case. Only recently we received a letter from a dear brother in Christ, saying “the vanity and corruption that I find within, which refuses to be kept in subjection, is so strong at times that it makes me cry out ‘my wounds do stink and are corrupt.”’
Does the reader object against our appropriation of the Psalms and Proverbs, and say, We in this New Testament age occupy much higher ground than those did. Probably you have often been told so by men, but are you sure of it from the Word of God? Listen, then, to the groan of an eminent Christian:
“I am carnal, sold under sin” (Romans 7:14).
“Get thee behind Me, Satan: thou art an offense unto Me” (Matthew 16:23)?
“Behold, I am vile” (Job 40:4).
This was not said by Cain in a remorseful moment after his murder of Abel, nor by Judas after he had betrayed the Saviour into the hands of His enemies; instead, it was the utterance of one of whom God said,
“There is none like him in the earth, a perfect (sincere) and an upright man, one that feareth God, and eseheweth evil” (Job 1:8).
Was Job’s language the effect of extreme melancholy, induced by his terrible afflictions? If not, was he justified in using such strong language of self-deprecation? If he was, are Christians today warranted in echoing the same?
In order to arrive at the correct answer to the above questions, let us ask another: when was it that Job said, “Behold, I am vile?” Was it when he first received tidings of his heavy losses? No, for then he exclaimed,
Was it when his friends reasoned with and reproved him? No, for then he vindicated himself and boasted of his goodness. Then when was it that Job declared “Behold, I am vile”? It was when the Lord appeared to him and gave him a startling revelation of His own wondrous perfections! It was when he stood in the all-penetrating light of God’s immaculate holiness and was made to realize something of His mighty power.
Ah, when a soul is truly brought into the presence of the living God, boasting ceases, our comeliness is turned into corruption (Daniel 10:8), and we cry, “Woe is me! for I am undone” (Isaiah 6:5). When God makes to the soul a personal revelation of His wondrous perfections, that individual is effectually convinced of his own wretchedness. The more we are given to discern the ineffable glory of the Lord, the more will our self-complacency wither. It is in God’s light, and in that only, “we see light” (Psalm 36:9). When He shines into our understandings and hearts, and brings to light “the hidden things of darkness,” we perceive the utter corruption of our nature, and are abominable in our own eyes. While we measure ourselves by our fellows, we shall, most likely, think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think (Romans 12:3); but when we measure ourselves by the holy requirements of God’s nature, we cry “I am dust and ashes” (Genesis 18:27). True repentance changes a man’s opinion of himself.
Is, then, a Christian today warranted in saying “Behold, I am vile”? Not as faith views himself united to the One who is “altogether lovely”; but as faith discerns, in the light of the Word, what he is by nature, what he is in and of himself he may. Not that he is to hypocritically adopt such language in order to gain the reputation of great humility; nay, such an utterance is only to be found upon our lips as it is the feeling expression of our hearts: particularly is it to be owned before God, when we come to Him in contrition and in confession. Yet is it also to be acknowledged before the saints, even as the apostle Paul cried publicly, “O wretched man that I am!” (Romans 7:24). It is part of our testimony to own (before those who fear the Lord) what God has revealed to us.
1.) I am vile in my imaginations: O what scum rises to the surface when lusts boil within me. What filthy pictures are visioned in “the chambers of my imagery” (Ezekiel 8:12). What unlawful desires run riot within. Yes, even when engaged in meditating upon the holy things of God, the mind wanders and the fancy becomes engaged with what is foul and fetid. How often does the writer have to acknowledge before God that “from the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness” in him, “but wounds and bruises and putrefying sores” (Isaiah 1:6). Nightly does he avail himself of that Fountain which has been opened “for sin and for uncleanness” (Zechariah 13:1).
2.) I am vile in my self-will: How fretful am I when God blows upon my plans and thwarts my desires. What surgings of rebellion within my wicked breast when God’s providences displease. Instead of lying placidly as clay in the Potter’s hand, how often do I act like the restive colt, which rears and kicks, refusing to be held in with bit and bridle, determined to have my own way. Alas, alas, how very little have I learned of Him who was “meek and lowly in heart.” Instead of “the flesh” in me being purified, it has putrefied; instead of its resistance to the spirit weakening, it appears to be stronger each year. O that I had the wings of a dove, that I could fly away from myself.
3.) I am vile in my religious pretenses: How often I am anxious to make “a fair show in the flesh” and be thought highly of by others. What hypocrisies have I been guilty of in seeking to gain a reputation for spirituality. How frequently have I conveyed false impressions to others, making them suppose it was far otherwise within me than was actually the case. What pride and self-righteousness have swayed me. And of what insincerity have I, at times, been guilty of in the pulpit: praying to the ears of the congregation instead of to God, pretending to have liberty when my own spirit was bound, speaking of those things which I had not first felt and handled for myself. Much, very much cause has the writer to take the leper’s place, cover his lips, and cry “Unclean, unclean!”
4.) I am vile in my unbelief: How often am I still filled with doubts and misgivings. How often do I lean unto my own understanding instead of upon the Lord. How often do I fail to expect from God (Mark 11:24) the things for which I ask Him. When the hour of testing comes, only too frequently are past deliverances forgotten. When troubles assail, instead of looking off unto the things unseen, I am occupied with the difficulties before me. Instead of remembering that with God all things are possible, I am ready to say,
“Can God furnish a table in the wilderness?” (Psalm 78:19).
True it is not always thus, for the Holy Spirit graciously keeps alive the faith which He has placed within; but when He ceases to work, and a trial is faced, how often do I give my Master occasion to say, “How is it that ye have no faith?” (Mark 4:40).
Reader, how closely does your experience correspond with the above? Is it true that,
“As in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man” (Proverbs 27:19)?
Have we been describing some of the symptoms of your diseased heart? Have you ever owned before God “Behold, I am vile”? Do you bear witness to the humbling fact before your brethren and sisters in Christ? It is comparatively easy to utter such words, but do you feel them? Does the realization of this truth make you “blush” (Ezra 9:6) and groan in secret? Have you such a person and painful sense of your vileness that often, you feel thoroughly unfit to draw nigh unto a holy God? If so:
1. You have abundant cause to be thankful to God that his Holy Spirit has shown you something of your wretched self, that He has not kept you in ignorance of your woeful state, that He has not left you in that gross spiritual darkness that enshrouds millions of professing Christians. Ah my stricken brother, if you are groaning over the ocean of corruption within, an feel utterly unworthy to take the sacred name of Christ upon your polluted lips, then you should be unfeignedly thankful that you belong not to that great multitude of self-complacent and self-righteous religionists of whom it is written,
“They were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush: therefore shall they fall among them that fall: in the time of their visitation they shall be cast down” (Jeremiah 8:12).
Much cause have you to praise the God of all grace that He anointed your sin-blinded eyes, and that now, in His sight, you are able to see a little of your hideous deformities, and cry “I am black” (Song of Sol. 1:5).
2. You have abundant cause to walk softly before God. Must not the realization of our vileness truly humble us before Him, make us smite upon our breast, and cry “God be merciful to me, the sinner!” Yes, such a prayer is as suited to the mature saint as it was when first convicted of his lost estate, for he is to continue as he began: Colossians 2:6, Revelation 2:5. But alas, how quickly does the apprehension of our vileness leave us! How frequently does pride again dominate us. For this reason we are bidden to,
“Look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged” (Isaiah 51:1)
3. You have abundant cause to marvel at the surpassing love of the Triune God towards you. That the Eternal Three should have set Their heart upon such a wretch is indeed the wonder of all wonders. That God the Father should foreknow and foresee every sin of which you would be guilty in thought and word and deed, and yet have loved thee “with an everlasting love” must indeed fill you with astonishment. That God the Son should have laid aside the robes of His glory and be made in the likeness of sin’s flesh, in order to redeem one so foul and filthy as me, was truly a love “that passeth knowledge.” That God the Holy Spirit should take up His residence and dwell in the heart of one so vile, only proves that where sin abounded grace did much more abound. “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 forever and ever. Amen” (Revelation 1:5, 6).
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