GOD WANTS YOUR HEART!

GOD WANTS YOUR HEART!

Compiled from the works of A.W. Pink by Michael Jeshurun

The story is told of the little girl who wanted to make her father a present for his birthday. Each evening, instead of spending her usual time with her father, she worked on knitting him a scarf . . . and as a result nearly broke his heart! God may appreciate the little scarf you’re making for Him, but He’d rather have YOU!

And when we say He’d rather have YOU, we mean that He’d rather have your HEART! “My son, give Me thine HEART!” [Prov 23:26]

“Keep thy HEART with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life” [Prov. 4:23].

The man is what his heart is. If THIS be dead to God, then nothing in him is alive. If THIS be right with God, all will be right. As the mainspring of a watch sets all its wheels and parts in motion, so as a man “thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Prov. 23:7). If the heart be right, the actions will be. As a man’s heart is, such is his state now and will be hereafter: if it be regenerated and sanctified there will be a life of faith and holiness in this world, and everlasting life will be enjoyed in the world to come. Therefore, “Rather look to the cleansing of thine heart, than to the cleansing of thy well; rather look to the feeding of thine heart, than to the feeding of thy flock; rather look to the defending of thine heart, than to the defending of thine house; rather look to the keeping of thine heart, than to the keeping of thy money” (Peter Moffat, 1570).

Rightly did the Puritan John Favel say, “The keeping and right managing of the heart in every condition is the great business of a Christian’s life.” Now to “keep” the heart right implies that it has been SET RIGHT. Thus it was at regeneration, when it was given a new spiritual bent. True conversion is the heart turning from Satan’s control to God’s, from sin to holiness, from the world to Christ. To KEEP the heart right signifies the constant care and diligence of the renewed to preserve his soul in that holy frame to which grace has reduced it and daily strives to hold it. “Hereupon do all events depend: the heart being kept, the whole course of our life here will be according to the mind of God, and the end of it will be the enjoyment of Him hereafter. This being neglected, life will be lost, both here as unto obedience, and hereafter as to glory” (John Owen in ‘CAUSES OF APOSTASY‘).

To “keep” the heart means STRIVING TO SHUT OUT FROM IT ALL THAT IS OPPOSED TO GOD. “Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21). God is a jealous God and will brook no rival; He claims the throne of our hearts, and requires to be loved by us supremely. When we perceive our affections being inordinately drawn out unto any earthly object, we are to fight against it, and “resist the devil.” When Paul said, “All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be BROUGHT UNDER THE POWER of any” (1 Cor. 6:12), he signified that he was keeping his heart diligently, that he was jealous lest THINGS should gain that esteem and place in his soul which was due alone unto the Lord. A very small object placed immediately before the eye is sufficient to shut out the light of the sun, and trifling things taken up by the affections may soon sever communion with the Holy One.

Before regeneration our hearts were deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked (Jer. 17:9): that was because the evil principle, the “flesh,” had complete dominion over them. But inasmuch as “the flesh” remains in us after conversion, and is constantly striving for the mastery over “the spirit,” the Christian needs to exercise a constant watchful jealousy over his heart, mindful of its readiness to be imposed upon, and its proneness unto a compliance with temptations. All the avenues to the heart need to be carefully guarded so that nothing hurtful enters therein, particularly against vain thoughts and imaginations, and especially in those seasons when they are apt to gain an advantage. For if injurious thoughts are suffered to gain an inroad into the mind, if we accustom ourselves to give them entertainment, then in vain shall we hope to be “spiritually minded” (Romans 8:6). All such thoughts are only making provision to fulfill the lusts of the flesh.

Thus, for the Christian to “keep” his heart with all diligence means for him to pay close attention to the direction in which his affections are moving, to discover whether the things of the world are gaining a firmer and fuller hold over him or whether they are increasingly losing their charm for him. God has exhorted us, “Set your affections on things ABOVE, not on things on the earth” (Col. 3:2), and the heeding of this injunction calls for CONSTANT examination of the heart to discover whether or not it is becoming more and more dead unto this deceitful and perishing world, and whether heavenly things are those in which we find our chief and greatest delight. “Take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart” (Deut. 4:9).

To “keep” the heart means STRIVING TO BRING IT INTO CONFORMITY WITH THE WORD. We are not to rest content until an actual image of its pure and holy teachings is stamped upon it. Alas, so many today are just PLAYING with the solemn realities of God, allowing them to flit across their fancy, but never embracing and making them their own.

Why is it, dear reader, that those solemn impressions you had when hearing a searching sermon or reading a searching article so quickly faded away? Why did not those holy feelings and aspirations which were stirred within you last? Why have they borne no fruit? Was it not because you failed to see that your heart was duly affected by them? You failed to “hold fast” that which you had “received and heard” (Rev. 3:3), and in consequence your heart became absorbed again in “the cares of this life” or “the deceitfulness of riches,” and thus the Word was choked!

It is not enough to hear or read a powerful message from one of God’s servants, and to be deeply interested and stirred by it. If there be no diligent effort on your part, then it will be said that “your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away” (Hosea 6:4). What, then, is required? THIS: earnest and persevering prayer that God will fasten the message in your soul as a nail in a sure place, so that the Devil himself cannot catch it away. What is required? THIS: “Mary kept all these things, and PONDERED them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). Things which are not duly pondered are soon forgotten: meditation stands to reading as mastication does to eating. What is required? This: that you promptly PUT INTO PRACTICE what you have learned, walk according to the light God has given, or it will quickly be taken from you (Luke 8:18).

Not only must the outward actions be regulated by the Word, but THE HEART MUST ALSO BE CONFORMED THERETO. It is not enough to abstain from murder, the causeless anger must be put away. It is not enough to abstain from the act of adultery, the inward lust must be mortified too (Matt. 5:28). God not only takes note of and keeps a record of all our external conduct, but He “weighteth the spirits” (Prov. 16:2). Not only so, He requires US to scrutinize the springs from which our actions proceed, to examine our motives, to ponder THE SPIRIT in which we act. God requires truth — that is sincerity, reality — in “THE INWARD PARTS” (Psalm 51:6). Therefore does He command us, “Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life!”

To “keep” the heart means TO PRESERVE IT TENDER UNTO SIN. The unregenerate man makes little or no distinction between sin and crime; as long as he keeps within the law of the land, and maintains a reputation for respectability among his fellows, he is, generally speaking, quite satisfied with himself. But it is far otherwise with one who has been born again: he has been awakened to the fact that he has to do with GODand must yet render a full account unto Him. He makes conscience of a hundred things which the unconverted never trouble themselves about. When the Holy Spirit first convicted him he was made to feel that his whole life had been one of rebellion against God, of pleasing himself. The consciousness of this pierced him to the quick: his inward anguish far exceeded any pains of body or sorrow occasioned by temporal lapses. He saw himself to be a spiritual leper, and hated himself for it, and mourned bitterly before God. He cried, “Hide Thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:9, 10).

Now it is the duty of the Christian, and part of the task which God has set him, to see to it that THIS SENSE OF THE EXCEEDING SINFULNESS OF SIN BE NOT LOST. He is to labour daily that his heart be duly affected by the heinousness of self-will and self-love. He is steadfastly to resist every effort of Satan to make him pity himself, think lightly of wrongdoing, or excuse himself in the same. He is to live in the constant realization that THE EYE OF GOD IS EVER UPON HIM, so that when tempted he will say with Joseph, “How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin AGAINST GOD?” (Gen. 39:9). He is to view sin in the light of the Cross, daily reminding himself that it was HIS iniquities which caused the Lord of glory to be made a curse for him; employing the dying love of Christ as a motive why he must not allow himself in anything that is contrary to the holiness and obedience which the Saviour asks from all His redeemed.

Ah, my Christian reader, it is no child’s play to “keep the heart with all diligence.” The easy-going religion of our day will never take its devotees (or rather its victims!) to heaven. The question has been asked, “WHO shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or WHO shall stand in His Holy place?” and plainly has the question been answered by God Himself: “He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart,” etc. (Psalm 24:3, 4). Equally plain is the teaching of the New Testament, “Blessed are the pure in heart: for THEY shall see God” (Matt. 5:8). A “pure heart” is one that hates sin, which makes conscience of sin, which grieves over it, which strives against it. A “pure heart” is one that seeks to keep undefiled the temple of the Holy Spirit, the dwelling-place of Christ (Eph. 3:17).

To “keep” the heart means TO LOOK DILIGENTLY AFTER ITS CLEANSING. Perhaps some of our readers often find themselves sorrowfully crying, “Oh, the vileness of my heart!” Thank God if He HAS discovered this to you. But, dear friend, there is no sufficient reason why your “heart” should  CONTINUE to be vile. You might lament that your garden was overgrown with weeds and filled with rubbish; but need it remain so? We speak not now of your sinful NATURE, the incurable and unchangeable “flesh” which still indwells you; but of your “HEART,” which God bids you “keep.” You  ARE  responsible to purge your mind of vain imaginations, your soul of unlawful affections, your conscience of guilt.

But, alas, you say, “I have no control over such things: they come unbidden and I am powerless to prevent them.” So the Devil would have you believe! Revert again to the analogy of your garden. Do not the weeds spring up unbidden? Do not the slugs and other pests seek to prey upon the plants? What, then? Do you merely bewail your helplessness? No, you resist them, and take means to keep them under. Thieves enter houses uninvited, but whose fault is it if the doors and windows be left unfastened? Oh, heed not the seductive lullabies of Satan. God says, “Purify your hearts, ye double minded” (James 4:8); that is, one mind for Him, and another for self! One for holiness, and another for the pleasures of sin.

But HOW am I to “purify” my heart? By vomiting up the foul things taken into it, shamefacedly owning them before God, repudiating them, turning from them with loathing; and it is written, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to CLEANSE us from all unrighteousness.” By daily renewing our exercise of repentance, and  SUCH  repentance as is spoken of in 2 Corinthians 7:11- “for behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter.” By the daily exercise of faith (Acts 15:9), appropriating afresh the cleansing blood of Christ, bathing every night in that “fountain” which has been opened “for sin and uncleanness” (Zech. 13:1). By treading the path of God’s commandments: “Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit” (1 Peter 1:22).

We now point out what is obvious to every Christian reader, namely that such a task calls for Divine aid. Help and grace need to be earnestly and definitely sought of the Holy Spirit each day. We should bow before God, and in all simplicity say, “Lord, Thou requirest me to keep my heart with all diligence, and I feel utterly incompetent for such a task; such a work lies altogether beyond my poor feeble powers; therefore I humbly ask Thee in the name of Christ graciously to grant unto me supernatural strength to do as Thou hast bidden me. Lord, work in me both to will and to do of Thy good pleasure.”

Ah, my reader, true conversion is not only turning away from gross sin, it is the heart forsaking ALL sin. There must be NO RESERVE, for God will not allow any idol, nor must WE. Jehu went so far, but he stopped short of the vital point; he put away evil, but he did not do that which was good. He heeded not the law of the Lord to walk in it “WITH ALL HIS HEART.” 

It is greatly to be feared that THOSE WHO ARE HEEDLESS ARE GRACELESS, for where the principle of holiness is planted in the heart it makes its possessor circumspect and desirous of pleasing God IN ALL THINGS — not from servile fear, but from grateful love; not by constraint, but freely; not occasionally, but CONSTANTLY.

“Keep thine heart with all diligence.” Guard it jealously as the dwelling place of Him to whom you have given it. Guard it with the utmost vigilance, for not only is there the enemy without seeking entrance, but THERE IS A TRAITOR WITHIN desirous of dominion. The Hebrew for “with all diligence” literally rendered is “above all”; above all the concerns of our outward life, for, careful as we should be as to that, it is before the eyes of men, whereas the heart is the object of GOD’S holy gaze. Then “keep” or preserve it more sedulously than your reputation, your body, your estate, your money. With all earnestness and prayer, labour that no evil desire prevails or abides there, avoiding all that excites lust, feeds pride, or stirs up anger, crushing the first emotions of such evils as you would the brood of a scorpion.

“But HOW can I get my heart right? Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots?” Answer: you are creating your own difficulty by confounding “heart” with “nature”; they are quite DISTINCT. It is important to recognize this, for many are confused thereon. There has been such an undue emphasis upon the “two natures in the Christian” that often it has been lost sight of that the Christian is A PERSON over and above his two natures. The Scriptures make the distinction clear enough. For example, God does not bid us keep our “nature,” but He does our “hearts.” We do not believe with our “nature,” but we do with our “hearts” (Romans 10:10). God never tells us to “rend” our nature (Joel 2:13), “circumcise” our nature (Deut. 10:6) or “purify” our nature (James 4:8), but He does our “hearts”! The “heart” is the very centre of our responsibility, and to deny that we are to improve and keep it is to repudiate human accountability.

It is the Devil who seeks to persuade people that they are not responsible for the state of their hearts, and may no more change them than they can the stars in their courses. And the “flesh” within finds SUCH A LIE VERY AGREEABLE TO ITS CASE. But he who has been regenerated by the sovereign grace of God cannot, with the Scriptures before him, give heed unto any such delusion. While he has to deplore how sadly neglected is the great task which God has set before him, while he has to bemoan his wretched failure to make his heart what it ought to be, nevertheless he wants to do better; and after his duty has been pressed upon him he will daily seek grace better to discharge his duty, and instead of being totally discouraged by the difficulty and greatness of the work required he will cry the more fervently to the Holy Spirit for His enablement.

The Christian who means business will labour to have a “willing” heart (Exodus 35:5), which acts spontaneously and gladly, not of necessity; a “perfect” heart (1 Chron. 29:9), sincere, genuine, upright; a “tender” heart (2 Chron. 34:26), yielding and pliable, the opposite of hard and stubborn; a “broken” heart (Psalm 34:18), sorrowing over all failure and sin; a “united” heart (Psalm 86:11), all the affections centred on God; an “enlarged” heart (Psalm 119:32), delighting in EVERY part of Scripture and loving all God’s people; a “sound” heart (Prov. 14:30), right in doctrine and practice; a “merry” heart (Prov. 15:15), rejoicing in the Lord always; a “pure” heart (Matt. 5:8), hating all evil; an “honest and good heart” (Luke 8:15), free from guile and hypocrisy, willing to be searched through and through by the Word; a “single” heart (Eph. 6:5), desiring only God’s glory; a “true” heart (Heb. 10:22), genuine in all its dealings with God.

This work of keeping the heart is OF SUPREME IMPORTANCE. The total disregard of it means that we are mere formalists. “My son, give Me thine heart!” (Prov 23:26) And until THAT be done, God will accept nothing from us. The prayers and praises of our lips, the labour of our hands, yea, and a correct outward walk, are things of no value in HIS sight while the heart be estranged from Him. As the inspired apostle declared, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not LOVE, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not LOVE, I am nothing: And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor and though I give my body to be burned, and have not LOVE, it profiteth nothing” (1 Cor. 13:1-3). If the heart be not right with God, we cannot WORSHIP Him, though we may go through the form of it. Watch diligently, then, your love for HIM.

God cannot be imposed upon, and he who takes NO care to order his heart aright before Him IS A HYPOCRITE!

“And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as My people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them; for with their mouth they show much love, BUT THEIR HEART goeth after their covetousness. And, lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument” (Ezek. 33:31, 32). Here are a company of formal hypocrites, as is evident from the words “as My people” i.e. LIKE them, but not OF THEM. And what constituted them impostors? Their outside was very fair — high professions, reverent postures, much seeming delight in the means of grace. Ah, but their HEARTS were not set on God, but were commanded by their lusts, and went after their covetousness.

But lest a real Christian should infer from the above that He is a hypocrite too, because many times his heart wanders, and he finds — strive all he may — that he cannot keep his mind stayed upon God when praying, reading His Word, or engaged in public worship, to him we answer that the objection carries its own refutation. You say “strive all I may”; ah, if you HAVE, then the blessing of the upright is yours, even though God sees well to exercise you over the affliction of a wandering mind. There remains still much in the understanding and affections to humble you, but if you are EXERCISED over them, strive against them, and SORROW OVER your very imperfect success, then that is quite enough to clear you of the charge of reigning hypocrisy.

The keeping of the heart is supremely important because “out of it are the issues of life”; it is the source and fountain of all vital actions and operations. The heart is the warehouse, the hand and tongue are but the shops; what is in THESE comes from THENCE — the heart contrives and the members execute. It is in the heart that the principles of the spiritual life are formed: “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil” (Luke 6:45). Then let us diligently see to it that the heart be well stored with pious instruction, seeking to increase in grateful love, reverential fear, hatred of sin, and benevolence in all its exercises, that from within these holy springs may flow and fructify our whole conduct and conversation.

This work of keeping the heart is THE HARDEST OF ALL. “To shuffle over religious duties with a loose and heedless spirit will cost no great pains; but to set thyself before the Lord, and tie up thy loose and vain thoughts to a constant and serious attendance upon Him: THIS will cost something! To attain a facility and dexterity of language in prayer, and put thy meaning into apt and decent expressions, is easy; but to get thy heart broken for sin whilst thou art confessing it, be melted with free grace, whilst thou art blessing God for it, be really ashamed and humbled through the apprehensions of God’s infinite holiness, and to KEEP thy heart in THIS frame, not only IN, but AFTER duty, this will surely cost thee some groans and travailing pain of soul.

To repress the outward acts of sin, and compose the external acts of thy life in a laudable and comely manner, is no great matter — even carnal persons by the force of common principles can do this; but to kill the root of corruption within, to set and keep up an holy government over thy thoughts, to have all things lie straight and orderly in the heart, THIS IS NOT EASY” (John Flavel).

Ah, dear reader, it is far, far easier to speak in the open air than to uproot pride from your soul. It calls for much less toil to go out and distribute tracts than it does to cast out of your mind unholy thoughts. One can speak to the unsaved much more readily than he can deny self, take up his cross daily, and follow Christ in the path of obedience. And one can teach a class in the Sunday School with far less trouble than he can teach himself how to strengthen his own spiritual graces. To keep the heart with all diligence calls for frequent examination of its frames and dispositions, the observing of its attitude toward God, and the prevailing directions of its affections; and that is something which no empty professor can be brought to do! Give liberally to religious enterprise he may, but give himself unto the searching, purifying and keeping of his heart he will not.

This work of keeping the heart is A CONSTANT ONE. “The keeping of the heart is such a work as is never done till life be done: THIS LABOUR AND OUR LIFE END TOGETHER!

It is with a Christian in this business, as it is with seamen that have sprung a leak at sea; if they tug not constantly at the pump, the water increases upon them, and will quickly sink them. It is in vain for them to say the work is hard, and we are weary; there is no time or condition in the life of a Christian which will suffer an intermission of this work. It is in the keeping watch over our hearts, as it was in the keeping up of Moses’s hands, while Israel and Amalek were fighting below (Exodus 17:12); no sooner do Moses’ hands grow heavy and sink down, but Amalek prevails. You know it cost David and Peter many a sad day and night for intermitting the watch over their own hearts but a few minutes” (John Flavel).

CONSEQUENCES OF HEART WORK:

Having sought to show that the keeping of the heart is the great work assigned the Christian, in which the very soul and life of true religion consists, and without the performance of which all other duties are unacceptable to God, let us now point out some of the corollaries and consequences which necessarily follow from this fact.

(1) The labours which many have taken in religion are lost. Many great services have been performed, many wonderful works wrought by men, which have been utterly rejected by God, and shall receive no recognition in the day of rewards, WHY? BECAUSE they took no pains to keep their hearts with God in those duties; this is the fatal rock upon which thousands of vain professors have wrecked to their eternal undoing — they were diligent about the EXTERNALS of religion, but regardless of their HEARTS. How many hours have professors spent in hearing, reading, conferring and praying, and yet as to the supreme task God has assigned have done nothing. Tell me, vain professor, when did you spend five minutes in serious effort to keep, purge, improve it? Think you that such an easy religion can save you? If so, we must INVERSEthe words of Christ and say, “Wide is the gate and broad is the way that leadeth unto life, and many there be that go in thereat.”

(2) If the keeping of the heart be the great work of the Christian, then how few REAL Christians are there in the world. If everyone who has learned the dialect of Christianity and can talk like a Christian, if everyone who has natural gifts and abilities and who is helped by the common assisting presence of the Spirit and pray and teach like a Christian, if all who associate themselves with the people of God, contribute of their means to His cause, take delight in public ordinances, and pass as Christians were real ones, then the number of the saint would be considerable. But, alas, to what a little flock do they shrink when measured by THIS rule: how few make conscience of keeping their hearts watching their thoughts, judging their motives. Ah, there is no human applause to induce men to engage in this difficult work, and were hypocrites to do so they would quickly discover what they do not care to know. This heart work is left in the hands of a few hidden ones. Reader, are YOU one of them?

(3) Unless real Christians spend more time and pains about their hearts than they have done, they are never likely to grow in grace, be of much use to God or be possessors of much comfort in this world. You say, “But my heart seems so listless and dead.” Do you wonder at it, when you keep it not in daily communion with Him who is the fountain of life? If your body had received no more concern and attention than your soul, what state would it now be in? Oh, my brother, or sister, has not your zeal run in the wrong channels? God may be enjoyed even in the midst of earthly employments: “Enoch walked with God, and begat sons and daughters” (Gen. 5:19) — he did not retire into a monastery, nor is there any need for you to do so.

(4) It is high time the Christian reader set to this heart work in real earnest. Do not you lament, “They made me the keeper of the vineyards; but mine own vineyard have I not kept” (Song of Sol. 1:16)? Then away with fruitless controversies and idle questions; away with empty names and vain shows; away with harsh censuring of others — turn upon YOURSELF. You have been a stranger long enough to this work; you have trifled about the borders of religion too long: the world has deterred you from this vitally necessary work too long. Will you now resolve to look better after your heart? Haste you to your closet.

 ADVANTAGES OF HEART WORK

The heart of man is his worst part before it be regenerate, and his best part afterwards; it is the seat of principles and the source of actions. The eye of God is, and the eye of the Christian ought to be, principally fixed upon it. The great difficulty after conversion is to keep the heart with God. Herein lies the very pinch and stress of religion; here is that which makes the way to life a narrow way, and the gate of heaven a straight one. To afford some direction and help in this great work, these articles have been presented. We realize their many defects, yet trust that God will be pleased to use them. No other subject can begin to compare with it in practical importance.

The general neglect of the heart is the root cause of the present sad state of Christendom; the remainder of this article might readily be devoted unto the verifying and amplifying of that statement; instead, we merely point out briefly one or two of the more prominent features. Why is it that so many preachers have withheld from their congregations that which was, so obviously, most needed? Why have they “spoken smooth things” instead of wielding the sword of the Spirit? Because their own hearts were not right with God: HIS holy fear was not upon them. An “honest and good heart” (Luke 8:15) will cause a servant of Christ to preach what he sees to be the most essential and profitable truths of the Word, however displeasing they may be unto many of his people. He will faithfully rebuke, exhort, admonish, correct and instruct, whether his hearers like it or not.

Why have so many church members departed from the faith and given heed to seducing spirits? Why have multitudes been led away by the error of the wicked, turning the grace of God into lasciviousness? Why have so many others been attracted to companies of notional professors, which, despite their proud boasts of being the only people gathered together in (or unto) the name of Christ, are, for the most part, people who have only an acquaintance with the letter of Scripture and are strangers to practical godliness? Ah, the answer is not far to seek: it was because they had no HEART acquaintance with the things of God. It is those who are sickly and diseased who fall easy victims unto the quacks; so it is those whose hearts are never rooted and grounded in the Truth who are tossed about with every wind and doctrine. The study and guarding of the heart is the best antidote against the infectious errors of the times. And this leads us to point out some of the ADVANTAGES of keeping the heart. For much of what follows we are indebted to the Puritan, John Flavel.

(1) The pondering and garrisoning of the heart is a great help to the understanding of the deep things of God. An honest and experienced heart is a wonderful aid to a weak head. Such a heart will serve as a commentary upon a great portion of the Scriptures. When such a one reads the Psalms of David or in the Epistles of Paul, he will find there many of his own difficulties stated and solved: he will find them speaking the language of his own heart — recounting HIS experiences, expressing  HIS  sorrows and joys. By a close and regular study of the heart he will be far better fitted to understand the things of God than graceless rabbis and inexperienced doctors — not only will they be clearer, but far sweeter unto him. A man may discourse orthodoxly and profoundly of the nature and effects of faith, of the preciousness of Christ, and the sweetness of communion with God, who never felt the impressions or efficacy of them upon his own spirit. But how dull and dry will these  NOTIONS be unto those who have BEWITCHED THEM.

Ah, my reader, EXPERIENCE is the great schoolmaster. Much in Job and Lamentations will seem dull and uninteresting until you have had DEEPER EXERCISES OF SOUL. The seventh chapter of Romans is not likely to appeal much unto you until you make more conscience of indwelling sin. Many of the later Psalms will appear too extravagant in their language until you enjoy closer and sweeter fellowship with God. But the more you endeavour to keep your heart, and bring it into subjection unto God, to keep it from the evil solicitations of Satan, the more SUITED TO YOUR OWN CASE will you find many chapters of the Bible.

It is not simply that you have to be in the “right mood” to appreciate, but that you have to pass through certain exercises of heart ere you can discover their appropriateness. Then it is that you will have “felt” and “tasted” for yourself the things of which the inspired writers treat. Then it is that you will have the key which unlocks many a verse that is fast closed unto masters of Hebrew and Greek.

(2) Care in keeping the heart supplies one of the best evidences of sincerity. There is no external act which distinguishes the sound from the unsound professor, but before this trial no hypocrite can stand. It is true that when they think death to be very near many will cry out of the wickedness and fear in their hearts, but that signifies nothing more than does the howling of an animal when it is in distress. But if you are tender of your conscience, watchful of your thoughts, and careful each day of the workings and frames of your heart, this strongly argues the sincerity of it; for what but a real hatred of sin, what but a sense of the Divine eye being upon you, could put anyone upon these secret duties which lie out of the observation of all creatures? If, then, it be such a desirable thing to have a fair testimony of your integrity, and to know of a truth that you fear God, then study, watch, keep the heart.

The true comfort of our souls much depends upon this, for he that is negligent in keeping his heart is generally a stranger to spiritual assurance and the sweet comforts flowing from it. God does not usually indulge lazy souls with inward peace, for He will not be the patron of any carelessness. He has united together our diligence and comfort, and they are greatly mistaken who suppose that the beautiful child of assurance can be born without soul pangs. Diligent self-examination is called for: first the looking into the Word, and then the looking into our hearts, to see HOW FAR THEY CORRESPOND. It is true that the Holy Spirit indwells the Christian, but He cannot be discerned by His essence; IT IS HIS OPERATIONS THAT MANIFEST HIM, and these are known BY THE GRACES HE PRODUCES in the soul; and those can only be perceived by diligent search and honest scrutiny of the heart. It is in the HEART that the Spirit works.

(3) Care in keeping the heart makes blessed and fruitful the means of grace and the discharge of our spiritual duties. What precious communion we have with God when He is approached in a right frame of soul: then we may say with David, “My meditation of Him shall be sweet” (Psalm 104:34). But when the heart be indisposed, full of the things of this life, then we miss the comfort and joy which should be ours. The sermons you hear and the articles you read (if by God’s servants) will appear very different if you bring a PREPARED heart to them! If the heart be right you will not grow drowsy while hearing or reading of the riches of God’s grace, the glories of Christ, the beauty of holiness, or the needs-be for a scripturally ordered walk. It was because the heart was neglected that you got so little from attending to the means of grace!

The same holds good of prayer. What a difference there is between a deeply exercised and spiritually burdened heart pouring out itself before God in fervent supplication and the utterance of verbal petitions by rote! It is the difference between reality and formality. He who is diligent in heart work and perceives the state of his own soul is at no loss in knowing WHAT to ask God for. So he who makes it a practice of walking with God, communing with God, meditating upon God, spontaneously worships Him in spirit and in truth: like David, he will say, “My heart is inditing a good matter” (Psalms 45:1). The Hebrew there is very suggestive: literally it is “my heart is boiling up a good matter”; it is a figurative expression, taken from a living spring, which is bubbling up fresh water. The formalist has to rack his mind and, as it were, laboriously pump up something to say unto God; but he who makes conscience of heart work finds his soul like a bottle of new wine -ready to burst, giving vent to sorrow or joy as his case may be.

(4) Diligence in keeping the heart will make the soul stable in the hour of temptation. The care or neglect of the conscience largely determines our attitude toward and response unto solicitations of evil. The careless heart falls an easy prey to Satan. His main attacks are made upon the heart, for if he gains THAT he gains all, for it commands the whole man! Alas, how easy a conquest is an UNGUARDED heart; it is no more difficult for the Devil to capture it than for a burglar to enter a house whose windows and doors are unfastened. It is the watchful heart that both discovers and suppresses the temptation before it comes in its full strength. It is much like a large stone rolling down a hill — it is easy to stop at first, but very difficult after it has gained full momentum. So, if we cherish the first vain imagination as it enters the mind, it will soon grow into a powerful lust which will not take a nay.

Acts are preceded by desires, and desires by thoughts. A sinful object first presents itself to the imagination, and unless THAT  be nipped in the bud the affections will be stirred and enlisted. If the heart does not repel the evil imagination, if instead it dwells on it, encourages it, feeds on it, then it will not be long before the consent of the will is obtained. A very large and important part of heart work lies in observing its first motions, and checking sin THERE. The motions of sin are weakest at the first, and a little watchfulness and care then prevents much trouble and mischief later. But if the first movings of sin in the imagination be not observed and resisted, then the careless heart is quickly brought under the full power of temptation, and Satan is victorious.

(5) The diligent keeping of the heart is a great aid to the improving of our graces. Grace never thrives in a careless soul, for the roots and habits of grace are planted in the heart, and the deeper they are radicated there the more thriving and flourishing grace is. In Ephesians 3:17, we read of being “rooted and grounded in love”: love in the heart is the spring of every gracious word of the mouth and of every holy act of the hand. But is not CHRIST the “root” of the Christian’s graces? Yes, the originating root, but grace is the DERIVATIVE root, planted and nourished by Him, and according as THIS thrives under Divine influences, so the fruits of grace are more healthy and vigorous. But in a heart which is not kept diligently those fructifying influences are choked. Just as in an uncared-for garden the weeds crowd out the flowers, so vain thoughts that are not disallowed, and lusts which are not mortified, devour the strength of the heart. “My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and with fatness; and my mouth shall praise Thee with joyful lips: WHEN I remember Thee upon my bed, and meditate on Thee in the night watches” (Psalm 55:5, 6).

(6) The diligent care of the heart makes Christian fellowship profitable and precious. Why is it that when Christians meet together there are often sad jarrings and contentions? It is because of unmortified passions. Why is their conversation so frothy and worthless? It is because of the vanity and earthiness of their hearts. It is not difficult to discern by the actions and converse of Christians what frames their spirits are under. Take one whose mind is truly stayed upon God; how serious, heavenly and edifying is his conversation: “The mouth of the righteous speaketh wisdom, and his tongue talketh of judgment: the law of his God IS IN HIS HEART” (Psalm 37:30, 31). If each of us was humbled every day before God and under the evils of his own heart, we should be more pitiful and tender toward others (Gal. 6:1).

(7) A heart well kept fits us for any condition God may cast us into, or any service He has to use us in. He who has learnt to keep his heart lowly is fit for prosperity; and he who knows how to apply Scripture promises and supports is fit to pass through any adversity. So he who can deny the pride and selfishness of his heart is fit to be employed in any service for God. Such a man was Paul; he not only ministered to others, but looked well to his own vineyard (see 1 Cor 9:27). And what an eminent instrument he was for God: he knew how to abound and how to suffer loss. Let the people defy him, it moved him not except to indignation; let them stone him, he could bear it.

(8) By keeping our hearts diligently we should the soonest remove the scandal; and stumbling-blocks out of the way of the world. How the worthy name of our Lord is blasphemed because of the wicked conduct of many who bear His name. What prejudice has been created against the Gospel by the inconsistent lives of those who preach it. But if we keep our hearts, we shall not add to the scandals caused by the ways of loose professors. Nay, those with whom we come in contact with will see that we “have been with Jesus.” When the majestic beams of holiness shine from a heavenly walk, the world will be awed and respect will again be commanded by the followers of the Lamb.

Though the keeping of the heart entails such hard labour, do not such blessings supply a sufficient incentive to engage diligently in the same? Look over the eight special benefits we have named, and weigh them in a just balance; the are not trivial things. Then guard well your heart, and watch closely ITS LOVE FOR GOD. Jacob served seven years for Rebekah, and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love that he had unto her. The labour of LOVE is always delightful. If God has your heart, the feet will run swiftly in the way of His commandments duty will be a delight. Then let us earnestly pray, “So teach us to number our days, that we may APPLY OUR HEARTS unto wisdom” (Psalm 90:12) — as we “apply our hands unto manual tasks.

Let me now close with a word or two of consolation to all serious Christians who have sought to give themselves faithfully and closely to this heart work, but who are groaning in secret over their apparent lack of success therein, and who are fearful that their experience falls short of a saving one.

First, this argues that our heart IS honest and upright. If you are mourning over heart conditions and sins, THAT is something no hypocrite does. Many a one is now in hell who had a better head than mine; many a one now in heaven complained of as bad a heart as thine.

Second, God would never leave you under so many heart burdens and troubles if He intended not your benefit thereby. You say, Lord, why do I go mourning, all the day having sorrow of heart? For long have I been exercised over its hardness, and not yet it is broken. Many years have I been struggling against vain thoughts, and still I am plagued by them. When shall I get a better heart? Ah, God would thereby show you what your heart by nature is, and have you take notice of how much you are beholden or indebted to free grace! So too, He would keep you humble, and not let you fall in love with yourself!

Third, God will shortly put a blessed end to these cares, watchings and heartaches. The time is coming when your heart shall be as you would have it, when you will be delivered from all fears and sorrows, and never again cry, “O my hard, vain, earthly, filthy heart.” Then shall all darkness be purged from your understanding, all vanity from your affections, all guilt from your conscience, all perversity from your will. Then shall you be everlastingly, delightfully, ravishingly entertained and exercised upon the supreme goodness and infinite excellency of God. Soon shall break that morning without clouds, when all the shadows shall flee away; and then we “shall be LIKE HIM, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2). Hallelujah!

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NONE BELIEVE SAVE THOSE ORDAINED TO ETERNAL LIFE

NONE BELIEVE SAVE THOSE ORDAINED TO ETERNAL LIFE

A.W. Pink

“As many as were ordained to eternal life, believed” (Acts 13:48).

Every artifice of human ingenuity has been employed to blunt the sharp edge of this Scripture and to explain away the obvious meaning of these words, but it has been employed in vain, though nothing will ever be able to reconcile this and similar passages to the mind of the natural man. “As many as were ordained to eternal life, believed.”

Here we learn four things:

First, that believing is the consequence AND NOT THE CAUSE of God’s decree.

Second, that a LIMITED NUMBER only are “ordained to eternal life,” for if all men without exception were thus ordained by God, then the words “as many as are a meaningless qualification.

Third, that this “ordination” of God is not to mere external privileges but to “eternal life,” not to service but to SALVATION ITSELF.

Fourth, that ALL—”as many as,” NOT ONE LESS—who are thus ordained by God to eternal life WILL most certainly believe.

The comments of the beloved Spurgeon on the above passage are well worthy of our notice. Said he –

“Attempts have been made to prove that these words do not teach predestination, but these attempts so clearly do violence to language that I shall not waste time in answering them. I read: ‘As many as were ordained to eternal life believed’, and I shall not twist the text but shall glorify the grace of God by ascribing to that grace the faith of every man.
Is it not God who gives the disposition to believe? If men are disposed to have eternal life, does not He—in every case—dispose them?

Is it wrong for God to give grace? If it be right for Him to give it, is it wrong for Him to purpose to give it? Would you have Him give it by accident? If it is right for Him to purpose to give grace today, it was right for Him to purpose it before today—and, since He changes not—from eternity.”

[ Quoted from A.W. Pink’s ‘Sovereignty of God’ ]

THE LEADING OF THE LORD

THE LEADING OF THE LORD

A.W. Pink

“He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; He led him about, He instructed him, He kept him as the apple of His eye.” [Deut 32:10]

“He led him about.” The “finding” is not the end, but only the beginning of God’s dealings with His own. Having found him, He remains never more to leave him. Now that He has found His wandering child He teaches him to walk in the Narrow Way. There is a beautiful word on God “leading” in Hosea 11:3: “I taught Ephraim also to go, taking them by their arms. Just as a fond mother takes her little one, whose feet are yet too weak and untrained to walk alone, so the Lord takes His people by their arms and leads them in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Such is His promise: “He will keep the feet of His saints” (1 Sam. 2:9). There is a threefold “leading” of the Lord:

EVANGELICAL.—The Lord Jesus declared, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by Me” (John 14:6). But again He said, ‘No man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw him” John 6:44). Here then is how God leads: He leads the poor sinner to Christ. Have you, my reader, been brought to the Saviour? Is Christ your only hope? Are you trusting in the sufficiency of His precious blood? If so, what cause have you to praise God for having led you to His blessed Son!

DOCTRINAL.—The Lord Jesus declared, “When He the Spirit of truth is come, He will guide you into all the truth” John 16:13). We are not capable of discovering or entering into the Truth of ourselves, therefore do we have to be guided into it. “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” (Rom. 8:14). It is He who makes us to lie down in the “green pastures of Scripture and who leads us beside the “still waters” of His promises. How thankful we ought to be for every ray of light which has been granted us from the lamp of God’s Word.

PROVIDENTIAL.—”Thou in thy manifold mercies forsookest them not in the wilderness: the pillar of the cloud departed not from them by day, to lead them in the way; neither the pillar of fire by night, to show them light, and the way wherein they should go” (Neh. 9:19). Just as Jehovah led Israel of old, so today He leads us step by step through this wilderness-world. What a mercy this is. “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord and he delighteth in his way” (Ps. 37:23). Yes, every detail of our lives is regulated by the Most High.

All my times are in Thy hand,
All events at Thy command,
All must come and last and end,
As doth please our Heavenly Friend.

STRUGGLE WITH SIN – A SIGN OF REGENERATION

STRUGGLE WITH SIN – A SIGN OF REGENERATION

A.W. Pink

He who is really honest with himself and has had his eyes opened in some degree to see the awful sinfulness of self, and who is becoming more and more acquainted with that sink of iniquity, that mass of corruption which still indwells him, often feels that sin more completely rules him now than ever it did before. When he longs to trust God with all his heart, unbelief seems to paralyze him. When he wishes to be completely surrendered to God’s blessed will, murmurings and rebellion surge within him. 

When he would spend an hour in meditating on the things of God, evil imaginations harass him. When he desires to be more humble, pride seeks to fill him. When he would pray, his mind wanders. The more he fights against these sins, the further off victory seems to be. To him it appears that sin is very much the master of him, and Satan tells him that his profession is vain. What shall we say to such a dear soul who is deeply exercised over this problem?

The very fact that you are conscious of these sins and are so much concerned over your failure to overcome them, is a HEALTHY SIGN. It is the blind who cannot see; it is the dead who feel not – true alike naturally and spiritually. Only they who have been quickened into newness of life are capable OF REAL SORROW FOR SIN. Moreover, such experiences as we have mentioned above evidence a spiritual growth: a growth in the knowledge of self. As the wise man tells us, ‘he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow’ (Eccl. 1:18). In God’s light we see light (Ps. 36:9). The more the Holy Spirit reveals to me the high claims of God’s holiness, the more I discover how far short I come of meeting them.

Let the midday sun shine into a darkened room, and dust and dirt which before were invisible are now plainly seen. So with the Christian: the more the light of God enters his heart, the more he discovers the spiritual filth which dwells there. Beloved brother, or sister, it is not that you are becoming more sinful, but that GOD IS NOW GIVING YOU A CLEARER AND FULLER SIGHT OF YOUR SINFULNESS. Praise Him for it, for the eyes of the vast majority of your fellows (religionists included) are blind, and cannot see what so distresses YOU!

WHO ARE THE PEOPLE OF GOD?

WHO ARE THE PEOPLE OF GOD?

Michael Jeshurun

Sometimes in order to ascertain that which is, it is necessary to define that which is not. If there are those designated by Scripture as ‘His people’ then there must be many who are NOT ‘His people’. Who are these?

First, they are not all ‘His people’ who go by a ‘Christian’ name or have been confirmed as Christians by either being sprinkled in infancy or had a Christian upbringing.

Secondly, they are not all those who have been induced to “make a profession” through some high pressured “evangelist!” i.e. they are not all those who have ‘raised a hand’ at the end of a preacher’s emotional sermon, repeated the ‘sinner’s prayer’, walked an aisle or signed a ‘decision card’ or whatever!

Neither are they those who have been warned against what has just been described above, and fearful of being deluded by such religious hucksters are determined to “settle the matter” directly with God in the privacy of their own room or some secluded spot. These have been given to understand that God loves everybody, that Christ died for the whole human race, and that nothing is required of them but faith in the gospel. By ‘saving faith’ they suppose that a mere intellectual assent to, or acceptance of, such statements as are found in John 3:16 and Romans 10:13 is all that is intended. It matters not that John 2:23, 24 declares that “many believed in his name but Jesus did not commit himself unto them,” that “many believed on him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him lest they be put out of the synagogue, for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God,” which shows how much their “believing” was worth. Imagining that the natural man is CAPABLE of “receiving Christ as personal Saviour” they make the attempt, doubt not their success, go on their way rejoicing, and none can shake their assurance that they are now real Christians!

We are not saying that God does not have ‘His people’ in the classes mentioned above. But as a general rule the majority of these do not constitute ‘His people’ which the Bible speaks of. And the small minority whom God calls from this deluded lot, shall by and by be illuminated by God’s Spirit to see the error of their ways and give God ALL the glory for their salvation, and confess that salvation, (if it is genuine at all) is “NOT of him that willeth, NOR of him that runneth, BUT OF GOD that sheweth mercy!” [Rom 9:16]

But to return. WHO are those whom the Bible classifies as ‘His people’?

‘His people’ are those who are ‘Foreknown’ by God before the world began! “For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son.” [Rom 8:28] When we read in Scripture of God “knowing” certain people, the word is used in the sense of KNOWING WITH APPROBATION AND LOVE.

Instead of imagining that these words ‘KNOW’ and ‘FOREKNOW’ signify no more than a simple cognition, the different passages in which they occur require to be carefully weighed. The word “foreknowledge” is not found in the Old Testament. But ‘know’ occurs there frequently. When that term is used in connection with God, it often signifies to regard with favour, denoting not mere cognition but an AFFECTION for the object in view. “I KNOW THEE by name” (Ex. 33:17). “Ye have been rebellious against the Lord from the day that I KNEW YOU” (Deut. 9:24). “Before I formed thee in the belly I KNEW THEE” (Jer. 1:5). “They have made princes and I KNEW IT NOT” (Hos. 8:4). “You only have I KNOWN of all the families of the earth” (Amos 3:2). In these passages ‘knew’ signifies either loved or appointed.

In like manner, the word “know” is frequently used in the New Testament, in the same sense as in the Old Testament. “Then will I profess unto them, I NEVER KNEW YOU” (Matt. 7:23). “I am the good shepherd and KNOW MY SHEEP and am known of Mine” (John 10:14). “If any man love God, the same is KNOWN OF HIM” (1 Cor. 8:3). “The Lord KNOWETH them that are His” (2 Tim. 2:19).

Now the word “foreknowledge” as it is used in the New Testament is less ambiguous than in its simple form “to know.” If every passage in which it occurs is carefully studied, it will be discovered that it is a moot point (an irrelevant argument) whether it ever has reference to the mere perception of events which are yet to take place. The fact is that “foreknowledge” is never used in Scripture in connection with events or actions; instead, it always has reference to PERSONS. It is persons God is said to “foreknow,” not the ACTIONS of those persons.

Consider Romans 8;29,30. “For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image, of His Son, that He might be the Firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He did predestinate, them He also called,” etc. Weigh well the pronoun that is used here. It is not WHAT He did foreknow, but WHOM He did. It is not the surrendering of their wills nor the believing of their hearts but the PERSONS THEMSELVES, which is here in view.

“God hath not cast away His people which He foreknew” (Rom. 11:2). Once more the plain reference is to PERSONS, AND TO PERSONS ONLY.

The last mention is in 1 Peter 1:2: “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.” Who are elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father? The previous verse tells us: the reference is to the “strangers scattered” i.e. the Diaspora, the Dispersion, the believing Jews. Thus, here too the reference is to persons, and not to their foreseen acts.
Now in view of these passages (and there are no more) what scriptural ground is there for anyone saying God “foreknew” the ACTS of certain ones, viz., their “repenting and believing,” and that because of those acts He elected them unto salvation? The answer is, NONE whatever. Scripture never speaks of repentance and faith as being foreseen or foreknown by God. Truly, He did know from all eternity that certain ones would repent and believe, yet this is not what Scripture refers to as the object of God’s “foreknowledge.” The word uniformly refers to God’s foreknowing persons; then let us “hold fast the form of sound words” (2 Tim. 1:13).

Secondly, ‘His people’ are those whom God the father gave to the Son to redeem them from the curse of the Law [Gal 3:13]. “I have manifested Thy name unto the men which Thou gavest Me out of the world: Thine they were, and Thou gavest them Me; and they have kept Thy word.” [John 17:6]

These who belonged to the Father and are given to the son, the Bible calls them the Elect, the Sheep, the Chosen, the Called etc. And it is FOR THESE AND THESE ALONE whom Christ came for and suffered, died and rose again and for NO ONE ELSE!

“For the transgression of My people was He (Christ) stricken!” [Isaiah 53:8].
“I am the Good Shepherd: the Good Shepherd giveth His life FOR THE SHEEP.” [John 10:11] (not the goats)
“As the Father knoweth Me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down My life FOR THE SHEEP!”

And OTHER SHEEP I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear My voice; and there shall be one fold, and One Shepherd!” [John 10:15,16]

It would be pointless to say, “I lay down My life for the sheep” if He laid down His life for the whole world indiscriminately!

There IS a world of the Elect and a world of the Reprobate! A world of the godly and a world of the ungodly! A world of sheep and a world of goats!

When God says, that he so loved the world that he gave His only begotten son, it is the world of ‘His people’ that He has in view!

Come now, if our Lord suffered and died for the ‘whole world’ indiscriminately, then why would He say –

“I pray for THEM: I pray NOT FOR THE WORLD, but FOR THEM WHICH THOU HAST GIVEN ME; for they are Thine.” [John 17:9]

And further down when He extends the scope of the recipients of His High Priestly prayer, it is not for the WHOLE WORLD indiscriminately which He prays for, but His other sheep whom He foreknew – “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on Me through their word!” [John 17:20]

‘His people’ whom the Bible so designates are those who are foreknown and loved by the Father, redeemed by the Son and regenerated and made alive by the Spirit! NOT every Tom, Dick and Harry . . . or Jane, Jill and Mary but a “a CHOSEN GENERATION, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a PECULIAR people; that ye should shew forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light!” [1Pet 2:9]

Dearly beloved, if you are a real Christian, you are so because GOD chose you in Christ before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4), and chose not because He foresaw you would believe, but chose simply because it pleased Him to choose: chose you notwithstanding your natural unbelief. This being so, all the glory and praise belongs to Him ALONE. YOU have no ground for taking any credit to yourself. You have “believed through grace” (Acts 18:27), and that, because your very election was “of grace” (Rom. 11:5).

Hallelujah!

[Paraphrased and quoted from the writings of A.W. Pink]

BODILY THIRST AND SOUL THIRST

BODILY THIRST AND SOUL THIRST

by A.W. Pink

 “In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink”. [John 7:37]

Here is the Gospel in a single short sentence. Three words in it stand out and call for special emphasis—”thirst,” “come,” “drink.” The first tells of a recognized need. Thirst, like hunger, is something of which we are acutely conscious. It is a craving for that which is not in our actual possession. There is a soul thirst as well as a bodily. The pathetic thing is that so many thirst for that which cannot slake them. Their thirst is for the things of the world: pleasure, money, fame, ease, self-indulgence; and over all these Christ has written in imperishable letters, “Whosoever drinketh of this water SHALL THIRST AGAIN.” (Like Lord Byron)

But in our text Christ is referring to a thirst for something infinitely nobler and grander, even for Himself. He speaks of that intense longing for Himself which ONLY THE SPIRIT OF GOD CAN CREATE IN THE SOUL. If a poor sinner is convicted of his pollution and desires cleansing, if he is weighted down with the awful burden of conscious guilt and desires pardon, if he is fully aware of his weakness and impotency and longs for strength and deliverance, if he is filled with fears and distrust and craves for peace and rest,—then, says Christ, let him “come unto me.” Happy the one who so thirsts after Christ that he can say, “As the hart panteth after the waterbrooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God” (Ps. 42:1).

“Let him come unto me.” “Come” is one of the simplest words in the English language. It signifies our approach to an object or person. It expresses action, and implies that the will is operative. To come to Christ means, that you do with your heart and will what you would do with your feet were He standing in bodily form before you and saying, “Come unto me.” It is an act of faith. IT INTIMATES THAT YOU HAVE TURNED YOUR BACK UPON THE WORLD, AND HAVE ABANDONED ALL CONFIDENCE IN EVERYTHING ABOUT YOURSELF, AND NOW CAST YOURSELF EMPTY-HANDED, AT THE FEET OF INCARNATE GRACE AND TRUTH. But make sure that nothing whatever is substituted for Christ. It is not, come to the Lord’s table, or come to the waters of baptism, or come to the priest or minister, or come and join the church; but come to CHRIST HIMSELF, and to none other.

“And drink.” It is here that so many seem to fail. There are numbers who give evidence of an awakened conscience, of heart-exercise, of a conscious need of Christ; and there are numbers who appear to be seeking Him, and yet stop short at that. But Christ not only said, “Come unto me,” but He added, “and drink.” A river flowing through a country where people were dying of thirst, would avail them nothing unless THEY DRINK OF IT. The blood of the slain lamb availed the Israelite household nothing, unless the head of that household had applied it to the door. So Christ saves none who do not receive Him by faith. “Drinking” is here a figurative expression, and signifies making Christ your own. In all ages God’s saints have been those who saw their deep need, who came to the Lord, and appropriated the provision of grace.

“If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.”

Let us not forget where these words were first uttered. THE SPEAKER WAS NOT IN A PENITENTIARY (PRISON OR JAIL), BUT IN THE TEMPLE. Christ was not addressing a company of profligates, but a RELIGIOUS CROWD who were observing a Divinely-instituted Feast! What an example for each of His servants! Brother preacher, take nothing for granted. Do not suppose that because those you address are respectable people and punctual in their religious exercises they are necessarily saved. Heed that word of your Master’s, and “preach the gospel to EVERY CREATURE,” cultured as well as illiterate, the respectable as well as the profligate, the religious man as well as the irreligious.

‘BELIEVING’ IN CHRIST THAT IS NOT A ‘BELIEVING UNTO SALVATION’!

‘BELIEVING’ IN CHRIST THAT IS NOT A ‘BELIEVING UNTO SALVATION’!

A.W. Pink

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 Buddhists believe in Buddha, 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 (Matt 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!

It is striking and solemn to mark the exact wording in the last two Scriptures referred to. Note the repeated personal pronoun in Mark 6:20: “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. 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 Thess 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 (Jer 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” (Isa 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: “It pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by His grace, to reveal His Son in me” (Gal 1:15,16).

“Unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us” (Eph 3:20). “Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it” (Phil 1:6). “It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure” (Phil 2:13). “I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them” (Heb 10: 16). “Now the God of peace…make you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is well pleasing in His sight” (Heb 13:20). Here are seven passages which speak of the inward workings of God’s grace; or in other words of experimental salvation.

“LORD, Thou wilt ordain peace for us: for Thou also hast wrought all our works in us” (Isa 26:12). 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, “Ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess” (Matt 23:25). 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: “I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them” (Heb 10:16).

“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” (Rev 3:17). But here is something to humble us, and empty us of pride. Since God has wrought all our works in us, then we have no ground for boasting. “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?” (I Cor 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). “Of His own will begat He us with the word of truth” (James 1:18).

Second, He bestows repentance: “Him hath God exalted with His right hand to be a Prince and a Savior, for to give repentance to Israel” (Acts 5:31). “Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life” (Acts 11:18; 2 Tim 2:25).

Third, He gives faith: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” (Eph 2:8). “Ye are risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God” (Col 2:12).

Fourth, He grants a spiritual understanding:’And we know the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know Him that is true” (I John 5:20).

Fifth, He effectuates our service: “I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (I Cor 15:10).

Sixth, He secures our perseverance: “who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation” (I Pet 1:5).

Seventh, He produces our fruit: “From Me is thy fruit found” (Hosea 14:8). “The fruit of the Spirit” (Gal 5:22). Yes, He has wrought ALL OUR WORKS IN US!

Hallelujah!

THE BIBLE IS FULL OF GOD’S SOVEREIGN ELECTION 

THE BIBLE IS FULL OF GOD’S SOVEREIGN ELECTION

A.W. Pink

There is not a single book in the Word of God where election is not either expressly stated, strikingly illustrated, or clearly implied. Genesis is full of it: the difference which the Lord made between Nahor and Abraham, Ishmael and Isaac, and His loving Jacob and hating Esau are cases to the point. In Exodus we behold the distinction made by God between the Egyptians and the Hebrews. In Leviticus the atonement and all the sacrifices were for the people of God, nor were they bidden to go and “offer” them to the surrounding heathen. In Numbers Jehovah used a Balaam to herald the fact that Israel were “the people” who “shall dwell alone, and shall not be numbered among the nations” (23:9); and therefore was he constrained to cry “How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, and thy tabernacles, 0 Israel” (24:5). In Deuteronomy it is recorded “The Lord’s portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance” (32:9).

In Joshua we behold the discriminating mercy of the Lord bestowed upon Rahab the harlot, while the whole of her city was doomed to destruction. In Judges the sovereignty of God appears in the unlikely instruments selected, by which He wrought victory for Israel: Deborah, Gideon, Samson. In Ruth we have Orpah kissing her mother-in-law and returning to her gods, whereas Ruth cleaves to her and obtained inheritance in Israel—who made them to differ? In 1 Samuel David is chosen for the throne, preferred to his older brethren. In 2 Samuel we learn of the everlasting covenant “ordered in all things, and sure” (23:5). In 1 Kings Elijah becomes a blessing to a single widow selected from many; while in 2 Kings Naaman alone, of all the lepers, was cleansed. In 1 Chronicles it is written “Ye children of Jacob, His chosen ones” (16:13); while in 2 Chronicles we are made to marvel at the grace of God bestowing repentance upon Manasseh.

And so we might go on. The Psalms, Prophets, Gospels and Epistles are so full of this doctrine that he may run that readeth it. [Hab 2:2]

LOOKING UNTO THE LORD

LOOKING UNTO THE LORD

A.W. Pink

“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith!” [Heb12:2]

Looking unto the Lord is an attitude of the SOUL, an act of the WILL, and the exercise of FAITH — a turning away from all that is of the CREATURE, and relying solely upon the living God!

It is tersely — but graphically, expressed in these words: “But our eyes are upon Thee!” (2 Chronicles 20:12), and blessed is the one who can really so aver. THAT is the language of all God’s children, when they are in their right minds. At that time, they place no reliance upon SELF, have no confidence in the FLESH, and expect nothing good from the WORLD — but they put all their trust in the Lord. Their hearts are engaged with an almighty God, and, like Moses, they endure “as seeing Him who is invisible” (Heb 11:27).

It is this which characterizes those who are members of the Household of Faith:
in their NEED — they look to God for their supplies;
in their STRAITS — they look to God for deliverance;
in their TROUBLE — they look to God for comfort;
in their WEAKNESS — they look to God for strength.

It is this which distinguishes them from unbelievers, who lean upon the “arm of FLESH” (2 Chronicles 32:8) and look to their FELLOWS for help. In proportion, as we maintain this attitude of dependence on and expectation from our heavenly Father . . .
our hearts will be kept in peace,
our souls made to rejoice, and
our every need will be supplied.

For the sake of young preachers, we will topicalize our subject.

1. THE LOOK OF SALVATION. “Look unto ME, and be saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else” (Isa 45:22). Look not to the Law, the priest, nor to your baptism, nor church attendance. Look not to your sincerity and good intentions, nor to your prayers and good deeds; nor even to your convictions of sin. None but CHRIST can save you. This is very humbling to the proud creature: to have to look away from SELF — and be wholly indebted to Another. It is not a matter of WHAT WE ARE — how good or bad — but of what He is: namely, an all-sufficient Savior, freely offered in the Gospel to every hearer.

If you look unto Him, as the serpent-bitten Israelites looked upon the divinely appointed object (John 3:14) — with simple but confident faith — He will save you!

No QUALIFICATIONS are needed to entitle you to do so — the command of God and the invitation of the Gospel supply sufficient authorization. The VILER you feel yourself to be — the more suited to Christ’s cleansing blood. He is the great Physician — and can heal the foulest leper. Do you say, “But I am blind!” True — yet you are not bidden to “SEE,” but “LOOK” — and sight comes by looking!

2. THE LOOK OF ILLUMINATION. “They looked unto Him, and were enlightened: and their faces were not ashamed” (Psalm 34:5). FAITH’S LOOKING UNTO CHRIST is the grand means of blessing appointed by God: pardon and peace, light and liberty, are obtained thereby. Of old, Job said, “Lo, all these things works God oftentimes with man — to bring back his soul from the pit, to be enlightened with the light of the living” (Job 33:29-30). He does so by the power of His Spirit working in us, faith upon Christ. God announced concerning His beloved Son, “I will also give Thee for a light to the Gentiles” (Isa 49:6). And in due time, the Sun of righteousness arose “with healing in His wings” (Mal 4:2), putting an end to the NIGHT OF DARKNESS for many a soul. By His Gospel, He declares, “I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on Me should not abide in darkness!” (John 12:46). Then look unto Him — and you too shall be divinely illumined: your faith shall not be confounded, nor your face covered with confusion.

3. THE LOOK OF SUPPLICATION. “But our eyes are upon Thee” (2 Chronicles 20:12). The setting of those words is very striking. A great army of the heathen had gathered together to do battle against Judah. When their king was informed, he “set himself to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast” (verse 3). Then, in the hearing of the congregation, he addressed himself unto the God of their fathers, saying, “O our God, wilt Thou not judge them? for we have no might against this great company that cometh against us; neither know we what to do: but our eyes are upon Thee!” (verse 12).

It was an EARNEST APPEAL unto the omnipotent One by those in the place of CONSCIOUS WEAKNESS AND HELPLESSNESS. It was likewise an expression of HUMBLE BUT CONFIDENT FAITH. It was also an expectation of help from the Almighty. Nor was this simple but affecting supplication in vain. Of course it was not! Jehovah made answer: “Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours — but God’s” (verse 15). He caused the enemy to fall upon themselves, “and none escaped” (verse 24). There is the grand remedy for every strait. No matter how desperate the situation — nothing is too hard for the LORD! Turn unto Him the eyes of faith, of dependence, of reliance, of confident expectation — and you will not be disappointed.

4. THE LOOK OF TRANSFORMATION. “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 3:18). This “beholding” is not simply one of faith — but especially of holy ambition and resolve. As the believer contemplates the moral perfection and character of Christ as they are set forth in the Word — there is born within him a deep yearning to be conformed to His likeness and to “walk, even as He walked” (1 John 2:6). As that yearning persists and is accompanied by earnest prayer, the Holy Spirit works in him a deeper spirit of obedience, causing him to be increasingly regulated by Christ’s example and precepts, and thereby “changes” him, little by little, unto the same image. The Greek verb for “change” here is rendered “transformed” in Romans 12:2, and “transfigured” in Matthew 17:2. As the will is brought into subjection to Christ — we drink into His Spirit and become partakers of His holiness. This lifelong process will be completed when “we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2), “face to face” (1 Corinthians 13:12).

5. THE LOOK OF INSPIRATION. “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher [better, “LEADER AND CAPTAIN”] of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb 12:2). In Hebrews 10:32, the apostle began to set before suffering, tried, and persecuted saints — a number of considerations calculated to nerve them for the conflict and stimulate unto the continued performance of duty. Throughout chapter 11, he showed how FAITH was what animated the Old Testament worthies. As a climax, he reminded them of the Savior, who supplied the perfect example of faith and fortitude under unparalleled suffering. When, then, you grow weary of running the race set before you — look unto your Leader and draw inspiration from Him — see Hebrews 12:3-4. Do as He did: look beyond the present sorrows to “the joy” awaiting you; see above the PAINFUL CROSS — an ETERNAL CROWN prepared for him who “endures to the end” (Mat 10:22). It is by so looking unto our great Exemplar, by devoutly contemplating His spirit of self-sacrifice and steadfastness, that we obtain strength to bear the hardships of the way.

6. THE LOOK OF EXPECTATION. “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). That is a very different thing from having the mind engaged with signs of the times or charmed with the study of prophecy; or even being on the alert for the next appointed item on the divine program. It is concerned not so much with an EVENT — as with the advent of a PERSON.

The second coming of Christ is ridiculed by the infidel (2 Peter 3:2-4) and dreaded by the world (2 Thessalonians 1:8); but it is regarded by the saints with great delight, for then will be the perfecting of their salvation (Hebrews 9:26). Titus 2:13 describes a spiritual attitude of heart. It is an attitude of faith — and faith is not influenced by sensational items taken from the newspapers! It is an attitude of hope — joyous anticipation of our being rid of sin. It is an attitude of love, so that we cry, “Make haste, my beloved, and be like to a roe or to a young deer upon the mountains of spices” (Song 8:14).

Such looking . . .
weans the heart from the world (Heb 11:9-10),
produces patience in trials (Jam 5:6-8), and
purifies the heart (1 John 3:3).

Therein we may behold the practical side of our blessed hope. Such an expectation of the returning Savior works in us a careful attention to our conduct, that we may “not be ashamed before Him at His coming” (1 John 2:28).

7. THE LOOK OF CONSUMMATION. “As for me, I will behold Thy face in righteousness” (Psalm 17:15). THAT is the ultimate longing of every believer — to behold the King in His beauty and forever gaze upon His blessed features! Such too is HIS DESIRE — to have us with Him, beholding His glory (John 17:24) — nothing less will satisfy the eternal Lover of our souls.

In a real sense, believers discern something of the glory of Christ even now — but oh, how feebly and faintly! But hereafter, we shall look upon Him without hindrance or interruption. That will be the fruition of our hope — to have immediate communion with Him. That will fill us with joy, and make us overflow with praise. Oh, how altogether lovely will He appear, when we see Him no longer “through a glass, darkly [obscurely]” — but “face to face!” (1Cor 13:12)

Hallelujah!

‘SOVEREIGN GRACE’ – DEFINED

‘SOVEREIGN GRACE’ – DEFINED

A.W. Pink

This is the free, pure Sovereign Grace of God: as it is written “Being justified FREELY by His grace” (Rom. 3:24). What is grace? It is God’s unmerited and uninfluenced favour, shown unto the undeserving and hell-deserving: neither human worthiness, works or willingness, attracting it, nor the lack of them repelling or obstructing it.

What could there be in me to win the favourable regard of Him who is of too pure eyes to behold evil, and move Him to justify me? NOTHING whatever; nay, there was everything in me calculated to make Him abhor and destroy me—my very self-righteous efforts to earn a place in Heaven deserving only a lower place in Hell.

If, then, I am ever to be “justified” by God it must be by PURE GRACE, AND THAT ALONE! Grace is the very essence of the Gospel—the only hope for fallen men, the sole comfort of saints passing through much tribulation on their way to the kingdom of God. The Gospel is the announcement that God is prepared to deal with guilty rebels on the ground of free favour, of pure benignity; that God will blot out sin, cover the believing sinner with a robe of spotless righteousness, and receive him as an accepted son: not on account of anything he has done or ever will do, but of sovereign mercy, acting independently of the sinner’s own character and deservings of eternal punishment.

Justification is perfectly gratuitous so far as we are concerned, nothing being required of us in order to it, either in the way of price and satisfaction or preparation and meetness. We have not the slightest degree of merit to offer as the ground of our acceptance, and therefore if God ever does accept us it must be out of unmingled grace. It is as “the God of all grace” (1 Peter 5:10) that Jehovah justifies the ungodly. It is as “the God of all grace” He seeks, finds, and saves His people: asking them for nothing, giving them everything. Strikingly is this brought out in that word “being justified FREELY by His grace” (Rom. 3:24), the design of that adverb being to exclude all consideration of anything in us or from us which should be the cause or condition of our justification.

That same Greek adverb is translated “WITHOUT A CAUSE” in John 15:25—“they hated Me without a cause.” The world’s hatred of Christ was “without a cause” so far as He was concerned: there was nothing whatever in Him which, to the slightest degree, deserved their enmity against Him: there was nothing in Him unjust, perverse, or evil; instead, there was everything in Him which was pure, holy, lovely. In like manner, there is nothing whatever in us to call forth the approbation of God: by nature there is “no good thing” in us; but instead, everything that is evil, vile, loathsome.

“Being justified without a cause by His GRACE.” How this tells out the very heart of God! While there was no motive to move Him, outside of Himself, there was one inside Himself; while there was nothing in us to impel God to justify us, His own grace moved Him, so that He devised a way whereby His wondrous love could have vent and flow forth to the chief of sinners, the vilest of rebels. As it is written, “I, even I, am He that blotteth out thy transgressions for Mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins” (Isa. 43:25).

Wondrous, matchless grace! We cannot for a moment look outside the grace of God for any motive or reason why He should ever have noticed us, still less had respect unto such ungodly wretches. The first moving cause, then, that inclined God to show mercy to His people in their undone and lost condition, was His own wondrous grace—unsought, uninfluenced, unmerited by us. He might justly have left us all obnoxious to the curse of His Law, without providing any Surety for us, as He did the fallen angels; but such was His grace toward us that “He spared not His own Son.”

“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:5–7). It was His own sovereign favour and good will which actuated God to form this wondrous scheme and method of justification.

Against what has been said above, it has been objected by Socinians and their echoists that this cannot be: if the believing sinner is justified upon the grounds of a full satisfaction having been made to God for him by a surety, then his discharge from condemnation and his reception into God’s judicial favour must be an act of pure justice, and therefore could not be by grace. Or, if it be purely an act of Divine grace, then no surety can have obeyed the law in the believer’s stead. But this is to confound two distinct things: the relation of God to Christ the Surety, and the relation of God to me the sinner.

It was grace which transferred my sins to Christ; it was justice which smote Christ on account of those sins. It was grace which appointed me unto everlasting bliss; it is justice to Christ which requires I shall enjoy that which He purchased for me. Toward the sinner justification is an act of free unmerited favour; but toward Christ, as a sinner’s Surety, it is an act of justice that eternal life should be bestowed upon those for whom His meritorious satisfaction was made.

First, it was pure grace that God was willing to accept satisfaction from the hands of a surety. He might have exacted the debt from us in our own persons, and then our condition had been equally miserable as that of the fallen angels, for whom no mediator was provided. Second, it was wondrous grace that God Himself provided a Surety for us, which we could not have done. The only creatures who are capable of performing perfect obedience are the holy angels, yet none of them could have assumed and met our obligations, for they are not akin to us, possessing not human nature, and therefore incapable of dying.

Even had an angel became incarnate, his obedience to the law could not have availed for the whole of God’s elect, for it would not have possessed infinite value. None but a Divine person taking human nature into union with Himself could present unto God a satisfaction adequate for the redemption of His people. And it was impossible for men to have found out that Mediator and Surety: it must have its first rise in God, and not from us: it was He that “found” a ransom (Job 33:24) and laid help upon One that is “mighty” (Psa. 89:19).

In the last place, it was amazing grace that the Son was willing to perform such a work for us, without whose consent the justice of God could not have exacted the debt from Him. And His grace is the most eminent in that He knew beforehand all the unspeakable humiliation and unparalleled suffering which He would encounter in the discharge of this work, yet that did not deter Him; nor was He unapprised (or without knowledge) of the character of those for whom He did it—the guilty, the ungodly, the hell-deserving; yet He shrank not back.

“O to grace how great a debtor,
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy grace, Lord, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.”

Hallelujah!