The Voice of My Beloved (Christ)

The Voice of My Beloved (Christ)

Robert M`Cheyne

“The voice of my beloved! Behold, he cometh leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills. My beloved is like a roe, or a young hart; behold;, he standeth behind our wall, he looketh forth at the windows, showing himself through the lattice. My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land; the fig-tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away. O my dove, that art in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the stairs, let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely. Take us the foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vines; for our vines have tender grapes. My beloved is mine, and I am his; he feedeth among the lilies. Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, turn, my beloved, and be thou like a roe, or a young hart, upon the mountains of Bether.” Song of Solomon 2:8-17

There is no book of the Bible which affords a better test of the depth of a man’s Christianity than the Song of Solomon. (1.) If a man’s religion be all in his head – a well-set form of doctrines, built like mason-work, stone above stone – but exercising no influence upon his heart, this book cannot but offend him; for there are no stiff statements of doctrine here upon which his heartless religioin may be built. (2.) Or, if a man’s religion be all in his fancy – if, like Pliable in the Pilgrim’s Progress, he be taken with the outward beauty of Christianity – if, like the seed sown upon the rocky ground, his religion is fixed only in the surface faculties of the mind, while the heart remain rocky and unmoved; though he will relish this book much more than the first man, still there is a mysterious breathing of intimate affextion in it, which cannot but stumble and offend him. (3.) But if a man’s religion be heart religion – if he hath not only doctrines in his head, but love to Jesus in his heart – if he hath not only heard and read of the Lord Jesus, but hath felt his need of Him, and been brought to cleave unto Him, as the chiefest among ten thousand, and the altogether lovely, then this book will be inestimably precious to his soul; for it contains the tenderest breathings of the believer’s heart towards the Saviour, and the tenderest breathings of the Saviour’s heart again towards the believer.

“The matter of it is totally sublime, spiritual, and mystical; and the manner of its handling universally allegorical.” – John Owen

It is agreed among the best interpreters of this book – (1.) That is consists not of one song, but of many songs; (2.) That these songs are in a dramatic form; and (3.) That, like the parables of Christ, they contain a spiritual meaning, under the dress and ornaments of some poetical incident.

The passage which I have read forms one of these dramatically songs, and the subject of it is, a sudden visit which an Eastern bride receives from her absent lord. The bride is represented to us as sitting lonely and desolate in a kiosk, or Eastern Arbour – a place of safety and of retirement in the gardens of the East – described by modern travellers as “an arbour surrounded by a green wall, covered with vines and jess amines, with windows of lattice-work.”

The mountains of Bether (or, as it is on the margin, the mounts of division), the mountains that separate her from her beloved, appear almost impassable. They look so steep and craggy, that she fears he will never be able to come over them to visit her any more. Her garden possesses no loveliness to entice her to walk forth. All nature seems to partake in her sadness; winter reigns without and within; no flowers appear on the earth; all the singing birds appear to be sad and silent upon the trees; and the turtle’s voice of love is not heard in the land.

It is while she is sitting thus lonely and desolate that the voice of her beloved strikes upon her ear. Love is quick in hearing the voice that is loved; and therefore she hears sooner than all her maidens, and the song opens with her bursting exclamation, “The voice of my beloved!” When she sat in her solitude, the mountains between her and her lord seemed nearly impassable, they were so lofty and so steep; but now she sees with what swiftness and ease he can come over these mountains, so that she can compare him to nothing else but the gazelle, or the young hart, the loveliest and swiftest creatures of the mountains. “My beloved is like a roe, or a young hart.” Yea, while she is speaking, already he has arrived at the garden wall; and now, behold, “he looketh in at the window, showing himself through the lattice.” The bride next relates to us the gentle invitation, which seems to have been the song of her beloved as he came so swiftly over the mountains. While she sat alone, all nature seemed dead – winter reigned; but now he tells her that he has brought the spring-time along with him. “Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away. For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land. The fig-tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.” Moved by this pressing invitation, she comes forth from her place of retirement into the presence of her lord, and clings to him like (a) timorous dove to the clefts of the rock; and then he addresses her in these words of tenderest and most delicate affection: “O my dove, that art in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the precipice, let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely.” Joyfully agreeing to go forth with her lord, she yet remembers that this is the season of greatest danger to her vines, from the foxes which gnaw the bark of the vines; and therefore she will not go forth without leaving this command of caution to her maidens: “Take us the foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vines, for our vines have tender grapes.” She then renews the covenant of her espousals with her beloved, in these words of appropriating affection: “My beloved is mine, and I am his; let him feed among the lilies.” And last of all, because she knows that this season of intimate communion will not last, since her beloved must hurry away again over the mountains, she will not suffer him to depart without beseeching him that he will often renew these visits of love, till that happy day dawn when they shall not need to be separated any more: “Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, turn, my beloved, and be thou like a roe, or a young hart upon the mountains of Bether.”

We might well challenge the whole world of genius to produce in any language a poem such as this – so short, so comprehensive, so delicately beautiful. But what is far more to our present purpose, there is no part of the Bible which opens up more beautifully some of the innermost experience of the believer’s heart.

Let us now, then, look at the parable as a description of one of those visits which the Saviour often pays to believing souls, when He manifests himself unto them in that other way than He doeth unto the world.

I.  WHEN THE BELIEVER IS ALONE

When Christ is away from the soul of the believer, he sits alone

We saw in the parable, that, when her lord was away, the bride sat lonely and desolate. She did not call for the young and gay to cheer her solitary hours. She did not call for the harp of the minstrel to soothe her in her solitude. There was no pipe, nor tabret, nor wine at her feasts. No, she sat alone. The mountains seemed all but impassable. All nature partook of her sadness. If she could not be glad in the light of her lord’s countenance, she was resolved to be glad in nothing else. She sat lonely and desolate. Just so it is with the true believer in Jesus. Whatever be the mountains of Bether that have come between his soul and Christ, – whether he hath been seduced into his old sins, so that “his iniquities have separated again between him and his God, and his sins have hid his face from Him, that He will not hear,” – or whether the Saviour hath withdrawn for a season the comfortable light of his presence for the mere trial of his servant’s faith, to see, if, when he “walketh in darkness and hath no light, he will still trust in the name of the Lord, and stay himself upon his God,” – whatever the mountains of separation be, it is the sure mark of the believer that he sits desolate and alone. He cannot laugh away his heavy care, as worldly men can do. He cannot drown it in the bowl of intemperance, as poor blinded men can do. Even the innocent intercourse of human friendship brings no balm to his wound – nay, even fellowship with the children of God is now distasteful to his soul. He cannot enjoy what he enjoyed before, when they that feared the Lord spoke often one to another. The mountains between him and the Saviour seem so vast and impassable, that he fears He will never visit him more. All nature partakes of his sadness – winter reigns without and within. He sits alone, and is desolate. Being afflicted, he prays; and the burden of his prayer is the same with that of an ancient believer: “Lord, if I may not be made glad with the light of thy countenance, grant that I may be made glad with nothing else; for joy without thee is death.”

Ah! my friends, do you know anything of this sorrow? Do you know what it is thus to sit alone and be desolate, because Jesus is out of view? If you do, then rejoice, if it be possible, even in the midst of your sadness! for this very sadness is one of the marks that you are a believer – that you find all your peace and all your joy in union with the Saviour.

But ah, how contrary is the way with most of you! You know nothing of this sadness. Yes, perhaps you make a mock at it. You can be happy and contented with the world, though you have never got a sight of Jesus. You can be merry with your companions, though the blood of Jesus has never whispered peace to your soul. Ah, how plain that you are hastening on to the place where “there is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked!”

II.  CHRIST’S COMING TO THE BELIEVER

Christ’s coming to the desolate believer is often sudden and wonderful

We saw in the parable, that it was when the bride was sitting lonely and desolate that she heard suddenly the voice of her lord. Love is quick in hearing; and she cries out, “The voice of my beloved!” Before, she thought the mountains all but impassable; but now she can compare his swiftness to nothing but that of the gazelle or the young hart. Yea, whilst she speaks, he is at the wall – at the window – showing himself through the lattice. Just so is it often with the believer. While he sits alone and desolate, the mountains of separation appear a vast and impassable barrier to the Saviour, and he fears He may never come again. The mountains of a believer’s provocations are often very great. “That I should have sinned again, who have been washed in the blood of Jesus. It is little that other men should sin against Him; they never knew him – never loved Him as I have done. Surely I am the chief of sinners, and have sinned away my Saviour. The mountains of my provocations hath grown up to heaven, and He never can come over it any more.” Thus it is that the believer writes bitter things against himself; and then it is that oftentimes he hears the voice of his beloved. Some text of the word, or some word from a Christian friend, or some part of a sermon, again reveals Jesus in all his fulness – the Saviour of sinners, even the chief. Or it may be that He makes himself known to the disconsolate soul in the breaking of bread, and when He speaks the gentle words, “This is my body, broken for you; this cup is the New Testament in my blood, shed for the remission of the sins of many; drink ye all of it,” – then he cannot but cry out, “The voice of my beloved! Behold, He cometh leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills.”

Ah! my friends, do you know anything of this joyful surprise? If you do, why should you ever sit down despairing, as if the Lord’s hand were shortened at all that He cannot save, or as if his ears were grown heavy that He cannot hear? In the darkest hour say, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? And why art thou disquieted within me? Still trust in God, for I shall yet praise Him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.” Come expectingly to the word. Do not come with that listless indifference, as if nothing that a fellow-worm can say were worth your hearing. It is not the word of man, but the word of the living God. Come with large expectations, and then you will find the promise true, that He filleth the hungry with good things, though He sends the rich empty away.

III.  CHRIST’S COMING CHANGES ALL THINGS

Christ’s coming changes all things to the believer, and his love is more tender than ever

We saw in the parable that when the bride was desolate and alone, all nature was steeped in sadness. Her garden possessed no charms to draw her forth, for winter reigned without and within. But when her lord came so swiftly over the mountains, he brought the spring along with him. All nature is changed as he advances, and his invitation is, “For the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.” Just so it is with the believer when Christ is away; all is winter to the soul. But when He comes again over the mountains of provocation, He brings a gladsome spring-time along with Him. When that Sun of Righteousness arises afresh upon the soul, not only do his gladdening rays fall upon the believer’s soul, but all nature rejoices in his joy. The mountains and hills burst forth before Him into singing, and all the trees of the field clap their hands. It is like a change of season to the soul. It is like that sudden change from the pouring rains of a dreary winter to the full blushing spring, which is so peculiar to the climes of the sun.

The world of nature is all changed. Instead of the thorn comes up the fir-tree, and instead of the brier comes up the mirtle-tree. Every tree and field possesses a new beauty to the happy soul. The world of grace is all changed. The Bible was all dry and meaningless before; now, what a flood of light is poured over its pages! how full, how fresh, how rich in meaning, how its simplest phrases touch the heart! The house of prayer was all sad and dreary before – its services were dry and unsatisfactory; but now, when the believer sees the Saviour, as he hath seen Him heretofore within his holy place, his cry is: “How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of Hosts! a day in thy courts is better than a thousand.” The garden of the Lord was all sad and cheerless before; now tenderness towards the unconverted springs up afresh, and love to the people of God burns in the bosom – then they that fear the Lord speak often one to another. The time of the singing the praises of Jesus is come, and the turtle voice of love to Jesus is once more heard in the land: the Lord’s vine flourishes, and the pomegranate buds, and Christ’s voice to the soul is, “Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.”

As the timorous dove pursued by the vulture, and well-nigh made a prey, with fluttering anxious wing, hides itself deeper than ever in the clefts of the rock, and in the secret places of the precipice, so the backslidden believer, whom Satan has desired to have, that he might sift him as wheat, when he is restored once more to the all-gracious presence of his Lord, clings to Him with fluttering, anxious faith, and hides himself deeper than ever in the wounds of his Saviour. Thus it was that the fallen Peter, when he had so grievously denied his Lord, yet, when brought again within sight of the Saviour, standing upon the shore, was the only one of the disciples who girt his fisher’s coat unto him, and cast himself into the sea to swim to Jesus; and just as that backslidden apostle, when again he had hidden himself in the clefts of the Rock of Ages, found that the love of Jesus was more tender towards him than ever, when he began that conversation, which, more than all others in the Bible, combines the kindest of reproofs with the kindest of encouragements, “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these?” just so does every backslidden believer find, that when again he is hidden in the freshly opened wounds of his Lord, the fountain of his love begins to flow afresh, and the stream of kindness and affection is fuller and more overflowing than ever, for his word is, “Oh, my dove, that art in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the precipice, let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely.”

Ah, my friends, do you know anything of this? Have you ever experienced such a coming of Jesus over the mountain of your provocations, as made a change of season to your soul? and have you, backslidden believer, found, when you hid yourself again deeper than ever in the clefts of the rock – like Peter girding his fisher’s coat unto him, and casting himself into the sea – have you found his love tendered than ever to your soul? Then, should not this teach you quick repentance when you have fallen? Why keep one moment away from the Saviour? Are you waiting till you wipe away the stain from your garments? Alas! what will wipe it off, but the blood you are despising? Are you waiting till you make yourself worthier of the Saviour’s favour? Alas! though you wait till all eternity, you can never make yourself worthier. Your sin and misery are your only plea. Come, and you will find with what tenderness He will heal your backslidings, and love you freely: and say, “Oh, my dove” etc.

IV.  CHRIST STIRS UP FEAR, LOVE AND HOPE

I observe the threefold disposition of fear, love and hope, which this visit of the Saviour stirs up in the believer’s bosom. These three form, as it were, a cord in the restored believer’s bosom, and a threefold cord is not easily broken.

1. Filial Fear

First of all, there is fear – As the bride in the parable would not go forth to enjoy the society of her lord, without leaving the command behind to her maidens to take the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines, so does every believer know and feel that the time of closest communion is also the time of greatest danger. It was when the Saviour had been baptized, and the Holy Ghost, like a dove, had descended upon Him, and a voice, saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased,” – it was then that He was driven into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil; and just so it is when the soul is receiving its highest privileges and comforts, that Satan and his ministers are nearest – the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines.

(1) Spiritual pride is near. When the soul is hiding in the wounds of the Saviour, and receiving great tokens of his love, then the heart begins to say, Surely I am somebody – how far I am above the everyday run of believers! This is one of the little foxes that eats out the life of vital godliness.
(2) There is making a Christ of your comforts – looking to them, and not to Christ – leaning upon them and not your beloved. This is another of the little foxes.
(3) There is the false notion that now you must surely be above sinning, and above the power of temptation, now you can resist all enemies. This is the pride that goes before a fall – another of the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines.

Never forget, I beseech you, that fear is a sure mark of a believer. Even when you feel that it is God that worketh in you, still the word saith, Work out your salvation with fear and trembling; – even when your joy is overflowing, still remember it is written, “Rejoice with trembling;” and again: “Be not high-minded, but fear.” Remember the caution of the bride, and say: “Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines, for our vines have tender grapes.”

2. Appropriating Love

But if cautious fear be a mark of a believer in such a season, still more is appropriating love. When Christ comes anew of mountains of provocation, and reveals himself to the soul free and full as ever, in another way than He doth unto the world, then the soul can say, “My beloved is mine, and I am his.” I do not say that the believer can use these words at all seasons. In times of darkness and in times of sinfulness the reality of a believer’s faith is to be measured rather by his sadness than by his confidence. But I do say, that in seasons when Christ reveals himself afresh to the soul, shining out like the sun from behind a cloud, with the beams of sovereign, unmerited love – then no other words will satisfy the true believer but these: “My beloved is mine, and I am his.” The soul sees Jesus to be so free a Saviour – so anxious that all should come to Him and have life – stretching out his hands all the day – having no pleasure in the death of the wicked – pleading with men: “Turn ye, turn ye, why will ye die?” The soul sees Jesus to be so fitting a Saviour – the very covering which the soul requires. When he first hid himself in Jesus, he found Him suitable to all his need – the shadow of a great rock in a weary land. But now he finds out a new fitness in the Saviour, as Peter did when he girt his fisher’s coat unto him, and cast himself into the sea. He finds that He is a fitting Saviour for a backsliding believer; that his blood can blot out even the stains of him who, having eaten bread with Him, has yet lifted up the heel against Him. The soul sees Jesus to be so full a Saviour – giving to the sinner not only pardons, but overflowing, immeasurable pardons – giving not only righteousness, but a righteousness that is more than mortal, for it is all divine – giving not only the Spirit, but pouring water on him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground. The soul sees all this in Jesus, and cannot but choose Him and delight in Him with a new and appropriating love, saying, “My beloved is mine.” And if any man ask, How darest thou, sinful worm, to call that Divine Saviour thine? the answer is here, For I am his: He chose me from all eternity, else I never would have chosen Him. He shed his blood for me, else I never would have shed a tear for Him. He cried after me, else I never would have breathed after Him. He sought after me, else I never would have sought after Him. He hath loved me, therefore I love Him. He hath chosen me, therefore I evermore choose Him. “My beloved is mine, and I am his.”

3. Prayerful Hope

But, lastly, if love be a mark of the true believer at such a season, so also is prayerful hope. It was the saying of a true believer, in an hour of high and wonderful communion with Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here!” My friend, you are no believer, if Jesus hath never manifested himself to your soul in your secret devotions – in the house of prayer, or in the breaking of bread – in so sweet and overpowering a manner, that you have cried out, “Lord, it is good for me to be here!” But though it be good and very pleasant, like sunlight to the eyes, yet the Lord sees that it is not wisest and best always to be there. Peter must come down again from the mount of glory, and fight the good fight of faith amid the shame and contumely of a cold and scornful world. And so must every child of God. We are not yet in heaven, the place of open vision and unbroken enjoyment. This is earth, the place of faith, and patience, and heavenward-pointing hope. One great reason why close and intimate enjoyment of the Saviour may not be constantly realized in the believer’s breast is, to give room for hope, the third string that forms the threefold cord. Even the most enlightened believers are walking here in a darksome night, or twilight at most; and the visits of Jesus to the soul do but serve to make the surrounding darkness more visible. But the night is far spent, the day is at hand. The day of eternity is breaking in the east. The Sun of Righteousness is hasting to rise upon our world, and the shadows are preparing to flee away. Till then, the heart of every true believer, that knows the preciousness of close communion with the Saviour, breathes the earnest prayer, that Jesus would often come again, thus wetly and suddenly, to lighten him in his darksome pilgrimage. Ah! yes, my friends, let every one who loves the Lord Jesus in sincerity, join now in the blessed prayer of the bride: “Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, turn, my beloved, and be thou like a roe or a young hart upon the mountains of Bether.”

FROM ITS FIRST STIRRINGS TO ITS FINAL CONSUMMATION, SALVATION IS OF THE LORD (2020)

FROM ITS FIRST STIRRINGS TO ITS FINAL CONSUMMATION, SALVATION IS OF THE LORD (2020)

Dr. N.R. Needham

Richard was a fairly recent convert to the Augustinian understanding of grace. One Sunday, he visited a church where the preacher seemed to go out of his way to show the congregation how utterly dependent on God they were for their spiritual life. There can be no self-reliance, he declared, no looking to ourselves; all goodness, all holiness flow from God to us. Why, even the very faith by which we believe and trust in God is itself His gift to sinners!

‘This is good,’ Richard thought. ‘The man has clearly grasped the sovereignty of grace in salvation. Augustine would be pleased with him.’ But alas, Richard’s verdict was premature. Suddenly the sermon went sensationally pear-shaped. After all the extolling of God as the giver of faith, the preacher suddenly added: ‘But of course, even though faith is God’s gift, we have to accept the gift by our free wills. We can refuse it if we choose. It’s up to us.’ By the time it was all over, Richard left church feeling rather deflated. ‘It’s up to us’ seemed a strange note on which to conclude a celebration of God’s grace.

Richard was right to feel deflated. If it is ultimately ‘up to us’ to make sure we accept the divine gift of faith, then manifestly God is not the giver of all our spiritual virtues [which is what the preacher in the church Richard was visiting had started out by saying]. Apparently, I have something in me, some act of my own, which reaches out and grasps God’s kind offer of faith. What is this ‘something’? It can’t be faith, because faith is what God is offering to give me. I don’t know how the preacher would have described this mysterious ‘something’. Repentance, perhaps? Can I repent by my own will, and God then crowns my cake of repentance with the icing of faith?

But where did the repentance come from? If I can repent by my own will, why can’t I believe and trust by my own will? Doesn’t the same Scripture that says faith is God’s gift [Eph.2:8, Phil.1:29] also say that repentance is His gift [Acts 5:31, 2 Tim.2:25]? Maybe the preacher would have acknowledged that repentance is God’s gift. But probably it would then have fared no better than faith. Probably the preacher would have said, ‘But of course, even though repentance is God’s gift, we have to accept the gift by our free wills. We can refuse it if we choose. It’s up to us.’

What is it in me that accepts repentance, then? A spiritually softened heart, perhaps? But if I can soften my own heart by my own will [or does that mean ‘soften my will by my own will’?], why can’t I repent by my own will, or believe by my own will? And doesn’t the same Scripture that says faith and repentance are God’s gifts also say that the heart of flesh is His gift [Deut.30:6, Ezek.36:26-27]? Maybe the preacher would have acknowledged that the heart of flesh is God’s gift too. But probably it would then have fared no better than faith and repentance. Probably the preacher would have said, ‘But of course, even though the heart of flesh is God’s gift, we have to accept the gift by our free wills. We can refuse it if we choose. It’s up to us.’

What is it in me that accepts the heart of flesh, then? Is it perhaps…. But we have been here before, and by now it is getting a touch silly. Like some bizarre spiritual board game, we are constantly going one square forwards and two squares backwards. And somehow, we always end up on a square that says, ‘It’s up to us.’

Augustine’s theology of the new life in Christ was really just a way of saying, ‘It’s not up to us.’ Our new life in Christ comes from Christ. From its first stirrings to its final consummation, it comes from Christ. Faith, repentance, the softened heart, and any other virtue that can be named they all come from Christ. Our conversion comes from Christ. Our regeneration comes from Christ. Our spiritual illumination comes from Christ. Our desire for Christ comes from Christ. Our seeking after Christ comes from Christ. As that great Italian Augustinian, Thomas Aquinas, was to teach 800 years after Augustine’s death, NOTHING COMES BEFORE GRACE!

All the things that we might think make us ready for grace are themselves the work of grace. If we insist on talking about ‘accepting grace’, even the acceptance of grace is created in us by grace.
The truth about grace, then, is both simple and radical. The first brick in the foundation of our salvation is laid in us by Christ, just as the last tile on the roof will be. He creates us afresh. He begets us again. He raises us from the dead. At no point can we take any credit to ourselves. No true Christian has the slightest wish to take any credit to himself or herself.

That is why, as I said in the Introduction, all God’s redeemed children are Augustinians when they pray. They may be Semi-Pelagians in their heads, but their twice-born hearts know better, and when they speak to their God, they give Him all the praise, gratitude and glory for saving them. Lex orandi lex credendi: the law of praying is the law of believing.

Of course, if Augustine is right in his understanding of what the Bible says about the bondage of our fallen wills, it follows that our spiritual regeneration must necessarily come only and utterly from Christ. Left to our own devices, all we ever do is sin; for we love created things, not the Creator, and our lives are built on that false love. There is no beauty in Christ that we should desire Him. We are too busy desiring other things. That is why ‘It’s up to us’ is such a tragically hopeless recipe for any kind of salvation.

Scripture describes our salvation as a new creation, a rebirth, a resurrection. Yet God did not say to a non-existent universe, ‘I’m offering to create you, but it’s up to you to accept the offer.’ Parents do not say to non-existent children, ‘We’re offering to conceive you, but it’s up to you to accept the offer.’ The Lord did not say to Lazarus, ‘I’m offering to resurrect you from the tomb, but it’s up to you to accept the offer.’ The depth and horrible complexity of our corruption make just as futile any ‘It’s up to you’ scheme of salvation. If indeed it is ‘up to us,’ whether in the Pelagian sense [obey the law and win heaven!] or the Semi-Pelagian sense [accept the offer of salvation!], then no-one will ever be saved. As Benjamin Warfield commented, a gospel of ‘Whosoever will’ is not much good in a world of universal ‘Won’t!’

Augustine knew that however daintily it is dressed, however carefully it is qualified, however tiny the amount it leaves to us to contribute to our own salvation, ‘It’s up to us’ is always a counsel of hellish despair for sinners deceived and broken and exhausted and blinded and driven mad and killed by sin. He would have none of it, either for himself, or for his flock, or for the Church Catholic. The bishop of Hippo sang loud and clear with his theological mind the song of confession and praise that every saved heart knows well:

‘It’s not up to us! We were dead in our transgressions and sins, in which we used to live when we followed the ways of the world. We were under the power of the prince of this world, the spirit who is now at work in the children of disobedience. We lived among them. We gratified the cravings of the flesh and followed its desires and thoughts. We were by nature the children of wrath, like the rest. But God, Who is rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, made us alive with Christ, even when we were dead in transgressions.

By grace we have been saved. By grace, through faith and this not from ourselves, it is the gift of God. No works. No-one can boast. God Who said, “Let light shine out of darkness!” caused His light to shine in our hearts, giving us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, shining in the face of Christ. We were foolish, obstinate, deluded, the slaves of various cravings and pleasures, spending our lives in malice and envy, hateful ourselves and hating one another. But the kindness and love of God our Saviour dawned upon us, and He saved us, not in consequence of righteous things we did, but because of His mercy.

Yes, HE SAVED US, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, Whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Saviour. By grace we are justified. We are new creations in Christ. The old has passed away. The new has come. All this is from God, Who has reconciled us to Himself through Christ. Thanks be to God!’

FREE-WILL TO GO TO HELL, BUT NONE TO GO TO HEAVEN!

FREE-WILL TO GO TO HELL, BUT NONE TO GO TO HEAVEN!

Compiled by Michael Jeshurun

“So then it is NOT of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but OF GOD that showeth mercy”! [Romans 9:16]

Free will is “corrupted nature’s deformed darling, the Pallas or beloved self-conception of darkened minds” – John Owen

“The friends of free will are the enemies of free grace.” – John Trapp

“This crown of free will is fallen from our head” and “If it be God’s purpose that saves then it is not free will.” – Thomas Watson

“A man’s free will cannot cure him even of the toothache, or a sore finger; and yet he madly thinks it is in its power to cure his soul.” – Augustus Toplady.

“Man is nothing; HE HATH A FREE WILL TO GO TO HELL, BUT NONE TO GO TO HEAVEN, till God worketh in him” and “you dishonour God by denying election. You plainly make salvation depend, not on God’s ‘free grace’ but on Man’s ‘free will.’” – George Whitefield

“Free will has carried many souls to hell, but yet never a soul to heaven.” C.H. Spurgeon

“I do not come into this pulpit hoping that perhaps somebody will of his own free will return to Christ. My hope lies in another quarter. I hope that my Master will lay hold of some of them and say, “You are mine, and you shall be mine. I claim you for myself.” My hope arises from the freeness of grace, and not from the freedom of the will.” C.H. Spurgeon

“God’s character is maligned by every person who believes in free will.” – W.E. Best

“This brought me out of the free-will fog, and truth shone in my heart like a comet … from that moment I waged war against free will.” – William Huntington

“Are we then so corrupt that we are wholly incapable of doing any good, and inclined to all wickedness? INDEED WE ARE; except we are regenerated by the Spirit of God.”

THE GLORIFIED IS THE SAME ONE FOREKNOWN 

THE GLORIFIED IS THE SAME ONE FOREKNOWN

In Romans 8:29, 30 we read of that Golden Chain of Redemption which stretches from the eternity that is past to the eternity that is to come, — 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: and whom He called, them He also justified: and whom He justified, them He also glorified.”

Foreknown, foreordained, called, justified, glorified, with always the SAME PEOPLE included in each group; and where one of these factors is present, all the others are in principle present with it. Paul has cast the verse in the PAST TENSE because with God the purpose is in principle executed when formed, so CERTAIN IS IT OF FULFILLMENT.

“These five golden links,” says Dr. Warfield, “are welded together in one UNBREAKABLE CHAIN, so that ALL who are set upon in God’s gracious distinguishing view are carried on by His grace, step by step, up to the great consummation of that glorification which realizes the promised conformity to the image of God’s own Son.

It is ‘ELECTION,’ you see, that does all this; for ‘whom He FOREKNEW, them He also GLORIFIED’!

The Scriptures represent election as occurring in past time, irrespective of personal merit, and altogether sovereign, — “The children BEING NOT YET BORN, NEITHER HAVING DONE ANYTHING GOOD OR BAD, THAT THE PURPOSE OF GOD ACCORDING TO ELECTION MIGHT STAND, NOT OF WORKS, BUT OF HIM THAT CALLETH, it was said to her, The elder shall serve the younger. Even as it is written, Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated,” [Rom. 9:11, 12]

Now if the doctrine of election is not true, we may safely challenge any man to tell us what the apostle means by such language. “We are pointed illustratively to the sovereign acceptance of Isaac and rejection of Ishmael, and to the choice of Jacob and not of Esau before their birth and therefore before either had done good or bad; we are explicitly told that in the matter of salvation IT IS NOT OF HIM THAT WILLS, OR OF HIM THAT RUNS, BUT OF GOD THAT SHOWS MERCY!

And that He has mercy on WHOM HE WILL, AND WHOM HE WILL HE HARDENS; so we are pointedly directed to behold in God the potter who makes the vessels which proceed from His hand each for an end of His appointment, that He may work out His will upon them.

It is safe to say that language cannot be chosen better adapted to teach Predestination at its height!

[Paraphrased and quoted from Loraine Boettner’s ‘Unconditional Election’]

THE IMPORTANCE OF REDEEMING TIME

THE IMPORTANCE OF REDEEMING TIME

Jonathan Edwards

Time is very short, which is a thing that renders it very precious. The scarcity of any commodity occasions men to set a higher value upon it, especially if it be necessary and they cannot do without it. Thus when Samaria was besieged by the Syrians, and provisions were exceedingly scarce, “an ass’s head was sold for fourscore pieces of silver, and the fourth part of a cab of dove’s dung for five pieces of silver.” [2 Kin. 6:25.]

So time is the more to be prized by men, because a whole eternity depends upon it; and yet we have but a little of time. “When a few years are come, then I shall go the way whence I shall not return.” Job 16:22. “My days are swifter than a post. They are passed away as the swift ships; as the eagle that hasteth to the prey.” Job 9:25, 26. “Our life; what is it? It is but a vapour which appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” Jam. 4:14. It is but as a moment to eternity.

Time is so short, and the work which we have to do in it is so great, that we have none of it to spare. The work which we have to do to prepare for eternity, must be done in time, or it never can be done; and it is found to be a work of great difficulty and labor, and therefore that for which time is the more requisite.

Time ought to be esteemed by us very precious, because we are UNCERTAIN OF ITS CONTINUANCE. We know that it is very short, but we know not HOW SHORT. We know not how little of it remains, whether a year, or several years, or only a month, a week, or a day. We are every day uncertain whether that day will not be the last, or whether we are to have the whole day. There is nothing that experience doth more verify than this. — If a man had but little provision laid up for a journey or a voyage, and at the same time knew that if his provision should fail, he must perish by the way, he would be the more choice of it. — How much more would many men prize their time, if they knew that they had but a few months, or a few days, more to live!

And certainly a wise man will prize his time the more, as he knows not but that it will be so as to himself. This is the case with multitudes now in the world, who at present enjoy health, and see no signs of approaching death. Many such, no doubt, are to die the next month, many the next week, yea, many probably tomorrow, and some this night. Yet these same persons KNOW NOTHING OF IT, AND PERHAPS THINK NOTHING OF IT, and neither they nor their neighbors can say that they are more likely soon to be taken out of the world than others. This teaches us how we ought to prize our time, and how careful we ought to be, that we lose none of it.

Time is very precious, because WHEN IT IS PAST, IT CANNOT BE RECOVERED. There are many things which men possess, which if they part with, they can obtain them again. If a man have parted with something which he had, not knowing the worth of it, or the need he should have of it; he often can regain it, at least with pains and cost. If a man have been overseen in a bargain, and have bartered away or sold something, and afterwards repents of it, he may often obtain a release, and recover what he had parted with. —

But it is not so with respect to time. WHEN ONCE THAT IS GONE, IT IS GONE FOREVER; NO PAINS, NO COST WILL RECOVER IT. Though we repent ever so much that we let it pass, and did not improve it while we had it, it will be to no purpose.

Every part of it is successively offered to us, that we may choose whether we will make it our own, or not. But there is no delay. It will not wait upon us to see whether or no we will comply with the offer. But if we refuse, it is immediately taken away, and never offered more. As to that part of time which is gone, however we have neglected to improve it, it is out of our possession and out of our reach.

If we have lived fifty, or sixty, or seventy years, and have not improved our time, now it cannot be helped. It is eternally gone from us. All that we can do, is to improve the little that remains. Yea, if a man have spent all his life but a few moments unimproved, all that is gone is lost, and only those few remaining moments can possibly be made his own. And if the whole of a man’s time be gone, and it be all lost, it is irrecoverable. — Eternity depends on the improvement of time. But when once the time of life is gone, when once death is come, we have no more to do with time; there is no possibility of obtaining the restoration of it, or another space in which to prepare for eternity.

If a man should lose the whole of his worldly substance, and become a bankrupt, it is possible that his loss may be made up. He may have another estate as good. But when the time of life is gone, it is impossible that we should ever obtain another such time. All opportunity of obtaining eternal welfare is utterly and everlastingly gone.

Those are reproved by this doctrine, who spend their time only in WORLDLY pursuits, neglecting their souls. Such men lose their time, let them be ever so diligent in their worldly business. And though they may be careful not to let any of it pass so, but that it shall some way or other turn to their worldly profit. They that improve time only for their benefit in time, lose it; because time was not given for itself, but for that everlasting duration which succeeds it. — They, therefore, whose time is taken up in caring and laboring for the world only, in inquiring what they shall eat, and what they shall drink, and wherewithal they shall be clothed; in contriving to lay up for themselves treasure upon earth, how to enrich themselves, how to make themselves great in the world, or how to live in comfortable and pleasant circumstances, while here; who busy their minds and employ their strength in these things only, and the stream of whose affections is directed towards these things; they lose their precious time.

Let such, therefore, as have been guilty of thus spending their time, consider it. You have spent a great part of your time, and a great part of your strength, in getting a little of the world; and how little good doth it afford you, now you have gotten it! What happiness or satisfaction can you reap from it? Will it give you peace of conscience, or any rational quietness or comfort? What is your poor, needy, perishing soul the better for it? And what better prospects doth it afford you of your approaching eternity? And what will all that you have acquired avail you when time shall be no longer?

ADVICE RESPECTING THE IMPROVEMENT OF TIME.

I shall conclude with advising to THREE THINGS in particular.

FIRST, improve the PRESENT time without any delay. If you delay and put off its improvement, still more time will be lost; and it will be an evidence that you are not sensible of its preciousness. Talk not of more convenient seasons hereafter; but improve your time while you have it, after the example of the psalmist. Psa. 119:60, “I made haste, and delayed not to keep thy commandments.”

SECOND, be especially careful to improve THOSE PARTS of time which are most precious. Though all time is very precious, yet some parts are more precious than others; as, particularly, holy time is more precious than common time. Such time is of great advantage for our everlasting welfare. Therefore, above all, improve your Sabbaths, and especially the time of public worship, which is the most precious part. Lose it not either in sleep, or in carelessness, inattention, and wandering imaginations. How sottish are they who waste away, not only their common, but holy time, yea the very season of attendance on the holy ordinances of God!

The time of youth is precious, on many accounts. Therefore, if you be in the enjoyment of this time, take heed that you improve it. Let not the precious days and years of youth slip away without improvement. A time of the strivings of God’s Spirit is more precious than other time. Then God is near; and we are directed, in Isa. 55:6, “To seek the Lord while He may be found, and to call upon Him while He is near.” Such especially is an accepted time, and a day of salvation: 2 Cor. 6:2, “I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in a day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”

THIRD, improve well your time of LEISURE from worldly business. Many persons have a great deal of such time, and all have some. If men be but disposed to it, such time may be improved to great advantage. When we are most free from cares for the body, and business of an outward nature, a happy opportunity for the soul is afforded. Therefore spend not such opportunities unprofitably, nor in such a manner that you will not be able to give a good account thereof to God. Waste them not away wholly in unprofitable visits, or useless diversions or amusements. Diversion should be used only in subserviency to business. So much, and no more, should be used, as doth most fit the mind and body for the work of our general and particular callings.

You have need to IMPROVE every talent, advantage, and opportunity, to your utmost, WHILE TIME LASTS; for it will soon be said concerning you, according to the oath of the angel, in Rev. 10:5, 6, “And the angel which I saw stand upon the sea and upon the earth lifted up his hand to heaven, and sware by him that liveth for ever and ever, who created heaven, and the things that therein are, and the earth, and the things that therein are, and the sea, and the things which are therein, THAT THERE SHOULD BE TIME NO LONGER.”

DON’T PUT GOD IN A BOX

DON’T PUT GOD IN A BOX

Erik Raymond

When you read the NT you see the demonstration and description of miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit. Right away on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2) the people are speaking in tongues. Not long after we see the dead raised, lame healed, and people transported. It is a powerful outbreaking of the Holy Spirit in an arresting way.

When you read these things (and their corresponding descriptions, instructions, and warnings) a Christian must ask if these so-called miraculous gifts are operative today (i.e. the gifts of tongues, healing, & prophecy). Do we today see the same types of things happening as we did in the early chapters of Acts?

As a pastor I have been asked this question more times than I can count, particularly by people who are visiting and considering joining the church. My answer in short is “no”. I do not believe that the gifts of tongues and healing are present today as we saw in the early church. Much of what today gets passed off as tongues and healing are not what the Bible shows, namely known languages spoken and understood; and people being instantaneously (and fully) healed with a word or a touch. I tell them that my position (cessationist) is based upon observation: I see a tapering off of the miraculous gifts (tongues and healing) in the NT with the close of the Apostolic era and I do not see them consistently displayed in church history. Therefore, I don’t believe they are normative in the life of the church today. (note: prophecy is defined in different ways, but I would say that God is not giving new revelation today either. If you want to take prophecy as preaching, admonishing or exhorting-that’s fine.)

Don’t Put God in a Box

What is the response to this? “Don’t put God in a box.”

What they are saying with this is that my view that these miraculous gifts have ceased means that I only believe that God can work in this way or that way. In other words, God can’t do this and he doesn’t do that. They would say that I have, theologically speaking, accomplished the staggering if not strange feat of confining God’s activity in the world. As they go on they typically say something like, “God can do whatever he wants to do. If he wants to miraculously work in a village in Africa this way—he can. If he wants to communicate with me in a dream—he can. If he wants to miraculously heal someone—he can.”

How Do We See God Working?

Now we see the issue clearly. It is not so much the gifts as the activity of God. We also see something of the reflex of 21st Century, particularly Western Evangelicalism. The thought is that the evidence of God working in the world is the miraculous. God shows up and we all know it. We know God is working when tragedy is averted, disease is healed, life is spared, and the occurrence of personal experiences that cannot be explained.

But, what if God’s work is far more than this? What if his activity in the world is not limited to our perception of the miraculous? What if God’s activity in the world is less like Superman—rushing in to ‘save the day’ and then rushing out before he is spotted—and more like Atlas—holding the weight of the world on his shoulders? What if God is not actor in the story of our life but that we are in his story? What if God is the writer, director, producer, main character, and set designer?

The doctrine of Providence helps us here. Providence is God’s infinite power that upholds and governs all things that come to pass. As the Heidelberg Catechism says,

“God’s providence is his almighty and ever present power, whereby as with his hand, he still upholds heaven and earth and all creatures and so governs them so that: leaf and blade, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, food and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, indeed all things, come to us not by change but by his fatherly hand.”

The main things you need to know about this is that God is not disconnected from what is happening in the world today. God is upholding, governing, and ordering all things as with his very hand.

“Whatsoever the LORD pleased, that did he in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places. .” (Psalm 135:6)

“Who being the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high,” (Hebrews 1:3)

“In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will,” (Ephesians 1:11)

“But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” (Matthew 10:30)

What do You Mean by a “God Thing”?

Those who believe that I have put God “in a box” seem to believe that God only shows up when something miraculous happens. But those in the Reformed tradition would see in God’s providence that he is actively involved in everything. We don’t use words like “That was a God-thing” because EVERYTHING is a “God-thing” —he upholds, governs, and orders all things as with his very hand. This includes things like miracles and seemingly unexplainable events where God may directly intervene or even used secondary means.

So who is putting God in a box after all? On the one hand you have people who see God only in the so-called miraculous events of life and on the other you have people who see God working in all things. If I’m putting God in a box then it is a pretty big box, and it’s labeled “Divine Providence”. Whereas others, perhaps unwittingly, put God in a much smaller box, and it’s labeled “The Miraculous”. Do you really want to do that?

CRUCIFYING THE FLESH – THE MARK OF A REAL CHRISTIAN

CRUCIFYING THE FLESH – THE MARK OF A REAL CHRISTIAN

John Flavel

“And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” [Gal 5:24,25]

If they that be Christ’s have crucified the flesh, then the number of real Christians is very small. It is true, if all that SEEM TO BE meek, humble, and heavenly, might pass for Christians, the number would be great; but if no more must: be accounted Christians, than those who crucify the flesh, with its affections and lusts, O how small is the number!

For, O how many be there under the Christian name, that pamper and indulge their lusts, that secretly hate all that faithfully reprove them, and really approve none but such as feed their lusts, by praising and admiring them? How many there are that make provision for the flesh to fulfill its lusts, who cannot endure to have their corruptions crossed? How many are there that seem very meek and humble, until an occasion be given them to stir up their passion, and then you shall see in what degree they are mortified: the flint is a cold stone, till it be struck, and then it is all fiery.

I know the best of Christians are mortified but in part; and strong corruptions are oftentimes found in very eminent Christians; but – they love them not so well as to purvey (supply and provide) for them; to protect, defend, and countenance them; nor dare they secretly hate such as faithfully reprove them: as many thousands that go under the name of Christians do. Upon the account of mortification it is said, “Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and FEW there be that find it.” [Matt 7:14]

“Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.” [Heb 12:14]

CHANCE, ACCIDENT, LUCK OR DIVINE PROVIDENCE? YOUR ANSWER SPEAKS VOLUMES OF HOW WELL YOU KNOW YOUR GOD

CHANCE, ACCIDENT, LUCK OR DIVINE PROVIDENCE? YOUR ANSWER SPEAKS VOLUMES OF HOW WELL YOU KNOW YOUR GOD

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid—you are worth more than many sparrows!” Matthew 10:29-31

Charles Spurgeon: “Blessed is that man who is done with chance, who never speaks of luck—but believes that from the least, even to the greatest, all things are ordained by the Lord. We dare not leave out the least event! The creeping of an aphid upon a rosebud is as surely arranged by the decree of Providence—as the march of a pestilence through a nation! Believe this, for if the least thing is omitted from the supreme government, so may the next be, and the next—until nothing is left in the divine hands. There is no place for chance, since God fills all things.”

J.C. Ryle: “There is no such thing as chance, luck or accident in the Christian journey through this world. All is arranged and appointed by God. And all things are working together for the believer’s good!”

Charles Spurgeon: “God’s Providence not only extends to mankind in general, and to the beasts of the field, and the birds of the air, and the innumerable fish in the sea—but also to every atom of matter in the universe!”

Charles Spurgeon: “All things are ordained of God and are settled by Him, according to His wise and holy predestination. Whatever happens here on earth—happens not by chance, but according to the counsel of the Most High!”

Matthew Henry: “God who feeds the sparrows—will not starve His saints! God controls all the concerns of His people, even of those that are most minute, and least regarded. This is an encouragement to live in a continual dependence upon God’s providential care! If God numbers our hairs, much more does He number our heads. He takes care of our lives, our needs, our concerns, and our souls. God’s universal providence extends itself to all creatures, and to all their actions—even the smallest and most minute!”

Charles Spurgeon: “Providence may be seen as the finger of God, not merely in those events which shake nations and are duly emblazoned on the page of history—but in little incidents of common life. Yes, in the motion of a grain of dust, the trembling of a dew-drop, the flight of a swallow, or the movements of a fish!”

Charles Spurgeon: “We talk of God’s providence when we have hairbreadth escapes. But are they not quite as much divine providences, when we are preserved from danger?”

Charles Spurgeon: “It is most important for us to learn that the smallest trifles are as much arranged by the God of Providence—as the most momentous events! He who counts the stars—has also numbered the hairs of our heads. Our lives and deaths are predestined—but so, also, are our sitting down and our rising up.”

Louis Berkhof: “Scripture everywhere teaches that even the minutest details of life are of divine ordering!”

Charles Spurgeon: “Jesus rules the whole world for the good of His people. All the arrangements of Providence are under His control. Nothing is done in the entire universe, without His command or His permission.”

Charles Spurgeon: “The best remedy for affliction, is sweet submission to God’s providence. What can’t be cured, must be endured!”

J.C. Ryle: “If God has given His Son to die for us—let us beware of doubting His kindness and love in any painful providence of our daily life.”

Charles Spurgeon: “Divine Providence is a downy pillow for an aching head—and a blessed salve for the sharpest pain. He who can feel that his times are in the hand of God—need not tremble at anything that is in the hand of man!”

BLESSING GOD FOR OUR WEAKNESS

BLESSING GOD FOR OUR WEAKNESS

J.C. Philpot

“Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.” Acts 14:22

The very word “confirm” implies that the souls of Christ’s disciples need strengthening. If there were no temptations to try, no sharp sorrows to grieve, no painful afflictions to distress them; or if, on the other hand, there were no sensible weakness of soul, no sinking of heart, no despondency of spirit, no giving way of faith and hope, no doubt or fear in the mind, how could the souls of the disciples be strengthened?

The souls of God’s people are not made of cast iron, against which arrow after arrow may be discharged and leave no dent, make no impression. The hearts of the Lord’s people are in a measure conformed to the heart of Christ. And what was his heart? “My heart,” he says, “is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels.” [Psalm 22:14]

And thus the Lord’s people, who carry in their bosom broken hearts and contrite spirits, made so by grace, are often sinking, often shaken, often cast down through the many trials they have to encounter. It is for this reason that they need confirming, supporting, strengthening, and that the Lord himself would lay his everlasting arms underneath them, lift them into his bosom, and make his strength perfect in their weakness.

And is not this the gospel way? Can I, by dint of creature exertion, brace up my soul to a certain pitch? If trouble comes, am I like a patient sometimes under the keen knife of the surgeon to brace up my nerves to bear the operation more unflinchingly? This is nature, flesh, reason; not grace. The Lord does not require this of his people. He dealt not so with his beloved Apostle, according to the account which he gives in 2 Corinthians 12. What did the Lord speak into his heart, under trial and temptation, that he might proclaim it upon Zion’s walls to the Church of the living God, “My grace is sufficient for you; for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”

Therefore, he adds, “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” But it is very painful to the Lord’s people to find no strength when they need it most, no faith when they have the greatest need of it, no help when most required. To pass through this experience baffles and disconcerts many of the living family; but when the Lord is pleased in a mysterious way to communicate His own strength, and to make it perfect in weakness; when He deals with them, as with the worthies of old, who “out of weakness were made strong,” they can then bless the Lord for their very weakness, and, like Paul, glory in their infirmities, because the power of Christ rests upon them.

A CHRISTIAN’S MAIN CONCERN ISN’T WHERE YOU’RE FROM, BUT WHERE YOU’RE GOING?

A CHRISTIAN’S MAIN CONCERN ISN’T WHERE YOU’RE FROM, BUT WHERE YOU’RE GOING?

Augustus Toplady

The readers of this address, and indeed the whole world at large, may be distributed into two kinds of people: those who are travelling to Canaan, and those who are going the direct contrary way. There are but two roads: the broad, which leadeth to destruction, and the narrow, which opens into life. Travelers all mankind are; and travellers at a very swift rate.

The grand point is, Where are you travelling to?

Are you desirous of knowing whither your footsteps tend, and toward what country thy face is set?

If so, have recourse to the Scriptures of truth, but study them on your knees; that is, in a spirit of prayer, and with the simplicity of a little child.

Suppose, for instance, that we look at John 16:8, where Christ thus describes the office of the Holy Ghost, and the effects which His converting influences have on the human mind: “When ‘He is come He shall convince the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment”; that is, He shall, first, feelingly demonstrate to them their absolute sinnership, and their total helplessness, working in them a deep sense and real hatred of self and sin; and He shall, secondly, lead them to rest on Christ, and on His righteousness alone, for justification.
Now, has God the Spirit done these things for you?

Has He wrought, or begun to work these convictions in your soul?

If He has not, nor so much as kindled a growing desire after Christ and His salvation in your breast, I dare not give you the right hand of fellowship. I dare not salute you as one of my fellow-travelers to the kingdom of God.

No, you are yet in Egypt, and you will quickly be in hell, except the Holy Ghost take you in hand, and give you a new heart, and lead you to Christ.

But if you have ground to hope that this work of grace is experienced by you in some degree; if, on looking at your soul in the gospel-glass, you can discern the traces of faith, love, repentance and sanctification there, you are of the number of those who have been enabled, through grace, to set forth to go into the land of Canaan, and into the land of Canaan you shall come.

Two things are particularly needful for you to observe:

1. That the world will endeavour to turn your feet out of the narrow way. If the wicked are so muzzled by Providence that they cannot bite, they will snarl at least. If they cannot do you real injury, they will probably pelt you with scandal, and sneer at you for being, in their opinion, righteous over-much. But let not this discourage you ~ but imitate the blind man in the gospel, who the more he was exhorted by the multitude to hold his peace, cried out so much the more, “Thou Son of David, have mercy on me.”

2. Beware of sin. May you be enabled to shun the remotest appearance of evil. Though a truly converted, person cannot fall, so as to turn back finally and perish everlastingly; yet, if he is not kept watching unto prayer, he may lose his peace and joy in believing, and that inward testimony of the Holy Spirit, that felt fellowship with God, and that sweet tranquility of conscience, without which living scarcely deserves the name of life.

It is a sad thing when a saint is overturned on the road. Though he cannot lose his soul, yet a fall may break the neck of his comforts, and make him go halting to his journey’s end. “The devil,” as one justly remarks, “is never better pleased than when he can roll a child of God in the dirt.” Beg of the Lord, therefore, to hold up your goings in His paths, that your footsteps slip not.

Yet, if you should fall, be humbled, but do not despair. May you be led to pray afresh to God, who is able to raise you up, and to set you on your feet again, and helped to look to the blood of the covenant, and say to the Lord from the depth of your heart,

“Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee,
Foul, I to the fountain fly,
Wash me, Saviour, or I die.”

It has been justly observed that “it is one thing to fall into the mire, and another thing to lie in it.” When the Lord has graciously restored you, you will look upon sin as the bitterest calamity that can befall you, and consider those who would entice you to it as the very worst enemies you have.
Soon shall we arrive where not only sin, but every temptation to it and every propensity toward it will cease for ever. As a good man once said on his deathbed, “Hold out, faith and patience! Yet a little while, and I shall need you no longer.”

When faith and patience have done and suffered their appointed work, the disciples of Christ shall ascend from the wilderness to paradise. Then will they be able to say, “Called by the Lord’s effectual grace, we went forth into the land of Canaan; and, clothed with His righteousness and preserved by His power, into the land of Canaan we are come.” Even so, Amen.

[Taken from an address by Augustus Montague Toplady on Genesis 12:5.]