Precious Jesus

"Afresh, precious, precious Jesus, I resign this body to You, for doing or suffering, for living or dying. Will You accept it? Will You use me for Your glory more than heretofore, that You may have some little return for all the benefits You have done to me? Oh, do grant this request; my heart longs for it, my spirit pleads for it; and "if You will, You can." You know the hot temptation of which I am the subject. Bring Your glory out of it, and keep me from the evil, and it shall be well." - Ruth Bryan

Sunday, June 26, 2016

A small remnant

Isaiah 1:9

We must never forget that “the remnant of Jacob” in this world is always a very small remnant (Isaiah 1:9; 16:14). In the end, it will be a number which no man can number, a great multitude, ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands. But at any one time in this world, in any society, in any place, God’s remnant is small. As it is written, “Many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14). Only a few go in at the strait gate and walk in the narrow way.
God has always done his work with a small, feeble remnant. He would not use Gideon and his army until he had whittled the army down to 300 men who were too scared to stoop down and drink water (Judges 7:5-6). In Noah’s day, one man found grace in the eyes of the Lord. In Abraham’s day, one family obtained mercy. In all the ages of the Old Testament, one nation was called. After three years of preaching, our Lord Jesus had only 120 who worshipped in his name.
Throughout the ages, God has used a very small, feeble remnant to build his kingdom. But that remnant always prevails and is never defeated. His remnant (his church) goes forth in his strength to his cause. Acting under the name and authority of the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the worm Jacob is enabled to thresh the mountains (Isaiah 41:14-15).
As a lion, strong and mighty, powerful and courageous, every foe is utter weakness before God’s Church. As we assault the gates of hell in the name of Christ by the preaching of the gospel, the very gates of hell shall fall before us. Because the Lion of the tribe of Judah is at our head, none can prevail over us!
God works through a small, feeble remnant, so that the excellency of the power may be of God and not of us (1 Corinthians 1:26-31). — Let us never despise small things!






Don Fortner

Do not sin against the child {full sermon}

Archibald G. Brown, April 10th, 1870, Stepney Green Tabernacle

"Do not sin against the child!" Genesis 42:22
Moses proclaimed a great truth in the ears of the Israelites, when he warned them to be sure their sin would find them out. However long the period after the committal of the crime — the hour is sure at last to come when the sinner and his sin will be brought face to face. Days, weeks, months, yes, even years, may glide by, until the sin itself almost becomes forgotten — when lo, some unlooked for and unforeseen circumstance calls up the crime from the oblivion of the past, and makes the guilty sinner tremble in its presence.
We have an illustration of this truth in the chapter from which I have selected my text. Full twenty years had passed since the lad Joseph was sold by his cruel brothers to the passing Ishmaelites. During those years the stingings of conscience which at first followed the unnatural deed had doubtless grown less and less, until by oft repetition of the lie, they had almost become persuaded it was true that "one of them was not." His death was taken for granted, and considered a certainty, and the whole matter had for a long time ceased to occupy their thoughts.
But now that the twenty years have passed away, there comes a grievous famine in the land of Canaan. In utter despair, "they look one upon another" as men bereft of all energy, and without the heart to put forth any fresh efforts for help. Just at this juncture, the news reaches them that there is "grain in Egypt." At the earnest request of their aged father, they lose no time in journeying there, only too glad of having a chance to exchange some of the patriarch's wealth for the golden grain.
Entering into an Egyptian palace, they are introduced to Joseph, the governor. Humbly they prostrate themselves before him, and give him deepest homage. Their overtures are received in an apparently ungracious manner, and rough words are all they receive. Charged with being spies, they are all placed in prison for three days, and then only permitted to depart by leaving one of their number as a hostage. This stern discipline is beneficial to them, and awakens their sleeping consciences to the crime long since committed. There rises up into their view a poor, pale youthful face, convulsed with the agony of fear as it descends into the darkness of the pit. Again there rings in their ears the childish cry of terror as the boy, after a short but desperate struggle, is dragged off by the ferocious-visaged slave dealers. The whole scene passes before them like a panorama, and with the vividness of a yesterday's transaction.
Their sin has found them out, and trembling with self-condemnation, they confess, "we are truly guilty concerning our brother in that we saw the anguish of his soul when he begged us, and we would not hear; therefore this distress has come upon us." Gen 42.21. Their sense of guilt is now increased by Reuben reminding them that they had sinned, in spite of his entreaty and warning, "Did I not speak to you," saying, 'Do not sin against the child!' and you would not hear? Therefore, behold, his blood also is required."
Perhaps there are some of you now thinking, "What has this subject to do with our Sunday School Anniversary?" I answer, much, and for this reason. There are many ways of sinning against a child, besides letting him down into a pit, or selling him to passing Ishmaelites. My desire is not so much to speak this morning to the dear little ones in the galleries (they will have their turn in the afternoon) as to those of you who are parents and teachers, or have any influence whatever over children. To such the text should come home with power, "Do not sin against the child!"
We will try and look at this subject in two ways, namely:
Several ways in which we may sin against a child,
and secondly — Special reasons why we should not.
 
I. HOW may we sin against a child?
We may sin against a child first of all by spoiling him. This great mistake is to be as much dreaded as over-severity, for it would, I think, be a difficult matter to determine which of the two evils has produced the greatest amount of sorrowful fruit — foolish indulgence, or excessive severity. Certainly the former sin is the one most easily fallen into. All the instincts of a father's and mother's heart give a bias toward it. It is so natural to see nothing wrong in our own children — so easy to be lenient to our own flesh and blood. For the sin we so readily condemn in the children of others — we make a thousand excuses when beheld in our own.
Nothing is harder than to say, "No," to the request of the little lips that press our own, or to reprove and restrict the darling who has entwined round about his little form, our tenderest heart-strings.
To continually clip the tree is doubtless a bad thing for its full development. But to leave it untouched, and allow it to straggle any and every way in wild luxuriance, is just as great if not a greater evil.
I will use another illustration that I think many of our little friends in the gallery will understand. If the peach trees and plum trees that are nailed to the garden walls by a hundred little pieces of cloth could but think and speak, they might very likely say to the gardener so busily at work with the hammer, "Why fasten us up like this, and forbid our beautiful branches from running on the ground or playing in the breeze? How unkind it is to put so many restraints upon us — and leave us so little liberty; let us just for this season run over the wall, along by the wall, or away from the wall, or any way we please." But the gardener with a smile would reply, "It is out of kindness that I do it, not from mere caprice. Wait until the spring has glided into summer, and all your branches are decked with snowy bloom. Wait until the summer has mellowed into autumn; and then when your boughs are laden with fruit, which they could never have borne except for these restrictions — then you will see that all has been done for your good, and to make your fruit the richer."
Just so, beloved parents, out of very kindness to the child you must sometimes say, "No," and place restrictions on him. The child untrained in its springtime, will bear but little fruit in the autumn of its life. It is no true love to allow its autumn to be blasted, in order to satisfy the whims of its foolish spring.
Multitudes of children who might have grown up to be solaces to the heart of their mother and the joy of their father, have been utterly sacrificed at the altar of this sentimental idol. Scripture abounds with examples of this sin against the child.
Look at Eli, the kindhearted high priest. Who would dare to question his piety or doubt the genuineness of his love to his children? He loved them, if not too well — yet too foolishly, for "he did not restrain his sons." 1Sam 3.13. What was the consequence? The priesthood was forever wrested from his family — his sons met with an untimely death, and the fond parent with broken heart fell down and broke his neck!
Behold another sorrowful example in David, the "man after God's own heart." 1 Kings 11.4. He who in his youthful days could meet a Goliath with unfearing heart — who all his lifetime was a man of war, and ruled a turbulent nation with masterly hand — was yet unable to rule his own family. The indulgent King allowed his children to run as wild as the flowing locks of his favorite son, and the result was as fatal. View him as with staggering steps he ascends that turret staircase, crying out in the bitterness of his heart. "O Absalom, my son, my son Absalom, would to God I had died for you, O Absalom, my son, my son." 2 Samuel 18.33. That anguish of the monarch's heart may all be traced back to the fact that in foolish indulgence he had sinned against the child. Truer words were never uttered than those of Solomon's: "A child left to himself brings his mother to shame." Pro 29.15
There is a second way in which you may sin against a child, the very reverse of that just mentioned, and it is by harshness. There is no need to say to some parents "do not spoil the child," if you mean by the word "spoil" over-indulgence. Over-indulge a child! Not they, for they never indulge him at all. Spoil him through excessive liberty! No chance of that, for the poor little thing has never learned what liberty means. Its only idea of a parent is that of a walking iceberg — a being who never opens its lips except to assert its authority or maintain its dignity — a being whose sole powers of oratory consist in saying with a harsh grating voice that sets the heart of the little one on edge.
"He means to be master in his own house." If such a deluded specimen of parental love is here this morning, I would say to him, "My friend, you may sin just as much against your child by your wicked harshness — as the other by his foolish indulgence. And there is this to be said about his sin which cannot he said of yours: it is a natural one."
There are many of childhood's ways which though troublesome to us, are not sinful in them. The very buoyancy of health and spirits is often the onlycrime, and it does seem hard to condemn the little one for that. Who among us does not now have rising into view some chubby-faced, rosy-cheeked, laughing-eyed youngster, who always seems to choose the moment of our greatest depression for his most riotous exhibition of fun — the little one who in reckless glee will force his way into our study or private room, turn somersaults over our books, kick our well assorted papers to the four points of the compass, and then turn special pleader, and defend his case, and like an April day, take turns to smile and cry?
Why we have all seen some such happy, troublesome little creature — and many of us have him. How are we to treat his wild escapades? Are we to lecture him and frown at him as if he had broken all ten commandments in ten minutes? Yes, if we wish to sin against the child — but not otherwise. God never meant little children to walk demurely about in straight-jackets. You may perhaps succeed in placing on very young shoulders, a very old and a very silly head — but in so doing, you will in all probability give the child a heart disease for life.
Let their young spirits alone, so long as there is no actual sin involved. You may break a child's spirit — but there is one thing you can never do, and that is mend it! You may by over harshness crush the bounding heart; but believe me, the day will come when you would be willing to give anything to restore the elasticity of soul that once annoyed you so. Guide the sparkling foaming torrent if you will, and turn it in a right direction; but if you have any love for your child, do not dam it up. Never mind if their noise does "go through your head;" it will come out the other side. And if it remains there — that is better than to have your frown abide in their heart.
A third way of sinning against a child is by bad example. The ancient Romans had a custom which I think in many respects was a good one. They placed the busts of their distinguished ancestors in the vestibules of their houses in the hope that their children, by often gazing at them, might have an ambition fired in their breast to follow the virtues for which they were celebrated. We do not have the marble busts of departed ones in our halls — but we have what is far more potent over children — the characters of the parents are carefully watched and imitated by their children. One remarks that "any fault in a parent, any inconsistency, any disproportion between profession and practice, or precept and practice — falls upon the child's eye with the force and precision of sunbeams on a photograph!"
On what other ground can you account for the awful proficiency in sin which you find in many a little one? Have you never had your heart made to ache as you walked some of our streets and heard "little tots" bring out a curse as big as themselves? Where did they learn it? Is it natural to a child to swear? The answer is, they learn the vile art in their own homes. They are only the tiny echoes of their father's voice — and he has sinned against the child. We need not only to repent of our own sins — but also of those committed by others through our example.
Good Thomas Fuller often used to utter the following quaint but admirable prayer, "Lord, I trust You have pardoned the bad examples I have set before others; be pleased also to pardon me the sins which they have committed by my bad examples. If You have forgiven my own sins, the children of my corrupt nature forgive me, and my grandchildren also. Do not let the transcripts remain, since you have blotted out the original."
You profess, dear friend, to be a Christian, and your child knows you are a member of this church. He has seen you partake of the Lord's supper — and then, when you have gone home, he has in a moment detected the discrepancy between your behavior at church — and your daily life of the home. The angry temper — the selfish spirit — the worldly conversation — all these have been so many sins against the child!
Oh, how dreadful the thought, that by our own hypocritical lives we may be sinning against the little darlings we often feel we could die for. God forbid, that at the last great day, any of our children should turn to us with blanched cheek and say, "Father and mother, if I am damned — it is by copying the example you placed before me!"
There is a fourth way of sinning against a child, which I do not for a moment suppose is followed by any present. But as this discourse will in all probability reach a far larger congregation than the one assembled here, I will just indicate it. It is by selling a child for gain. Would that my Master might enable me to express in language strong enough, the indignant thoughts that burn within my breast concerning this miserable traffic in children's souls. Joseph is not the only child that has been sold for a few pieces of silver.
In free and freedom loving England, children are as relentlessly knocked down to the highest bidder as ever they were in the slave states of America. Do you ask me what I mean and to what I refer? I answer, to the thoughtless wicked practice of setting the child to any kind of work, and placing him amidst any kind of companionship — so as to have the benefit of the few pence he may earn. Better starve without it — than live by it, for it is nothing less than blood money.
Have you never seen the child that is scarcely more than an infant trotted up and down our streets to gather a few pennies by singing some sweet hymn of Heaven? Have you ever marked the sanctimonious face of the parent as every few minutes he pockets the coppers brought him by the little one? Apretty school indeed for a young heart. No wonder if in years to come he makes hypocrisy his trade — he was apprenticed to it. He has been as deliberately sold as ever Joseph was.
But there are more polite ways of doing the same thing. It is a crying sin against a child to place him in some hotbed of temptation in order to "get him off our hands." It is a cruel act to allow the little one to dwell from morning to night in an atmosphere that reeks with vice, in order to pocket the paltry pittance earned by its tiny fingers. Do not let the money tempt you; your child's innocence is worth more than that. Rather go without the crust, than purchase it at the cost of your child's soul!
Our next point is one that will, I do not doubt, include many present. You may sin against the child by neglecting the means of its salvation. Do you PRAY for the conversion of your children with the same intensity of desire as when you ask for their temporal well-being? When last summer your little one was laid low with fever, and you feared that only the icy hand of death would ever cool its burning brow — how you prayed then — why the drops stood on your face like beads through the anguish of your soul. Have you ever prayed like that for its salvation, or do you have to confess before the Lord, that the eternal interests of your children find but a small space in your prayers? O do not sin so against the child — he is worth praying for.
What are you DOING to try and bring them to Jesus? Do you ever, with the tear in your eye, tell them of the love of Jesus, or do you think they are too young for that? Have you ever tried to show them their need of a Savior, and pointed them to Him who said, "Let the little children to come to me?" These are solemn questions, for I say to you dear parents in all love and from the very depths of my heart, "If you neglect the means for bringing your little ones to Christ, you are sinning against the child — and his blood will be required of you!"
O friends, it is a crying shame, that in our prayer meetings there are to be found men who pray as if they were dying to see the world converted — and yet never pray for their own children! It is a sad, sad fact that there are many who seem wondrously in earnest about the conversion of strangers — who yet let their own children go to Hell without a warning or entreaty!
"But," one replies, (and it is a very general answer) "I mean to teach my children when they have attained to years of discretion." That is what a lady once said in self-defense to Rev. Sharpe. "Madam," replied the shrewd prelate. "If you do not teach them — the devil will." The devil begins at dawn of day to sow his tares; do not be behind him in scattering the seed of the kingdom.
Try all means, at all times, in all ways, for their conversion, lest by neglect, you sin against the child.
There are many other ways of sinning against a child beside those we have already mentioned — but we forbear mentioning them as time warns us. So let us go to the second point.
 
II. There are many REASONS why we should not sin against the child. Do not sin against him, because he is a child. If you must sin against someone, sin against one of your own size and strength; but it is a dastardly thing, and cowardly, to sin against a child. The little thing's weaknessshould prove its protection. If white locks call for reverence — then little ringlets also demand respect; and you will generally find that by all great minds it is willingly given.
Nearly four hundred years ago there lived in Germany a worthy schoolmaster whose name was John Trebonius; he was rather an eccentric character, and he had, among other eccentricities, the strange custom of always raising his hat when he entered the school room, and teaching the boys bare-headed for, he said, "Who can tell what may yet rise up from amid these youths. There may be among them in the bud, future learned doctors, sage philosophers, indeed, even princes of the empire." Far-seeing teacher he was! And high was the honor that God placed on him; for among the lads there was one named Martin Luther, who in later years was known as "the solitary monk that shook the world." Because you do not know what the child may become, let his very childhood say to you, "do not sin against him."
Do not sin against the child, because by so doing so you may blast his whole life. We have but one life here in this present world, and it is a melancholy thing for that to be a blasted one. Who of us that are parents can dare to contemplate the lives of any of our children being useless and withered? As much as we love them, we would rather follow them in their infancy to the open grave. And yet such a thing is possible. By some evil example seen by them in early life, an impression may be made upon their souls, the effects of which will remain to their dying day — and beyond!
You may with your foot so alter the course of that tiny little mountain rivulet, that instead of flowing gently down and widening as it goes until it glides through the smiling valley refreshing thirsty man and beast, it leaps from rock to rock, from crag to crag, falling at last with a hideous roar down some black precipice. Oh, the fatal result of turning its course so near the spring. Let us remember beloved that a look, a word, an action may have the same effect on any of the little streamlets beneath our roofs.
Let us indeed beware lest in any way we sin against a child. May the Lord bless this discourse to all parents, teachers, and friends of children, for his name's sake. Amen.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

His jewels!


(William Purton, "Lessons of Peace in the School of Affliction" 1868)

"They will be Mine," says the LORD Almighty, "in the day when I make up My jewels!" Malachi 3:17 

The promise of God is that His saints shall be as the jewels of a crown--yes, they shall shine in the Royal diadem! The Lord delights to call them His jewels!

What a price has been paid for the saints--the Son of God purchased them with His own blood! Are they not valuable in His sight? How precious are those whom Jehovah calls His jewels! Bought with such an inestimable price!

But the saints are likened unto jewels, also because our souls need cutting and purifying. A diamond seems to be a mere pebble--until the jeweler's hands give it shape and smoothness. Skill and patient toil so transform it, that everyone takes pleasure it its beauty and brightness. 

Likewise is it with our souls. Divine grace removes defects, and beautifies. The sharp edge of affliction, directed by the hand of Infinite Love--makes perfect. No longer rough and unsightly, but beautiful and glorious--the precious workmanship of God becomes His delight. It is made fit for the Royal diadem, in which it will shine throughout eternity--reflecting all-gloriously the majesty of the King of Kings!

The origin of man's "free will"

                                                                  PRIDE

Eve was the first to "exercise her free will" and it was in defiance and open rebellion against her Creator. Adam quickly followed suit, but in a more blatant manner because the serpent had beguiled and deceived Eve, but Adam was not deceived knowing exactly what he was doing and the consequences of his actions (1 Tim. 2:14). Their first born, Cain, continued the trend and in open rebellion tried to manipulate God into accepting his "offering" which was contrary to the command given him. Although the words "free will" were not used by any of these people, their actions were screaming it at the top of their voice. Adam, Eve, Cain, and all the rest of humanity demand that God acknowledge man's "free will" but what did Christ Jesus do?

How many times did He say "Not My will, Thine be done," always yielding to His Father's will? Never even a hint of "I have a free will" came from His mouth, but today's 'enlightened' souls would de-throne the Almighty for their precious and cherished "free will." How does it (how can it) glorify God for a man to have a will that is "free" from all restraint, free from the commandments of the Holy and Righteous God, that determines one's own course in life irregardless of all the Scriptures that speak otherwise? If a man is free to do as he wishes then the claims of God and His Law become null and void, meaningless and therefore there is no need for forgiveness, for there was no law broken; no need of cleansing, for there was no sin committed. With no law broken and no sin committed what need is there of a Savior? Now we are seeing the bottom line of this whole "destructive heresy" brought into the church by false brethren via stealth---2 Peter 2:1-3. The whole notion that "I can do as I please"---"accept" Christ or not---is very appealing because it lets man off the hook for his sins for there is no final judgment. It's so deceptive because it's draw is not cleansing from sins, but a better and happier life now, the kicker being that you can take it or leave it with no eternal consequences---ever. Recently added to the nonsense is that a man has the option to discard the "salvation" he thinks he gained because he "accepted Christ" if for no other reason that he "wants to." What glory does any of this bring to Christ? None of it, and that's the whole point of insisting that man has a "free will;" it's just another cheap (but currently effective) method to deny Christ and His Father the glory due their name and replacing Him with themselves. In the end, He will not be denied the glory due His Name. The deceivers will get their just deserts. May it please the Lord to deliver His elect from this lie.

Things to be pondered

A course of twelve lessons, which I have begun to learn, and should not cease to remember.

By Dr. John Kennedy
From The Life of John Kennedy, D.D. by Rev. Alexander Auld

1. That I was once "without God in the world." I did think sometimes then that I had a God; but "the living God" I neither sought nor knew. This I learned when Jehovah, as Lawgiver and Judge, presented and pressed His claims. The God who then addressed me was new to me. At first I thought Him to be a "hard Master," and I rose rebelliously against Him; and even when I was compelled to allow that He was righteous I could not venture to approach Him. When I knew Him as the God of salvation, I recognised Him as the same who spake to me from Sinai; but now I could not refrain from drawing near, assured that He was Jehovah, and in the same measure hoping that he would be gracious (Eph. ii. 10; Matt. xxv. 24; Ps. li. 4, cxxx. 3, 4).
2. That during the years of my ignorance I loved to sleep, because I disliked the care and the work to which the Lord was calling me. When He first awakened me I cried for "a little more sleep." I feared to ask to be allowed to sleep alway, and I thought it hard that He would not give me "a little more." I then asked for "a little more slumber;" but this too was sternly refused. I then requested at the least "a little more folding of the hands to sleep;" but though I twice abated my request, I sued in vain. At last I stretched out my hands, but it was to work and not to Christ I rose from the sluggard's bed to toil for self. But sin revived when I began to work. "The commandment" which aroused me stirred up sin and revived sin proved stronger than awakened me-so it slew me, and I died (Prov. xxiv. 33; Rom. vii. 9).
3. That I was as impotent before the calls of the Gospel as before the claims of the law, and that my faith, as surely as my Saviour, must be of God; that the operation of the Holy Ghost in applying was as necessary to me as the acting of the Father in providing, and the work of the Son in purchasing, redemption (John vi. 44; Eph. ii. 8).
4. That it was both vain and forbidden to search for Christ except in "the word of the truth of the Gospel;" and that there was to me no warrant of faith in Jesus but the testimony of God regarding Him to men as sinners. This I learned after vainly seeking a vision of Christ's glory, and traces of his Spirit's work in my soul, in evidence of His "goodwill" to me (John v. 39).
5. That the Person of Christ as "the Word made flesh" was the only foundation on which I might rest my soul; and that the merit of His precious blood was the only ground; even in Him the Daysman, on which I could present myself to God as a suppliant for mercy. Having strained to the utmost the power of "flesh and blood to acquire a satisfying view of His merit in the light of His personal glory," I was left in wearied weakness, utterly benighted, before the sovereign grace of the Father in heaven; and when at last I reached, and found rest in, Christ, it was because I was called, as was Lazarus, out of the grave. "Come forth," was the effectual call of the Son of God; and from among the dead I came, unconsciously quickened, but consciously lost, to Him who is "all in all" (Matt. xvi. 17, 18; Acts xx. 28; Eph. i. 7).
6. That given grace requires more grace. "More grace" is the cry of the new heart in the quickened soul, as surely as it is the promise of God in the Gospel. I thought I could keep the treasure I got when I found the Messiah; but I soon learned that He must rather keep me. I needed grace to make use of the grace which I had received. I leaned on my first experience, and my dead weight soon smothered all its joy and fervour. Fool as I was, I put Christ's gift instead of Christ Himself; He withheld His giving, and I fainted under a sense of poverty. I required to come back as a beggar again to the storehouse of grace, but I felt I could not come unless the Father drew me. I thought it hard to he compelled yet to beg, but harder still that I could not even do the begging without help from God (James iv. 6; John vi. 45; Isa. xl. 29).
7. That it is possible to sleep, but impossible to be happy, with an idol in the heart. The Lord may allow me to go to the sluggard's bed for a time; but when I am awake His anger against idolatry will cast a scaring shadow on my heart, and my flesh may be furrowed by the rod, till I resolutely cast the accursed thing away (Cant. v. 2; Josh. vii.; Hosea ii. 15).
8. That assurance not weakened by unwatchfulness is not worth the having; and that while true assurance is never enjoyed on the bed of sloth, it yet is never the mere reward of toil; that the wise course, in order to its recovery when it is lost, is to seek reviving grace in order to renewed believing, that fruits may be produced to certify my calling and election; but that, even if these are certified, I am still dependent on the Spirit's grace for my ascertaining them, and for so sealing the fruits which evidence them as to satisfy my conscience (2 Peter i. 5-11).
9. That the poverty which results from sloth hath always pride and unbelief as its companions, brings a most real dearth upon my soul, and is worse than weakness in the work of God; but that the healthiest tone of spirit and the best preparation for work or trial is willing, conscious, and trustful dependence on the grace that is m Christ (Prov. xxiv. 32, 33; 2 Cor. xii. 9, 10).
10. That the more I know the better I like Christ as a Master, and the less I think of myself as a servant; that if I had ceased to serve when I ceased to be satisfied with my performances I would have struck work long ago; and that the tasted bitterness of my iniquity in holy things makes the Master's grace all the sweeter when I come to Him for cleansing and for help.
11. That it is extremely difficult to combine the reverence and the boldness of the child in my state of feeling in drawing nigh to God. If I lose the one I become a presumptuous fool; and if I lose the other I become a cowering slave. The child's way is a narrow one between presumption on the one hand and unbelief on the other; and he can walk in it only as the everlasting arms sustain and draw him (Heb. x. 19-22; xii. 28, 29).
12. That the only death I can venture to die is death deprived of its sting on Calvary, and which is a gate of entrance to Zion-death made harmless by the cross of Christ, and made useful as a messenger to bring me to His presence. I can venture to die when I am assured that, as I part with my body for a season, I shall part with my sin for ever.

What is sin?


A Sermon
by Rev. John Kennedy, D.D., of Dingwall 

"Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight." — Psalm 51:4.

THERE are two lights exhibited on shore for the guidance of those "that go down to the sea in ships" — thebeacon light, to warn them away from the dangerous reef or headland, and the harbour light, to direct them to a place of safety. I have seen a shipwreck take place owing to one of these lights being mistaken for the other. The account of David's sin, in the inspired history of his life, and the record of his repentance in this psalm, are like these two lights — the former warning us away from unwatchfulness, the latter guiding us back to God with confession of our sin. To take encouragement in sin from the former, instead of being warned away "from all appearance of evil," is to run the awful risk — or rather to encounter the certain danger — of soulwreck; and not to follow David, in his return, "with weeping and supplication," to God on His mercy-seat, is to keep our souls away from the only true rest and blessedness, and still to expose them to the storm of His wrath.
In David's penitence, of which this psalm is a record, there are the following elements:— 1. A view of his sin as it is "against" and in the "sight" of "God," such as causes him to justify God, in condemning him to death, according to the curse of the law, which he had broken, and as quite shut him up to the rich sovereign mercy of God, as the only fountain whence pardon could come to him, and to an atoning sacrifice such as would satisfy the justice of God, as the only meet channel for the outflow of His grace. 2. A confession of original sin — of his total depravity — as the result of his fellowship in "the guilt of Adam’s first sin," which alone accounted for his being "shapen in iniquity" and conceived "in sin." 3. An earnest desire for an intimation of pardon from God. 4. Panting of heart for renewing grace. 5. Longings for the joy of God’s salvation. 6. A sense of his need of being kept from sinning in the future, as one who could not trust in himself, and who sought to be upheld by the "free Spirit" of the Lord. And 7. In the measure in which hope was restored to his heart, he desired employment in the Lord's service, as well as preparation for it, the conversion of sinners unto God, and "the good of Jerusalem."
It is the first of these we at present are called to consider — DAVID'S VIEW OF SIN AS "AGAINST" AND IN THE "SIGHT" OF GOD.

I. "AGAINST THEE, THEE ONLY, HAVE I SINNED."

He had acted to the injury of his own soul, he had offended, by his conduct, those who feared the Lord, and by his evil example he had encouraged the ungodly to continue in sin; but yet he says, "Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned." Viewing his conduct as sin, he thinks only of its being against God. It might bring misery on himself, it might bring grief to the hearts of the godly, and it might encourage others to continue to act the part of suicides, but his conduct he regarded as sinful only as it was "against" God.
1. It was against the law of God. Associating the law with God, how venerable it seemed to his eyes, opened as these were, to behold the glory of Jehovah, as Lawgiver and Judge; how awful seemed to him the guilt which was involved in the breach of such a law; and how impossible escape from the law's penalty appeared to him as he thought of the omnipotence, faithfulness, and justice of Him who was Judge of all, unless mercy came to him with a free pardon through atoning blood. One may transgress the law of his country, and his offence never be discovered; or even if it be discovered, he may not be convicted of the crime; or by some miscarriage of justice the execution may not follow the passing of the sentence. But in none of these ways can, under His government, any transgressors of the law of God escape. Sinner, seek to realise this. Have done with dreaming of being able to sin with impunity while the eye that is "as a flame of fire" is on you, while the sword of divine justice is wielded by the Almighty, and while it is impossible for God to lie. Either life, through the righteousness of Christ being placed to your account, or death, as the wages of your sin, is the only alternative to you, and to me, and to all. "Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law; for sin is the transgression of the law," and "the soul that sinneth shall die."
2. Sin is against the will of God. Not merely against what was the will of God, but against what, at the moment when the sin is committed, is the will of God — against a present volition of the will of God bearing authoritatively on the transgressor, and in opposition to what he is about to do, or is doing. There is many a law on the Statute Book of our nation the very existence of which is unknown to our Sovereign, and which cannot be regarded as an intended expression of her will; and we must not think of a transgressor of our laws as acting in opposition to a present exercise of the Queen's will bearing on him individually. But do not approach so to conceive of the relation in which God stands to His own law, and to those by whom that law is broken. His will is ever active in volitions which accord with the claims of His commandments, and bears according to the law's demands on each individual, always and everywhere. Because of this there must be in every act of sin a collision with the will of God, the Most High, "whose name is holy." Think of the weak worm dashing himself against the will of Jehovah, as, swayed by enmity, he ventures to transgress His law, which is "holy, and just, and good." Friend, do not conceive of God as like yourself, and one to be trifled with, as if He could forget your sin; and do not imagine that such collisions with the will of God can take place with impunity though "sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily." The will of God, now expressed in the form of law, shall soon and surely be expressed in a providence by which you shall be utterly and eternally overwhelmed.
3. Sin is rebellion against the authority of God. The authority of God as our Lawgiver — His right to reign — rests on what He is in the infinite excellence of His being and glory. He, because of what He is, is entitled to be Lord over all — to bring His will in the form of law to bear on each rational being whom He hath created, whether their place originally was heaven or earth. There is rebellion against authority thus founded and asserted, in every transgression of His law, and this cannot be without a denial of His right to reign, without an attack on His throne. How fearful sin is as implying — necessarily implying — this! And there cannot be rebellion such as this that does not imply a claim on the part of the transgressor to the place which necessarily and eternally belongs to the Most High. The rebelling will of the creature makes this demand. He raises himself thronewards, in his meanness and loathsomeness, and requires that Jehovah should give place to him. "Who is the Lord that He should reign over us?" is the mad shout that reaches the ear of God from the hearts of all transgressors of His law; and, as they demand for themselves the sovereignty which is God's, they ask, "Who is Lord over us?"
4. Sin is against the name of God. There can be no sinning that does not cast dishonour on the moral glory of Jehovah. He demands perfect love to Himself, because of what He is in the infinite loveliness of His moral character. His claim for love rests on what He is in the infinite beauty of His holiness. On this the eye of His omniscience ever rests, and to this He "is," and must be "love." And through this love to Himself He is "blessed for ever" in the enjoyment of Himself. And He cannot have this knowledge of, this love to, and this enjoyment of, Himself, and act righteously as the supreme Governor, without demanding love to Himself from all rational beings. One who did not necessarily make such a demand could not reasonably be worshipped. And there is goodness as well as authority in such a claim. If to Himself His love to Himself is the source of such blessedness, what can be more surely good than to demand love to Him from His creatures, who shall never fail to find that through love to Him satisfying blessedness shall flow into their hearts from "the fountain of living waters." But whichever of the Ten Commandments you break, you cannot do so without refusing this love to God. You cannot break any of the commandments of the second table of the law without refusing such love to God as would be expressed in submission to His authority. For He requires with equal authority love to your neighbour as love to Himself. To refuse this expression of love to Him is blasphemously to declare Him unworthy of what He demands, though His right to be loved rests on what He is in the infinite glory of His moral character. But there can be no negative feeling towards the holiness of God. If there is not love to it as the spring of action in the heart, there must be enmity. In every unconverted man there is nothing but the flesh, and the minding of the flesh is enmity against God. Think of God beholding, loving, and rejoicing in, His own infinite beauty, and at the same time having before His eye the creature of His hand turning away from and hating Him because His name is holy, and expressing in his transgression of His law his enmity to what He so infinitely loves and enjoys. How marvellous is the patience of God with thee, who wast observed by Him thus dishonouring His glorious name in every one of all thy countless transgressions!
5. Sin is against the being of God. God cannot be without being infinitely great and infinitely holy. His greatness is the basis of His right to issue a law, and His holiness is the basis of His claim for love. His law demanding obedience in love rests on His unchangeable majesty and loveliness. It is entrenched within His being. You cannot assail that law without an attack on God. You cannot rise against the throne without setting yourself against the existence of God. Every sinner is, in intent, a Deicide. And in every "carnal mind" there is positive enmity to the very being of God. This may not be a reality in your consciousness, but it is the root of all your action in transgressing the law of God. Roots are usually hidden, and why is this "root of bitterness" undiscovered by you? It is because you keep so far away from God that you have no opportunity of discovering how you are affected towards Him. But if you were pressed by the law's claims, and overwhelmed by the terrors of its curse, if you were left for a season without any conscious hope of "escape from the wrath to come," and at the same time were persuaded that there can be no withdrawal of these demands and terrors, till the justice of the unchangeable and Eternal God was satisfied, then would you find in your consciousness the stirring of an enmity to God, whose cry is, "Let there be no God." How fearful the consciousness of this! And how bitter the remembrance of this when the glory of Jehovah was so revealed to you, and the riches of His pardoning mercy, that, while having hope in Him, you went forth in loving desire after Him! But whether you are conscious of this enmity towards the very being of God or not, of all the sin in your action this is the root in your heart.

II. But the Psalmist confesses that he had done "this evil IN" HIS "SIGHT" as surely as he had sinned AGAINST the Lord.

1. It was in His sight, for it was done under His all-seeing eye. Nothing can be done anywhere, at any time, or by any one that is not fully observed by God. And is the eye of God to be no check upon us? A child sometimes may take liberties because his father cannot see him. He acts dishonestly who acts thus. But the child who has, as his father, one entitled to both his love and respect, acts most presumptuously if he is not restrained by knowing that such a father's eye is on him. If he refuses to be careful because his parent's eye is on him, he is both callous and presumptuous. But think of your being as completely watched by the Omniscient as if there was no other being on which He had to rest His eye, and, while thus the object of His undivided attention, trampling His law under foot! O the marvellous long-suffering of God!
2. It was done in His sight, because done before His omnipresence. It is the glory of God that, while He cannot be contained except in the infinite and Eternal immensity of His own being, He, in His infinite being and in all His moral glory, can be in every spot throughout all the universe, and therefore is thus present where thou art sinning. You cannot find a place to sin but in the presence of His majesty and glory. O think of how God is thus insulted to His face whenever and wherever thou art committing sin!
3. It is done in His sight, for it is done when He is near to you in the action of His providence. At the very moment when you are sinning He is putting forth His power in upholding you, and each token of His goodness, conveyed to you by the operation of His power — and conveyed to you at that moment — you use, as they reach your hand, as a weapon wherewith to contend with Him! It is while you "live, move, and have your being in Him" you are transgressing His holy law!
4. It is done in His sight by you, for it is done by you when He is near to you in the gospel — while He stands and knocks at your door. O think of the glory which He hath revealed, and which shines from "the face of Jesus Christ," of the love which He has commended, and of which He testifies to you, of the precious blood of His Son "shed for the remission of sins," of the "great salvation" which in Christ He presents to you, of the urgent calls addressed to you authoritatively requiring your acceptance of "His unspeakable gift," and of His patience in still continuing to plead with you, and then consider what must be implied in your doing evil in His sight when He has thus approached you!
5. In the case of David, and in that of every child of God, sin is committed in His sight, because done by one who was brought near to Him by being adopted into His family. Child of God, never approach to think that the grace which you have received can extenuate the guilt which you contract by law-breaking. Instead of this, your privileges as a child give you a power which no other has of aggravating your sin. No sin can be greater than yours. Is there nothing in the glorious greatness and rich grace of your Father to make you specially afraid of sinning? And surely there are no circumstances in which sin so aggravated can be committed, as by him who does "evil" amidst the blessings which surround him in a state of grace, on whom shines light from above the mercy seat, and before whom walked his Elder Brother, leaving him an example that he should follow His steps.
6. "This evil" was done by the Psalmist in His sight, because it was done by one in whom dwelt the Holy Spirit. This is, in a special sense, true of all sins committed by those who are "the temples of the Holy Ghost." He is in them, and specially and graciously present with the life which He has begotten in them, and forth from beside His presence there comes forth the evil lusting, and under its influence, the "enticed" will goes forth in sinful action. How intensely aggravated sin thus issuing and "finished" must be! Combine thoughts of the majesty and holiness, with thoughts of the grace, of the Spirit's presence in the heart, and then consider what doing "evil" in His sight must imply.
7. The Psalmist did "this evil" in the sight of the Lord, because he had done it after enjoying intimate communion with Him. His sinward movement began when he was lying on the bosom of divine love. And it began in his being lifted up in pride because of what he had enjoyed. How fearfully this aggravates his evil-doing! How ought his enjoyment of the light of God's face to have attached him to his Father and to His law! But he came forth from His fellowship to sin. And he made his enjoyment, while near, a reason for departing, in his pride of heart, from "the fountain of living waters!"

APPLICATION.

1. Mark well the difference between considering sin in its bearing on God, and viewing it merely in its bearing on yourself. For this indicates the difference between a true and a counterfeit conviction of sin. You may be much afflicted by a sense of the danger to which you have exposed yourself by sinning, and from that danger you may be most intensely anxious to escape. To secure a sense of deliverance from death what would you not do, what not sacrifice of carnal indulgence, what not suffer that would be penance to the flesh? But there is no such view of sin before your mind as constrains you to justify God in condemning you to death, as persuades you that there can be no hope for you unless the name of God, which you dishonoured, shall be glorified, as shuts you up to the cross of Christ as the only channel through which pardoning mercy can flow out from God to you as a sinner, or as enables you to have any right conception of the grace to which alone you may hopefully appeal. Only the man who heartily confesses "Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Thy sight," can heartily add a vindication of divine justice such as we have in the words, "That Thou mightest be justified when Thou speakest, and be clear when Thou judgest," can honestly cry for the application of atoning blood, or can make a guileless appeal to the loving-kindness and mercy of the Lord.
2. Almost all religious errors spring from defective views of sin, as these are the result of defective views of God. In these days it is becoming common to ignore all divine attributes but love, and so to conceive of divine love as something utterly inconsistent with His righteousness and holiness, and as therefore requiring the removal of all impressions of these which the revelations of the Old Testament and the true doctrine of the cross are fitted to produce. And all relations between God and men, such as are indicated in Scripture, are kept out of sight, and for all these there is substituted a supposed relation of universal fatherhood on the part of God, the faith of which is all that is required to make men safe and happy. Towards this is the drift of religious thought in these days, though only in a few instances  as the position indicated been reached. Against this rationalised scheme of grace all would do well to be on their guard. It may for a season act as a sedative, but just as surely it will act as a deadly poison. Know God, and know sin as against Him, and attain to some acquaintance with the mystery of the cross, then the plausible sophistries of rationalistic teachers will fail to draw thee aside from "the old paths" in which the fathers walked with God.
3. Only a heart in which there is love to God can be duly affected by viewing sin as against Him. Only from such a heart can true repentance flow. Let your prayer then be, "Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me."

Preached to the Free Church congregation in Dingwall in 1883.