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

Monday, September 30, 2013

Utter dependence on God

I have noticed a common thread that runs through the writings of Ruth Bryan, it is her utter dependence on God that is leaving a great impression on me. It reminds me of George Muller and his praying, asking and trusting in God; oh what a difference that is compared to this present day! 

As I go back in time, and read the works of the dear saints like Ruth and George, whose hearts were aflame for Christ, who wrestled like I do, with many things - I can relate to what they write; I can almost see the pain on their faces from what they write concerning their trials and their joy in Christ regardless of what may come. Their utter dependence on Jesus is so simple, so amazing. They go before the throne and make known their supplications, then they wait for their Master to answer. They do not look past God, they do not make their needs known to any mortal human being; it is Christ they trust to provide. They do not seek to tell God of the need then proceed to tell Him how He might fill it. These writings are of great encouragement to me.

This letter from Ruth was a blessing to me this morning, may it be a blessing to you as well...

To Mrs. H., July 16, 1852.

"I will lead the blind by a way they did not know; I will guide them on paths they have not known. I will turn darkness to light in front of them, and rough places into level ground. This is what I will do for them, and I will not forsake them." Isaiah 42:16
"And He took the blind man by the hand, and led him out of the town," and when away from all, He gave him sight in a most gradual and sovereign manner, see Mark 8:23-25. The blind man could not see where Jesus was leading him; he must confide entirely in Him; neither could he know why He should lead him along in darkness, when he had asked to be restored to sight. If he reasoned, the thought would be, "Why not give it me at once?" But "my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord." Deliverance seldom comes in the way we look for it; for "Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand or marked off the heavens with the span of his hand? Who has gathered the dust of the earth in a measure or weighed the mountains in a balance and the hills in scales? Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord, or who gave Him His counsel? Who did He consult with? Who gave Him understanding and taught Him the paths of justice? Who taught Him knowledge and showed Him the way of understanding?" Isaiah 40:12-14
Ah, my dear Amelia, has not the Lord frustrated our purposes over and over again? I cannot tell you with what majesty that last-quoted passage has often come to my mind, with v. 14, "Who gave Him His counsel?" Not with puny, sinful worms. He will counselfor them—but not with them: "My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure." Yet "fear not, worm Jacob, I will help you,"—help you to stand still and see My salvation, or help you to walk on in the dark in a rough and unknown path, just as My wisdom sees fit. Spiritual eyesight is not given to look at the outward path—but to look at our Guide; not to look before us at the way we are going to travel—but to look only at Him who will guide us safely through all, who will Himself be our way in the way—but not our way out of it. Oh, to be kept abiding in Him, and constantly looking unto Him! It is most safe and blessed—but very contrary to flesh and blood.
"This is what the Lord says--Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans and turn their hearts away from the Lord. They are like stunted shrubs in the desert, with no hope for the future. They will live in the barren wilderness, on the salty flats where no one lives. But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they go right on producing delicious fruit. The human heart is most deceitful and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? But I know! I, the Lord, search all hearts and examine secret motives." Jeremiah 17:5-10
How I do like this passage--it is so descriptive of the blessedness of trusting in the Lord alone, and the sterility and disappointment of all creature confidence. I know not your present difficulties, nor need I know them, for I could not bring you out of them. But I do bless the Lord He has brought you into the very best posture of soul—looking to Him alone. Tell your sorrows and secrets to this your Friend, watch His eye, obey His bidding, and go not to carnal and lower means for relief.
You will find it turn to good account, if you are helped to wait it out and watch it out, not as carnal Saul, to wait until a set time, and then if relief tarries--to endeavor to extricate yourself. (1 Sam. 13:8, 15) I write the things that I do know, my loved Amelia, having at some times smarted for the haste of the flesh, and at others inherited great blessing by waiting for the Lord, even in very trying circumstances and amidst many counter voices; but "in keeping of His commandments there is great reward."

Adieu in our heavenly Bridegroom, and in His undying love,

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Gospel of Satan

Satan is the arch-counterfeiter. As we have seen, the Devil is now busy at work in the same field in which the Lord sowed the good seed. He is seeking to prevent the growth of the wheat by another plant, the tares, which closely resembles the wheat in appearance. In a word, by a process of imitation he is aiming to neutralize the Word of Christ. Therefore, as Christ has a Gospel, Satan has a gospel too; the latter being a clever counterfeit of the former. So closely does the gospel of Satan resemble that which it parades, multitudes of the unsaved are deceived by it.

It is to this gospel of Satan the apostle refers when he says to the Galatians "I marvel that ye are so soon removed from Him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: which is not another, but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the Gospel of Christ" (1:6,7). This false gospel was being heralded even in the days of the apostle, and a most awful curse was called down upon those who preached it. The apostle continues, "But though we, or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed." By the help of God we shall now endeavor to expound, or rather, expose, false gospel.

The gospel of Satan is not a system of revolutionary principles, nor yet a program of anarchy. It does not promote strife and war, but aims at peace and unity. It seeks not to set the mother against her daughter nor the father against his son, but fosters the fraternal, spirit whereby the human race is regarded as one great "brotherhood". It does not seek to drag down the natural man, but to improve and uplift him. It advocates education and cultivation and appeals to "the best that is within us". It aims to make this world such a congenial and comfortable habitat that Christ’s absence from it will not be felt and God will not be needed. It endeavors to occupy man so much with this world that he has no time or inclination to think of the world to come. It propagates the principles of self-sacrifice, charity and benevolence, and teaches us to live for the good of others, and to be kind to all. It appeals strongly to the carnal mind and is popular with the masses, because it ignores the solemn facts that by nature man is a fallen creature, alienated from the life of God, and dead in trespasses and sins, and that his only hope lies in being born again.

In contradistinction to the Gospel of Christ, the gospel of Satan teaches salvation by works. It inculcates justification before God on the ground of human merits. Its sacramental phrase is "Be good and do good"; but it fails to recognize that in the flesh there dwelleth no good thing. It announces salvation by character, which reverses the order of God’s Word—character by, as the fruit of, salvation. Its various ramifications and organizations are manifold. Temperance, Reform movements, "Christian Socialist Leagues", ethical culture societies, "Peace Congresses" are all employed (perhaps unconsciously) in proclaiming this gospel of Satan—salvation by works. The pledge-card is substituted for Christ; social purity for individual regeneration, and politics and philosophy for doctrine and godliness. The cultivation of the old man is considered more practical" than the creation of a new man in Christ Jesus; whilst universal peace is looked for apart from the interposition and return of the Prince of Peace.

The apostles of Satan are not saloon-keepers and white slave traffickers, but are or the most part ordained ministers. Thousands of those who occupy our modern pulpits are no longer engaged in presenting the fundamentals of the Christian Faith, but have turned aside from the Truth and have given heed unto fables. Instead of magnifying the enormity of sin and setting forth its eternal consequences, they minimize it by declaring that sin is merely ignorance or the absence of good. Instead of warning their hearers to "flee from the wrath to come" they make God a liar by declaring that He is too loving and merciful to send any of His own creatures to eternal torment.

Instead of declaring that "without shedding of blood is no remission", they merely hold up Christ as the great Examplar and exhort their followers to "follow in His step". Of them it must be said, "For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God" (Rom. 10:3). Their message may sound very plausible and their appear very praiseworthy, yet we read of them, "for such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves (imitating) into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing (not to be wondered at) if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness, whose end shall be according to their works" (2 Cor. 11:13-15).

In addition to the fact that today hundreds of churches are without a leader who faithfully declares the whole counsel of God and presents His way of salvation, we also have to face the additional fact that the majority of people in these churches are very unlikely to learn the Truth for themselves. The family altar, where a portion of God’s Word was wont to be read daily is now, even in the homes of nominal Christians, largely a thing of the past. The Bible is not expounded in the pulpit and it is not read in the pew. The demands of this rushing age are so numerous that the multitudes have little time and still less inclination to make preparation for their meeting with God. Hence the majority who are too indolent to search for themselves are left at the mercy of those whom they pay to search for them; many of which betray their trust by studying and expounding economic and social problems rather than the Oracles of God . . . .

And now, my reader, where do you stand? Are you in the way which "seemeth right", but which ends in death? Or are you in the Narrow Way which leadeth unto life? Have you truly forsaken the Broad Road that leadeth to death? Has the love of Christ created in your heart a hatred and horror of all that is displeasing to Him? Are, you desirous that He should "reign over" (Luke 19:14) you? Are you relying wholly on His righteousness and blood for your acceptance with God? . . . .

A yet more specious form of Satan’s gospel is to move preachers to present the atoning sacrifice of Christ and then tell their hearers that all God requires from them is to "believe" in His Son. Thereby thousands of impenitent souls are deluded into thinking that they have been saved. But Christ said, "Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish" (Luke 13:3). To "repent" is to hate sin, to sorrow over, to turn from it. It is the result of the Spirit’s making the heart contrite before God. None except a broken heart can savingly believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.

Again; thousands are deceived into supposing that they have "accepted Christ" as their "personal Saviour", who have not first received Him as their LORD. The Son of God did not come here to save people in their sins, but "from their sins" (Matthew 1:21). To be saved from sins, is to be saved from ignoring and despising the authority of God, it is to abandon the course of self-will and self-pleasing, it is to "forsake our way" (Isa. 55:7). It is to surrender to God’s authority, to yield to His dominion, to give ourselves over to be ruled by Him. The one who has never taken Christ’s "yoke" upon him, who is not truly and diligently seeking to please Him in all the details of his life, and yet supposes that he is "resting on the Finished Work of Christ" is deluded by the Devil.

In the seventh chapter of Matthew there are two scriptures which give us approximate results of Christ’s Gospel and Satan’s counterfeit. First, in verses 13 and 14, "Enter ye in at the strait gate. For, wide is the gate and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction and many there be which go in thereat. Because strait is the gate and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life and few there be that find it." Second, in verses 22 and 23, "Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesized (preached) in Thy name? And in Thy name have cast out demons, and in Thy name have done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you, depart from Me, ye that work iniquity." Yes, my reader, it is possible to work in the name of Christ, and even to preach in His name, and though the world knows us, and the Church knows us, yet to be unknown to the Lord! How necessary it is then to find out where we really are; to examine ourselves to see whether we be in the faith; to measure ourselves by the Word of God and see if we are being deceived by our subtle Enemy; to find out whether we are building our house upon the sand, or whether it is erected on the Rock which is Christ Jesus. May the Holy Spirit search our hearts, break our wills, slay our enmity against God, work in us a deep and true repentance, and direct our gaze to the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.

Friday, September 27, 2013

"Your eyes shall see the King in His beauty." Isaiah 33:17

The BIOGRAPHY of Ruth Bryan, 1805-1860

{picture from Dr. Tony Shaw}

Reader, This little book is sent forth with much prayer, that the anointing of the Holy Spirit may distill upon your soul in reading it; and that the faithful testimony it bears to the eternal love of God the Father, the redeeming grace of the Lord Jesus, and the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit—may be the means of encouragement to many tried and tempted souls. It breathes throughout of a full, free, and unconditional salvation to "the poor and needy."

JESUS, as the Alpha and Omega, was the one theme of the writer. He was as the dew to her soul; she had so beheld His glory, that she could truly say, "You are fairer than the children of men. Grace is poured into Your lips." "All Your garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia." "His mouth is most sweet. Yes, He is altogether lovely. This is my Beloved, and this is my Friend."
May the savor and fragrance of His precious name be "as ointment poured forth to you.
"Do not grudge to pick out treasures from an earthen pot."
"They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom, and talk of your power."—Psalm 145:11.
"Who has despised the day of small things?" was a question put to the prophet in days of old. And again, to the same prophet, it was declared, "Not by might, nor by power; but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts." In blessed keeping with this testimony, the apostle in after days says, "God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things that are mighty; and things which are despised has God chosen, yes, and things which are not, to bring to nothing things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence." We have abundant proofs still that the Lord, in the exercise of His Divine sovereignty, for the display of His own wisdom, does choose and make use of instruments, apparently the most unfit and unseemly, to carry out His own eternal purposes, that glory may redound to His great name.

None who were acquainted with the disposition of RUTH BRYAN, naturally so diffident and retiring, could have supposed there was within her so deep and privileged an insight into God's Word, qualifying her in an eminent degree to impart to her fellow-pilgrims the sweetest and most glowing views of the "truth as it is in Jesus." Taught as she had herself been by the Holy Spirit, in a clear and most experimental way, she was thereby fitted to minister from her own heart to the hearts and consciences of others. Moreover, the scenes of trial and deep soul-exercise through which she was called to pass, from her earliest years, prepared her all the more to "weep with those that weep," and "to rejoice with them that do rejoice."

The subject of this brief sketch was born in London, July 6th, 1805. Her father was at that time engaged in trade, but was soon after providentially called to Nottingham, to preach the everlasting Gospel.

I encourage you to read on by going here...

"This word has just struck me, "In the way of Your judgments have we waited for You, O God." I seem to see that when we are brought to walk in the way of the Lord's judgments, we are sometimes looking more for the deliverance we hope the Lord will work, than for Himself. I fear it has been so with me in my present straitness. Just as the lame man looked at Peter and John, expecting an alms, so I have looked at my dear Lord for the wonders of His hand in making a plain path for my feet. But He has royally outdone me, in giving me Himself in new revealings—with which my heart is satisfied, and my mouth stopped, and I leave all outside things to His will. Oh, to look on, to look ever. I look nowhere else, though Satan and the flesh fight against it mightily." - gleanings from the inner life of Ruth Bryan

the love of God

There are three things told us in Scripture concerning the nature of God. First, "God is spirit" (John 4:24). In the Greek there is no indefinite article, and to say "God is a spirit" is most objectionable, for it places Him in a class with others. God is "spirit" in the highest sense. Because He is "spirit" He is incorporeal, having no visible substance. Had God a tangible body, He would not be omnipresent, He would be limited to one place; because He is spirit He fills heaven and earth. Second, God is light (1 John 1:5), which is the opposite of "darkness." In Scripture "darkness" stands for sin, evil, death; and "light" for holiness, goodness, life. God is light, means that He is the sum of all excellency. Third, "God is love" (1 John 4:8). It is not simply that God "loves," but that He is Love itself. Love is not merely one of His attributes, but His very nature.

There are many today who talk about the love of God, who are total strangers to the God of love. The Divine love is commonly regarded as a species of amiable weakness, a sort of good-natured indulgence; it is reduced to a mere sickly sentiment, patterned after human emotion. Now the truth is that on this, as on everything else, our thoughts need to be formed and regulated by what is revealed thereon in Holy Scripture. That there is urgent need for this is apparent not only from the ignorance which so generally prevails, but also from the low state of spirituality which is now so sadly evident everywhere among professing Christians. How little real love there is for God. One chief reason for this is because our hearts are so little occupied with His wondrous love for His people. The better we are acquainted with His love—its character, fulness, blessedness—the more will our hearts be drawn out in love to Him.

1. The love of God is uninfluenced. By this we mean, there was nothing whatever in the objects of His love to call it into exercise, nothing in the creature to attract or prompt it. The love which one creature has for another is because of something in them; but the love of God is free, spontaneous, uncaused. The only reason why God loves any is found in His own sovereign will: "The Lord did not set His love upon you, nor choose you because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: but because the Lord loved thee" (Deut. 7:7,8). God has loved His people from everlasting, and therefore nothing of the creature can be the cause of what is found in God from eternity. He loves from Himself: "according to His own purpose" (2 Tim. 1:9).

"We love Him, because He first loved us" (1 John 4:19). God did not love us because we loved Him, but He loved us before we had a particle of love for Him. Had God loved us in return for ours, then it would not be spontaneous on His part; but because He loved us when we were loveless, it is clear that His love was uninfluenced. It is highly important if God is to be honored and the heart of His child established, that we should be quite clear upon this precious truth. God’s love for me, and for each of "His own," was entirely unmoved by anything in them. What was there in me to attract the heart of God? Absolutely nothing. But, to the contrary, everything to repel Him, everything calculated to make Him loathe me—sinful, depraved, a mass of corruption, with "no good thing" in me.
"What was there in me that could merit esteem,
Or give the Creator delight?
‘Twas even so, Father, I ever must sing,
Because it seemed good, in Thy sight."

2. It is eternal. This of necessity. God Himself is eternal, and God is love; therefore, as God Himself had no beginning, His love had none. Granted that such a concept far transcends the grasp of our feeble minds, nevertheless, where we cannot comprehend, we can bow in adoring worship. How clear is the testimony of Jeremiah 31:3, "I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee." How blessed to know that the great and holy God loved His people before heaven and earth were called into existence, that He had set His heart upon them from all eternity. Clear proof is this that His love is spontaneous, for He loved them endless ages before they had any being.

The same precious truth is set forth in Ephesians 1:4,5, "According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him. In love having predestinated us." What praise should this evoke from each of His children! How tranquilizing for the heart: since God’s love toward me had no beginning, it can have no ending! Since it be true that "from everlasting to everlasting" He is God, and since God is "love," then it is equally true that "from everlasting to everlasting" He loves His people.

3. It is sovereign. This also is self-evident. God Himself is sovereign, under obligations to none, a law unto Himself, acting always according to His own imperial pleasure. Since God be sovereign, and since He be love, it necessarily follows that His love is sovereign. Because God is God, He does as He pleases; because God is love, He loves whom He pleases. Such is His own express affirmation: "Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated" (Rom. 9:19). There was no more reason in Jacob why he should be the object of Divine love, than there was in Esau. They both had the same parents, and were born at the same time, being twins; yet God loved the one and hated the other! Why? Because it pleased Him to do so.

The sovereignty of God’s love necessarily follows from the fact that it is uninfluenced by anything in the creature. Thus, to affirm that the cause of His love lies in God Himself, is only another way of saying, He loves whom He pleases. For a moment, assume the opposite. Suppose God’s love were regulated by anything else than His will, in such a case He would love by rule, and loving by rule He would be under a law of love, and then so far from being free, God would Himself be ruled by law. "In love having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to"—what? Some excellency which He foresaw in them? No; what then? "According to the good pleasure of His will" (Eph. 1:4,5).

4. It is infinite. Everything about God is infinite. His essence fills heaven and earth. His wisdom is illimitable, for He knows everything of the past, present and future. His power is unbounded, for there is nothing too hard for Him. So His love is without limit. There is a depth to it which none can fathom; there is a height to it which none can scale; there is a length and breadth to it which defies measurement, by any creature-standard. Beautifully is this intimated in Ephesians 2:4: But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us: the word "great" there is parallel with the "God so loved" of John 3:16. It tells us that the love of God is so transcendent it cannot be estimated.

No tongue can fully express the infinitude of God’s love, or any mind comprehend it: it "passeth knowledge" Eph. 3:19). The most extensive ideas that a finite mind can frame about Divine love, are infinitely below its true nature. The heaven is not so far above the earth as the goodness of God is beyond the most raised conceptions which we are able to form of it. It is an ocean which swells higher than all the mountains of opposition in such as are the objects of it. It is a fountain from which flows all necessary good to all those who are interested in it (John Brine, 1743).

5. It is immutable. As with God Himself there is "no variableness, neither shadow of turning" (James 1:17), so His love knows neither change or diminution. The worm Jacob supplies a forceful example of this: "Jacob have I loved," declared Jehovah, and despite all his unbelief and waywardness, He never ceased to love him. John 13:1 furnishes another beautiful illustration. That very night one of the apostles would say, "Show us the Father"; another would deny Him with cursings; all of them would be scandalized by and forsake Him. Nevertheless "having loved His own which were in the world, He love them unto the end." The Divine love is subject to no vicissitudes. Divine love is "strong as death ... many waters cannot quench it" (Song of Sol. 8:6,7). Nothing can separate from it: Romans 8:35-39.
"His love no end nor measure knows,
No change can turn its course,
Eternally the same it flows
From one eternal source."

6. It is holy. God’s love is not regulated by caprice passion, or sentiment, but by principle. Just as His grace reigns not at the expense of it, but "through righteousness" (Rom. 5:21), so His love never conflicts with His holiness. "God is light" (1 John 1:5) is mentioned before "God is love" (1 John 4:8). God’s love is no mere amiable weakness, or effeminate softness. Scripture declares, "whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth" (Heb. 12:6). God will not wink at sin, even in His own people. His love is pure, unmixed with any maudlin sentimentality.

7. It is gracious. The love and favor of God are inseparable. This is clearly brought out in Romans 8:32-39. What that love is from which there can be no "separation," is easily perceived from the design and scope of the immediate context: it is that goodwill and grace of God which determined Him to give His Son for sinners. That love was the impulsive power of Christ’s incarnation: "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son" (John 3:16). Christ died not in order to make God love us, but because He did love His people, Calvary is the supreme demonstration of Divine love. Whenever you are tempted to doubt the love of God, Christian reader, go back to Calvary.

Here then is abundant cause for trust and patience under Divine affliction. Christ was beloved of the Father, yet He was not exempted from poverty, disgrace, and persecution. He hungered and thirsted. Thus, it was not incompatible with God’s love for Christ when He permitted men to spit upon and smite Him. Then let no Christian call into question God’s love when he is brought under painful afflictions and trials. God did not enrich Christ on earth with temporal prosperity, for "He had not where to lay His head." But He did give Him the Spirit "without measure" (John 3:34). Learn then that spiritual blessings are the principal gifts of Divine love. How blessed to know that when the world hates us ,God loves us!

That we would magnify the Lord

I have added a text to the header of this blog for a reason; that we would magnify the Lord. The text is from Luke 1:46-47, "And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour." I have been dwelling on this quite a bit, along with the recent post by  A. W. Pink on worship.  
Before I go farther into those verses, I want to address some issues that have been troubling me concerning our approach to worship and adoring our God. Whenever I have any kind of conversation with other Christians, including those in my local church, it seems we are consumed with much worldliness. We tell how well our kids are doing in school and/or what career choices they've made; or we speak of our grandchildren, our own career moves, etc. At church, the worship service seems to be lacking, it's almost as though it were mechanical. In other words, our hearts do not appear to be in it.
What concerns me most in all of this is - where is our boasting in the Lord? Where is our telling of what our God is doing or has done at this present time? Where is the reflecting on what He has done and giving Him glory? I understand, many of us do this privately. I also want to say that I am just as guilty as the next person. We seem to be able to rattle on and on about our kids, or earthly things. We are able to go to different websites and engage in debates with others over whatever issues are presented, fighting over everything from sports to theological issues; we are consumed, it seems, with telling one another how to live and act,    and fighting among ourselves -  but how consumed are we with joining one another in magnifying our God?  

Here is commentary on Mary's praise for God, from Matthew Henry...

"Observe how Mary here speaks of God.
(1.) With great reverence of him, as the Lord: “My soul doth magnify the Lord; I never saw him so great as now I find him so good.” Note, Those, and those only, are advanced in mercy, who are thereby brought to think the more highly and honourably of God; whereas there are those whose prosperity and preferment make them say, What is the Almighty, that we should serve him? The more honour God has any way put upon us, the more honour we must study to give to him; and then only are we accepted in magnifying the Lord, when our souls magnify him, and all that is within us. Praising work must be soul work.
(2.) With great complacency in him as her Saviour: My spirit rejoiceth in God my Saviour. This seems to have reference to the Messiah, whom she was to be the mother of. She calls him God her Saviour; for the angel had told her that he should be the Son of the Highest, and that his name should be Jesus, a Saviour; this she fastened upon, with application to herself: He is God my Saviour. Even the mother of our Lord had need of an interest in him as her Saviour, and would have been undone without it: and she glories more in that happiness which she had in common with all believers than in being his mother, which was an honour peculiar to herself, and this agrees with the preference Christ have to obedient believers above his mother and brethren; see Mat_12:50; Luk_11:27, Luk_11:28. Note, Those that have Christ for their God and Saviour have a great deal of reason to rejoice, to rejoice in spirit, that is rejoicing as Christ did (Luk_10:21), with spiritual joy.

2. Here are just causes assigned for this joy and praise...

(1.) Upon her own account, Luk_1:48, Luk_1:49. [1.] Her spirit rejoiced in the Lord, because of the kind things he had done for her: his condescension and compassion to her. He has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden; that is, he has looked upon her with pity, for so the word is commonly used. “He has chosen me to this honour, notwithstanding my great meanness, poverty, and obscurity.” Nay, the expression seems to intimate, not only (to allude to that of Gideon, Jdg_6:15) that her family was poor in Judah, but that she was the least in her father's house, as if she were under some particular contempt and disgraced among her relations, was unjustly neglected, and the outcast of the family, and God put this honour upon her, to balance abundantly the contempt. I the rather suggest this, for we find something toward such honour as this put upon others, on the like consideration. Because God saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb, Gen_29:31. Because Hannah was provoked, and made to fret, and insulted over, by Peninnah, therefore God gave her a son, 1Sa_1:19. Whom men wrongfully depress and despise God doth sometimes, in compassion to them, especially if they have borne it patiently, prefer and advance; see Jdg_11:7. So in Mary's case. And, if God regards her low estate, he not only thereby gives a specimen of his favour to the whole race of mankind, whom he remembers in their low estate, as the psalmist speaks (Psa_136:23), but secures a lasting honour to her (for such the honour is that God bestows, honour that fades not away): “From henceforth all generations shall call me blessed, shall think me a happy woman and highly advanced.” All that embrace Christ and his gospel will say, Blessed was the womb that bore him and the paps which he sucked, Luk_11:27. Elizabeth had once and again called her blessed: “But that is not all,” saith she, “all generations of Gentiles as well as Jews shall call me so.” [2.] Her soul magnifies the Lord, because of the wonderful things he had done for her (Luk_1:49): He that is mighty has done to me great things. A great thing indeed, that a virgin should conceive. A great thing indeed, that Messiah, who had been so long promised to the church, and so long expected by the church, should now at length be born. It is the power of the Highest that appears in this. She adds, and holy is his name; for so Hannah saith her song, There is none holy as the Lord, which she explains in the next words, for there is none beside thee, 1Sa_2:2. God is a Being by himself, and he manifests himself to be so, especially in the work of our redemption. He that is mighty, even he whose name is holy, has done to me great things. Glorious things may be expected from him that is both mighty and holy; who can do every thing, and will do every thing well and for the best."

Very briefly, Adam Clarke has this to say, 'My spirit hath rejoiced - Exulted. These words are uncommonly emphatical - they show that Mary’s whole soul was filled with the Divine influence, and wrapped up in God.' I am impressed with this, that Mary's whole soul was filled with the Divine influence and 'wrapped up' in God...oh to have such a soul! It is possible, for the nearer we draw to Him, the more our souls will magnify our God. 

Magnifying God is worshiping Him. What can hinder worship? I want to quote A.W. Pink from his article I mentioned earlier, "One other fatal hindrance to worship needs to be mentioned, and that is worldliness, which means the things of the world obtaining a place in the Christian’s affections, his ways becoming “conformed to this world” (Rom. 12:2).  A solemn example of this is found in the history of Abraham. When God called him to leave Chaldea and go into Canaan, he compromised: he went only as far as Haran (Gen. 11:31; Acts 7:4) and settled down there. Haran was Half-way House, the wilderness lying between it and the borders of Canaan. Later Abraham fully responded to God’s call and entered Canaan, and there “he builded an altar [which speaks of worship] unto the Lord” (Gen. 12:7). But there is no mention of his building any “altar” during the years he dwelt in Haran! O how many children of God today are compromising, dwelling at Half-way House, and in consequence they are not worshippers. O that the Spirit of God may so work upon and within all of us that the language of our lives, as well as that of our hearts and lips, may be “Worthy is the Lamb”—worthy of whole-hearted consecration, worthy of unstinted devotion, worthy of that love which is manifested by keeping His commandments, worthy of real worship May it be so for His name’s sake."  I can only add a hearty 'amen'.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

the exclusiveness of true worship

One of the most solemn and soul-destroying fallacies of the day is that unregenerate souls are capable of worshipping God. Probably one chief reason why this error has gained so much ground is because of the wide-spread ignorance which obtains concerning the...

Real Nature of True Worship
People imagine that if they attend a religious service, are reverent in their demeanor, join in the singing of the hymns, listen respectfully to the preacher, and contribute to the collection, they have really worshipped God. Poor deluded souls, a delusion which is helped forward by the priest-craft and preacher-graft of the day. Over against this delusion are the words of Christ in John 4:24, which are startling in their plainness and pungency: “God is Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.”

Vanity of False Worship
“Well hath Isaiah prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. Howbeit in vain do they worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Mark 7:6, 7). These solemn words were spoken by the Lord Jesus to the scribes and Pharisees. They had come to Him with the complaint that His disciples did not conform to their traditions and practices in connection with ceremonial washings and cleansings. In His reply, Christ exposed the worthlessness of their religion...

These scribes and Pharisees were raising the question of the ceremonial “washing of hands,” while their hearts, remained filthy before God. Ah, dear reader, the traditions of the elders may be diligently attended to, their religious ordinances strictly observed, their doctrines devoutly upheld, and yet the conscience had never been searched in the presence of God as to the question of sin. The fact is that religion is one of the greatest hindrances against the truth of God blessing men’s souls.

God’s truth addresses us on the ground that God and man are as far apart as sin is from holiness: therefore his first great need is cleansing and reconciliation. But “religion” proceeds on the assumption that depraved and guilty men may have dealings with God, may approach unto Him, yea, worship and serve Him. The world over, human religion is based on the fallacy that fallen and sinful man can have dealings with God. Religion is the principal means used by Satan to blind men to their true and terrible condition. It is the devil’s anesthetic for making lost sinners feel comfortable and easy in their guilty distance from God. It hides God from them in His real character—as a holy God who is of “purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity” (Hab. 1:13).

A flood of light is thrown upon this side of our subject if we weigh attentively the awful incident recorded in Matthew 4:8,9. “Again, the devil taketh Him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth Him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto Him, All these things will I give Thee, if Thou wilt fall down and worship me.” The devil seeks worship. How few in Christendom are aware of this, or realize that the principal activities of the enemy are carried on in the religious sphere!

Listen to the testimony of Deuteronomy 32:17—“They sacrificed unto demons, not to God; to gods whom they knew not.” That refers to Israel in the early days of their apostasy. Listen again to 1 Corinthians 10:20, “But I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils & demons, and not to God.” What light does that cast on the idolatries and abominations of heathendom! Listen again to 2 Corinthians 4:4, “In whom the god of this world bath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” This means that Satan is the inspirer and director of the world’s religion. Yes, he seeks worship, and is the chief promoter of all false worship.

The Exclusiveness of True Worship
“God is Spirit; and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). This “must” is final; there is no alternative, no choice in the matter. It is not the first time that we have this very emphatic word in John’s Gospel. There are two notable verses where it occurs previously. “Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again” (John 3:7). “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the son of man be lifted up” (John 3:14). Each of these three “musts” is equally important and unequivocal. The first has reference to God the Spirit, for He it is who regenerates. The second refers to the work of God the Son, for He it is who made atonement for sin. The third has reference to God the Father, for He it is that seeketh worshippers (John 4:23). This order cannot be changed; it is only those who have been born of the Spirit, and who are resting upon the atoning work of Christ, that can worship the Father.

To quote again the words of Christ to the religionists in His day, “This people honoureth Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. Howbeit in vain do they worship Me.” Ah, my reader the worldling may be a generous philanthropist, a sincere religionist, a zealous denominationalist, a devout churchman, a regular communicant, yet is he no more capable of worshipping God than a dumb man is of singing. Cain tried it, and failed. He was not irreligious, He “brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord” (Gen. 4:3). But “unto Cain and his offering He had not respect. Why? Because he refused to own his undone condition and his need of an atoning sacrifice.

In order to worship God, God must be known: and He cannot be known apart from Christ. Much may be predicated and believed about a theoretical or a theological “God”, but He cannot be known apart from the Lord Jesus. Said he, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father but by me” (John 14:6). Therefore it is a sinful make-believe, a fatal delusion, a wicked farce, to cause unregenerate people to imagine that they can worship God. While the sinner remains away from Christ, he is the “enemy” of God, a child of wrath. How then can he worship God? While he remains in his unregenerate state he is “dead in trespasses and sins”; How then can he worship God.

What has just been said above is almost universally repudiated today, and repudiated in the name of Religion. And, we repeat, religion is the principal instrument used by the devil in deceiving souls, for it insists—whether it be the “Buddhist religion,” or the “Christian religion”—that man, yet in his sins, can have dealings with and approach unto the thrice holy God. To deny this is to stir up the enmity and call down upon one so doing the opposition of all mere religionists. Yes, it was that very thing which brought down upon Christ the merciless hatred of the religionists of His day. He refuted their claims, exposed their hypocrisy, and so incurred their wrath.

To the “chief priests and the elders of the people” (Matthew 21:23), Christ said, “The publicans and harlots go into the kingdom of God before you” (Matthew 21:31), and at the close of his discourse it is added, “They sought to lay hands on Him” (v. 46). They attended to outward things, but their inward state was neglected. And why was it that the “publicans and harlots” entered the kingdom of God before them? Because no religious pretentions stood in their way; they had no self-righteous profession to maintain at all costs, no pious reputation to keep up. Under the preaching of the Word they were convicted of their lost condition, so took their true place before God and were saved. Only such can be worshippers.

The Nature of True Worship
“God is Spirit; and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” To worship “in spirit” stands contrasted from the fleshly rites and imposing ceremonies of Judaism. To worship “in truth” stands opposed to the superstitions and idolatrous delusions of the heathen. To worship God “in spirit and in truth” means in a manner suited to the full and final revelation which God has now made of Himself in Christ. It means to worship spiritually and truly. It means giving to Him the homage of an enlightened understanding and the love of a regenerated heart.
To worship “in spirit and in truth” stands opposed to a carnal worship which is external and spectacular. It bars out all worshipping of God with the senses. We cannot worship Him who is “Spirit” by gazing on ornate architecture and stained glass windows, by listening to the peals of a costly organ, by smelling sweet incense or “telling” of beads. We cannot worship God with our eyes and ears, or nose and hands, for they are “flesh” not “spirit.” “Must worship in spirit and in truth” excludes everything that is of the natural man.

To worship “in spirit and in truth” bars out all social worship. The soul is the seat of the emotions, and very much of the so-called worship of present-day Christendom is only social. Touching anecdotes, stirring appeals, thrilling oratory of a religious character, are all calculated to produce this very thing. Beautiful anthems by a well-trained choir, rendered in such a way as to move to tears or to ecstasies of joy may stir the soul, but will not and cannot affect the inner man.

True worship is the adoration of a redeemed people, occupied with God Himself The unregenerate look upon “worship” as an obeisance which God exacts from them, and which gives them no joy as they seek to proffer it. Far different is it with those who have been born from above and redeemed with precious blood. The first time the word “redeemed” occurs in Scripture is in Exodus 15, and it is there also, for the first time, we behold a people “singing,” worshipping, adoring God Himself. There, on the far shores of the Red Sea, that Nation which had been brought out from the house of bondage and delivered from all their enemies united in praising Jehovah.
“Worship” is the new nature in the believer stirred into activity, turning to its Divine and heavenly Source. It is that which is “spirit” (John 3:6) turning to Him who is “Spirit”. It is that which is the “workmanship” of Christ (Eph. 2:10) turning to Him who re-created us. It is the children spontaneously and gratefully turning in love to their Father. It is the new heart crying out, “Thanks be to unto God for His unspeakable Gift” (2 Cor. 9:15). It is sinners, cleansed by blood, exclaiming “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ” (Eph. 1:3). That is worship; assured of our acceptance in the Beloved, adoring God for what He has made Christ to be unto us, and what He has made us to be in Christ.

It is worthy of our closest attention to observe that the only time the Lord Jesus ever spoke on the subject of Worship was in John 4. Both Matthew 4:9 and Mark 7:6,7, were quotations from the Old Testament. It should indeed stir our hearts to discover that the sole occasion when Christ made any direct and personal observations on worship was when He was speaking, not to a religious man like Nicodemus, nor even to His apostles, but to a woman, an adulteress, a Samaritan—a semi-heathen! Truly God’s ways are different from ours.

To that poor woman our blessed Lord declared, “The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for the Father seeketh such to worship Him” (John 4:23). And how did the Father “seek” worshippers? Does not the whole of the context supply the answer? At the beginning of the chapter the Son of God is seen taking a journey (vv. 3, 4). His object was to seek out one of His lost sheep, to reveal Himself to a soul that knew Him not, to wean her from the lusts of the flesh, and fill her heart with His satisfying grace; and this, in order that she might meet the longings of Divine love and give in return that praise and adoration which only a saved sinner can give.

Who can fail to see in the journey which He took to Sychar’s well in order to meet that desolate soul and win her to Himself, that we have a most blessed adumbration of that still greater journey which God’s Son took—leaving heaven’s peace and bliss and light, coming down to this world of strife and darkness and wretchedness. He came here seeking sinners, not only to save them from sin and death but to give them to drink in and enjoy the love of God as no angel can enjoy it; that from hearts overflowing with the consciousness of their indebtedness to the Saviour and His dear Son for them, they, realizing and accepting His superiative excellency, might pour forth unto Him the sweet incense of praise. That is worship, and the remembrance of God’s seeking love and Christ’s redeeming blood are the springs of it.

One of the most blessed and beautiful examples recorded in the New Testament of what worship is, is found in John 12:2, 3. “There they made Him a supper, and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with Him. Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.” As another has said, “She came not to hear a sermon, though the Prince of preachers was there. To sit at His feet and hear His word was not now her object, blessed as that was in its proper place. She came not to meet the saints though precious saints were there; but fellowship with them, though blessed, was not now her object. She came not, after a week’s toil, for refreshment; though none knew better the blessed springs of refreshment which are in Him. No, she came to pour out upon Him that which she had long treasured up, which was the most valuable of all her earthly possessions. She thought not of Simon the leper, sitting there a cleansed man; she passed by the apostles; so, too, Martha and Lazarus, her sister and brother in the flesh and in Christ. The Lord Jesus filled her thoughts: He had won her heart and now absorbed all her affections. She had eyes for no one but Him. Adoration and homage were now her one thought to pour out her heart’s devotion before Him.” That is worship.

The subject of worship is most important, yet it is one upon which many have but the haziest ideas. We read in Matthew 2, that the wise men” were laden with treasures” to present to Christ (v. 11). They brought to Him rich “gifts.” That is what worship is. It is not a coming to receive from Him, but to render unto Him. It is the pouring out of the heart’s adoration. O that we may bring to the Saviour “gold and frankincense and myrrh,” i.e. adoring Him because of His Divine glory, His moral perfections, His fragrant death.

The object of worship is God: and the inspirer of worship is God. Only that can satisfy God which He has Himself produced. “Lord.. .Thou also hast wrought all our works in us” (Isa. 26:12). It is only as the Lamb is exalted in the power of the Spirit that saints are made to cry, “My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour” (Luke 1:46,47). The general and conspicuous absence of that worship which is “in the spirit and in truth” is due to an order of things over which the Spirit of God does not preside, where the world, the flesh and the devil have free play. But even in circles where worldliness, in its grosser forms at least, is not tolerated, and where outward orthodoxy is still preserved, there is, almost always, a noticeable absence of that unction, that freedom, that joyousness, which are inseparable from the spirit of true worship. Why is this? Why is it that in numbers of churches, meeting houses, Brethren assemblies, where the letter of God’s Word is ministered, that we now so rarely find those overflowings of heart, those spontaneous outbursts of adoration, that “sacrifice of praise” which should ever be found among God’s people? Ah, is the answer hard to find? It is because there is a grieved spirit in the midst. This, my brethren, is the reason why there is so little living, refreshing, worship-producing ministry of Christ today.

Hindrances to Worship
What is worship? Praise? Yea, more; it is the adoration flowing forth from a heart which is fully assured of the excellency of Him before whom it bows, expressing its profoundest gratitude for His unspeakable Gift. There it is at once apparent that the first hindrance to worship in a child of God is lack of assurance. Whilst I entertain doubts as to my acceptance in Christ, as long as I remain in a state of uncertainty as to whether my sins were atoned for at Calvary, I cannot, really, praise and adore Him for His death for me; I cannot actually say, “my Beloved is mine, and I am His.” It is one of the favorite devices of the enemy to keep Christians in the “Slough of Despond,” his object being that Christ should not receive from them the homage of their hearts...

Another great hindrance to worship is failure to judge ourselves by the Holy Word of God. The priests of Israel did not remain at the brazen alter in the outer court of the tabernacle. It needs to be pointed out that before they passed into the holy place, there to burn incense, they were required to wash at the laver. Approach unto the laver of brass speaks of the believer’s unsparing judgment of and upon himself (cf. 1 Cor. 11:31). The using of its water points to the application of the Word to all our works and ways.

Now just as the sons of Aaron were required under pain of death (Ex. 30:20) to wash at the laver before they entered the holy place to burn incense, so must the Christian today have the defilements of the way removed before he can suitably approach unto God as a worshipper. Failure at this point brings in death, that is, I remain under the contaminating power of dead things. The defilements of the way are the result of my passing through a world which is “alienated from the life of God” (Eph 4:18). If these are not removed, then I continue under the power of death in a spiritual way, and worship becomes impossible. This is brought out fully in John 13 where the Lord said to Peter, “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with Me.” How many Christians there are who, through failure to place their feet in the hands of Christ for cleansing, are hindered from exercising their priestly functions and privileges.
One other fatal hindrance to worship needs to be mentioned, and that is worldliness, which means the things of the world obtaining a place in the Christian’s affections, his ways becoming “conformed to this world” (Rom. 12:2). A solemn example of this is found in the history of Abraham. When God called him to leave Chaldea and go into Canaan, he compromised: he went only as far as Haran (Gen. 11:31; Acts 7:4) and settled down there. Haran was Half-way House, the wilderness lying between it and the borders of Canaan. Later Abraham fully responded to God’s call and entered Canaan, and there “he builded an altar [which speaks of worship] unto the Lord” (Gen. 12:7). But there is no mention of his building any “altar” during the years he dwelt in Haran! O how many children of God today are compromising, dwelling at Half-way House, and in consequence they are not worshippers. O that the Spirit of God may so work upon and within all of us that the language of our lives, as well as that of our hearts and lips, may be “Worthy is the Lamb”—worthy of whole-hearted consecration, worthy of unstinted devotion, worthy of that love which is manifested by keeping His commandments, worthy of real worship May it be so for His name’s sake.

the sovereign power of Almighty God

from A. W. Pink's 'the Sovereignty of God'

God’s Method of Dealing with the Righteous:

 God exerts upon His own elect a quickening influence or power.
By nature they are spiritually dead, dead in trespasses and sins, and their first need is spiritual life, for "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3). In the new birth God brings us from death unto life (John 5:24). He imparts to us His own nature (2 Pet. 1:4). He delivers us from the power of darkness and translates us into the kingdom of His dear Son (Col. 1:13). Now, manifestly, we could not do this ourselves, for we were "without strength" (Rom. 5:6), hence it is written, "we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 2:10).

In the new birth we are made partakers of the Divine nature: a principle, a "seed," a life, is communicated to us which is "born of the Spirit," and therefore "is spirit;" is born of the Holy Spirit, and therefore is holy. Apart from this Divine and holy nature which is imparted to us at the new birth, it is utterly impossible for any man to generate a spiritual impulse, form a spiritual concept, think a spiritual thought, understand spiritual things, still less engage in spiritual works. "Without holiness no man shall see the Lord," but the natural man has no desire for holiness, and the provision that God has made he does not want. Will then a man pray for, seek for, strive after, that which he dislikes? Surely not. If then a man does "follow after" that which by nature he cordially dislikes, if he does now love the One he once hated, it is because a miraculous change has taken place within him; a power outside of himself has operated upon him, a nature entirely different from his old one has been imparted to him, and hence it is written, "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation: old things are passed away, behold all things are become new" (2 Cor. 5:17). Such an one as we have just described has passed from death unto life, has been turned from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God (Acts 26:18). In no other way can the great change be accounted for.

The new birth is very, very much more than simply shedding a few tears due to a temporary remorse over sin. It is far more than changing our course of life, the leaving off of bad habits and the substituting of good ones. It is something different from the mere cherishing and practicing of noble ideals. It goes infinitely deeper than coming forward to take some popular evangelist by the hand, signing a pledge-card, or "joining the church." The new birth is no mere turning over a new leaf, but is the inception and reception of a new life. It is no mere reformation but a Complete transformation. In short, the new birth is a miracle, the result of the supernatural operation of God. It is radical, revolutionary, lasting.

Here then is the first thing, in time, which God does in His own elect. He lays hold of those who are spiritually dead and quickens them into newness of life. He takes up one who was shapen in iniquity and conceived in sin, and conforms him to the image of His Son. He seizes a captive of the Devil and makes him a member of the household of faith. He picks up a beggar and makes him joint-heir with Christ. He comes to one who is full of enmity against Him, and gives him a new heart that is full of love for Him. He stoops to one who by nature is a rebel, and works in him both to will and to do of His good pleasure. By His irresistible power He transforms a sinner into a saint, an enemy into a friend, a slave of the Devil into a child of God. Surely then we are moved to say,
"When all Thy mercies O my God
My wondering soul surveys,
Transported with the view I’m lost
In wonder, love and praise."

2. God exerts upon His own elect an energizing influence or power.
The apostle prayed to God for the Ephesian saints that the eyes of their understanding might be enlightened in order that, among other things, they might know "what is the exceeding greatness of His power to usward who believe" (Eph. 1:18), and that they might be "strengthened with might "by His Spirit in the inner man" (3:16). It is thus that the children of God are enabled to fight the good fight of faith, and battle with the adverse forces which constantly war against them. In themselves they have no strength: they are but "sheep," and sheep are one of the most defenceless animals there is; but the promise is sure—"He giveth power to the faint, and to them that have no might He increaseth strength" (Isa. 40:29).

It is this energizing power that God exerts upon and within the righteous which enables them to serve Him acceptably. Said the prophet of old, "But truly I am full of power by the Spirit of the Lord" (Micah 3:8). And said our Lord to His apostles, "Ye shall receive power after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you" (Acts 1:8), and thus it proved, for of these same men we read subsequently, "And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all" (Acts 4:33). So it was, too, with the apostle Paul, "And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power" (1 Cor. 2:4). But the scope of this power is not confined to service, for we read in 2 Peter 1:3, "According as His Divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue." Hence it is that the various graces of the Christian character, "love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance," are ascribed directly to God Himself, being denominated "the fruit of the Spirit" (Gal. 5:22)Compare Ephesians 5:9.

3. God exerts upon His own elect a directing influence or power.
Of old He led His people across the wilderness, and directing their steps by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night; and today He still directs His saints, though now from within rather than from without. "For this God is our God for ever and ever: He will be our Guide even unto death" (Ps. 48:14), but He "guides" us by working in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure. That He does so guide us is clear from the words of the apostle in Ephesians 2:10—"For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them."Thus all ground for boasting is removed, and God gets all the glory, for with the prophet we have to say, "Lord, Thou wilt ordain peace for us: for Thou also hast wrought all our works in us" (Isa. 26:12). How true then that "A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps" (Prov. 16:9)! Compare Psalm 65:4, Ezekiel 36:27.

4. God exerts upon His own elect a preserving influence or power.
Many are the scriptures which set forth this blessed truth. "He preserveth the souls of His saints; He delivereth them out of the hand of the wicked" (Ps. 97:10). "For the Lord loveth judgment, and forsaketh not His saints; they are preserved for ever: but the seed of the wicked shall be cut off" (Ps. 37:28). "The Lord preserveth all them that love Him: but all the wicked will He destroy" (Ps. 145:20). It is needless to multiply texts or to raise an argument at this point respecting the believer’s responsibility and faithfulness—we can no more "persevere" without God preserving us, than we can breathe when God ceases to give us breath; we are "kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time" (1 Pet. 1:5). Compare 1 Chronicles 18:6. It remains for us now to consider,

God’s Method of Dealing with the Wicked:

In contemplating God’s governmental dealings with the non-elect we find that He exerts upon them a fourfold influence or power. We adopt the clear-cut divisions suggested by Dr. Rice:
1. God exerts upon the wicked a restraining influence by which they are prevented from doing what they are naturally inclined to do.
A striking example of this is seen in Abimelech king of Gerar. Abraham came down to Gerar and fearful lest he might be slain on account of his wife he instructed her to pose as his sister. Regarding her as an unmarried woman, Abimelech sent and took Sarah unto himself; and then we learn how God put forth His power to protect her honor—"And God said unto him in a dream, Yea, I know that thou didst this in the integrity of thy heart; for I also withheld thee from sinning against Me: therefore suffered I thee not to touch her" (Gen. 20:6). Had not God interposed, Abimelech would have grievously wronged Sarah, but the Lord restrained him and allowed him not to carry out the intentions of his heart.

A similar instance is found in connection with Joseph and his brethren’s treatment of Him. Owing to Jacob’s partiality for Joseph, his brethren "hated him," and when they thought they had him in their power, "they conspired against him to slay him" (Gen. 37:18). But God did not allow them to carry out their evil designs. First He moved Reuben to deliver him out of their hands, and next he caused Judah to suggest that Joseph should be sold to the passing Ishmaelites, who carried him down into Egypt. That it was God who thus restrained them is clear from the words of Joseph himself, when some years later he made known himself to his brethren: said he, "So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God" (Gen. 45:8)!

The restraining influence which God exerts upon the wicked was strikingly exemplified in the person of Balaam, the prophet hired by Balak to curse the Israelites. One cannot read the inspired narrative without discovering that, left to himself, Balaam had readily and certainly accepted the offer of Balak. How evidently God restrained the impulses of his heart is seen from his own acknowledgment—"How shall I curse, whom God hath not cursed? or how shall I defy, whom the Lord hath not defied? Behold I have received commandment to bless: and He bath blessed; and I cannot reverse it" (Num. 23:8, 20).

Not only does God exert a restraining influence upon wicked individuals, but He does so upon whole peoples as well. A remarkable illustration of this is found in Ex. 34:24—"For I will cast out the nations before thee, and enlarge thy borders: neither shall any man desire thy land, when thou shalt go up to appear before the Lord thy God thrice in the year." Three times every male Israelite, at the command of God, left his home and inheritance and journeyed to Jerusalem to keep the Feasts of the Lord; and in the above scripture we learn He promised them that, while they were at Jerusalem, He would guard their unprotected homes by restraining the covetous designs and desires of their heathen neighbors.

2. God exerts upon the wicked a softening influence disposing them contrary to their natural inclinations to do that which will promote His cause.
Above, we referred to Joseph’s history as an illustration of God exerting a restraininginfluence upon the wicked, let us note now his experiences in Egypt as exemplifying our assertion that God also exerts a softening influence upon the unrighteous. We are told that while he was in the house of Potiphar, "The Lord was with Joseph, and his master saw the Lord was with him," and in consequence, "Joseph found favor in his sight and he made him overseer over his house" (Gen. 39:3, 4). Later, when Joseph was unjustly cast into prison, we are told, "But the Lord was with Joseph, and shewed him mercy, and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison" (Gen. 39:21), and in consequence the prison-keeper shewed him much kindness and honor. Finally, after his release from prison, we learn from Acts 7:10 that the Lord "gave him favor and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh king of Egypt; and he made him governor over Egypt and all his house."

An equally striking evidence of God’s power to melt the hearts of his enemies, was seen in Pharaoh’s daughter’s treatment of the infant Moses. The incident is well known. Pharaoh had issued an edict commanding the destruction of every male child of the Israelites. A certain Levite had a son born to him who for three months was kept hidden by his mother. No longer able to conceal the infant Moses, she placed him in an ark of bulrushes, and laid him by the river’s brink. The ark was discovered by none less than the king’s daughter who had come down to the river to bathe, but instead of heeding her father’s wicked decree and casting the child into the river, we are told that "she hod compassion on him" (Ex. 2:6)! Accordingly, the young life was spared and later Moses became the adopted son of this princess!

God has access to the hearts of all men and He softens or hardens them according to His sovereign purpose. The profane Esau swore vengeance upon his brother for the deception which he had practiced upon his father, yet when next he met Jacob, instead of slaying him we are told that Esau "fell on his neck and kissed him" (Gen. 32:4)! Ahab, the weak and wicked consort of Jezebel, was highly enraged against Elijah the prophet, at whose word the heavens had been shut up for three years and a half: so angry was he against the one whom he regarded as his enemy that, we are told he searched for him in every nation and kingdom, and when he could not be found "he took an oath" (1 Kings 18:10). Yet, when they met, instead of killing the prophet, Ahab meekly obeyed Elijah’s behest and "sent unto all the children of Israel and gathered the prophets together unto Mount Carmel" (v. 20). Again; Esther the poor Jewess isabout to enter the presence-chamber of the august Medo-Persian monarch which, said she, "is not according to the law" (Est. 4:16). She went in expecting to "perish," but we are told "She obtained favor in his sight, and the king held out to Esther the golden scepter" (5:2). Yet again; the boy Daniel is a captive in a foreign court. The king "appointed" a daily provision of meat and drink for Daniel and his fellows. But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the allotted portion, and accordingly made known his purpose to his master, the prince of the eunuchs. What happened? His master was a heathen, and "feared" the king. Did he turn then upon Daniel and angrily demand that his orders be promptly carried out? No; for we read, "Now God had brought Daniel into favor and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs" (Dan. 1:9)!

"The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: He turneth it whithersoever He will" (Prov. 21:1). A remarkable illustration of this is seen in Cyrus, the heathen king of Persia. God’s people were in captivity, but the predicted end of their captivity was almost reached. Meanwhile the Temple at Jerusalem lay in ruins, and, as we have said, the Jews were in bondage in a distant land. What hope was there then that the Lord’s house would be re-built? Mark now what God did, "Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it in writing, saying, Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, The Lord God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and He hath charged me to build Him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah" (Ezra 1:1, 2). Cyrus, be it remembered, was a pagan, and as secular history bears witness, a very wicked man, yet the Lord moved him to issue this edict, that His Word through Jeremiah seventy years before might be fulfilled. A similar and further illustration is found in Ezra 7:27where we find Ezra returning thanks for what God had caused king Artaxerxes to do in completing and beautifying the house which Cyrus had commanded to be erected—"Blessed be the Lord God of our fathers which hath put such a thing as this in the king’s heart, to beautify the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem" (Ezra 7:27).

3. God exerts upon the wicked a directing influence so that good is made to result from their intended evil.
Once more we revert to the history of Joseph as a case in point. In selling Joseph to the Ishmaelites, his brethren were actuated by cruel and heartless motives. Their object was to make away with him, and the passing of these travelling traders furnished an easy way out for them. To them the act was nothing more than the enslaving of a noble youth for the sake of gain. But now observe how God was secretly working and over-ruling their wicked actions. Providence so ordered it that these Ishmaelites passed by just in time to prevent Joseph being murdered, for his brethren had already taken counsel together to put him to death. Further; these Ishmaelites were journeying to Egypt, which was the very country to which God had purposed to send Joseph, and He ordained they should purchase Joseph just when they did. That the hand of God was in this incident, that it was something more than a fortunate co-incidence, is clear from the words of Joseph to his brethren at a later date, "God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance" (Gen. 45:7).

Another equally striking illustration of God directing the wicked is found in Isaiah 10:5-7—"O Assyrian, the rod of Mine anger, and the staff in their hand is Mine indignation. I will send him against a hypocritical nation, and against the people of My wrath will I give him a charge, to take the spoil, and to take the prey, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets. Howbeit he meaneth not so, neither doth his heart think so;but it is in his heart to destroy and cut off nations not a few." Assyria’s king had determined to be a world-conqueror, to "cut off nations not a few." But God directedand controlled his military lust and ambition, and caused him to confine his attention to the conquering of the insignificant nation of Israel. Such a task was not in the proud king’s heart—"he meant it not so"—but God gave him this charge and he could do nothing but fulfill it. Compare also Judges 7:22.

The supreme example of the controlling, directing influence, which God exerts upon the wicked, is the Cross of Christ with all its attending circumstances. If ever thesuperintending providence of God was witnessed, it was there. From all eternity God had predestined every detail of that event of all events. Nothing was left to chance or the caprice of man. God had decreed when and where and how His blessed Son was to die. Much of what He had purposed concerning the Crucifixion had been made known through the Old Testament prophets, and in the accurate and literal fulfillment of these prophecies we have clear proof, full demonstration, of the controlling and directing influence which God exerts upon the wicked. Not a thing occurred except as God had ordained, and all that He had ordained took place exactly as He purposed. Had it been decreed (and made known in Scripture) that the Saviour should be betrayed by one of His own disciples—by His "familiar friend"—see Psalm 41:9 and compare Matthew 26:50—then the apostle Judas is the one who sold Him. Had it been decreed that the betrayer should receive for his awful perfidy thirty pieces of silver, then are the chief priests moved to offer him this very sum. Had it been decreed that this betrayal sum should be put to a particular use, namely, purchase the potter’s field, then the hand of God directs Judas to return the money to the chief priests and so guided their "counsel" (Matt. 27:7) that they did this very thing. Had it been decreed that there should be those who bore "false witness" against our Lord (Ps. 35:11), then accordingly such were raised up. Had it been decreed that the Lord of glory should be "spat upon and scourged" (Is. 50:6), then there were not found wanting those who were vile enough to do so. Had it been decreed that the Saviour should be "numbered with the transgressors," then unknown to himself, Pilate, directed by God, gave orders for His crucifixion along with two thieves. Had it been decreed that vinegar and gall should be given Him to drink while He hung upon the Cross, then this decree of God was executed to the very letter. Had it been decreed that the heartless soldiers should gamble for His garments, then sure enough they did this very thing. Had it been decreed that not a bone of Him should be broken (Ps. 34:20), then the controlling hand of God which suffered the Roman soldier to break the legs of the thieves, prevented him from doing the same with our Lord. Ah! there were not enough soldiers in all the Roman legions, there were not sufficient demons in all the hierarchies of Satan, to break one bone in the body of Christ. And why? Because the Almighty Sovereign had decreed that not a bone should be broken. Do we need to extend this paragraph any farther? Does not the accurate and literal fulfillment of all that Scripture had predicted in connection with the Crucifixion, demonstrate beyond all controversy that an Almighty power was directing and superintending everything that was done on that Day of days?

4. God also hardens the hearts of wicked men and blinds their minds.
"God hardens men’s hearts! God blinds men’s minds!" Yes, so Scripture represents Him. In developing this theme of the sovereignty of God in Operation we recognize that we have now reached its most solemn aspect of all, and that here especially, we need to keep very close indeed to the words of Holy Writ. God forbid that we should go one fraction further than His Word goes; but may He give us grace to go as far as His Word goes. It is true that secret things belong unto the Lord, but it is also true that those things which are revealed in Scripture belong unto us and to our children.
"He turned their heart to hate His people, to deal subtly with His servants" (Ps. 105:25). The reference here is to the sojourn of the descendants of Jacob in the land of Egypt when, after the death of the Pharaoh who had welcomed the old patriarch and his family, there "arose up a new king who knew not Joseph;" and in his days the children of Israel had "increased greatly" so that they outnumbered the Egyptians; then it was that God "turned their heart to hate His people."

The consequence of the Egyptians’ "hatred" is well known: they brought them into cruel bondage and placed them under merciless taskmasters, until their lot became unendurable. Helpless and wretched the Israelites cried unto Jehovah, and in response, He appointed Moses to be their deliverer. God revealed Himself unto His chosen servant, gave him a number of miraculous signs which he was to exhibit at the Egyptian court, and then bade him go to Pharaoh, and demand that the Israelites should be allowed to go a three days journey into the wilderness, that they might worship the Lord. But before Moses started out on his journey God warned him concerning Pharaoh, "I will harden his heart that he shall not let the people go" (Ex. 4:21). If it be asked, Why did God harden Pharaoh’s heart? the answer furnished by Scripture itself is, In order that God might show forth His power in him (Rom. 9:17); in other words, it was so that the Lord might demonstrate that it was just as easy for Him to overthrow this haughty and powerful monarch as it was for Him to crush a worm. If it should be pressed further, Why did God select such a method of displaying His power? then the answer must be, that being sovereign God reserves to Himself the right to act as He pleases.

Not only are we told that God hardened the heart of Pharaoh so that he would not let the Israelites go, but after God had plagued his land so severely that he reluctantly gave a qualified permission, and after that the first-born of all the Egyptians had been slain, and Israel had actually left the land of bondage, God told Moses, "And I, behold,I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they shall follow them: and I will get Me honor upon Pharaoh, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen. And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have gotten Me honor upon Pharaoh, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen" (Ex. 14:17, 18).
The same thing happened subsequently in connection with Sihon king of Heshbon, through whose territory Israel had to pass on their way to the promised Land. When reviewing their history, Moses told the people, "But Sihon king of Heshbon would not let us pass by him: for the Lord thy God hardened his spirit, and made his heart obstinate, that He might deliver him into thy hand" (Deut. 2:30)!

So it was also after that Israel had entered Canaan. We read, "There was not a city that made peace with the children of Israel, save the Hivites the inhabitants of Gibeon: all other they took in battle. For it was of the Lord to harden their hearts, that they should come against Israel in battle, that He might destroy them utterly, and that they might have no favor, but that He might destroy them, as the Lord commanded Moses" (Josh. 11:19,20). From other scriptures we learn why God purposed to "destroy utterly" the Canaanites—it was because of their awful wickedness and corruption.
Nor is the revelation of this solemn truth confined to the Old Testament. In John 12:37-40 we read, "But though He had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on Him: that (in order that) the saying of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? Therefore they could not believe, because that Isaiah said again, HE hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should notsee with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them." It needs to be carefully noted here that these whose eyes God "blinded" and whose heart He "hardened," were men who had deliberately scorned the Light and rejected the testimony of God’s own Son.

Similarly we read in 2 Thessalonians 2:11, 12, "And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness". The fulfillment of this scripture is yet future. What God did unto the Jews of old He is yet going to do unto Christendom. Just as the Jews of Christ’s day despised His testimony, and in consequence, were "blinded," so a guilty Christendom which has rejected the Truth shall yet have sent them from God a "strong delusion" that they may believe a lie.
Is God really governing the world? Is He exercising rule over the human family? What is the modus operandi of His governmental administration over mankind? To what extent and by what means does He control the sons of men? How does God exercise an influence upon the wicked, seeing their hearts are at enmity against Him? These are some of the questions we have sought to answer from Scripture in the previous sections of this chapter. Upon His own elect God exerts a quickening, an energizing, a directing, and a preserving power. Upon the wicked God exerts a restraining, softening, directing, and hardening and blinding power, according to the dictates of His own infinite wisdom and unto the outworking of His own eternal purpose. God’s decrees arebeing executed. What He has ordained is being accomplished. Man’s wickedness is bounded. The limits of evil-doing and of evil-doers has been Divinely defined and cannot be exceeded. Though many are in ignorance of it, all men, good and bad, are under the jurisdiction of and are absolutely subject to the administration of the Supreme Sovereign.—"Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth" (Rev. 19:6)—reigneth over all.