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

Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Father's drawing

Preached by The Rev. John Kennedy at Dingwall 

"No man can come to me except the Father which hath sent me draw him; and I will raise him up at the last day."—John vi. 44 



THESE words were spoken by "Jesus," "the Son of man," and their teaching is therefore gracious; "by the faithful witness," and therefore they are true; by Him who is Himself Jehovah, the Eternal Son, and therefore they are divine. 

He did not deliver the doctrine of the text, in His sermon to the congregation which assembled to hear Him beside the Lake of Tiberias, till He had first spoken regarding the necessity, in order to salvation, of coming to Messiah; the excellence of Him to whom they were called to come; the blessedness of those who came; and the warrant to come to Him, as given to all who hear the gospel. He insisted on the necessity of faith at the outset of His discourse, teaching them that what they needed, as sinners having an endless existence, was not "meat which perisheth," but "meat which endureth unto everlasting life," that this enduring meat " the Son of man" alone could give to them, and that this meat was received and enjoyed only by those who believed on Him whom God had sent. He then speaks of the excellence of Him who was sent, as "the bread of God" "which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world." This is followed by a description of the blessedness of all who come to Him. "He that cometh to me shall never hunger, and he that believeth on me shall never thirst"—"Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out"—"This is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day." And after insisting on the necessity of faith, on the excellence of Him who is its object, and on the blessedness of all who have come to Messiah, He tells them of the warrant of faith as given in the command of God to believe in His Son. "This is the work of God," He tells His hearers, "that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent." This is the one way of securing the favour of God, and the faith by which this is attained He requires us to yield to Him whom He hath sent. 

It is in connection with these truths we are required to consider the doctrine of the text. At first sight it would seem as if this part of Christ's sermon had rendered it impossible to derive any encouragement from all the rest of it. It would seem as if it were cruel to tell a man that he must believe or he is lost for ever, and then to tell him he can't believe. What matters it how excellent Christ is if I cannot come to Him? To speak to me of the blessedness of those who believe, if I am unable to join them, is but to tantalise me. And of what advantage to me is it to have a warrant to come if I cannot make use of it? So some may be disposed to speak regarding such a doctrine, in such a connection, as that of the text. I may have something to say to those who thus regard the doctrine of this passage; but meantime I would only say that no one can quarrel with the doctrine of the text without quarrelling with Christ, for it is His mouth that uttered it, and it was He who preached the truths in connection with which it stands before us here.

 In addressing you from this text, I would direct your attention to the spiritual impotence here declared—to the drawing of the Father—and to Christ's perfecting of the salvation of all whom the Father causes to come to Him.

 I. THE SPIRITUAL IMPOTENCE HERE DECLARED. 
It is inability to come to Christ as He is revealed and offered in the gospel. And this spiritual impotence is universal, for Jesus saith—"No man can come to me." And He very plainly declares every man's inability to come to Him, for the words "can come" can have only one meaning assigned to them, and might be rendered "is able to come." Such is the plain import of Christ's teaching in the first part of this verse, whatever view may be taken of man's impotence, and in whatever way it may be attempted to reconcile this statement with those which insist on his responsibility. Let us take the explicit teaching of Christ so far as it goes, and let not our reception of it as true depend on our being able to reconcile it with all other parts of His teaching. To refuse to receive His teaching as true simply because it is His, is to lapse into rationalism, and to allow our own conceptions of the fitness of things, and not the revelation of His will by God, to determine the form and measure of our faith.

 Coming to Christ is a willing movement of the heart. He must be so known and regarded by him who comes to Him that He is heartily desired. The soul coming to Christ is willing to accept of Him on the terms according on which He is offered in the gospel, as a Saviour from all sin. And this coming to Christ is an exercise of faith . There is in it a trustful, as well as a wistful, feeling, towards Christ, resulting from receiving as true God's testimony regarding Him, and from discovering, in the light of that testimony, the suitableness, as well as the divine appointment, and personal excellence, of Christ, as a Saviour. It is to come thus to Him that Christ declares every man, without exception, to be unable, without the drawing of the Father. 

Such a doctrine as this is not pleasing to "the natural man," and he either openly rejects it; or, while professing to receive it, wickedly abuses it. The old heart's pride, with its strong dislike of being indebted to the grace of God, rises against it. And one's love of ease combines with his pride in securing its rejection; for if one realised that his salvation was dependent on the will of God, he could not be at ease; but when he thinks of it as a matter that is in his own hand, then, he can sleep on imagining that when a convenient season" comes he can secure his salvation. Not such is the feeling of the poor captive, who in his madness barred and bolted the door of his cell thinking it was a palace, but who has been awakened to find himself in bondage, with no power to remove the bars and bolts wherewith he himself shut the door, because he has no strength to reach them, and finds sentinels posted to keep him in his prison. He now feels assured that he cannot escape unless an order for his release is issued by him at whose instance he is confined, and that the only key by which the door can be opened is in his hands. He cannot now sleep quietly in his cell, dreaming of finding escape whenever he inclines to go out. His sleep is broken and his vain dreamings are at an end. 

And there are others who, while professing to receive the doctrine of man's spiritual impotence, at the same time abuse it, and do so also from the desire to be at ease. "No efforts of ours," they say, "are of any avail, therefore we will do nothing, and enjoy our case till the Lord does His work the only work that can avail for good to us." It is as if one who was declared to be dying, and was told that there was only one physician who could cure him, continued quite unmoved, made no effort to secure the attendance of the only one who could treat with success his case, and continued to take the kind of diet by which his sickness was induced. The man who could act so must have been insane; but still more insane is the sinner, who makes his utter dependence, on the sovereign grace of God, a reason for continuing at his ease in sin. But let men reject or abuse this doctrine as they may, it is plainly stated in the text, and let us now proceed to consider the grounds on which, besides the statement before us, it may be based. 

1. The sinner is spiritually impotent because he is spiritually dead. "Dead in trespasses and in sins" is the description given of every one as he is "by nature." Now if there is any exercise that is impossible to a spiritually dead sinner, it is a movement towards God—it is coming to Christ. This was the doctrine of Christ to Nicodemus. "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God," though Christ, as revealed in the gospel, is "the door," and though it is by faith in Him the kingdom of God is entered; and this is plainly declared in the words which tells us that "as many as received" Christ, even they "that believed on His name" "were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." This is an abundantly strong confirmation of the doctrine of the text. We have a direct affirmation of it thrice over in the gospel of John within its first six chapters, and frequently elsewhere, and he is mighty in his strength to resist Scripture evidence, who refuses to receive this doctrine as true.

 2. Coming to Christ is opposed to all man's "natural"tendencies. Coming to Christ, implies willingness to be indebted to the grace of God for salvation. That must be expressed in every exercise of faith bearing on the Lord Jesus Christ. But this is quite opposed to the pride of man's heart, which is such that never can it cease to be ambitious of being independent of God. How then can a man come to Christ unless the Father draws him? And coming to Christ is an exercise of faith in the word of God as the only warrant of his hope of salvation. This word, and this word alone, presents to him the object of his faith, gives the only light by which he can be guided to Him, and is the only, cord by which he can take hold of Him when he comes. But nothing is more natural to a man than to think that nothing is real which he cannot see or handle, and that to trust in the word of God as true, is to act the part of a vain dreamer. Specially is this true as to his state of feeling towards "the word of the truth of the gospel." So far as the truth of the word of the law is concerned, he has some warrant in believing in its divine authority, from the operation of his conscience, which testifies on the side of the divine law in its claim and in its curse. But he has no such help in accepting as true "the gospel of the grace of God." The good news is such that he can have no anticipation of it. So new and so wonderful is it, that he feels as if he must be furnished with evidence that will reach him through all his senses ere he can realise it as true. But to him who is coming to Christ no other warrant of faith than the simple word of God, as written in the Bible, is given, and on that he must hang the whole weight of his case as a sinner. How then can he, so resolved to "walk by sight" ever come to Christ "except the Father" "draw him?" And coming unto Christ is coming to Him for salvation from all sin. Every man by nature loves sin, "because the carnal mind is enmity against God." I cannot be a hater of God without being in love with sin, to which He in His holiness is infinitely opposed. To what he loves the sinner will cleave, and never shall he willingly come to Christ for salvation from it.

 3. Coming unto Christ is opposed by all the powers of darkness. "The god of this world," with the great army under his command, is ever busy in endeavouring to keep souls away from Christ. He is ever active in "blinding the eyes 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 is surely most formidable opposition. Think of the might and malice of such an army, think of the opportunity of successful working the reigning power of sin in the heart affords, and think, too, of the many weapons furnished to the great enemy in the things of "a present evil world," and then surely it must be manifest that the words of Christ are true when He says, "No man can come to Me except the Father, who hath sent Me, draw him." 

4. It is altogether inconceivable that there can be any coming to Christ without some action on the part of God. As to the extent of that action, in order to the result of faith, there may be differences of opinion, but as to there being some measure of it, all who pretend to be evangelical must be agreed. If faith be an actual coming unto Christ in desire and trust, must there not at any rate be a revelation by God to the coming one of His Son, and must there not be a reception of him when, he comes? If the giving of the word sufficed as a revelation, why was Christ unknown since first the gospel reached us? And can we reach Him and lean on Him without meeting with such a reception as encourages us to do so? The presence even of our Queen is guarded, and, when there is a reception, those who are introduced expect the Sovereign to take some notice of their presence and obeisance. And are we to be admitted to the King of Glory except according to an authoritative exercise of His will? and if He reveals not Himself to us, as He does not to the world, how possibly can we trust in Him? If we add this reason for divine action being necessary, in order to the coming of a sinner to Christ, to those previously stated, how abundantly true appear the words of Him who said—"No man can come to me except the Father, which hath sent me, draw him."

 II. THE FATHER'S DRAWING.
 "No man can come to me except the Father, which hath sent me, draw him." These words tell us that what is indispensable, in order to the coming of a sinner to Christ, must come from the Father; that we are to regard the Father in this connection as He by whom Christ was sent; and that the power of the Father is exerted as a drawing power, bringing the soul to Christ. 

1. The drawing that brings a sinner to Christ comes from "THE FATHER." "The Father" is the distinctive name of the First Person of the Godhead. This is His name because of His relation to the Second Person, who is called "The Son" on account of His relation to the First, while the Third is called "The Spirit" because of His relation to the Father and to the Son. He (the Father) is the representative of the Supremacy of the Godhead. He is so without being personally greater than, while essentially one with, the Son and the Spirit. To His sovereign will must, therefore, all salvation be ascribed. "All things are of God," the Father, through the Son and by the Holy Ghost; and to Him, therefore, must ultimately be ascribed the bringing of a sinner to Christ. How great an event, when viewed in its relation to the Father's action, is the coming of a sinner to Christ! He who wields the authority, and is sovereign Lord of all the resources of Jehovah, alone can secure a meeting between Christ and a sinner! Each act of faith bearing upon Christ is the result of an exercise of His sovereign will, and of the operation of His Almighty power. How infinitely great, therefore, is the coming of a sinner to Christ! How small it seems to the eye which does not rest on the action of the Father! And when a sinner does come, how well warranted is his faith! He is acting according to the call, and because subject to the drawing of the Father. Can anything be more legitimate, therefore, than faith in Christ? 

2. But the text requires us to consider the Father, in this connection, as He by whom Christ was sent. The sending of His Son as His Anointed by the Father is the highest display ever given of His sovereignty; the highest commendation ever given of His love; and is such as must be followed by the drawing unto Messiah of all whom He sent Him to redeem. 
(1.) The sending of His Son is the highest display of the Father's sovereignty. This must be before our minds when we think of His drawing a sinner to Christ. How could there be a higher display of His sovereignty than in the mission of His Son "to seek and to save that which is lost?" How could His absolute supremacy more gloriously appear? Under what law, arising necessarily from what He was or out of any antecedents of His action, could He be requiring such action as this? Surely we cannot ascribe it to the operation of any unavoidable constraint that such a one as Jehovah the Son should be sent to obey and die in human nature on the earth. And there could be nothing in the Father's relations to those whom He sent His Son to redeem requiring such a gift in order to their salvation. The mission of the Son abundantly proves that, in the view of God, those whom He sent Him to redeem were death-deserving sinners, and that He, therefore, could be under no obligation to provide deliverance from death for any of them. But "it seemed good in His sight" to purpose the salvation of His chosen, and, in order to the fulfilment of that decree, He sent His Son in order, by "the sacrifice of Himself," to redeem them. It is in pursuance of this scheme of sovereign grace He draws a sinner to Christ, and, in connection with this action, His absolute sovereignty must be recognised and acknowledged. The last foothold, on the ground of a covenant of works, that must be abandoned by a sinner is the idea, that he can, to any extent, be independent of God, for the exercise of saving faith, that he has any plea to urge for the gift of faith, and that he can escape from feeling absolutely dependent on the sovereign will of God for that faith in the exercise of which he can come to Christ. But it would be utterly inconsistent with His mission by the Father, with the relation in which, as Mediator, He stood to Him who sent Him, and with His zeal for His Father's glory, as well as with His love to His people, not distinctly and repeatedly to claim this acknowledgment of divine sovereignty in connection with the gift of faith. And He claims it still. And He cannot but claim it; for if sinners are such as the word of God describes them, they must be told the truth regarding themselves, and if the coming of a sinner to Christ is the result of the Father's drawing, this must be declared to the praise of Him "of whom are all things."
 (2) Think of the Father as giving, in the mission of His Son, the highest commendation of His sovereign love. A higher there could not be given. And this would appear to us if we by faith realised the divine glory of Him who was sent, His relation, as the "Only Begotten Son," to Him who sent Him, the humiliation to which He, when sent, was subjected, and the designed results of His death to the hell-deserving ones whom He was sent to redeem. The marvellous love thus expressed in the mission of Christ, is further expressed in the drawing of blood-bought sinners to their Redeemer. This must never be forgotten. 

But it may be asked, "In what relation do sinners, who hear the gospel, stand to the Father and to His love?" There are two relations, at any rate, in which they stand to the Father. They are the subjects of His government, and are quite at the disposal of His absolutely sovereign will. Thus they are as rational beings. And as sinners they are in such a relation to Him as "Judge of all" that they are under a sentence of condemnation to eternal death. Let neither of these relations to the Father be ignored by any of us. "But," it may be asked, "how are we, who hear the gospel, related to the Father's love?" Not so, that we have any warrant to conclude, because of what the gospel tells you of His love, that it now, and as you are, embraces you. It speaks to you of that love, it exhibits the glorious proof given of the sovereignty, freeness, and riches of that love, in the mission and death of the Son, as the Christ and "the Lamb of God," but it cannot, by possibility, assure you of being an object of that love till you first come to Christ, and be embraced by it in Him. Aught else would be utterly inconsistent with the mode in which His love was revealed, as well as with the source whence it flows. Love, that could not approach a sinner except through Christ's rent body and shed blood, cannot, apart from Christ-crucified, be approached by a sinner. It cannot come but through divine blood to you, and you must not attempt to come to it except through the same channel. Let there be movements in desire and faith towards it as it is revealed in Christ, but let there be no attempt to embrace it, as a loved one, till first, as a sinner, you embrace "Jesus Christ as He is freely offered to us in the gospel." 

The revelation of the Father's love, in the mission of His Son, is not a declaration that all to whom the gospel comes are loved by God. This cannot be; for if so, all who are in a state of nature on the earth must be equally regarded as objects of the Father's love, whether they have heard the gospel or not. And how can we conceive of those as objects of His love to whom He has never told of His love, and who derive no opportunity of benefit from it? But if the revelation of the gospel declares sinners who hear it to be loved by God, must we not ascribe this advantage to the sovereign will of God, and thus from the marshes of Arminianism be constrained to repair for a firm footing to the sure ground of Calvinism? Thus far, at any rate, must the sovereignty of God be acknowledged. The distribution of the gospel is quite as unaccountable, except by referring it to the sovereign good pleasure of God, as is the salvation of some and not of others to whom the gospel has been sent. The mode in which God distributes the gospel is a palpable exhibition of the sovereign grace of the salvation of which the gospel testifies. 

But any sinner who is required to acknowledge the Father's sovereignty is entitled to contemplate the Father's love. O what a privilege it is to be told that the drawing of a sinner to Christ is in the hands of Him who commended His love in the mission of His Son. He to whom you are shut up in your impotence to believe, as the only One who can help you, is He who so loved the world as to give His Son to make atonement for sin by "the blood of His cross." That is one grand association with the Father. "Yes," you say, "but what encouragement can I derive from thinking of the Father's love, unless I may think of it as love to myself?" At any rate, you may think of it as love to sinners, while you regard it as sovereign love to each one of all who are its objects. Being love to sinners you may appeal to it as the fountain of all saving grace. Friend, your difficulty arises from your thinking so much of yourself, that you are disposed to regard yourself as an ill-used man, if God does not, without any regard to His holiness, and to the honour of His Christ, come to tell you where you are, and as you are, that you are an object of His love. You would surely act more wisely if you took, before the Father, your place as a sinner, at the disposal of His sovereign will, and appealed to His love as love that was expressed in sending His Son, as "the Son of man," "to seek and to save that which was lost." 
 (3.) To the Son, whom the Father sent, is due by Him who sent Him the drawing of sinners unto Him. He owes Him this fulfilment of His promise given to Him when He covenanted with Him as to the salvation of His chosen, and in reward of "the travail of His soul" in their behalf. The fulfilment of that promise, and the giving of that reward, are absolutely certain. This furnishes ground of rejoicing to all who love Christ and who love souls, for there is security for Christ being satisfied, and, for all His redeemed being saved. 
But the Father's way of fulfilling His promise to the Son was to invest Him as the Covenant Head with all authority, and to anoint Him with the fulness of the Holy Ghost, in order that the power of the Mediator might be a security for His obtaining His reward. It is on this account you hear Christ saying that He Himself "will draw all men unto" Him. You may then think of the sovereign love and supreme authority of the Father as evidenced in making Christ the author as well as the object of faith. And if the Father calls you to come to His Christ, in whom all fulness of saving grace is to be found, may you not come for faith to Him when you cannot come with faith, and ask Him, as the Father's Anointed One, to do for you all that is required to your coming to Him, as well as to save you with an everlasting salvation when you come. Take Christ as a faith-giver, in the presence of the Father who appointed Him to be so, and if you do not, then you are utterly excuseless if you perish in your unbelief.

 3. The Father's drawing. This is, and must be gracious, attracting, and effectual. Gracious, infinitely gracious, it must be, as it bears on a mean, guilty, loathsome, hostile sinner. Gracious, beyond all conception, must be the drawing which brings into a relation of everlasting union that sinner to His glorious Son. Gracious enough to be matter of eternal wonder and praise is this action of the Father, resulting as it infallibly does in the everlasting salvation of the sinner on whom it takes effect. And it is drawing by attraction. He who comes is "made willing" in a day of power. It pleases God to bring, by His quickening spirit, the dead soul alive, and to reveal His Son in Him, and by His excellence and love to draw the soul, now spiritually alive, to His Christ. There is no dragging though there is drawing. It is attraction, not compulsion, that overcomes the sinner, into submission, and wins his acquiescence in the terms of the gospel. This drawing is and must be effectual. No power can successfully resist the drawing of the Father. The three Persons of the Godhead act, each His part, in bringing the soul to Christ, and what possible combination of influences can withstand action of which this is true? The wildest rebel He can subdue, the most ignorant He can enlighten, the most hostile He can make friendly, the most oppressed He can deliver, the man who has been longest "dead in trespasses and sins" He can quicken "together with Christ," and the most timid He can "persuade end enable" "to embrace Jesus Christ as He is freely offered to us in the gospel." 

III. CHRIST'S PROMISE OF COMPLETING THE SALVATION OF ALL WHOM THE FATHER DRAWS TO HIM 
— "And I will raise him up at the last day." 

This is the third time this promise was given by Christ in His discourse. It is a promise bearing on all who come to Him, whenever and whatever they may be. It specifies only the crowning act of salvation—it is a promise that He shall "bring forth the headstone of the building, with shoutings, crying grace, grace, with it"—but surely this implies a promise of doing all that is required in order to prepare for this. "The headstone" cannot be brought forth, till every stone is laid in the wall on the foundation—till the building is ready for the headstone. Christ, by these words, engages to see to it that all sanctifying grace is given, that He shall instruct and guide, and preserve and comfort to the end all whom the Father draws to Him; that He shall receive their souls at death, when He has purged away all their corruption, to their place in the "Father's house," and that however long their bodies may lie asleep in the grave, He will at the last day quicken and transform them, so that, perfectly like Himself, they may be prepared for being for ever with Him. 

O what a promise this is? It is infinitely rich. There is nothing awanting to it that can be required by a soul from the first moment of faith in Christ till he enters everlasting glory. And it is as true as it is rich. Sometimes among men we find those who make promises which they never intend to fulfil. A small promise, if true, would be better than all the large promises which these may offer as a ground of hope. But in Christ's promise there is the bounty of infinite love with the certainty of infallible truth. And this is His promise to all who come to Him, and an interest in all the grace of this unfailing promise shall be yours, if, as a sinner, you come to Him as He is revealed and offered to you in the gospel. 

This promise is one of those with which we repeatedly meet in the word of God, in which the grace of all the promises is gathered up, and nothing besides is left to be asked beyond their fulfilment. On this, believer, you have to be drawing during all your life in the wilderness. The promised grace is all in Him in whom "the promises of God are yea and amen." From His mouth comes the promise, and in Him is stored the grace. And by such a word as this He makes you free to make use of all He is, and has, and has done and suffered. He gives Himself over, to the faith which He has begotten, in order to the plenishing of the sinner whom He loved. And He does even more than this, for He not only assures those who have come, that He shall be unto them according to the measure of their faith, but that He shall see to their having the faith, as well as the supply which is secured through faith. O what rest would be yours and mine, if we implicitly trusted in Him, and left our whole case in His hands!

 APPLICATION.

 1. We have in this text what is a marked feature of Christ's teaching all throughout the traces He traces up all salvation to the sovereign love of the Father who sent Him. It is this which is so marked in the words, "I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Thy sight." And He thus ascribes all the praise of salvation to the Father's sovereign love while He declares "All things are delivered unto Me of My Father; and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father." If He who was the Son, essentially one with, and personally equal to, the Father, was thus careful to refer all salvation to the sovereign good pleasure of the Father, as "Lord of heaven and earth," surely all who follow Him as preachers must be careful to do the same, even when, like the Master, they are addressing mixed multitudes. 

2. We may learn from this text that a doctrine, because distasteful to hearers, or because liable to be abused by them, ought not to be withheld. If it is part of "the whole counsel of God" it must be preached, however offensive it may be regarded, and to whatever extent abused. "The chief end" of the preacher ought to be to glorify God by exhibiting Him as He has revealed Himself. This must be done whatever may be the issue. There must be no new aspect of His character presented to men—nothing but His name as He Himself has revealed it—no representation of His scheme of redemption that does not accord with His mind in the word, no modification of the bearings of doctrine to suit them to the taste of unrenewed men, nothing that "thus saith the Lord" does not cover. In combination with the zeal which makes one careful to keep the glory of God, as the great end of his preaching, in view, there ought to be, as there was in the Master, yearning pity towards the sinners to whom Christ is preached. Carefulness to be exact in stating doctrine, according to a system, there may be where there is no due reference to the word of God; but there can be no pity like Christ's in the heart of anyone who is not anxious in his preaching to conserve the honour of the divine name, while guided solely by the light of the divine word. Cold dogmatism or blind earnestness are not the only alternatives in preaching. The true preacher is he who is like Christ in glorifying Him who sent Him by ascribing all salvation to His sovereign will as "Lord of heaven and earth," and who is like Him also in His pity, as expressed in His weeping over doomed Jerusalem. 

3. In the light of this text we may see how desirable coming to Christ is. Look at it as the fruit of the Father's love, and as the result of the Father's drawing, and how great does faith in Christ appear to be! And then think of it as the means of securing an interest in a perfect salvation, and how gracious and rich a boon the gift of faith, as a gift from God, appears! Does it so appear to you? Has this drawn forth your desire in prayer to God for the precious gift of faith? Has it made you anxious to "win Christ and be found in Him?" Or have you chosen as the objects of your desire only such things as first cheat, and then utterly destroy, the soul. 

4. What debtors to God are all who have come to Christ! They are under debt for their coming, and when they come they incur debt to grace as great as a perfect and everlasting salvation! They are under debt to the Father for drawing them to Christ, and they are under debt to Christ for the "righteousness and strength" which they found in Him, and they are debtors to the Holy Ghost for fulfilling in them "the good pleasure" of God. O, friends, seek to see and feel and acknowledge more and more the obligation under which you lie to "the God of all grace," that you may be kept more lowly, more thankful, more zealous, more faithful, as your days in the wilderness are passing away. And remember that it is only by incurring fresh debt that you can attain to fresh growth—debt to Christ, "without whom you can do nothing," debt to the Father for turning you to Him "in whom it pleased" Him "that all fulness should dwell," for during all your life you must know that "no man," spiritually dead or spiritually alive, "can come to" Christ "except" as the Father draws him; debt to the Holy Ghost, without whose gracious operation you cannot receive according to the Father's giving, and to the right and pleading of the Son. To be a debtor for salvation through faith your old covenant spirit deems to be a hard thing, but it still more vehemently rebels against your being a constant debtor for faith to God. You sometimes think you could bravely get on if you could only be master of your faith, and go to the storehouse when you please. But to be dependent on the Father's drawing, for each act of faith, during all your life on earth, leaves to self no ground of glorying. And this is the arrangement that is best for you, and it is so just because it is mortifying to your pride of heart. You never feed except when self is starved. 

5. The text forbids any one to imagine that he came to Christ if he has not been taught that he could never come unless the Father drew him. This is a lesson which Christ insisted on being learned when He dealt in secret with an inquirer such as Nicodemus was, and then He preached to a multitude beside the Lake of Tiberias. You, therefore, cannot be in His school if you are allowed to skip this lesson over. It cannot save you from being deceived that you do not like the doctrine, because you prefer a view of your relation to God which would spare you the self-mortification which it inflicts. It is not what suits your taste, but what suits your state you need to be told to you; and if it be true that such is your actual condition, that you cannot come to Christ unless the Father draw you, what but evil can result from your shutting out that truth from your soul? But you will be disposed to say, "If I believed that to be true, I could have no hope." Certainly not in yourself, but that is just the reason why you are called to believe it. Another may say, "If I believed that, I would fold my hands and cease from all effort." And if you did, what a strange reason you would assign for being listless! your being so lost that you could not escape from destruction without being drawn to Christ by the Father! This is to be your opiate, is it? If so, it is the most extraordinary inducement to sleep that was ever heard of. Another asks, "How can this spiritual impotence to believe consist with my being accountable to God for my unbelief?" That is an old question, to which no new answer can be given. Both things are consistent in the view of God, and let that suffice. It is high time for you to know that depravity of heart cannot excuse iniquity of conduct, for your guilt occasioned your depravity, and the state of your heart cannot, therefore, excuse the guilt of your actions.

 6. There is encouragement in the text to all who fain would reach Christ, and who find that nothing but the Father's drawing can bring them to Him. Friends, if a sense of the power of unbelief is your burden, while a sense of the guilt of it is your shame—if the one makes you bow, while the other makes you blush—this flows from some revelation of Christ by the Father. But having given this, He will give more. And is it not well for you that it is the Father, as representing the authority, grace, and power of the Godhead, whose work it is to draw? There can be no gift too great for His love, no work too hard for His power, and whatever it pleaseth Him that He hath the right to do. And when your hope of help is faint, look to Him through the given Son. Remember that "all that the Father hath is" His, and that if you may claim Him as the gift of God, you will find in Him, as the provision of the Father's love, enough to meet you in your impotence, and a warrant to cleave to Him as you ask Him to help you in your time of need. 

7. Are any of you afraid of not being drawn to Christ? If so, do not smother that fear; do not let it press you to despair; be sure to tell it to God; and give "no sleep to your eyes nor slumber to your eyelids" till you are drawn by the Father to Christ. I say to none of you "Be not afraid of not coming," for it is an awful thing not to come, and certain you are not to come if the Father withholds from you His grace. Nor can I tell you that you have any claim on God, or that you can offer any prayer, so long as you are "dead in sins," and apart from Christ, that is not "an abomination in the sight of the Lord." But neither can I refrain from bidding you to pray, as even Simon Magus was commanded, though he was "in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity." And if you realise that you are called by God to come, and that the authority of that call shuts you up to Christ, and are, at the same time, conscious of your impotence to come, while you know yourselves to be without any right to expect that the Father will draw you, and to be at the disposal of Him who "will have mercy on whom He will have mercy, and who hardeneth whom He will," do not despair, but hold on and still cry, for you are less likely to perish than when you were at your ease; and as you are beginning to feel the straitness of the gate, through which alone the way of life is entered, there is some reason to hope that you are going through; and, if your soul is agonising to enter, who knoweth but you are passing through the throes of that new birth, because of which alone one can, by coming to Christ, enter the kingdom of God. 

What is discernment?

The ability to judge, to examine evidence, pro and con and come to a conclusion as to whether something (someone) is right or wrong. We do this every day, to one degree or another, about people, situations, problems that need solving and so on. The world is quick to pass judgment, especially on believers, and then they proceed to demand that we lay aside our ability and obligation to return the favor to them as they tell us we have no right to 'judge' them which is just another attempt to escape the knowledge and consequences of their own words and deeds.

For the believer there is one aspect of judging or discerning that the world does not hold itself to and that is to judge righteous judgment (John7:24). We are not allowed to pass by certain evidence that we do not like, or to pass over someone because they are 'well respected' in the 'church world.' If our judgment/discernment is to be seen as righteous then it must be without partiality. Our Lord is "no respecter of persons" (Acts 10:34 and Deut. 10:17) so how can we expect others to believe that we speak on God's behalf when we speak with favoritism on any level?

To be able to judge with righteous judgment one must know what is right (holy) and what is not (profane). This knowledge does not come by osmosis or an hour or so "at church" once a week. It comes by diligent study on a regular basis; by much prayer and searching of our heart, constantly; by laying down erroneous doctrines that we may hold dear, despite their unbiblical root. Isa. 28:9 & 10 and Heb. 5:13 & 14 tells us that there is a long, drawn out process, a life long and eternal process of learning about our God from our God. Determine which is better: to be cumbered about much serving or to sit at the feet of Jesus and learn from Him? Luke 10:38-42. Our 'senses' (spiritual senses) must be exercised or they will grow weak and useless. That is why we often face dilemmas and have unanswered questions about people and their teachings. We look every place but the right place for answers until we come to our senses and remember that the Word of God has the answer. Maybe, just maybe the Lord Jesus would like to walk with us and teach us from His Word. We, as His new creation, are His greatest pleasure. Yet do we deny Him His due by our stubbornness?

A fourfold salvation

Arthur Pink, 1938
 
The subject of God's "so great salvation" (Heb. 2:3), as it is revealed to us in the Scriptures and made known in Christian experience, is worthy of a life's study. Anyone who supposes that there is now no longer any need for him to prayerfully search for a fuller understanding of the same, needs to ponder, "If any man thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know" (1 Cor. 8:2). The fact is that the moment any of us really takes it for granted that he already knows all that there is to be known on any subject treated of in Holy Writ, he at once cuts himself off from any further light thereon. That which is most needed by all of us in order to a better understanding of Divine things is not a brilliant intellect—but a truly humble heart and a teachable spirit, and for that we should daily and fervently pray—for we possess it not by nature.
The subject of Divine salvation has, sad to say, provoked age-long controversy and bitter contentions even among professing Christians. There is comparatively little real agreement even upon this elementary yet vital truth. Some have insisted that salvation is by Divine grace, others have argued it is by human endeavor. A number have sought to defend a middle position, and while allowing that the salvation of a lost sinner must be by Divine grace, were not willing to concede that it is by grace alone, alleging that God's grace must be plussed by something from the creature, and very varied have been the opinions of what that "something" must be—baptism, church-membership, the performing of good works, holding out faithful to the end, etc. On the other hand, there are those who not only grant that salvation is by grace alone—but who deny that God uses any means whatever in the accomplishment of His eternal purpose to save His elect—overlooking the fact that the sacrifice of Christ is the grand "means"! It is true that the Church of God was blessed with super-creation blessings, being chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, and predestinated unto the adoption of children, and nothing could or can alter that grand fact. It is equally true that if sin had never entered the world, none had been in need of salvation from it. But sin has entered, and the Church fell in Adam and came under the curse and condemnation of God's Law.

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.