Saturday, October 31, 2009
Friday, October 30, 2009
Fighting Friday: After Darkness, Light! - The Reformation and Its Impact, 1500-1700 (Michael A.G. Haykin)
No Other Foundation: A History of the Church, part 3
After Darkness, Light! - The Reformation and its Impact, 1500-1700
By Dr. Michael A. G. Haykin
I begin with two scenes, one from the Reformation era, the other from the early 18 th century, the first depicting a young woman of sixteen, the second an elderly man in his late seventies--but both are scenes shortly before the deaths of the central figures.
In the first scene it is the morning of February 12, the year 1554. We are in a room in the Tower of London , where the Lady Jane Grey, who had been Queen of England for nine days, is imprisoned. It is only a few hours before her execution at the behest of Mary I, the so-called "Bloody Mary", persecutor of the English Protestants. Jane is writing in her prayer-book, which she will give to her jailer, Sir John Brydges, before she is taken out to the execution block. As we peer over her shoulder to see what she is writing, we read these words:
If justice be done with my body, my soul will find mercy with God. Death will give pain to my body for its sins, but the soul will be justified before God. ...God ...will show me favour.
Our second scene is quite different in many ways, the bedroom of an old Baptist by the name of Thomas Guy ( c. 1645-1724). He had been an extremely successful bookseller and printer of bibles. And he had also been a prominent philanthropist in the city of London . For instance, he endowed what has become known as Guy's Hospital with a gift of £219,000! As he draws up his last will and testament, he can look back over a lifetime of good works and faithful service. But his gaze is elsewhere. As he sets about writing his will, he begins with these opening lines:
I commit my Soul to Almighty God, in hopes, through his mercy, and the merits of my Saviour Jesus Christ, to enjoy eternal Rest. 
Now, neither of these scenes would have taken place without the life and work of number of other individuals who had laboured at the beginning of the sixteenth century to restore biblical Christianity, men like Lefèvre d'Étaples ( c .1455-1536), Huldreich Zwingli (1484-1531), William Tyndale ( c .1494-1536) and, above all, Martin Luther (1483-1546), who may be rightly called the pathfinder of the Reformation.
When historians write of the Reformation, Martin Luther and his rediscovery of the doctrine of justification by faith alone rightly take centre stage. Humanly speaking, if it had not been for Luther, this doctrine, which permeates both of the scenes we began with, might well have remained in obscurity, and Jane and Thomas may well have looked to their good works and faithfulness as evidence of God's grace and acceptance of them. As it was, they trusted in Christ alone for their salvation. And that because, in part, of the work of Luther.
But when we say Luther "rediscovered" this doctrine, we are implying that the doctrine had been lost or obscured between the New Testament era and Luther's day. Luther rightly viewed the loss of this key doctrine as having had detrimental effects on the health of the church. For Luther, justification by faith alone is "the principal doctrine of Christianity" and its opposite, the idea that one can be approved by God on the basis of one's own good works, the "fundamental principle" of the world and the devil.  As he said more than twenty years after his experience of rediscovering the truth of justification by faith alone: "if this article [of justification] stands, the church stands, if it falls, the church falls." 
Luther was born in Saxony in 1483, the eldest son of a fairly successful businessman, Hans Luther, who was the owner of several mine shafts and copper smelts . Hans wanted a better life for his son than he had had, so he sent him, when he was of age, to Erfurt University , where Martin graduated with a M.A. in 1505. His father encouraged him to go on to get a master's degree in law, but on July 2, 1505 , Martin had an experience that changed the entire course of not only his history, but also the history of the Church.
He had been home for the summer and was returning to Erfurt on foot, when, about half a mile from the city gates of Erfurt a storm broke.
Thunder clouds had built up, and suddenly the lightning flashed, a bolt striking right beside Martin who was knocked to the ground, though unhurt, in terror he shouted out: 'Beloved St Anne! I will become a monk.' St. Anne was the patron saint of miners; Martin had heard prayers to her throughout his childhood perhaps more than to any other saint. ...In later years he described himself at the moment when the lightning struck as 'walled around with the terror and horror of sudden death.' 
Twelve days later, on July 17, 1505 , Luther knocked at the gate of the Augustinian order in Erfurt and asked to be accepted into their monastic ranks. When he later told his father of his decision, his father was quite angry that his son was not continuing with his studies. He asked Martin, "Do you not know that it is commanded to honour father and mother?" Luther's response was that his terror in the thunderstorm had led him to become a monk. "I hope it was not the devil," his father replied. 
And so Luther became a monk, a member of the Order of Augustinian Eremites, one of the strictest monastic orders in Europe . He entered the Augustinian monastery at Erfurt to find spiritual peace and salvation. But for nearly ten years genuine peace eluded Luther. To find peace with God, Luther zealously confessed every sin he could think of. He would confess every day, sometimes up to six hours a day. In popular medieval thought, for every sin to be forgiven, there had to be confession. Luther had been taught that the moment the priest whispered in the confessional "I now absolve thee," all of his sins were forgiven. But Luther was never certain that he had been fully forgiven. Always present was the fear: have I confessed every sin? Then came a discovery even more startling and distressing to Luther--there are sins which people do that are not even known to them. But how could these be confessed if they were not known? Luther re-doubled his efforts and threw himself into all-night vigils, great bouts of fasting--all to find forgiveness and peace with God. As he once said:
I was indeed a pious monk and kept the rules of my order so strictly that I can say: If ever a monk gained heaven through monkery, it should have been I. All my monastic brethren who knew me will testify to this. I would have martyred myself to death with fasting, praying, reading, and other good works had I remained a monk much longer." 
Luther sought to find peace with God through such works, but he was troubled by an overpowering fear of God's judgement. Again, listen to his words:
Though I lived as a monk without reproach, I felt that I was a sinner before God with an extremely disturbed conscience. I could not believe that he was placated by my satisfaction. I did not love, yes, I hated the righteous God who punishes sinners, and secretly, if not blasphemously, certainly murmuring greatly, I was angry with God... 
In plainer language Luther later stated of himself, "If I could believe that God was not angry with me, I would stand on my head for joy." 
By 1514 Luther had obtained a doctorate and had been installed as professor of biblical theology at the relatively young University of Wittenberg . During that year, the academic year 1514-1515,  he was teaching a course on the Psalms. In his lectures and studies he came to Psalm 71, and was struck by the Psalmist's cry in verse 2, "Deliver me in your righteousness, and cause me to escape." Now, for Luther, the righteousness of God spoke of judgement, not deliverance. Mystified by the Psalmist's language, Luther decided to study what the Scriptures have to say about this phrase, "the righteousness of God."
He was thus led, in God's providence, to Romans 1:16-17: "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, 'The just shall live by faith'." Again, let us listen to his testimony:
At last, by the mercy of God, meditating day and night, I gave heed to the...the words, namely, "In it the righteousness of God is revealed, as it is written, 'He who through faith is righteous shall live' " [Romans 1:17 ]. There I began to understand that the righteousness of God is that by which the righteous lives by a gift of God, namely by faith. And this is the meaning: the righteousness of God is revealed by the gospel, namely, the passive righteousness with which merciful God justifies us by faith, as it is written, "He who through faith is righteous shall live." Here I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates.
Now what was Luther's discovery? Namely this: that the righteousness of God in this Pauline text is not an attribute of God, but that righteousness which God imputes to the person who puts his or her trust ( fiducia ) in Christ. This was the decisive discovery of the Reformation. Prior to this experience Luther knew that he could never obtain the righteousness God that demanded in his law, and that one day he would be bound to face the withering wrath of God. By this experience, though, Luther realized that salvation was not at all a matter of his attaining the perfect standard of righteousness which God demanded, but simply, by faith, clinging to and relying upon Christ's righteousness. For Christ alone among men and women has never sinned, he alone has lived a life of perfect righteousness, and he alone has perfectly fulfilled the law and its righteous demands.
 Luther's discovery was that salvation from God's wrath was to be found by simple trust in Christ's death for sinners, that at the cross Christ takes all responsibility for the believer's sins--past, present, and future--and that to the one who truly believes God imputes, that is, reckons as the believer's own, Christ's righteousness.
Moreover, our works do not enter the picture at all when it comes to being made right with God. Thus "faith" itself is not to be considered "a work." The faith we exercise is itself a gift from God, a creation of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who enables sinners to accept God's justifying work on their behalf. 
While justification by faith alone is the central discovery made by Luther, there were other things emphasized by Luther and his fellow reformers. These include:
• Sola scriptura
• The deeply unbiblical nature of the papacy--little wonder that Luther and his fellow Reformers viewed the Papacy as the Antichrist.
• Christian marriage: for the Reformers and those who followed in their stead--like the Puritans of the seventeenth century and the Evangelicals of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries--Christian marriage has an innate excellence, is vital for the development of Christian affection and friendship, and is one of God's major means for developing Christian character and spiritual maturity. (Please click here to continue reading, "After Darkness, Light! - The Reformation and Its Impact, 1500 -1700)
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Avoiding a False Theology of Suffering by R.C. Sproul
The suffering of Christ cannot be found on your merit, but only on His.
25 things I've learned by Dan Phillips
Classic repost by Dan Phillips
Desiring God Blog
John Piper explains one of the most important principles when reading and studying Scripture.
Voice of the Sheep
Passionate Preaching by Brian Thornton
Whether you're preaching in the pulpit or teaching in a Bible study, you should be preaching or teaching with passion.
Hip and Thigh
Bob's World by Fred Butler
Fred answers comments from an evolutionist who frequents his blog site.
"FIGHTING MAD" or other articles of interest
Religion News Blog
First homosexuality, now polygamy. Is this the beginning of the legalization of polygamy?
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Sovereign Grace Blog
What Precisely Is the Gospel? by Jeff Purswell
Jeff explains the Gospel.
Press On Until Glory
Tone Matters by Leon Brown
The importance of understanding tone and emphasis while reading and studying Scripture.
The Problem of Evil by Phil Johnson
Phil comments on the hyper-Calvinistic view of the problem of evil and Gordon Clark's view of the problem of evil.
What was the main issue of the Reformation?
The Gospel and a Heart for the Poor by Milton Vincent
Josh posts an excerpt from Milton Vincent's book, "A Gospel Primer".
The Spirit Interceding
"Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought" (Rom. 8:26). At no one point is the Christian made more conscious of his "infirmities" than in connection with his prayer-life. The effects of indwelling corruption are such that often prayer becomes an irksome task, rather than the felt delight of a precious privilege; and strive as he may, he cannot always overcome this fearful spirit. Even when he endeavors to pray, he is handicapped by wanderings of mind, coldness of heart, the intrusion of carnal cares; while he is painfully conscious of the unreality of his petitions and unfelt confessions. How cold are the effusions of our hearts in secret devotions, how feeble our supplications, how little solemnity of mind, brokenness of heart. How often the prayer exercises of our souls seem a mass of confusion and contradiction.
"But the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered" (Rom. 8:26). It is particularly the help which the blessed Comforter gives the Christian in his prayer-life, in the counteracting of his "infirmities," which is now to engage our attention. In Zechariah 12:10 He is emphatically styled "The Spirit of grace and of supplications," for He is the Author of every spiritual desire, every holy aspiration, every outgoing of the heart after God. Prayer has rightly been termed "the breathing of the newborn soul," yet we must carefully bear in mind that its respiration is wholly determined by the stirrings of the Holy Spirit within us. As the Person, work and intercession of Christ are the foundation of all our confidence in approaching the Father, so every spiritual exercise in prayer is the fruit of the Spirit’s operations and intercession.
How the Spirit Intercedes
First, when the believer is most oppressed by outward trials and is most depressed by a sense of his inward vileness, when he is at his wit’s end and ready to wring his hands in despair, or is most conscious of his spiritual deadness and inability to express the sinfulness of his case, the Spirit stirs him in the depths of his being: "The Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered." There has been some difference of opinion as to whether this refers directly to groanings of the Spirit Himself, or indirectly to the spiritual groanings of the Christian, which are prompted and produced by Him. But surely there is no room for uncertainty: the words "cannot be uttered" could not apply to a Divine Person. That which He produces in and through the believer, is ascribed to the Spirit—the "fruit" of Galatians 5:22, and Galatians 4:6 compared with Romans 8:15!
As it is the Spirit who illumines and gives us to see the exceeding sinfulness of sin and the depravity of our hearts, so He is the One who causes us to groan over the same. The conscience is pierced, the heart is searched, the soul is made to feel something of its fearful state. The conscious realization of "the plague of our hearts" (1 Kings 8:38) and its "putrefying sores" (Isa. 1:6), produces unutterable anguish. The painful realization of our remaining enmity against God, the rebellion of our wills, the woeful lack of heart-conformity to His holy Law, so casts down the soul that it is temporarily paralyzed. Then it is that the Spirit puts forth His quickening operations, and we "groan" so deeply that we cannot express our feelings, articulate our woe, or unburden our hearts. All that we can do is to sigh and sob inwardly. But such tears of the heart are precious in the sight of God (Ps. 56:8) because they are produced by His blessed Spirit.
Second, when the soul is so sorely oppressed and deeply distressed, the Spirit reveals to the mind what should be prayed for. He it is who pours oil on the troubled waters, quiets in some measure the storm within, spiritualizes the mind, and enables us to perceive the nature of our particular need. It is the Spirit who makes us conscious of our lack of faith, submissiveness, obedience, courage, or whatever it may be. He it is who gives us to see and feel our spiritual wants, and then to make them known before the Throne of Grace. The Spirit helps our infirmities by subduing our fears, increasing our faith, strengthening our hope, and drawing out our hearts unto God. He grants us a renewed sense of the greatness of God’s mercy, the changelessness of His love, and the infinite merits of Christ’s sacrifice before Him on our behalf.
Third, the Spirit reveals to cast-down saints that the supplies of grace for their varied needs are all expressed in the promises of God. It is those promises which are the measures of prayer, and contain the matter of it; for what God has promised, all that He has promised, but nothing else are we to ask for. "There is nothing that we really stand in need of, but God hath promised the supply of it, in such a way and under such limitations as may make it good and useful unto us. And there is nothing that God hath promised but we stand in need of it, or are some way or other concerned in it as members of the mystical body of Christ" (John Owen). But at this point also the help of the Spirit is imperative, "that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God" (1 Cor. 2:12).
It is thus that the Spirit bears up the distressed minds of Christians: by directing their thoughts to those promises most suited to their present case, by impressing a sense of them upon their hearts, by giving them to discern that those precious promises contain in them the fruits of Christ’s mediation, by renewing their faith so that they are enabled to lay hold of and plead them before God. Real prayer is in faith: faith necessarily respects God’s promises: therefore if we understand not the spiritual import of the promises, the suitability of them to our varied cases, and reverently urge the actual fulfillment of them to us, then we have not prayed at all. But for that sight and sense of the promises, and the appropriation of them, we are entirely dependent upon the Holy Spirit.
Fourth, the Spirit helps the Christian to direct his petitions unto right ends. Many prayers remain unanswered because of our failure at this point: "Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts" (Jas. 4:3). The "ask amiss" in that passage means to ask for something with a wrong end in view, and were we left entirely to ourselves, this would always be the case with us. Only three ends are permissible: that God may be glorified, that our spirituality may be promoted, that our brethren may be blessed. Now none but the Spirit can enable us to subordinate all our desires and petitions unto God’s glory. None but the Spirit can bring us to make our advancement in holiness our end—the reason why we ask God to grant our requests. This He does by putting into our minds a high valuation of conformity to God, a deep longing in the heart that His image may be more manifestly stamped upon us, a strong inclination of will to diligently seek the same by the use of all appointed means.
It is by the Spirit the sin-troubled Christian is helped to apprehend God as his Father, and his heart is emboldened to approach Him as such. It is by the Spirit we are granted a conscious access to the Throne of Grace. He it is who moves us to plead the infinite merits of Christ. He it is who strengthens us to pray in a holy manner, rather than from carnal motives and sentiments. He it is who imparts any measure of fervor to our hearts so that we "cry" unto God—which respects not the loudness of our voices, but the earnestness of our supplications. He it is who gives us a spirit of importunity, so that we are enabled (at times) to say with Jacob, "I will not let Thee go, except Thou bless me" (Gen. 32:26). And He it is who prepares the heart to receive God’s answer, so that what is bestowed is a real blessing to us and not a curse.
In conclusion let it be pointed out that the motions of the Spirit in the saint are a "help" to prayer, but not the rule or reason of prayer. There are some who say that they never attempt to pray unless conscious that he Spirit moves them to do so. But this is wrong: the Spirit is given to help us in the performance of duty, and not in the neglect of it! God commands us to pray: that is our "rule"—"always to pray" (Luke 18:1), "in everything by prayer and supplication" (Phil. 4:6). For many years past, the editor had made it a practice of beginning his prayers by definitely and trustfully seeking the Spirit’s aid: see Luke 11:13. Do not conclude that lack of words and suitable expressions is a proof that the Spirit is withholding His help. Finally, remember that He is Sovereign: "the wind bloweth were it listeth" (John 3:8). (Please click here to continue reading, "The Spirit Interceding")
Monday, October 26, 2009
Delivered on Sabbath Morning, January 9th, 1859, by the
REV. C. H. Spurgeon
At the Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens.
"Not for your sakes do I this, saith the Lord God, be it known unto you: be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel."—Ezekiel 36:32.
There are two sins of man that are bred in the bone, and that continually come out in the flesh. One is self-dependence and the other is self-exaltation. It is very hard, even for the best of men, to keep themselves from the first error. The holiest of Christians, and those who understand best the gospel of Christ, find in themselves a constant inclination to look to the power of the creature, instead of looking to the power of God and the power of God alone. Over and over again, Holy Scripture has to remind us of that which we never ought to forget, that salvation is God's work from first to last, and is not of man, neither by man. But so it is, this old error—that we are to save ourselves, or that we are to do something in the matter of salvation—always rises up, and we find ourselves continually tempted by it to step aside from the simplicity of our faith in the power of the Lord our God. Why, even Abraham himself was not free from the great error of relying upon his own strength. God had promised to him that He would give him a son—Isaac, the child of promise. Abraham believed it, but at last, weary with waiting, he adopted the carnal expedient of taking to himself Hagar, to wife, and he fancied that Ishmael would most certainly be the fulfillment of God's promise; but instead of Ishmael's helping to fulfill the promise, he brought sorrow unto Abraham's heart, for God would not have it that Ishmael should dwell with Isaac. "Cast out," said the Scripture, "the bondwoman and her son; for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the free woman." Now we, in the matter of salvation, are apt to think that God is tarrying long in the fulfillment of His promise, and we set to work ourselves to do something, and what do we do?sink ourselves deeper in the mire and pile up for ourselves a store of future troubles and trials. Do we not read that it grieved Abraham's heart to send Ishmael away? Ah! and many a Christian has been grieved by those works of nature which he accomplished with the design of helping the God of grace. Oh, beloved, we shall find ourselves very frequently attempting the foolish task of assisting Omnipotence and teaching the Omniscient One. Instead of looking to grace alone to sanctify us, we find ourselves adopting Philosophic rules and principles which we think will effect the Divine work. We shall but mar it; we shall bring grief into our own spirits. But if, instead thereof, we in every work look up to the God of our salvation for help, and strength, and grace, and succor, then our work will proceed to our own joy and comfort, and to God's glory. That error, then, I say is in our bone, and will always dwell with us, and hence it is that the words of the text are put as an antidote against that error. It is distinctly stated in our text that salvation is of God. "Not for your sakes do I this." He says nothing about what we have done or can do. All the preceding and all the succeeding verses speak of what God does. "I will take you from among the heathen." "I will sprinkle clean water upon you." "I will give you a new heart." "I will put my Spirit within you." It is all of God: therefore, again recall to our recollection this doctrine, and give up all dependence upon our own strength and power.
The other error to which man is very prone, is that of relying upon his own merit. Though there is no righteousness in any man, yet in every man there is a proneness to truth in some fancied merit. Strange that it should be so, but the most reprobate characters have yet some virtue as they imagine, upon which they rely. You will find the most abandoned drunkard pride himself that he is not a swearer. You will find the blaspheming drunkard pride himself that at least he is honest. You will find men with no other virtue in the world, exalt what they imagine to be a virtue—the fact that they do not profess to have any; and they think themselves to be extremely excellent, because they have honesty or rather impudence enough to confess that they are utterly vile. Somehow the human mind clings to human merit; it always will hold to it, and when you take away everything upon which you think it could rely, in less than a moment it fashions some other ground for confidence out of itself. Human nature with regard to its own merit, is like the spider, it bears its support in its own bowels, and it seems as if it would keep spinning on to all eternity. You may brush down one web, but it soon forms another, you may take the thread from one place, and you will find it clinging to your finger, and when you seek to brush it down with one hand you find it clinging to the other. It is hard to get rid of; it is ever ready to spin its web and bind itself to some false ground of trust. It is against all human merit that I am this morning going to speak, and I feel that I shall offend a great many people here. I am about to preach a doctrine that is gall and vinegar to flesh and blood, one that will make righteous moralists gnash their teeth, and make others go away and declare that I am an Antinomian, and perhaps scarcely fit to live. However, that consequence is one which I shall not greatly deplore, if connected with it there should be in other hearts a yielding to this glorious truth, and a giving up to the power and grace of God, who will never save us, unless we are prepared to let Him have all the glory.
First, I shall endeavor to expound at large the doctrine contained in this text; in the next place I shall endeavour to show its force and truthfulness; and then in the third place I shall seek God's Holy Spirit to apply the useful, practical lessons which are to be drawn from it.
I. I shall endeavour to EXPOUND THIS TEXT. "Not for your sakes do I this saith the Lord God." The motive for the salvation of the human race is to be found in the breast of God, and not in the character or condition of man. Two races have revolted against God—the one angelic, the other human. When a part of this angelic race revolted against the Most High, justice speedily overtook them; they were swept from their starry seats in Heaven, and henceforth they have been reserved in darkness unto the great day of the wrath of God. No mercy was ever presented to them, no sacrifice ever offered for them; but they were without hope and mercy, forever consigned to the pit of eternal torment. The human race, far inferior in order of intelligence, sinned as atrociously; at any rate, if the sins of manhood that we have heard of be put together and rightly weighed, I can scarcely understand how even the sins of devils could be much blacker than the sin of mankind. However, the God who in His infinite justice passed over angels, and suffered them forever to expiate their offences in the fires of hell, was pleased to look down on man. Here was election on a grand scale; the election of manhood, and the reprobation of fallen angelhood. What was the reason for it? The reason was in God's mind, an inscrutable reason which we do not know, and which if we knew probably we could not understand. Had you and I been put upon the choice of which should have been spared, I do think it probable we should have chosen that fallen angels should have been saved. Are they not the brightest? Have they not the greatest mental strength? If they had been redeemed, would it not have glorified God more, as we judge, than the salvation of worms like ourselves? Those bright beings—Lucifer, son of the morning, and those stars that walked in his train—if they had been washed in His redeeming blood, if they had been saved by sovereign mercy, what a song would they have lifted up to the Most High and everlasting God! But God, who doeth as He wills with His own, and giveth no account of His matters, but who deals with His creatures as the potter deals with his clay, took not upon Him the nature of angels, but took upon Him the seed of Abraham, and chose men to be the vessels of His mercy. This fact we know, but where is its reason? certainly not in man. "Not for your sakes do I this. O house of Israel, be ashamed and be confounded for your own ways."
Here, very few men object. We notice that if we talk about the election of men and the non-election of fallen angels, there is not a cavil for a moment. Every man approves of Calvinism till he feels that he is the loser by it; but when it begins to touch his own bone and his own flesh then he kicks against it. Come, then, we must go further. The only reason why one man is saved, and not another, lies not, in any sense, in the man saved, but in God's bosom. The reason why this day the gospel is preached to you and not the heathen far away, is not because, as a race, we are superior to the heathen; it is not because we deserve more at God's hands; His choice of Britain, in the election of outward privilege, is not caused by the excellency of the British nation, but entirely because of His own mercy and His own love. There is not reason in us why we should have the gospel preached to us more than any other nation. Today, some of us have received the gospel, and have been changed by it, and have become the heirs of light and immorality, whereas others are left still to be the heirs of wrath. But there is no reason in us why we should have been taken and others left.
Or give the Creator delight.
'Twas 'Even so, Father!' we ever must sing,
Because it seem'd good in thy sight."
And now, let us review this doctrine at length. We are taught in Holy Scripture that, long before this world was made, God foreknew and foresaw all the creatures He intended to fashion; and there and then foreseeing that the human race would fall into sin, and deserve His anger, determined, in His own sovereign mind, that an immense portion of the human race should be His children, and should be brought to Heaven. As to the rest, He left them to their own deserts. to sow the wind and reap the whirlwind, to scatter crime and inherit punishment. Now, in the great decree of election, the only reason why God selected the vessels of mercy must have been because He would do it. There was nothing in any one of them which caused God to choose them. We all were alike, all lost, all ruined by the fall; all without the slightest claim upon His mercy; all, in fact, deserving His utmost vengeance. His choice of any one, and His choice of all His people, are causeless, so far as anything in them was concerned. It was the effect of His sovereign will, and of nothing which they did, could do, or even would do; for thus saith the text: "Not for your sakes do I this, O house of Israel!"
As for the fruit of our election, in due time Christ came into this world, and purchased with His blood all those whom the Father hath chosen. Now come ye to the cross of Christ; bring this doctrine with you, and remember that the only reason why Christ gave up His life to be a ransom for His sheep was because He loved His people, but there was nothing in His people that made Him die for them. I was thinking as I came here this morning, if any man should imagine that the love of God to us was caused by anything in us, it would be as if a man should look into a well to find the springs of the ocean, or dig into an anthill to find an Alp. The love of God is so immense, so boundless and so infinite, that you cannot conceive for a moment that it could have been caused by anything in us. The little good that is in us—the no good that is in us—for there is none, could not have caused the boundless, bottomless, shoreless, summitless love which God manifests to His people. Stand at the foot of the cross, ye merit-mongers, ye that delight in your own works; and answer this question: Do you think that the Lord of life and glory could have been brought down from Heaven, could have been fashioned like a man, and have been led to die through any merit of yours? Shall these sacred veins be opened with any lancet less sharp than His own infinite love? Do you conceive that your poor merits, such as they are, could be so efficacious as to nail the Redeemer to the tree, and make Him bend His shoulders beneath the enormous load of the world's guilt? You cannot imagine it. The consequence is so great, compared with what you suppose to be the case, that your logic fails in a moment. You may conceive that a coral insect rears a rock by its multitude, and by its many years of working; but you cannot conceive that all the accumulated merits of manhood, if there were such things, could have brought the Eternal from the throne of His majesty, and bowed Him to the death of the cross: that is a thing as clearly impossible to any thoughtful mind, as impossibility can be. No; from the cross comes the cry—"Not for your sakes do I this, O house of Israel."
After Christ's death, there comes, in the next place, the work of the Holy Spirit. Those whom the Father hath chosen, and whom the Son has redeemed, in due time the Holy Spirit calls "out of darkness into marvelous light." Now, the calling of the Holy Spirit is without any regard to any, merit in us. If this day the Holy Spirit shall call out of this congregation a hundred men, and bring them out of their estate of sin into a state of righteousness, you shall bring these hundred men, and let them march in review, and if you could read their hearts, you would be compelled to say, "I see no reason why the Spirit of God should have operated upon these. I see nothing whatever that could have merited such grace as this—nothing that could have caused the operations and motions of the Spirit to work in these men." For, look ye here. By nature, men are said to be dead in sin. If the Holy Spirit quickens, it cannot be because of any power in the dead men, or any merit in them, for they are dead, corrupt and rotten in the grave of their sin. If then, the Holy Spirit says, "Come forth and live," it is not because of anything in the dry bones, it must be for some reason in His own mind, but not in us. Therefore, know ye this, men and brethren, that we all stand upon a level. We have none of us anything that can recommend us to God; and if the Spirit shall choose to operate in our hearts unto salvation, He must be moved to do it by His own supreme love, for He cannot be moved to do it by any good will, good desire, or good deed, that dwells in us by nature.
To go a little further: this truth, which holds good so far, holds good all the way. God's people, after they are called by grace, are preserved in Christ Jesus; they are "kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation;" they are not suffered to sin away their eternal inheritance, but as temptations arise they have strength given with which to encounter them, and as sin blackens them they are washed afresh, and again cleansed. But mark, the reason why God keeps His people is the same as that which made them His people—His own free sovereign grace. If, my brother, you have been delivered in the hour of temptation, pause and remember that you were not delivered for your own sake. There was nothing in you that deserved the deliverance. If you have been fed and supplied in your hour of need, it is not because you have been a faithful servant of God, nor because you have been a prayerful Christian; it is simply and only because of God's mercy. He is not moved to anything He does for you by anything .that you do for Him; His motive for blessing you lies wholly and entirely in the depths of His own bosom. Blessed be God, His people shall be kept.
His favourites from His breast;
In the dear bosom of His love
They must forever rest."
But why? Because they are holy? Because they are sanctified? Because they serve God with good works? No, but because he in his sovereign grace has loved them, does love them, and will love them, even to the end.
And to conclude my exposition of this text. This shall hold good in Heaven itself. The day is coming when every blood-bought, blood-washed child of God shall walk the golden streets arrayed in white. Our hands shall soon bear the palm; our ears shall be delighted with celestial melodies, and our eyes filled with the transporting visions of God's glory. But mark, the only reason why God shall bring us to Heaven shall be His own love, and not because we deserved it. We must fight the fight, but we do not win the victory because we fight it; we must labour, but the wage at the days' end shall be a wage of grace, and not a debt. We must honour God here, looking for the recompense of the reward; but that recompense will not be given on a legal ground, because we merited it, but given to us entirely because God had loved us, for no reason that was in us. When you and I and each of us shall enter Heaven, our song shall be, "Not unto us, not unto us, but unto thy name be all the glory;" and that shall be true, it shall not be a mere exaggeration of gratitude. It shall be true; we shall be compelled to sing it, because we could not sing anything else. We shall feel that we did nothing, and that we were nothing, but that God did it all—that we had nothing in us to be the motive of his doing it, but that His motive lay in Himself; therefore unto Him shall be every particle of the honour forever and ever.
Now, this, I take it, is the meaning of the text; distasteful it is to the great majority, even of professing Christians in this age. It is a doctrine that requires a great deal of salt, or else few people will receive it. It is very unsavory to them. However, there It stands. "Let God be true, and every man a liar." His truth we must preach, and this we must proclaim. Salvation is "not of men, neither by man; not of the will of the flesh, nor of blood," nor of birth, but of the sovereign will of God, and God alone. (Please click here to continue reading, "Free Grace")