Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A.W. Pink: Studies on Saving Faith, Part 4 - 13. Its Basis


Part IV



The task which these articles set before us is by no means easily executed. On the one hand, we wish to be kept from taking the "children’s" bread and casting it to the "dogs"; on the other, it is our earnest prayer that we may be delivered from casting a stumblingblock before any of God’s "little ones." That which occasions our difficulty is the desire to expose an empty profession and to be used of God in writing that which, under His free Spirit, may be used in removing the scales from the eyes of those who, though unregenerate, are resting with carnal confidence on some of the Divine promises given to those who are in Christ—for while a sinner is out of Christ none of the promises belong to him: see 2 Corinthians 1:20. Notwithstanding, it behooves us to seek wisdom from above so that we may write in such a way that any of Christ’s who are yet not established in the faith may not draw the conclusion they are still dead in trespasses and sins.

Having before us the twofold objective named above, let us ask the question, Is a simple faith in Christ sufficient to save a soul for time and eternity? At the risk of some readers turning away from this article and refusing to read further, we unhesitatingly answer, No, it is not. The Lord Jesus Himself declared, "Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish" (Luke 13:3). Repentance is just as essential to salvation as is believing. Again, we read that, "wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead" (James 2:20). A "simple faith" which remains alone, a faith which does not purify the heart (Acts 15:9), work by love (Gal. 5:6), and overcome the world (1 John 5:4), will save nobody.

Much confusion has been caused in many quarters through failure to define clearly what it is from which the sinner needs saving. Only too often the thought of many minds is restricted to Hell. But that is a very inadequate conception, and often proves most misleading. The only thing which can ever take any creature to Hell is unrepented and unforgiven sin. Now on the very first page of the N. T. the Holy Spirit has particularly recorded it that, the incarnate Son of God was named "Jesus" because "he shall save his people from their sins" (Matt. 1:21). Why is it that that which God has placed at the forefront is relegated to the rear by most of modern evangelists? To ask a person if he has been saved from Hell is much more ambiguous than to inquire if he has been saved from his sins.

Let us attempt to enlarge on this a little, for thousands of professing Christians in these days have but the vaguest idea of what it means to be saved from sin. First, it signifies to be saved from the love of sin. The heart of the natural man is wedded to everything which is opposed to God. He may not acknowledge it, he may not be conscious of it, yet such is the fact nevertheless. Having been shapen in iniquity and conceived in sin (Ps. 51:5), man cannot but be enamoured with that which is now part and parcel of his very being. When the Lord Jesus explained why condemnation rests upon the unsaved, He declared "men loved darkness rather than light" (John 3:19). Nothing but a supernatural change of heart can deliver any from this dreadful state. Only an omnipotent Redeemer can bring us to "abhor" (Job 42:6) ourselves and loath iniquity. This He does when He saves a soul, for "the fear of the Lord is to hate evil" (Prov. 8:13).

Second, to be saved from our sins is to be delivered from the allowance of them. It is the unvarying tendency of the natural heart to excuse evil-doing, to extenuate and gloss it over. At the beginning, Adam declined to acknowledge his guilt, and sought to throw the blame upon his wife. It was the same with Eve: instead of honestly acknowledging her wickedness, she attempted to place the onus on the serpent. But how different is the regenerated person’s attitude toward sin! "For that which I do, I allow not" (Rom. 7:15): Paul committed sin, but he did not approve, still less did he seek to vindicate, it. He disclaimed all friendliness toward it. Nay, more; the real Christian repents of his wrongdoing, confesses it to God, mourns over it, and prays earnestly to be kept from a repetition of the same. Pride, coldness, slothfulness, he hates, yet day by day he finds them reasserting their power over him; yet nightly he returns to the Fountain which has been opened "for sin and for uncleanness" (Zech. 13:1), that he may be cleansed. The true Christian desires to render perfect obedience to God, and cannot rest satisfied with anything short of it; and instead of palliating his failures, he mourns over them.

Third, to be saved from our sins is to be delivered from the reigning power or mastery of them. Sin still indwells the Christian, tempts, annoys, wounds, and daily trips him up: "in many things we offend all" (James 3:2). Nevertheless, sin is not the complete master of the Christian, for he resists and fights against it. While far from being completely successful in his fight, yet, on the other hand, there is a vast difference between him and the helpless slaves of Satan. His repenting, his prayers, his aspirations after holiness, his pressing forward unto the mark set before him, all witness to the fact that sin does not have "dominion" over (Rom. 6:14) him. Undoubtedly there are great differences of attainment among God’s children: in His high sovereignty, God grants more grace unto one than to another. Some of His children are far more plagued by constitutional sins than others. Some who are very largely delivered from outward transgressions are yet made to groan over inward ones. Some who are largely kept from sins of commission have yet to bewail sins of omission. Yet sin is no longer complete master over any who belong to the household of faith.

The last sentence may perhaps discourage some who have a sensitive conscience. He who is really honest with himself and has had his eyes opened in some degree to see the awful sinfulness of self, and who is becoming more and more acquainted with that sink of iniquity, that mass of corruption which still indwells him, often feels that sin more completely rules him now than ever it did before. When he longs to trust God with all his heart, unbelief seems to paralyze him. When he wishes to be completely surrendered to God’s blessed will, murmurings and rebellion surge within him. When he would spend an hour in meditating on the things of God, evil imaginations harass him. When he desires to be more humble, pride seeks to fill him. When he would pray, his mind wanders. The more he fights against these sins, the further off victory seems to be. To him it appears that sin is very much the master of him, and Satan tells him that his profession is vain. What shall we say to such a dear soul who is deeply exercised over this problem? Two things.

First, the very fact that you are conscious of these sins and are so much concerned over your failure to overcome them, is a healthy sign. It is the blind who cannot see; it is the dead who feel not—true alike naturally and spiritually. Only they who have been quickened into newness of life are capable of real sorrow for sin. Moreover, such experiences as we have mentioned above evidence a spiritual growth: a growth in the knowledge of self. As the wise man tells us, "he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow" (Eccl. 1:18). In God’s light we see light (Ps. 36:9). The more the Holy Spirit reveals to me the high claims of God’s holiness, the more I discover how far short I come of meeting them. Let the midday sun shine into a darkened room, and dust and dirt which before were invisible are now plainly seen. So with the Christian: the more the light of God enters his heart, the more he discovers the spiritual filth which dwells there. Beloved brother, or sister, it is not that you are becoming more sinful, but that God is now giving you a clearer and fuller sight of your sinfulness. Praise Him for it, for the eyes of the vast majority of your fellows (religionists included) are blind, and cannot see what so distresses you!

Second, side by side with sin in your heart is grace. There is a new and holy nature within the Christian as well as the old and unholy one. Grace is active within you, as well as sin. The new nature is influencing your conduct as well as the old. Why is it that you so desire to be conformed to the image of Christ, to trust Him fully, love Him fervently, and serve Him diligently? These longings proceed not from the flesh. No, my distressed brother or sister, sin is not your complete master; if it were, all aspirations, prayers, and strivings after holiness would be banished from your heart. There are "as it were the company of two armies" (Song of Sol. 6:13) fighting to gain control of the Christian. As it was with our mother Rebekah—"the children struggled together within her" (Gen. 25:22)—so it is with us. But the very "struggle" shows that the issue is not yet decided: had sin conquered, the soul would no longer be able to resist. The conqueror disarms his enemy so that he can no longer fight back. The very fact that you are still "fighting" proves that sin has not vanquished you! It may seem to you that it soon will: but the issue is not in doubt—Christ will yet save you from the very presence of sin.

Having sought in the above paragraphs to heed the injunction found in Hebrews 12:12, 13 to "lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees," and to make "straight paths" for the feet of God’s little ones, "lest that which is lame be turned out of the way," let us again direct our attention unto those who "have not a doubt" of their acceptance in Christ, and perhaps feel no personal need for what has been said above. The Lord declared that a tree is known by its fruits, so there cannot be anything wrong in examining the tree of our heart, to ascertain what kind of "fruit" it is now bringing forth, and discover whether it be such as may proceed from mere nature, or that which can only issue from indwelling grace. It may at once be objected, But nothing spiritual can issue from ourselves. From our natural selves, No; but from a regenerated person, Yes. But how can an evil tree ever be any different? Christ said, "Make the tree good, and his fruit good" (Matt. 12:33). This is typed out by engrafting a new slip on an old stock. 

All pretentions unto the present enjoyment of the assurance of faith by those whose daily lives are unbecoming the Gospel are groundless. They who are confident of entering that Eternal Happiness which consists very much in a perfect freedom from all sin, but who now allow themselves in the practice of sin (persuading themselves that Christ has fully atoned for the same), are deceived. None truly desire to be free from sin in the future, who do not sincerely long to forsake it in the present. He who does not pant after holiness here is dreadfully mistaken if he imagines he desires holiness hereafter. Glory is but grace consummated; the heavenly life is but the full development of the regenerated life on earth. Neither death nor the second coining of Christ will effect any radical change in the Christian: it will only perfect what he already has and is. Any, then, who pretend unto the assurance of salvation, boast of their pardon and present possession of eternal life, but who have not an experience of deep sorrow for sin, real indignation against it, and hatred of themselves because of transgressions, know nothing at all of what holy assurance is.

In considering the basis of the Christian’s assurance we must distinguish sharply between the ground of his acceptance before God, and his own knowledge that he is accepted by Him. Nothing but the righteousness of Christ-wrought out by Him in His virtuous life and vicarious death—can give any sinner a perfect legal standing before the thrice holy God. And nothing but the communication of a new nature, a supernatural work of grace within, can furnish proof that the righteousness of Christ has been placed to my account. Whom God legally saves, he experimentally saves; whom He justifies, them He also sanctifies. Where the righteousness of Christ is imputed to an individual, a principle of holiness is imparted to him; the former can only be ascertained by the latter. It is impossible to obtain a scriptural knowledge that the merits of Christ’s finished work are reckoned to my account, except by proving that the efficacy of the Holy Spirit’s work is evident in my soul.

"Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure" (2 Pet. 1:10). Why that order of "calling" before "election"? Here it is the converse of what we find in Romans 8:29, 30, "whom he did (1) predestinate, them he also (2) called"; but here in Peter the Christian is bidden to make sure (1) his "calling" and (2) his "election." Why this variation of order? The answer is simple: in Romans 8:29, 30, it is the execution of God’s eternal counsels; but in 2 Peter 1 it is the Christian’s obtaining an experimental knowledge of the same. I have to work back from effect to cause, to examine the fruit so as to discover the nature of the tree. I have no immediate access to the Lamb’s book of life, but if I obtain clear proof that I have been effectually called by God out of the darkness of sin’s enmity into the light of reconciliation, then I know that my name is written there.

And how am Ito make my "calling and election sure"? The context of this passage tells me very plainly. In verses 5-7 we read, "And besides this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue, knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance, patience; and to patience, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love." There we have a summary of those graces which make up the Christian character. The word "add" signifies "supply in connection with," just as in a choir a number of parts and voices unite together in making harmony; or, as in a rainbow the various colors, side by side, blend into one beautiful whole. In the previous verses the apostle had spoken of the grace of God manifested toward His elect: by regeneration they had "escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust." Now he adds, Rest not satisfied with a negative salvation, but press forward unto perfection: be in thorough earnest to "add to your faith" these virtues. Faith is not to be alone, but the other spiritual graces must supplement and adorn it.

In verses 8, 9 the Spirit moved the apostle to set before us the consequences of a compliance or a non-compliance with the duties specified in verses 5-7. The "these things" in verse 8 are the seven graces of the previous verses. If "all diligence" be devoted to the acquiring and cultivating of those lovely virtues, then a certain consequence is sure to follow: as cause stands to effect, so is fruitfulness dependent on Christian diligence. Just as the neglect of our daily food will lead to leanness and feebleness, just as lack of exercise means flabby muscles, so a disregard of the Divine injunction of verse 5 issues in soul-barrenness, lack of vision, and loss of holy assurance. This brings us now to verse 10.

The "Wherefore the rather, brethren," of verse 10 points to a contrast from the sad tragedy presented in verse 9. There we see the pitiful results of being in a backslidden state of soul. There is no remaining stationary in the Christian life: he who does not progress, retrogrades. He who does not diligently heed the Divine precepts, soon loses the good of the Divine promises. He who does not add or conjoin with his "faith" the graces mentioned in verses 5-7, will soon fall under the power of unbelief. He who does not cultivate the garden of his soul, will quickly find it grown over with weeds. He who neglects God’s exhortations will lose the joy of His salvation, and will lapse into such a state of doubting that he will seriously question his Divine sonship. To prevent this the apostle says, "Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure."

The obvious meaning, then, of this exhortation in 2 Peter 1:10 is, Bestir yourselves, take pains to secure satisfactory evidence that you are among the effectually called and elect of God. Let there be no doubt or uncertainty about it: you profess to be a child of God, then justify your profession by cultivating the character and displaying the conduct of one. Sure proof is this that something more than a mere resting upon John 5:24 or Acts 16:3 1 is demanded of us! It is only in proportion as the Christian manifests the fruit of a genuine conversion that he is entitled to regard himself and be regarded by others as one of the called and elect of God. It is just in proportion as we add to our faith the other Christian graces that we have solid ground on which to rest the assurance we belong to the family of Christ. It is not those who are governed by self-will, but "as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God" (Rom. 8:14).

"In times so critical to the interests of vital religion, and amidst such awful departures from the faith as we are daily called upon to behold, it becomes a very anxious inquiry in the breasts of the humble—Is there no method under Divine grace by which the believer may arrive to a well-grounded assurance, concerning the great truths of the Gospel? Is it not possible for him to be so firmly settled in those great truths, as that he shall not only be ready ‘to give an answer to every one that asketh him a reason of the hope that is in him,’ but to find the comfort of it in his own mind, that his faith ‘doth not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God’? To this inquiry I answer, Yes, blessed be God, there is. An infallible method is discovered, at once to secure from the possibility of apostasy, and to afford comfort and satisfaction to the believer’s own mind, concerning the great truths of God; namely, from the Spirit’s work in the heart; by the sweet influences of which he may find ‘joy and peace in believing, and abound in hope through the power of the Holy Spirit’" (Robert Hawker, 1803).

Christian assurance, then, is a scripturally-grounded knowledge that I am in the Narrow Way which leadeth unto life. Thus, it is based upon the Word of God, yet consists of the Holy Spirit’s enabling me to discern in myself a character to which the Divine promises are addressed. We have the same Word to measure ourselves by now as God will judge us by in the Day to Come. Therefore it behooves every serious soul to prayerfully and carefully set down the scriptural marks of God’s children on the one side, and the characteristics of his own soul and life on the other, and determine if there be any real resemblance between them. We will close this section by quoting from the saintly Samuel Rutherford (1637).   You may put a difference betwixt you and reprobates if you have these marks: If ye prize Christ and His truth so as you will sell all and buy Him, and suffer for it. If the love of Christ keeps you back from sinning more than the law or fear of hell does. If you be humble, and deny your own will, wit, credit, case, honour, the world, and the vanity and glory of it. Your profession must not be barren and void of good works. You must in all things aim at God’s honour; you must eat, sleep, buy, sell, sit, stand, speak, pray, read, and hear the Word with a heart purpose that God may be honoured. Acquaint yourself with daily praying; commit all your ways and actions to God by prayer, supplication and thanksgiving; and count not much for being mocked, for Christ Jesus was mocked before you."

HT:  PB Ministries

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A.W. Pink: Studies on Saving Faith, Part 4 - 12. Its Nature


Part IV



Let us begin by asking the question, Assurance of what? That the Holy Scriptures are the inspired and infallible Word of God? No, that is not our subject. Assured that salvation is by grace alone? No, for neither is that our immediate theme. Rather, the assurance that I am no longer in a state of nature, but in a state of grace; and this, not as a mere conjectural persuasion, but as resting on sure evidence. It is a well-authenticated realization that not only has my mind been enlightened concerning the great truths of God’s Word, but that a supernatural work has been wrought in my soul which has made me a new creature in Christ Jesus. A scriptural assurance of salvation is that knowledge which the Holy Spirit imparts to the heart through the Scriptures, that my "faith" is not a natural one, but "the faith of God’s elect" (Titus 1:1), that my love for Christ is sincere and not fictitious, that my daily walk is that of a regenerated man.

The assurance of the saints is, as the Westminster divines said, "by the Spirit enabling them to discern in themselves those graces to which the promises of life are made." Let us seek to amplify that statement. At the commencement of Matthew 5 we find the Lord Jesus pronouncing blessed a certain class of people. They are not named as "believers" or saints," but instead are described by their characters; and it is only by comparing ourselves and others with the description that the Lord Jesus there gave, that we are enabled to identify such. First, He said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit." To be "poor in spirit" is to have a feeling sense that in me, that is, in my flesh, "there dwelleth no good thing" (Rom. 7:18). It is the realization that 1 am utterly destitute of anything and everything which could commend me favorably to God’s notice. It is to recognize that I am a spiritual bankrupt. It is the consciousness, even now (not years ago, when I was first awakened), that I am without strength and wisdom, and that I am a helpless creature, completely dependent upon the grace and mercy of God. To be "poor in spirit" is the opposite of Laodiceanism, which consists of self-complacency and self-sufficiency, imagining I am "rich, and in need of nothing."

"Blessed are they that mourn." It is one thing to believe the theory that I am spiritually a poverty-stricken pauper, it is quite another to have an acute sense of it in my soul. Where the latter exists, there are deep exercises of heart, which evoke the bitter cry, "my leanness, my leanness, woe unto me!" (Isa. 24:16). There is deep anguish that there is so little growth in grace, so little fruit to God’s glory, such a wretched return made for His abounding goodness unto me. This is accompanied by an ever-deepening discovery of the depths of corruption which is still within me. The soul finds that when it would do good, evil is present with him (Rom. 7:21). It is grieved by the motions of unbelief, the swellings of pride, the surging of rebellion against God. Instead of peace, there is war within; instead of realizing his holy aspirations, the blessed one is daily defeated; until the stricken heart cries out, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" (Rom. 7:24).

"Blessed are the meek." Meekness is yieldedness. It is the opposite of self-will. Meekness is pliability and meltedness of heart, which makes me submissive and responsive to God’s will. Now observe, dear reader, these first three marks of the "blessed" consist not in outward actions, but of inward graces; not in showy deeds, but in states of soul. Note too that they are far from being characteristics which will render their possessor pleasing and popular to the world. He who feels himself to be a spiritual pauper will not be welcomed by the wealthy Laodiceans. He who daily mourns for his leanness, his barrenness, his sinfulness, will not be courted by the self-righteous. He who is truly meek will not be sought after by the self-assertive. No, he will be scorned by the Pharisees and looked upon with contempt by those who boast they are "out of Romans 7 and living in Romans 8." These lovely graces, which are of great price in the sight of God, are despised by the bloated professors of the day.

We must not now review the additional marks of the "blessed" named by the Redeemer at the beginning of His precious Sermon on the Mount, but at one other we will just glance. "Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.. Blessed are ye when men shall revile you. . .for My sake" (Matt. 5:10, 11). Observe that this antagonism is not evoked by wrongdoing, or by a well-grounded offence. They who are morose, selfish, haughty, evil speakers, cruel, have no right to shelter behind this beatitude, when people retaliate against them. No, it is where Christ-likeness of character and conduct is assailed; where practical godliness condemns the worldly ways of empty professors, that fires their enmity; where humble but vital piety cannot be tolerated by those who are destitute of the same. Blessed, said Christ, are the spiritual, whom the carnal hate; the gentle sheep, whom the dogs snap at.

Now dear reader, seek grace to honestly measure yourself by these criteria. Do such heavenly graces adorn your soul? Are these marks of those whom the Son of God pronounces "blessed" stamped upon your character? Are you truly "poor in spirit"? We say "truly": for it is easy to adopt expressions and call ourselves names—if you are offended when someone else applies them to you, it shows you do not mean what you say. Do you "mourn" over your lack of conformity to Christ, the feebleness of your faith, the coldness of your love? Are you "meek"? Has your will been broken and your heart made submissive to God? Do you hunger and thirst after righteousness?—do you use the means of grace, your searching of the Scriptures, your prayers, evince it? Are you "merciful," or censorious and harsh? Are you "pure in heart"? grieved when an impure imagination assails? If not, you have no right to regard yourself as "blessed"; instead you are under the curse of a holy and sin-hating God.

It is not, Are these spiritual graces fully developed within you—they never are in this life. But are they truly present at all? It is not are you completely emptied of self, but is it your sincere desire and earnest prayer to be so. It is not do you "mourn" as deeply as you ought over indwelling sin and its activities, but have you felt at all "the plague" of your own heart (1 Kings 8:38). It is not is your meekness all that can be desired, but is there unmistakable proof that the root of it has actually been communicated to your soul? There is a growth: "first the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear." But that which has no existence can have no growth. Has the "seed" (1 Pet. 1:23) of grace been planted in your heart: that is the point which each of us is called upon to determine—not to assume, or take for granted, but to make "sure" (2 Pet. 1:10) of. And this is done when we faithfully examine our hearts to discover whether or not there is in them those spiritual graces to which the promises of God are addressed.

While Gospel assurance is the opposite of carnal presumption and of unbelieving doubts, yet it is far from being opposed to thorough self-examination. But alas, so many have been taught, and by men highly reputed for their orthodoxy, that if it is not actually wrong, it is highly injurious for a Christian to look within. There is a balance of truth to be observed here, as everywhere. That one might become too introspective is readily granted, but that a Christian is never to search his own heart, test his faith, scrutinize his motives, and make sure that he has the "root of the matter" within him (Job 19:28), is contradicted by many plain Scriptures. Regeneration is a work which God performs within us (Phil. 1:6), and as eternal destiny hinges on the same, it behooves every serious soul to take the utmost pains and ascertain whether or not this miracle of grace has been wrought within him. When Paul stood in doubt of the state of the Galatians, he said, "My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you" (4:19). So to the Colossians he wrote, "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (1:27).

"For everyone that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in (or "by") God" (John 3:20, 21). Here is one of the vital differences between the unregenerate and the regenerate, the unbelieving and the believing. Unbelief is far more than an error of judgment, or speculative mistake into which an honest mind may fall; it proceeds from heart-enmity against God. The natural man, while left to himself, hates the searching light of God (v. 19), fearful lest it should disquiet the conscience, expose the fallacy of his presumptuous confidence, and shatter his false peace. But it is the very reverse with him who has been given "an honest and good heart." He who acts sincerely and conscientiously, desiring to know and do the whole will of God without reserve, welcomes the Light.

The genuine Christian believes what Scripture says concerning the natural heart, namely, that it is "deceitful above all things" (Jer. 17:9), and the surest proof that he does believe this solemn fact is that he is deeply concerned lest "a deceived heart hath turned him aside" (Isa. 44:20), and caused him to believe that all is well with his soul, when in reality he is yet "in the gall of bitterness, and the bond of iniquity." He believes what God’s Word says about Satan, the great deluder, and trembles lest, after all, the Devil has beguiled him with a false peace. Such a possibility, such a likelihood, occasions him much exercise of soul. Like David of old (and every other genuine saint), he "communes with his own heart" (Ps. 4:4), and his "spirit (makes) diligent search" (Ps. 77:6). He turns to the light of Holy Writ, anxious to have his character and conduct scrutinized by the same, desiring to have his deeds made manifest, as to whether they proceed from self-love or real love to God.

It is not that we are here seeking to foster any confidence in self, rather do we desire to promote real confidence toward God. It is one thing to make sure that I love God, and it is quite another for me to find satisfaction in that love. The self-examination which the Scriptures enjoin (in 1 Cor. 11:28, for example), is not for the purpose of finding something within to make me more acceptable to God, nor as a ground of my justification before Him; but is with the object of discovering whether Christ is being formed in me. There are two extremes to be guarded against: such an undue occupation with the work of the Spirit within, that the heart is taken off from the work of Christ for His people; and, such a one-sided emphasis upon the imputed righteousness of Christ that the righteousness imparted by the Spirit is ignored and disparaged. It is impossible that the Third Person of the Trinity should take up His abode within a soul, without effecting a radical change within him: and it is this which I need to make sure of. It is the Spirit’s work within the heart which is the only infallible proof of salvation.

It is perfectly true that as I look within and seek to faithfully examine my heart in the light of Scripture, that the work of the Spirit is not all I shall discover there. No, indeed: much corruption still remains. The genuine Christian finds clear evidence of two natures, two contrary principles at work within him. This is brought out plainly, not only in Romans 7 and Galatians 5:17, but strikingly too in the Song of Solomon: "What will ye see in the Shulamite? As it were the company of two armies" (6:13). Hence it is that in her present state, the Bride says, "I am black, but comely, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, as the tents of Kedar, as the curtains of Solomon" (1:5). And again, "I sleep, but my heart waketh" (5:2)—strange language to the natural man, but quite intelligible to the spiritual. And therefore is it also that the renewed soul so often finds suited to his case the prayer of Mark 9:24: "Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief."

It is because the real Christian finds within himself so much that is conflicting, that it is difficult for him to be sure of his actual state. And therefore does he cry, "Examine me, O Lord, and prove me; try my reins and my heart" (Ps. 26:2). They who are filled with a carnal assurance, a fleshly confidence, a vain presumption, feel no need for asking the Lord to "prove" them. So completely has Satan deceived them, that they imagine it would be an act of unbelief so to do. Poor souls, they "call evil good, and good evil"; they "put darkness for light, and light for darkness" (Isa. 5:20). One of the surest marks of regeneration is that the soul frequently cries "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (Ps. 139:23, 24).

Perhaps some of our readers are still ready to say, "I do not see that there needs to be so much difficulty in ascertaining whether one is in a lost or saved condition: I am resting upon John 5:24, and that is sufficient for me." But allow us to point out, dear friend, that John 5:24 is not a promise which Christ gave to an individual disciple, but instead, a doctrinal declaration which He made in the hearing of a mixed multitude. If the objector replies, "I believe that verse does contain a promise, and I am going to hold fast to it," then may we lovingly ask, Are you sure that it belongs to you? That John 5:24 contains a precious promise, we gladly acknowledge, but to whom is it made? Let us examine it: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life."

That promise is given to a definitely defined character, namely, "He that heareth my word." Now dear reader, can it be truthfully said that you are one that "heareth" His Word? Are you sure? Do not be misled by the mere sound of words. The reference here is not to the hearing of the outward ear, but to the response of the heart. In the days that He sojourned on earth, there were many of whom the Lord Jesus had to say that "hearing (with the outward ear), they hear not" with the heart (Matt. 13:13). So it is still. To "hear" spiritually, to "hear" savingly, is to heed (Matt. 18:15), is to obey (Matt. 17:5; John 10:27; Heb. 3:7). Ah, are you obedient? Have you searched the Scriptures diligently in order to discover His commandments? And that, not to satisfy an idle curiosity, but desiring to put them into practice? Do you love His commandments? Are you actually doing them? Not once or twice, but regularly, as the main tenor of your life—for note it is not "hear" but "heareth."

Does someone object, "All of this is getting away from the simplicity of Christ: you are taking us from the Word, and seeking to get us occupied with ourselves." Well, does not Scripture say, "Take heed unto thyself" (1 Tim. 4:16)? But it may be answered, "There cannot be any certainty while we are occupied with our wretched selves; I prefer to abide by the written Word." To this we have no objection at all: what we are here pressing is the vital necessity of making sure that the portions of the Word you cite or are resting upon, fairly and squarely belong to you. The reader may refer me to "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved" (Acts 16:31) and ask, Is not that plain enough? But have you ever noted, dear friend, to whom the apostles addressed those words, and all the attendant circumstances?

It was neither to a promiscuous crowd, nor to a careless and unconcerned soul, that the apostles said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved. Rather was it to an awakened, deeply exercised, penitent soul, who had taken his place in the dust, and in deepest anguish cried, "What must I do to be saved?" However, what is the use you are making of Acts 16:31? You answer, "This: those words are divinely simple, I believe in Christ, and therefore I am saved; God says so, and the Devil cannot shake me." Possibly he is not at all anxious to; he may be well content for you to retain a carnal confidence. But observe, dear friend, the apostles did not tell the stricken jailor to "believe on Jesus" nor "believe in Christ"; but to "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ."

What does it mean to savingly "believe"? We have sought to answer this question at length in our recent articles on "Saving Faith." But let us now give a brief reply. John 1:12 makes it clear that to "believe" is to "receive," to receive "Christ Jesus the Lord" (Col. 2:6). Christ is the Saviour of none until He is welcomed as Lord. The immediate context shows plainly the particular character in which Christ is there viewed: "He came unto his own" (John 1:11); He was their rightful Owner, because their Lord. But "his own received him not"; no, they declared, "We will not have this man to reign over us" (Luke 19:14). Ah, dear friend, this is searching. Have you received "the Lord Jesus Christ"? We do not ask, "Are you resting on His finished work," but have you bowed to His scepter and owned His authority in a practical way? Have you disowned your own sinful lordship? If not, you certainly have not "believed on the Lord Jesus Christ," and therefore the promise of Acts 16:3 1 does not belong to you.

"Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his" (Rom. 8:9). This is just as much a part of God’s Word as is Acts 16:3 1. Why do we not hear it quoted as frequently! And how can anyone know that he is indwelt by the Spirit of Christ? Only by discovering within him the fruits of His regenerating and sanctifying grace. Not that either these "fruits" or the "good works" of the Christian are in any wise or to any degree meritorious. No, no; but as the evidence of his Divine sonship.

HT: PB Ministries

YouTube: The Cross Eyed Life (Art Azurdia)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Spurgeon Monday: The Sheep and Their Shepherd (Sermons on the Gospel of John)

The Sheep and Their Shepherd

A Sermon

(No. 995)

Delivered by


At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington


"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me."—John 10:27.

CHRISTIANS ARE HERE compared to sheep. Not a very flattering comparison you may say; but then we do not wish to be flattered, nor would our Lord deem it good to flatter us, While far from flattering, it is, however, eminently consoling, for of all creatures there are not any more compassed about with infirmity than sheep. In this frailty of their nature they are a fit emblem of ourselves; at least, of so many of us as have believed in Jesus and become his disciples. Let others boast how strong they are; yet if there be strong ones anywhere, certainly we are weak. We have proved our weakness, and day by day we lament it. We do confess our weakness; yet may we not repine at it, for, as Paul said, so we find, when we are weak then are we strong. Sheep have many wants, yet they are very helpless, and quite unable to provide for themselves. But for the shepherd's cure they would soon perish. This, too, is our case. Our spiritual needs are numerous and pressing, Yet we cannot supply any of them. We are travelers through a wilderness that yields us neither food nor water. Unless our bread drop down from heaven, and our water flow out of the living rock, we must die. Our weakness and our want we keenly feel: still we have no cause to murmur, since the Lord knows our poor estate, and succours us with the tenderest care. Sheep, too, are silly creatures, and in this respect likewise we are very sheepish. We meekly own it to him who is ready to guide us. We say, as David said, "O God, thou knowest my foolishness;" and he says to us as he said to David, "I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go." If Christ were not our wisdom, we should soon fall a prey to the destroyer. Every grain of true wisdom that we possess we have derived from him; of ourselves we are dull and giddy; folly is bound up in our heart. The more conscious you are, deer brethren, of your own deficiencies, your lack of stamina, discretion, sagacity, and all the instincts of self-preservation, the more delighted you will be to see that the Lord accepts you under these conditions, and calls you the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand. He discerns you as you are, claims you as his own, foresees all the ills to which you are exposed, yet tends you as his flock, sets store by every lamb of the fold, and so feeds you according to the integrity of his heart, and guides you by the skilfulness of his hands. "I will feed my flock, and I will cause them to lie down, saith the Lord God." Oh, what sweet music there is to us in the name which is given to our Lord Jesus Christ of "the good Shepherd"! It not only describes the office he holds, but it sets forth the sympathy he feels, the aptness he shows, and the responsibility he bears to promote our well-being. What if the sheep be weak, yet is the shepherd strong to guard his flock from the prowling wolf or the roaring lion. If the sheep suffer privation because the soil is barren, yet is the shepherd able to lead them into pasturage suitable for them. If they be foolish, yet he goes before them, cheers them with his voice, and rules them with the rod of his command. There cannot be a flock without a shepherd; neither is there a shepherd truly without a flock. The two must go together. They are the fullness of each other. As the church is the fullness of him that filleth all in all, so we rejoice to remember that "of his fullness have all we received, and grace for grace." That I am like a sheep is a sorry reflection; but that I have a shepherd charms away the sorrow and creates a new joy. It even becomes a gladsome thing to be weak, that I may rely on his strength; to be full of wants, that I may draw from his fullness; to be shallow and often at my wit's end, that I may be always regulated by his wisdom. Even so doth my shame redound to his praise. Not to you, ye great and mighty, who lift your heads high, and claim for yourselves honor: not for you is peace, not to you is rest; but unto you, ye lowly ones, who delight in the valley of humiliation, and feel yourselves to be taken down in your own esteem—to you it is that the Shepherd becomes dear; and to you will he give to lie down in green pastures beside the still waters.

In a very simple way, we shall speak about the proprietor of the sheep. "My sheep," says Christ. Then, we shall have a little to say about the marks of the sheep. After that I propose to talk awhile about the privileges of the sheep. "I know my sheep:" they are privileged to be known of Christ. "My sheep hear my voice."

I. Who is the proprietor of the sheep? They are all Christ's. "My sheep hear my voice." How came the saints to be Christ's?

They are his, first of all, because he chose them. Ere the worlds were made, out of all the rest of mankind he selected them. He knew the race would fall, and become unworthy of the faculties with which he endowed them, and the inheritance he had assigned them. To him belonged the sovereign prerogative that he might have mercy on whom he would have mercy; and he, out of his own absolute will, and according to the counsel of his own good pleasure, made choice severally and individually of certain persons, and he said, "These are mine." Their names were written in his book: they became his portion and his heritage. Having chosen them of old so many ages ago, rest assured he will not lose them now. Men prize that which they have long had. If there is a thing that was mine but yesterday, and it is lost today, I might not fret about it; but if I have long possessed it, and called it my patrimony, I would not willingly part with it. Sheep of Christ, ye shall be his for ever, because ye have been his from ever. They are Christ's sheep, because his Father gave them to him. They were the gift of the Father to Christ. He often speaks of them in this way. "As many as thou hast given me:" "Thou hast given them me," saith he, over and over again. Of old, the Father gave his people to Christ. Separating them from among men, he presented them to him as a gift, committed them into his hand as a trust, and ordained them for him as the lot of his inheritance. Thus they become a token of the Father's love to his only begotten Son, a proof of the confidence he reposed in him, and a pledge of the honor that shall be done unto him. Now, I suppose we most of us know how to value a gift for the donor's sake. If presented to us by one whom we love, we set great store by it. If it has been designed to be a love-token, it awakens in our minds many sweet memories. Though the intrinsic worth may be of small account, the associations make it exceedingly precious. We might be content to lose something of far greater value in itself rather than that which is the gift of a friend, the offering of his love I like the delicate sentiment of the poet, as it is expressed in that pretty verse—

"I never cast a flower away,

The gift of one who cared for me;

A little flower—a faded flower,

But it was done reluctantly."

Yet, oh, how weak the words of human passion! but, oh, how strong the expressions of divine ardor, when Jesus speaks to the Father of "the men whom thou gavest me out of the world"! "Thine they were," he says, "and thou gavest them me; and those that thou gavest me I have kept." Ye sheep of Christ, rest safely; let not your soul be disturbed with fear. The Father gave you to his Son, and he will not lightly lose what God himself has given him. The infernal lions shall not rend the meanest lamb that is a love-token from the Father to his best Beloved. While Christ stands defending his own, he will protect them from the lion and the bear, that would take the lambs of his flock; he will not suffer the least of them to perish.

"My sheep," says Christ. They are his, furthermore, because, in addition to his choice and to the gift, he has bought them with a price. They had sold themselves for nought; but he has redeemed them, not with corruptible things as with silver and gold, but with his precious blood. A man always esteems that to be exceedingly valuable which he procured with risk—with risk of life and limb. David felt he could not drink the water that the brave warriors who broke through the host of the Philistines brought to him from the well at Bethlehem, because it seemed to him as though it were the blood of the men that went in jeopardy of their lives; and he poured it out before the Lord. It was too precious a draught for him, when men's lives had been hazarded for it. But the good Shepherd not only hazarded his life, but even laid it down for his sheep. Jacob exceedingly valued one part of his possessions, and he gave it to Joseph: he gave him one portion above his brethren. Now, you may be sure he would give, Joseph that which he thought most precious. But why did he give him that particular portion? Because, he says, "I took it out of the hand of the Amorite with my sword and with my bow." Now, our blessed Shepherd esteems his sheep because they cost him his blood. They cost him his blood—I may say, he took them out of the hand of the Amorite with his sword and with his bow in bloody conflict, where he was victor, but yet was slain. There is not one sheep of all his flock but what he can see the mark of his blood on him. In the face of every saint the Savior sees, as in a glass, the memorial of his bloody sweat in Gethsemane, and his agonies at Golgotha. "Ye are not your own, for ye are bought with a price." That stands as a call to duty, but it is at the same time a consolation, for if he has bought me, he will have me. Bought with such a price, he will not like to lose me, nor suffer any foe to take me out of his hand. Think not that Christ will suffer those to perish for whom he died. To me the very suggestion seems to draw near to the verge of blasphemy. If he has bought me with his blood, I cannot conceive he cares nothing for me, will take no further concern about me, or will suffer my soul to be cast into the pit. If he has suffered in my stead, where is justice gone that the substitute should bear my guilt, and I should bear it too? and where is mercy fled, that God should execute twice the punishment for one offense! Nay, beloved, those whom he hath bought with blood are his, and he will keep them.

"My sheep," says Christ. They are his, or in due time they shall become so, through his capturing them by sacred power. As well by power are we redeemed as by price, for the blood-bought sheep had gone astray even as others. "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way," but, my brethren, the good shepherd has brought many of us back with infinite condescension: with boundless mercy he followed us when we went astray. Oh, what blind slaves we were when we sported with death! We did not know then what his love had ordained for us: it never entered our poor, silly heads that there was a crown for us; we did not know that the Father's love had settled itself on us, or ever the day-star knew its place. We know it now, and it is he that has taught us; for he followed us over mountains of vanity, through bogs and miry places of foul transgression; tracked our devious footsteps on and on, through youth and menhood, till at last, with mighty grace, he grasped us in his arms and laid us on his shoulder, and is this day carrying us home to the great fold above, rejoicing as he bears all our weight and finds us in all we need. Oh, that blessed work of effectual grace! He has made us his own, he has defeated the enemy, the prey has been taken from the mighty, and the lawful captive has been delivered. "He hath broken the gates of brass, and cut the bars of iron asunder," to set his people free. "O that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!"

"My SHEEP," saith Christ, as he stands in the midst of his disciples. "My Shepherd," let us one and all reply. All the sheep of Christ who have been redeemed by his power, become his by their own willing and cheerful surrender of themselves to him. We would not belong to another if we might; nor would we wish to belong to ourselves if we could; nor, I trust, do we want any part of ourselves to be our own property. Judge ye whether this be true of you or not. In that day when I surrendered my soul to my Savior, I gave him my body, my soul, my spirit; I gave him all I had, and all I shall have for time and for eternity. I gave him all my talents, my powers, my faculties, my eyes, my ears, my limbs, my emotions, my judgment, my whole manhood, and all that could come of it, whatever fresh capacity or new capability I may be endowed with. Were I at this good hour to change the note of gladness for one of sadness, it should be to wail out my penitent confession of the times and circumstances in which I have failed to observe the strict and unwavering allegiance I owe to my Lord. So far from regretting, I would fain renew my vows and make them over again. In this I think every Christian would join.

"'Tis done!

the great transaction's done:

I am my Lord's, and he is mine:

He drew me, and I follow'd on,

Charm'd to confess the voice divine.

Now rest, my long-divided heart;

Fix'd on this blissful center, rest:

With ashes who would grudge to part,

When call'd on angels' bread to feast?

High heaven, that heard the solemn vow,

That vow renew'd shall daily hear:

Till in life's latest hour I bow,

And bless in death a bond so dear."

And yet, brethren, though our hearts may now be all in a glow, lest they should presently grow cold, or the bleak atmosphere of this evil world should chill our devotion, let us never cease to think of the good Shepherd in that great, good act, which most of all showed his love when he laid down his life for the sheep. You have heard the story told by Francis de Sales. He saw a girl carrying a pail of water on her head, in the midst of which she had placed a piece of wood. On asking her why she did this, she told him it was to prevent the motion of the water, for fear it might be spilt. And so, said he, let us place the cross of Christ in the midst of our hearts to check the movement of our affections, that they may not be spilt in restless cares or grievous troubles.

"My sheep," says Christ, and thus he describes his people. They are Christ's, his own, a peculiar property. May I hope that this truth will be henceforth treasured up in your soul! It is a common truth, certainly; but when it is laid home by the Holy Spirit it shines, it beams, not merely as a lamp in a dark chamber, but as the day-star rising in your hearts. Remember this is no more our shame that we are sheep, but it is our honor that we are Christ's sheep. To belong to a king carries some measure of distinction. We are the sheep of the imperial pastures. This is our safety: he will not suffer the enemy to destroy his sheep. This is our sanctity: we are separated, the sheep of the pasture of the Lord's Christ. This is sanctification in one aspect of it: for it is the making of us holy, by setting us apart to be the Lord's own portion for ever. And this is the key to our duty: we are his sheep: then let us live to him, and consecrate ourselves to him who loved us and gave himseif for us. Christ is the proprietor of the sheep; and are the property of the good Shepherd. (Please click here to continue reading, "The Sheep and Their Shepherd") 

YouTube: Your New Worship Leader - Glenn Beck, Evangelicals and Mormons pray and sing Amazing Grace together (Wretched - Todd Friel)

Friday, May 14, 2010

Fighting Friday: Charity and Its Fruits - Love Disposes Us Meekly to Bear the Injuries Received from Others, Jonathan Edwards (4/13)

Love Disposes Us Meekly to Bear the Injuries Received from Others


Jonathan Edwards


Charity suffers long, and is kind. - 1 Corinthians 13:4

The apostle, in the previous verses, as we have seen, sets forth how great and essential a thing charity, or a spirit of Christian love, is, in Christianity: that it is far more necessary and excellent than any of the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit, that it far exceeds all external performances and sufferings, and, in short, that it is the sum of all that is distinguishing and saving in Christianity the very life and soul of all religion, without which, though we give all our goods to feed the poor, and our bodies to be burned, we are nothing. And now he proceeds, as his subject naturally leads him, to show the excellent nature of charity, by describing its several amiable and excellent fruits. In the text, two of these fruits are mentioned: suffering long, which has respect to the evil or injury received from others; and being kind, which has respect to the good to be done to others. Dwelling, for the present, on the first of these points, I would endeavor to show,


Meekness is a great part of the Christian spirit. Christ, in that earnest and touching call and invitation of his that we have in the eleventh chapter of Matthew, in which he invites all that labor and are heavy-laden to come to himself for rest, particularly mentions, that he would have them come to learn of him; for he adds, “I am meek and lowly in heart.” And meekness, as it respects injuries received from men, is called long-suffering in the Scriptures, and is often mentioned as an exercise, or fruit of the Christian spirit (Gal. 5:22) — “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering;” and Eph. 4:1, 2 “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering,” etc.; and Col. 3:12, 13 — “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercy, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.”

In dwelling more fully on this point, I would — I. Take notice of some of the various kinds of injuries that we may receive from others; II. Show what is meant by meekly bearing such injuries; and, III. How that love, which is the sum of the Christian spirit, will dispose us to do this. And,

I. I would briefly notice some of the various kind of injuries that we may or do receive from others. — Some injure others in their estates by unfairness and dishonesty in their dealings, by being fraudulent and deceitful with them, or at least by leading them to act in the dark, and taking advantage of their ignorance; or by oppressing them, taking advantage of their necessities; or by unfaithfulness towards them, not fulfilling their promises and engagements, and being slack and slighting in any business they are employed in by their neighbors, aiming at nothing but just to meet the letter of their engagements, and not being careful to improve their time to the utmost in accomplishing that which they are engaged to do; or by asking unreasonable prices for what they do; or by withholding what is due, from their neighbors, unjustly, neglecting to pay their debts, or unnecessarily putting their neighbors to trouble and difficulty to get what is due from them. And besides these, there are many other methods in which men injure one another in their dealings, by an abundance of crooked and perverse ways, in which they are far from doing to others as they would have them do to themselves, and by which they provoke and irritate and injure one another.

Some injure others in their good name, by reproaching or speaking evil of them behind their backs. No injury is more common, and no iniquity more frequent or base, than this. Other ways of injury are abundant, but the amount of injury by evil-speaking of this kind, is beyond account. Some injure others by making or spreading false reports about them, and so cruelly slandering them. Others, without saying that which is directly false, greatly misrepresent things, picturing out everything respecting their neighbors in the worst colors, exaggerating their faults, and setting them forth as far greater than they really are, always speaking of them in an unfair and unjust manner. A great deal of injury is done among neighbors by thus uncharitably judging one another, and putting injurious and evil constructions on one another’s words and actions.

Persons may greatly injure others in their thoughts, by unjustly entertaining mean thoughts, or a low esteem of them. Some are deeply and continually injurious to others, by the contempt they habitually have of them in their hearts, and by their willingness to think the worst about them. And, as the outflowing of the thoughts, a great deal is done to the injury of others by the words; for the tongue is but too ready to be the wicked instrument of expressing the evil thoughts and feelings of the soul, and hence, in the Scriptures (Job 5:21), it is called a scourge, and is compared (Psa. 140:3) to the fangs of some very poisonous kinds of serpents, whose bite is supposed to cause death.

Sometimes men injure others in their treatment and actions towards them, and in the injurious deeds they do them. If clothed with authority, they sometimes carry themselves very injuriously toward those over whom their authority extends, by behaving very assumingly and magisterially and tyrannically toward them. Sometimes those who are under authority, carry themselves very injuriously toward those who are over them, by denying them that respect and honor which are due to their places, and thus to themselves while they occupy them. Some carry themselves very injuriously toward others by the exercise of a very selfish spirit, seeming to be all for themselves, and apparently having no regard to the good or benefit of their neighbor, but all their contrivance is only to better their own interests. Some carry themselves injuriously in the manifestation of a very haughty and proud spirit, as though they thought they were more excellent than all others, and that nobody was at all to be regarded except themselves alone. This appears in their air and talk and actions, and their greatly assuming behavior in general, all of which are such, that those about them feel, and justly feel, that they are injured by them. Some carry themselves very injuriously by the exercise of a very willful spirit, being so desperately set on having their own way, that they will, if possible, bend everything to their own will, and never will alter their career, nor yield to the wishes of others. They shut their eyes against the light or motives others may offer, and have no regard to anyone’s inclination but their own, being always perverse and willful in having their own way. Some carry themselves injuriously in the course they take in public affairs, acting not so much from a regard for the public good, as from the spirit of opposition to some party, or to some particular person, so that the party or person opposed is injured, and oftentimes is greatly provoked and exasperated. Some injure others by the malicious and wicked spirit they cherish against them, whether with or without cause. It is not an uncommon thing for neighbors to dislike and even hate one another; not cherishing anything like love to each other in their hearts, but whether they acknowledge it or not, in reality hating one another, having no delight in each other’s honor and prosperity, but, on the contrary, being pleased when they are cast down and in adversity, foolishly and wickedly thinking, perhaps, that another’s fall is their own elevation, which it never is. Some injure others by the spirit of envy they show toward them, cherishing ill-will toward them for no other reason than for the honor and prosperity they enjoy.

Many injure others from a spirit of revenge, deliberately returning evil for evil, for real or imaginary injuries received from them. Some, as long as they live, will keep up a grudge in their hearts against their neighbor, and whenever an opportunity offers, will act it out in injury to him in the spirit of malice. And in innumerable other particular ways which might be mentioned, do men injure one another; though these may suffice for our present purpose. But,

II. I would go on to show what is meant by meekly bearing such injuries, or how they ought meekly to be borne. — And here I would show, first, the nature of the duty enjoined; and then why it is called long-suffering, or suffering long. And,

1. I would show the nature of the duty of meekly bearing the injuries we suffer from others. And,

First, it implies that injuries offered should be borne without doing anything to revenge them. — There are many ways in which men do that which is revengeful: not merely by actually bringing some immediate suffering on the one that may have injured them, but by anything, either in speech or behavior, which shows a bitterness of spirit against him for what he has done. Thus, if after we are offended or injured, we speak reproachfully to our neighbor, or of him to others, with a design to lower or injure him, and that we may gratify the bitter spirit we feel in our hearts for the injury that neighbor has done us, this is revenge. He, therefore, that exercises a Christian long-suffering toward his neighbor, will bear the injuries received from him without revenging or retaliating, either by injurious deeds or bitter words. He will bear it without doing anything against his neighbor that shall manifest the spirit of resentment, without speaking to him, or of him, with revengeful words, and without allowing a revengeful spirit in his heart, or manifesting it in his behavior. He will receive all with a calm, undisturbed countenance, and with a soul full of meekness, quietness, and goodness. This he will manifest in all his behavior to the one that has injured him, whether to his face or behind his back. Hence it is, that this virtue is recommended in the Scriptures under the name of gentleness, or as always connected with it, as may be seen in Jam. 3:17, and Gal. 5:22. In him that exercises the Christian spirit as he ought, there will not be a passionate, rash, or hasty expression, or a bitter, exasperated countenance, or an air of violence in the talk or behavior. But, on the contrary, the countenance and words and demeanor will all manifest the savor of peaceableness and calmness and gentleness. He may perhaps reprove his neighbor. This may clearly be his duty. But if he does, it will be without impoliteness, and without that severity that can tend only to exasperate. Though it may be with strength of reason and argument, and with plain and decided expostulation, it will still be without angry reflections or contemptuous language. He may show a disapprobation of what has been done, but it will be not with an appearance of high resentment, but as reproving the offender for a sin against God, rather than as for the offense against himself: as lamenting his calamity, more than resenting his injury, as seeking his good, not his hurt, and as one that more desires to deliver the offender out of the error into which he has fallen, than to be even with him for the injury done to himself. The duty enjoined also implies,

Secondly, that injuries be borne with the continuance of love in the heart, and without those inward emotions and passions that tend to interrupt and destroy it. — Injuries should be borne, where we are called to suffer them, not only without manifesting an evil and revengeful spirit in our words and actions, but also without such a spirit in the heart. We should not only control our passions when we are injured, and refrain from giving vent to outward revenge, but the injury should be borne without the spirit of revenge in the heart. Not only a smooth external behavior should be continued, but also a sincere love with it. We should not cease to love our neighbor because he has injured us. We may pity, but not hate him for it. The duty enjoined also implies,

Thirdly, that injuries be borne without our losing the quietness and repose of our own minds and hearts. They should not only be borne without a rough behavior, but with a continuance of inward calmness and repose of spirit. When the injuries we suffer are allowed to disturb our calmness of mind, and put us into an excitement and tumult, then we cease to bear them in the true spirit of long-suffering. If the injury is permitted to discompose and disquiet us, and to break up our inward rest, we cannot enjoy ourselves, and are not in a state to engage properly in our various duties, and especially we are not in a state for religious duties — for prayer and meditation. And such a state of mind is the contrary of the spirit of long-suffering and meekly bearing of injuries that is spoken of in the text. Christians ought still to keep the calmness and serenity of their minds undisturbed, whatever injuries they may suffer. Their souls should be serene, and not like the unstable surface of the water, disturbed by every wind that blows. No matter what evils they may suffer, or what injuries may be inflicted on them, they should still act on the principle of the words of the Savior to his disciples (Luke 21:19) — “In your patience possess ye your souls.” The duty we are speaking of also implies, once more <![endif]>

Fourthly, that in many cases, when we are injured, we should be willing to suffer much in our interests and feelings for the sake of peace, rather than do what we have opportunity, and perhaps the right, to do in defending ourselves. — When we suffer injuries from others, the case is often such that a Christian spirit, if we did but exercise it as we ought, would dispose us to forbear taking the advantage we may have to vindicate and right ourselves. For by doing otherwise, we may be the means of bringing very great calamity on him that has injured us, and tenderness toward him may and ought to dispose us to a great deal of forbearance, and to suffer somewhat ourselves, rather than bring so much suffering on him. And besides, such a course would probably lead to a violation of peace, and to an established hostility, whereas in this way there may be hope of gaining our neighbor, and from an enemy making him a friend. These things are manifest from what the apostle says to the Corinthians concerning going to law one with another — “Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?” (1 Cor. 6:7) Not that all endeavors in men to defend and right themselves, when they are injured by others, are censurable, or that they should suffer all the injuries that their enemies please to bring upon them, rather than improve an opportunity they have to defend and vindicate themselves, even though it be to the damage of him that injures them. But in many, and probably in most cases, men ought to suffer long first, in the spirit of the long-suffering charity of the text. And the case may often be such, that they may be called to suffer considerably, as charity and prudence shall direct, for the sake of peace, and from a sincere Christian love to the one that injures them, rather than deliver themselves in the way they may have opportunity for. Having thus shown what is implied in this virtue, I would now show, briefly, (Please click here to continue reading, Love Disposes Us Meekly to Bear the Injuries Received from Others)
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