Andrew Bonar (1810-1892): What Gives Assurance

What Gives Assurance
Andrew Bonar (1810-1892)
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What Gives Assurance

Note: This was originally a sermon preached at Ferryden, during the awakening in the end of 1859. It was thought to be useful in disentangling the perplexities of some anxious souls; and this gave rise to the request for its publication. (This address was published by Messrs. Chas. Glass and Co., Glasgow.) It is very interesting to notice how, in such times of awakening, the spiritual instincts imparted to the new-born soul by the Holy Ghost seek out the truth. One day, in a fisherman’s house, we found two females sitting together with the Assembly’s Shorter Catechism in their hands. They were talking over the questions on ‘Justification and ‘Adoption,’ and were comparing these with some of the ‘benefits which accompany or flow from them,’ namely, ‘assurance of God’s love, peace of conscience, and joy in the Holy Ghost.’ They were themselves happy in the calm assurance of the love of God; but a neighbour had somewhat perplexed them by insisting that they had no right to assurance until they could point to sanctifcation showing itself in their after-lives. On the other hand, those two souls could not see why they should wait till then; for if they had been ‘justified,’ and had a ‘right to all the privileges of the sons of God,’ they might at once have ‘assurance of God’s love.’ This incident falls in with the strain of the following discourse.

Many are the persons who have envied Isaiah, to whom personally the messenger from the throne said, ‘Thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin is purged’ (Isaiah 6:7). They are ready to say, ‘Oh, if we heard the same.’ Many are the persons who have envied Daniel, to whom the Lord said, ‘Thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days’ (Daniel 12:13). Daniel was thus assured of the future; with him it was to be rest at death, and a lot, or portion (Josh. 15:1; 16:1), in the inheritance of the saints on the morning of the resurrection of the just. And so also have such persons wished that their case were that of the man to whom, directly and personally, Jesus said, ‘Son, thy sins are forgiven thee’ (Mark 2: 5); and that of the woman in Simon’s house, whose ear heard the blessed declaration, ‘Thy sins are forgiven’ (Luke 7:48); or even that of the thief ‘To-day shalt thou be with Me in paradise’ (Luke 23:43). These sinners were all of them personally certified of pardon and acceptance, and we are ready to think that it would be the height of happiness for ourselves to have, like them, a declaration of our personal forgiveness sounding in our ear.

Now, ere we have finished our subject, we may be able (if the Lord, the Spirit, lead us into the truth set forth in the Word) to see that, after all, we may be as sure and certain of our pardon and acceptance as any or all of these – as sure as Isaiah, Daniel, the palsied man, the woman-sinner, the dying thief, and, let us add, as sure of it as Paul was of Clement and other fellow-labourers having their names in the Book of Life (Phil. 4:3). Nay, we may even discover that our certainty is in all respects higher than theirs was, being founded on something far better than one single announcement, which, in the lapse of time, might lose very much of its distinctness and of its power.

Oh, how blessed to be able to point heavenward and say, ‘It is mine!’ – to point to the throne and say, ‘He is mine who sitteth there’ – to look back and find your name in the Book of Everlasting Love! – to look forward to the opening of the Book of Life, knowing that your name is in it! – to be able to anticipate resurrection, and to sing

‘I know that safe with Him remains,
Protected by His power,
What I’ve committed to His trust,
Till the decisive hour.

Then will He own His servant’s name
Before His Father’s face,
And in the New Jerusalem
Appoint my soul a place.’

We begin by noticing that Assurance is far oftener spoken of than sought for. Many may be said, in a vague sense, to wish for it, who, after all, do not seek after it. Not a few of our communicants, men of knowledge and good attainment, men of high Christian profession, are rather disposed to evade the question, Are you sure of your salvation? They are content to go on in uncertainty. Some of these even spurn from them the idea of any one having full Assurance, branding the idea as Presumption. They quite mistake the meaning of Presumption, which is claiming what we have not been invited to, and are not warranted to take. They do not see that there can be no presumption in our taking whatever our God has invited us to accept; and that, on the other hand, if we decline taking what our God presents to us, we are assuming to ourselves a right to judge of the fitness and wisdom of His proceedings.

Such persons are not in right earnest about salvation and the favour of God. They take things easy. They admit that they may die to-day or tomorrow, and that they do not certainly know what is to become of them and yet they are making no effort to ascertain. They admit that the favour of God is the soul’s real portion, and that they, as yet, cannot speak of that being their enjoyment; and yet they coolly go on day after day without anxious inquiry regarding it.

There are others who, from a wrong religious training, go on in a sort of doubt and fear, cherishing the idea that these doubts and fears are salutary checks to pride, and that they are, on the whole, as safe with the hope that all is right, as they would be with the certainty.

We generally find that these persons are misled by confounding things that differ. They perhaps quote to you, ‘Happy is the man that feareth always (Prov. 28:14), not perceiving that the fear there is the ‘fear of the Lord,’ in which there is ‘strong confidence ‘(Prov. 14:26). Or, perhaps, they quote the unhappy experience of some godly men who died without speaking anything about assurance – not knowing that those godly men longed for certainty, and reckoned it so desirable that their very estimate of its preciousness made them jealous of admitting that they themselves might be partakers thereof.

But the truth is, in many cases, these persons do not care for the close fellowship of God into which Assurance leads the soul. They do not wish to bask in the beams of divine love. They wish merely to be safe at last. But if you would see how entirely different is the effect of a merely hoped-for impunity from that of certainty in regard to divine favour, read these two passages, Deut. 29:19 and 1 John3:3. In the former case the sinner says, ‘I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of mine heart, to add drunkenness to thirst;’ in the latter he says, ‘Every man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure.’

Note: Let it be observed that in the New Testament the grace of hope does not imply doubt, but signifies the expectation of the things yet future. Hence, the hope in I John 3:3 was thus stated in verse 2, ‘ We know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him. Old writers used to quote a Latin saying, ‘Hope, as used of earthly things, is a word for a good that is uncertain; hope, as used of heavenly things, is a word for good that is most sure.

Once more, then, on this point let us ask attention to the fact that in the New Testament we have no encouragement given to doubts and uncertainties. The believers there are spoken of continually as having the joy of knowing the Saviour as theirs. No doubt there were in those days some believers who were not fully assured; but these were not meant to be any rule to us, now that the Sun of Righteousness has risen so gloriously; and, accordingly, no notice is taken of their case. On the other hand, we are ever meeting with such words as these, spoken in the name of all disciples, ‘We know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God’(2 Cor.5:1). ‘We know that we have passed from death unto life.’ ‘We know that we are of God’ (1 John 3:14 and 5:19). ‘I know whom I have believed’ (2 Tim. 1:12).

Note: The late Dr. Sievewright of Markinch, in a sermon upon Eph. 1: 53, has remarked: ‘In those primitive times an apostle could take for granted of a whole church that they all trusted. For, in writing to the Ephesians, does Paul make a single allusion to their unbelief? Or, does he employ a single exhortation in the way of persuasion to believe? Or, from beginning to end of his Epistle, does he hint at such a thing as prevailing distrust? No; in those days Christian men no more thought of refusing to trust in the Saviour than of denying the Word of Truth. But now, is it not a frequent case that a man shall go by a Christian name, and practise Christian duties, and receive Christian privileges, for years together, while he is so far from trusting in Christ with the confidence of faith, that he shall not only confess himself destitute of truth, but often express a fear lest full trust and confidence were an unwarranted and dangerous presumption? How strange this would have sounded in the apostles time, when to trust in Christ, and to trust fully and for all salvation, was the very first exercise to which they called those who were awakened to seek in earnest for eternal life, and received the record of God concerning the way. The remarkable trust of the first Christians gave a perfection to their character we now seldom perceive.

But it is time to speak of what gives Assurance. Of course, we understand that this blessing, like the other blessings of salvation, every one, is the free gift of a sovereign God. It is the ‘God of hope’ who gives it ‘through the power of the Holy Ghost’ (Romans 15:13). But our present point of inquiry is, In what way does it please Him to give it to souls? All agree that Christ’s person and work furnish the materials and groundwork of a sinner’s acceptance, peace, assurance. ‘Peace (says Isaiah 32:17) ‘is the fabric reared by righteousness; yea, the office of righteousness is to give quietness and assurance for ever.’ But there is a difference of opinion and practice as to the way of using these ample materials. We begin with speaking of what we may call,

First, The indirect or long way.

Those who try this way set themselves to ascertain ‘What am I?’ They seek to make sure that they have the marks and evidences of being new creatures in Christ, or at least the marks and evidences of having, beyond doubt, believed in Him. Divines have been wont to call this mode of Assurance ‘the Assurance of sense,’ because in it the person points to sensible proofs of his new nature, and thinks he may some time or other be able to show such an experience of divine things as puts it beyond doubt that he has believed and has found Christ. It is quite wrong, however, to apply the scriptural term ‘Assurance of hope’ to this experimental sort of certainty; for Scripture means the assured belief and expectation of things yet future, by that expression. We may call it, for clearness sake, Assurance got by seeing effects produced. Divines often describe it as Assurance derived from the reflex acts of the soul.

(a) One form which this pursuit of Assurance in the long or indirect way takes, is this, – it leads the person to put much stress on his own act of believing. In this case the person being much concerned about his state towards God, and fearful of mistaking the matter, says to himself ‘I know that all assurance of salvation depends on my believing in Christ, and I think I believe; but what if I be deceiving myself as to my supposed believing?’ Haunted by this thought, he sets himself to remedy the danger by trying to convince himself that he has believed. And in order to make himself sure that he has faith, he resolves not to be satisfied till he sees the full fruits of faith. He puts such stress on his own act of believing, that he will not be content until he sees, by such effects as hypocrites could not imitate, that his was genuine faith.

Now, we say to such – You are not taking the best way to have real fruit; for you are seeking fruit and effect from a selfish motive; you are not seeking holiness as an end, and for its own sake, but in order to use it as an evidence in favour of your sincerity. This kind of fruit is not likely to be the best, nor the most satisfactory. We say again – You are putting Assurance far off. It can only be at some distant future day that you arrive at any certainty by your method; for such fruits as you seek cannot be visible very soon. But we say again – You are by this method taking off your eye from Christ to a great degree. For you try to believe, and then you look into yourself to see if you have believed. You look up to the Brazen Serpent, and then you take off your eye to examine your wound, and to see if the bites are really healing, that so you may be sure you have looked aright! Would a bitten Israelite have put such stress on his own poor act of looking? You are looking at Christ, and then looking away from Him to yourself You are like a gardener who, after planting a tree or flower in rich soil, might be foolish enough to uncover the soil in order to see if the root had struck, and was really imbibing the moisture. Surely, better far to let the root alone, having once ascertained the richness of the soil, and allow the plant to spread out its leaves to the warmth of the sun. Keep looking on Christ, and the effects cannot fail to follow.

(b) Another form that this same indirect method takes is somewhat similar. Those who adopt it do not expect Assurance at the outset, and say that it is presumption and pride in young believers to speak of being sure of their interest in Christ; for where is there time for them to have experience, or exhibit fruits? Such persons think that ripe, mature fruits of holiness alone entitle any one to say, ‘I know that I am in Christ.’ If we might so speak, they do not allow the newly engrafted branch (though really engrafted by the Heavenly Husbandman) to say, ‘I am in the vine,’ – no, they say, wait till you have borne fruit, and then when the clusters appear on your boughs, you may be entitled to say, ‘I am in the vine.’ But not till then.

It is a favourite argument with such that in 1 John 3:14 the Apostle John says, ‘We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. But this does not prove that this is the only way of knowing that we are passed from death unto life. It only shows that an aged and experienced saint like John thought it good sometimes to bring forward his own and his fellow-believers brotherly love as a marked and unmistakable feature of their Christian character. It is very much as if he had said, ‘We believers know each other, as having passed from death unto life, by the love that fills our hearts toward each other.’ He is not speaking to the question, ‘Is this the first, or is it the only trustworthy way by which you know your interest in Christ?’ Surely; so far from that being the case, John would at once have said that he himself found rest in knowing the love of Him who begat before he discerned in himself any love to those begotten of Him.

The truth is, this long and indirect way is properly the way by which others ascertain your standing in Christ. But there is another way for the person’s self, of which we are yet to speak. Also; this way is good even for the person’s self as confirmatory of the short and direct way, of which we are yet to speak. But still we say, if it were the only way, then farewell to gospel-joy, except in the very rarest cases. For, the more a soul grows in grace, the more that the believing man rests in Christ and drinks into His spirit, just the more dissatisfied does he become with all his fruits; his holiness does not please him; he finds defects in it; he finds it mixed and impure; and the longer he lives the life of faith, he gets more and more keen-sighted in detecting blemishes in his graces.

Note: John Newton, in his sermon ‘Of the Assurance of Faith,’ remarks: ‘If inherent sanctification, or a considerable increase of it, be considered as the proper ground of Assurance, those who are most humble, sincere, and desirous of being conformed to the will of God, will be the most perplexed and discouraged in their search after it. For they, of all others, will be the least satisfied with themselves, and have the quickest sense of innumerable defilements.

So that it is difficult indeed to say when a growing believer, ever jealous of himself; will accumulate such a heap of this gold, such an amount of really holy living, as will put beyond doubt, to his own mind, that he is a man between whom and Christ there exists the bond of union. If good works or holiness must be waited for ere faith can be known to be genuine, when are we to expect to attain to an amount or quality sufficiently satisfying?

If this were the only way of Assurance, we could not wonder that many should speak of it as necessarily a very rare attainment, and even as all but impossible. This, however, is not the only way; and we now turn from this way to the other, quoting as we turn to it, the statement of the old Puritan writer, Brooks: ‘Many of God’s dear people are so taken up with their own hearts, and duties, and graces, that Christ is little regarded by them, or minded; and what is this but to be more taken up with the streams than with the fountain? with the bracelets, and ear-rings, and gold-chains, than with the husband? with the nobles than with the king?’ [Brook’s Cabinet, p.393.] And then he adds, ‘Dear Christian, was it Christ or was it your graces, gracious evidences, gracious dispositions, gracious actings, that trod the wine-press of the Father’s wrath?’ And once more: ‘These persons forget their grand work, which is immediate closing with Christ, immediate embracing of Christ, immediate relying, resting, staying upon Christ.’

Let us turn, then, to the Second, The direct or short way.

They who take this way, set themselves to ascertain, ‘Who and what Christ is.’ The Holy Spirit, we believe, delights very specially to use this way, because it turns the eye of the sinner so completely away from self to the Saviour.

What we call the direct and short way, is that in which We are enabled by the Spirit at once to look up to Christ, the Brazen Serpent, and to be satisfied in looking on Him. This simple, direct Assurance is got by what we discern in Christ Himself; not by what we discover about ourselves. It is got by what we believe about Christ; not by what we know about our own act of faith. We may know nothing about our own soul’s actings in believing, and yet we may so know Him on whom we believe as to find ourselves altogether at rest.

In a word, this direct and immediate Assurance is found by my discovering that Christ, God-man, is the very Saviour for my needs and wants, my sins and corruptions; while all the time I may never be once troubled about the question, Am I sure that I believe, and that my act of faith possesses the right quality.

I find it when the Spirit is taking the things of Christ, and showing them to my soul; and I do not need to wait till He next shows me what is in me. Let us explain the matter more fully.

I have Assurance that God accepts me the moment I see the fulness and freeness of Christ’s work. My soul is enabled to see all the claims of justice satisfied at the cross; for there is complete obedience, there is the full penalty paid. At the cross there is room for any sinner, and the gospel invites me as a sinner among the rest to hear what the cross says. Does it not say to me, ‘God-man has provided an infinitely perfect righteousness, and made it honourable for the holy God to embrace the Prodigal Son. Yonder, in the work of God-man, is a rock for the sinner’s feet to stand upon – and this not a mere narrow point, hardly sufficient, but rather a wide continent, stretching out on every side.’ Surely there is room for me there? I feel it is enough! Self is forgotten in presence of this marvellous scene. What could satisfy the conscience better! What could speak peace like this! This is faith rising into Assurance while simply continuing to behold its glorious object.

And now, if any one try to disturb me by this suggestion, ‘How do you know that you are really believing what you recognise as so suited to your need?’ – my reply is simply this, ‘How do I know that I see the sun when I am in the act of gazing upon him in the splendour of his setting?’ That glowing sky, and that globe of mild but ineffable glory cannot be mistaken, if anything is sure to the human vision.

The believer’s own consciousness (quickened of course by the Spirit) is sufficient, in presence of the cross, to assure him that he a sinner, is most certainly welcome to the bosom of the Holy One, who, pointing to the ‘It is finished, cries, ‘Return to me, for I have redeemed thee.

Note: Samuel Rutherford, in a sermon on Luke 8:22, says ‘When I believe in Christ, that instinct of the grace of God, stirred up by the Spirit of God, maketh me know that I know God, and that I believe, and so that I am in Christ, to my own certain apprehension. He then adds, that ‘this does not hinder other inferior evidences.’

Just look at it again. Your soul hears that the Father is well pleased with the full atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ, His Son. He condemns and rejects all your works, all your efforts, and your guilty person; but when his Son, our Substitute, appears, then His obedience and His suffering unto death are found – most glorifying to the Holy One and His holy law. While you are pondering the Father’s delighted rest in Christ, who thus wrought all for us, your soul is ‘like the chariots of Amminadib;’ in a moment, you feel your conscience has got rest, as if a voice from that atoning work had said, ‘Peace, be still.’ Your sins, placed in God’s balance, were outweighed by Christ’s infinite merit; and if so, your sins in your own balance are no less surely outweighed by the same weight of immense merit. What satisfies God, satisfies you.

Thus faith, as it gazes on its object, passes on to full Assurance. And if now, again, any one seek to disturb your calm rest by asking, ‘Are you quite sure that you do really believe what is giving you such rest?’ – what other reply could you give but this, ‘As well ask me, when I am enjoying and revelling in the glories of the setting sun, Are you sure your eye really sees that sun which you so admire?’

I sit down and meditate on such a passage as John 3:16, ‘God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’ The Spirit enables me to see in these words God testifying that no more is needed for my acceptance with God than what is found in Christ: and all that Christ has done becomes mine upon my believing in Him. Relying on God’s testimony, I ask no questions, I wait for nothing in myself (such as love, sorrow, or other feeling), but I think on what is in Christ, as the ground of my peace. And when I so muse, the fire burns – my soul is at rest.

Note: Halyburton (Mem, chap.2. p.3) says: ‘A sweet and comfortable hope and persuasion of my own salvation was answerable to the clearness of the discovery of the way of salvation. The hope rose in strength, or grew weak, as the discoveries of the way of salvation were more or less clear and strong.

And if now, any one disturbs, or threatens to disturb, my calm enjoyment of my Father’s love by hinting, ‘You should first, ere ever you venture to rest, be sure that you are really believing the things that are making you so glad;’ my reply to such an unseasonable interruption might be somewhat in the style of a writer who uses the following illustration: – Suppose a nobleman condemned for high treason, and the day has come when he must die. But that morning a document is put into his hand; it is a pardon from the king, on no other terms than that he accept it. He reads; as he reads, his countenance is flushed, his eye glistens, and in a moment he is full of joy. What think you of any one arresting the current of his joy by the suggestion, ‘Are you quite sure you are accepting the pardon? Is your act of acceptance complete and thorough?’ No; the man is engrossed with the certainties presented to his thoughts, viz., what the king freely gives to him; and these certainties convey their own impression to his soul – to wit, the certainty of his pardon.

Such is the direct way of Assurance. We called it a short and an immediate way. Is it not so? We said, too, at the beginning, that it might turn out that, after all, we had a way of knowing our pardon and acceptance, superior in many respects to that by which on one occasion it was conveyed to Isaiah, and on another to Daniel, and on another to the palsied man, and to the woman-sinner, and to the thief. We still adhere to our statement. For our way of knowing our acceptance, you see, is one that rests on unalterable facts, the significance of which cannot pass away or decay. If it decay from our souls for a time, we can revive it again by a renewed study of the facts that produced it at the first. Whereas the one utterance that assured Isaiah, Daniel, and those others mentioned, might in process of time be found to fade somewhat in its vividness; and then the individual might say to himself; ‘Ah, what if I have over-estimated the meaning of the utterance! or what if I have forgot it in part? or what if my subsequent unworthiness have cancelled the promise?’ In a dull, self-reproaching mood of mind, such a partial obliteration from the mind or memory of a single, solitary announcement is quite a possible occurrence; not to refer to other abatements, such as that the person in a case like Isaiah’s might say to himself; ‘What if it referred only to the past, but does not include what has happened since then?’ But, on the other hand, our way of ascertaining now our pardon and acceptance rests on unchanging and unchangeable facts – facts for ever illustrious, facts for ever rich in meaning, facts for ever uttering the same loud, distinct, full testimony to the sinner’s soul. Yes, we have an altar, and the voice from that altar and its four horns may be heard distinctly from day to day as at first. Our altar is Christ; and this Christ died, rose again, went back to the Father, is interceding for us. These are the four horns of our altar! Let us take hold of any one of them, and lo! we see an accepted sacrifice before us, a sacrifice that speaks peace, that leads our conscience to rest, and makes our hearts leap for joy; for God is well pleased. We have God’s Word reiterating in manifold ways a testimony to be believed; and so we find security against Satan’s whispered suspicions.

And should any one object, ‘Surely there have been many, very many good men and eminent men of God who did not take this short and direct way;’ let us remind such as may stumble at this fact (for it is a fact) of an anecdote which good old Brooks has recorded.{Cabinet, p.115] A minister, who had great joy in Christ, said on his deathbed regarding his peace and quietness of soul, ‘That he enjoyed these not from having a greater measure of grace than other Christians had, nor from any special immediate witness of the Spirit, but because he had more clear understanding of the covenant of grace.’ O Spirit of truth, give all Thy servants this clear understanding of the covenant of grace!

Nor must we fail to notice that this immediate, direct way is that which specially honours God and His beloved Son, inasmuch as it magnifies free grace. Here is the Lord’s free love manifesting itself as so exceedingly free that he will not ask the price of one moment’s waiting or delay. Behold the cross, and at once be at rest! The excuses of the delaying sinner are swept away. Why wait, since all is ready? and where is there room for the plea that God’s time for favour, and so great a favour as that of making you sure of acceptance, may not have come? God in Christ waits for you, presenting and proffering to you an immediate welcome, immediate peace.

Note: It is a very common mistake to allege that God sometimes counsels us to wait. But, if wait be used in the sense of delay, or putting off immediate decision, we assert there is no passage in the Bible to countenance such an idea. Some quote Ps.40:1, ‘I waited patiently – for the Lord, which is (see the margin), ‘In waiting, I waited,’ or ‘I eagerly waited.’ Now, not to insist on the fact that here the speaker is Christ our surety, we must remember that the Old Testament use of ‘wait’ has not in it anything of the idea of procrastination, or delay, or contented waiting in our sense of the term. It always means eager looking, as when a dog looks up to his master’s table for the crumbs, or as when the people waited for the priest coming out of the Holy Place, or as in Job 29: 23, the anxious, intensely anxious, looking out for rain in sultry weather. This is the meaning, Micah 7:8, ‘I will wait for the God of my salvation.’ This is the meaning, Hab. 2:3, ‘Though it tarry, wait for it;’ that is, if you do not see these things come to pass at once, if you do not see at once the Lord appear in His glory to overthrow His foes, yet look out for it anxiously! eagerly hasten on to that day. This is the way in which God’s people ‘wait,’ spoken of in Ps. 130:6; Isa. 11:31. And so Lament. 3:26 is the case of the desolate soul in affliction, earnestly looking up and looking out for deliverance, though calm and resigned. Scriptural waiting is not in the least like that of the careless, easy-minded soul, that pretends it is unwilling to anticipate sovereign grace. And when God himself, in Isa.30:58, is said to ‘wait to be gracious,’ the same idea of eager, earnest looking is implied. It is the intensely anxious waiting of the Prodigal’s Father for the return of his son, for whose coming He is ever on the outlook. Most certainly, there is nothing in Scripture that countenances an unbelieving waiting for faith.

What say you then, unassured soul? Are you still content?

Assurance may be got in beholding steadfastly the Lamb of God and is there no sin in your refusing to behold Him steadfastly?

Want of Assurance leaves you in the awful position of being, on your own showing, possibly still a child of Satan! And can you remain thus without alarm? And the world is passing away. You are dying men. Christ is coming quickly, coming as a thief in the night, coming in an hour that you think not; and you are not ready to meet Him at His coming. There are not less than 8o,ooo of our fellow-men dying every day; 8o,ooo have died today, 8o,ooo more shall die tomorrow, and you may be one of that number whom the scythe of death shall cut down as grass – and yet you are content to have only a vague hope! Content to be without Assurance! You are like the unhappy philosopher who said, ‘I have lived uncertain, I die doubtful, I know not whither I am going.’ Are things to continue thus with you any longer? Do the visions of an eternal hell never rise up before you? Are you never struck with cold fear lest hell be waiting for you? Mirth is most unsuitable for you; laughter is out of season; peace cannot take up her abode under your roof, for you are all at sea about your eternal interests! Yes, you may be almost past all the joy that you are ever to find! Will you not now stand still, and once more examine Christ crucified, Christ’s finished work, to see if that cannot yield you the present and eternal peace which alone can satisfy the soul? We have sought to set all before you; and now we leave you, praying that the Holy Spirit may give efficacy to our words, knowing well that otherwise all is vain:

Let all the promises before him stand,

And set a Barnabas at his right hand,

These in themselves no comfort can afford;

‘Tis Christ, and none but Christ, can speak the word.


Andrew Bonar (1810-1892): The Hope of the Lord’s Return

The Hope of the Lord’s Return


Andrew Bonar (1810-1892)

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The Importance of the Doctrine of the Second Advent as a Motive and Help to Holiness. NOTES OF AN ADDRESS DELIVERED AT THE EDINBURGH CONFERENCE, 1888.

It would be very pleasant and instructive to hear brethren relate incidents connected with this blessed hope, and its effect upon the souls of God’s people. There are some very remarkable incidents. I may give a sample before going into Scriptural testimony to-day. There was among us, one who knew the whole truth in theory, and who had grace in his heart, but no joy, no assurance. He used to wonder why. Hearing a rumour that there was a good deal of talk in our congregation about the Second Coming of Christ, he said to one of our elders, “That’s a subject I never thought about.” “Well,” the elder said, “set about looking into it at any rate.” He said he would. A few weeks after he came with his face beaming, and said, “I have not arrived yet at a conclusion as to whether you are right or wrong about the Premillennial Coming, but I will tell you what has happened. I have not any hesitation now, in saying, Jesus is mine, and I am His.” “But,” said the friend, “what connection has that with your study of this truth?” He said, “The connection is this; I got so interested about Christ personally that I forgot myself. When I was taken up with the Personal Saviour, I found all my doubts gone.” I don’t remember whether he came to agree with us about the Premillennial Coming, for he left the place soon after. But was there not here a blessed lesson? The study of this subject brings us into direct contact at every point with the living Saviour.

I remember going to see a suffering believer – a great sufferer. I sat down and began to talk with her. “Are you wearying for the end of your sufferings?” The answer I got was this: “I am not wearying for death; I don’t care to think on death – it is an enemy; but, oh, if Christ would come! if Christ would come!” Was not that true spiritual instinct? We are not bidden wish to die, but we are a hundred times bidden to long for the Coming of the Lord.

Again, there was known to a great many of us, William Hewitson, a minister of Christ among us; and God, by him, did a great work in Madeira, where he laboured with Dr. Kalley. His biographer says that when the light of this truth broke in upon him it was like a second conversion, it so lifted him up. He used to say after that, that he had never before been able, as he now was, to rejoice in his work always.

May I add something more? I was very glad to get a glimpse from Dr. Cumming, and another from Mr. Riddell, of how they came to enter into this view, and I believe at some of the prayer meetings there were other like hints dropped. May I tell you the history of some of us in Edinburgh? It is about sixty years since I myself felt the first thrill of interest in this subject – when Edward Irving was preaching in this city. He had lectures at seven in the morning during the time of the General Assembly, and for two or three years in succession, on prophetic subjects. We used to go at six in the morning to get a good seat. But I remember what led me to decision was the calm reading of Matthew 24. That chapter decided me on this subject. I could not see a foot-breadth of room for the Millennium before Christ comes in the clouds. It is wave upon wave of tribulation till the Son of Man appears. Our Professor in the Divinity Hall was Dr. Chalmers, and we sometimes told him our thoughts on these subjects, and the opposition shown to us. He would most kindly say: “Oh, gentlemen, there is no harm in studying that subject; go on, and make up your mind. I have not arrived at a conclusion yet; I am looking into it”; and I am glad to say that before he died he ranged himself with the Premillennialists. From that date onward a little band of us began to set forth that truth. As for myself, I do not know that I have ever finished a Communion Service, from the day I was an ordained minister till now, without pointing the congregation to the Coming of the Lord, closing with that song of the Old Testament Church, looking through distant centuries, like Enoch, onward to the day of glory. Psalm 98. 4-9. The cherishing of this blessed hope, instead of hindering our work, has all along kept us at work, caring comparatively little for the politics of earth. It has been like oil on the wheels, making us seek to abound in the work of the Lord.

But it is time now, to come to the testimony of Scripture on this subject, “The importance of the doctrine of the blessed advent as a motive and help to holiness.” We ought never to think that the mere holding of this truth will of itself raise any believer higher in holiness. There are many who do not hold this truth, and yet have outstripped those that have held it. But, at the same time, notice carefully that the germ of this blessed hope is in every believer. What is that germ? It is personal love to the Saviour; and you cannot have personal love to the Saviour without longing to see Him as He is. Oh, to see the head that was crowned with thorns, crowned with the crown wherewith He shall be crowned on the day of His espousals! It is written in Titus 2. 12 – the grace that brings salvation teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world, “looking for that blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ. ” Is it not plain that there must be an element of holiness wanting in that man who is not looking for this blessed hope? Some of our friends, indeed, very unfairly cast up to those who do not hold the Premillennial doctrine, that the last verse of Hebrews 9. 28 bears a frowning aspect on their prospects because it reads that Christ was offered to bear the sins of many, “And unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” I have heard it said, “Ah, you see it is to them that look for Him: what will you do who are not expecting Him soon, in that case?” But the truth is, that all believers are looking for Him in their hearts, and the words really should be read thus, “Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many (the multitude that no man can number, out of every kindred, and tongue, and nation, and people), and to them looking for Him the second time – ” It is taken for granted that all who rest on His sacrifice are looking for Him, though differing as to the probable time of His arrival.

But let us now show you, very rapidly, eighteen features of Christian life affected by this truth. We might multiply the number, but these eighteen we can rapidly glance at; and I will give them, as far as possible, in alphabetical order, so that you may more readily recall them.

(1) When the Holy Spirit by Paul, wished to awaken the Church at Rome to fresh energy, how does he write? (Rom. 13. 11, 12), “Now it is high time to awake out of sleep, for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand.” He does not say, “You have just a short time to live”; he does not say, “Death is coming”; he does not say, “The night is coming,” but, “the Night is far spent,” “Day is coming.” Let the prospect of the day coming stimulate you.

(2) Again, when the Lord Jesus would strengthen us in confessing Him before men, He says that if you will confess Him before this adulterous and sinful generation, He will confess you before His Father and the holy angels” (Mark 8. 38). Why refer to the holy angels? He will say to the angels, “These are My people, who came through trials you never were exposed to. They had to conflict with enemies and cold-hearted friends, and they did confess Me before them all.” He will appeal to His holy angels to be witnesses that they were faithful unto death, and are now ready to receive the crown of life.

(3) At another time, speaking of comfort under bereavement, notice the motive that is adduced. If we have been bereaved of Christian friends, many of us are content with saying to the bereaved, “Think of the happiness of your friends, to have entered into glory. ” But it is remarkable that it is not this comfort we are recommended to offer to bereaved Christians. That cup has blessing and comfort in it, but it is not running over; and we are presented with another cup full to the very brim. Sorrow not as those that have no hope; for the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and the trump of God, and them that sleep in Jesus shall come back with Him. “Wherefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thess. 4. 18). In the thought of the Coming of the Lord there is a power to heal the wounds of bereavement that there is not in any other consolation.

(4) And how are we taught contentment with our daily lot? “Be patient, brethren, to the Coming of the Lord” (James 5. 7). Be patient in the midst of all that might irritate and fret; be patient unto the Coming of the Lord. The husbandman has a long time of waiting till the seed sown appears above ground, and then he reaps the harvest; and we have given us the assurance that the very things that irritate and are apt to make us murmur and be discontented are seeds – if they are rightly used – of future joy. All these circumstances of trial are sowing the field with blessed seed, and in the day of the Lord we shall reap fruit from those very annoyances and vexations that are so apt to interfere with holiness.

(5) And how are we provoked to diligence in the Lord’s service? In 1 Cor. 15. 54-58, after giving us a wonderful glimpse of Resurrection glory, when death itself shall be swallowed up (death swallows us up now, but we shall see death swallowed up at the grave’s mouth on the Resurrection morning), the inference of unceasing, untiring diligence is drawn: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, for as much as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” It falls in with the parable in the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew, and Luke 19. 13, where the Master gives His servants talents to trade with, and comes back and takes an account of them, and gives them their reward, “Occupy till I come:” trade with these till I return. You will hear more about the results when I come; but meanwhile, go on in diligent labour. But oh, take care of hiding your talent in a napkin. One day, travelling on the railway, as we passed along, a gentleman sitting beside me, said, “Do you know that place ?-” I said, “Yes,” “I wonder if you knew a minister who was there many years ago? I was present at his deathbed. He was a good man, and a man that preached the truth; but he had one fault that marred I his usefulness, and he knew it, but had never overcome it. The thought of it brought over him a cloud in his sickness, which was dispelled only a few days before he died. And when, just before he died, his friend bent over him and said, ‘In a few minutes you will hear Christ say – Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of thy Lord,’ he gave a solemn, mournful look, and replied, ‘He will not say to me, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant,’ though I do expect to hear Him say, ‘Son, thy sins are forgiven thee; go in peace.'” Oh, brethren, why should we lose the higher reward? “Thou hast been faithful in a few things, enter into the joy of thy Lord.”

(6) But further still. In 2 Peter 3. 11-14, holiness in all its details is enforced very powerfully by this motive. “What manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and earnestly desiring the coming of the Day of God.” And look again to 1 John 3. 3: “Every man ” – every believer – “that hath this hope in Christ purifieth himself.” “When He shall appear we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is; and every man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure.” See what a stimulus to inward purification this hope is! It speaks of every one – man or woman – that hath this hope in a Coming Christ, and of being made like Him – and if you are not purifying yourself you need not speak about holding this blessed hope – “every man” that has this hope, that has a real grasp of this hope, purifies himself. It necessarily leads to a holy life.

(7) We might enlarge on liberality and kindness, enforced by a reference to this same great truth. Instead of spreading grand feasts for your friends, laying out hundreds of pounds on grand entertainments, call in the poor and lame, the blind and the halt. They cannot recompense you, but ye shall be recompensed at the Resurrection of the just (Luke 14. 14).

(8) But what is this? “Let your moderation be known unto all men; the Lord is at hand” (Phil. 4. 5). The word translated “moderation” properly means “yieldingness.” Instead of always insisting on our rights, it is Christ-like (see Matt. 17. 25) to give up, for the sake of peace and brotherly love, what is not a matter of principle, though it may be a matter of convenience. If this yieldingness were known to all men, would it not prevent many an unhappy misunderstanding? There was a godly man, a man who used to speak lovingly to the careless around him, about their unsaved state, which they did not always take in good part. One day, being in poor health, he turned into a path which would have saved him, perhaps, a mile and a half of a walk in going home, but it was not a thoroughfare, though freely used by neighbours, and one whom he had reproved all at once angrily stopped him, bidding him go by the highway. For a moment he felt indignant, “But” (said he, in telling the incident afterwards), “I remembered what the Master’s rule was, and that soon all would be open to me, for ‘the meek shall inherit the earth,’ and so I went another way.” Was not this making his moderation known in prospect of the day of the Lord?

(9) We come to the grace of prayerfulness. Christ speaks of this in Luke 21. 34, 35, 36, “As a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch ye, therefore, and pray always.” Our Lord’s parable of the widow and the unjust judge bears on this point specially; and probably, the lack of faith referred to there is very much a lack of prayerfulness; for Christ says, “Shall not God avenge His own elect, who cry day and night unto Him.” Look to yourselves, believers; are you crying out day and night to God to avenge His cause, and to come and claim the inheritance for His own possession ? It is those who are crying day and night to Him that the Lord speaks of there; and that is a hint to us to see that we are among them – that we be like the widow.

(10) We pass on to patience and perseverance. What did our Lord say to His disciples? (Luke 22. 28). “Ye are they which have continued with Me in My temptations (trials), and I appoint unto you a kingdom, as My Father hath appointed unto Me; that ye may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones, ” – a reward for continuing steadfast under difficulties. You all know how Paul was able to apply this, “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed” (Rom. 8. 18).

(11) But, hastening on, notice how even in the matter of coming to our rest, we are reminded of something else than rest at death. True, it is said, “Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord, for they rest from their labours.” But how remarkably does Paul write in 2 Thess. 1. 7, Unto you who are troubled the Lord will give rest with us. When? “When the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels.” The rest is there and then. We get a temporary rest when we leave the body; but the true rest, the essence of all Sabbaths, “the rest that remaineth for the people of God,” is when the Lord Jesus comes again.

(12) It is then also, that “the reproach of His people shall be wiped away” (Isa. 25. 8; 1 Peter 4. 13, 14). When He comes to swallow up death in victory, “the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces, and the rebuke of His people shall He take away from off all the earth.”

(13) And all the real Reward and Recompense is not at death, but at the time so often spoken of, “I come quickly, and My reward is with Me” (Rev. 22. 12). When looking forward to the finishing of his course, Paul thinks of his reward, but thinks of it in the future. “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness” (2 Tim. 4. 8). It is to be kept for him till that day. And Peter (1 Peter 5. 4) bids us look forward to the same, “When the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.”

(14) And full salvation is at that day, and not before that day. This fulness is a very interesting subject. That is the meaning of the passages read a little ago. He shall appear without sin to complete our salvation. Did you ever feel a little startled at hearing Paul tell that he, with all saints, groaned for the adoption ? – Waiting for the adoption? Are you not an adopted son, Paul? You said that you were a joint-heir “with Christ. ” “Yes, ” he says, “but I wait for my complete adoption; my adoption-dress – the resurrection of the body.” Peter, too, bids those to whom he writes, “Gird up your loins, and hope for the grace that shall be brought unto you at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1. 13). There is a grace to be brought us then such as we shall not get till then. And hear this same apostle (1 Peter 4. 14), speaking of being persecuted for righteousness sake. You need not make a great work about it; the Spirit of God rests on you now, And thereafter comes the grand issue, When His glory shall appear ye shall be glad with exceeding joy. The greatest joy of all is reserved for that time when His glory shall appear (1 Peter 4. 13).

(15) On that day He will not forget your acts of self-denial. Every man who has forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for His name’s sake, shall receive an hundred-fold”; and Matt. 19. 28 points to what this may mean, “In the Regeneration (Restitution of all things), when the Son of Man shall sit on the throne of His glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”

(16) If time permitted, it might be good to show how separation from the world is enforced by this consideration, very strongly and powerfully. In Philippians 3. 18, Paul says, there are not a few professed disciples who are enemies of the Cross of Christ; for they indulge the flesh, minding earthly things instead of walking in the footsteps of the Lord. But our conversation (citizenship) is in heaven, from whence we look for the Saviour, who shall change this vile body, and fashion it like unto His own glorious body. He uses this consideration as a motive for having nothing to do with the luxury and pleasures of the world.

(17) We hasten on, simply noticing how worldliness or love of the praise of men and earth’s greatness, is counteracted by the blessed hope. In 2 Tim. 4. 8, Paul reminds Timothy that the Lord Jesus will give a crown of righteousness to those who love His appearing; in contrast to Demas (v. 10) who turned aside, “having loved this present world.”

(18) But we come to the last of the eighteen things (we might have added many more), Watching and Watchfulness. Notice Revelation 16. 15, for it brings this down to the present day. When the kings are gathering to Armageddon, Christ cries to us, “Behold I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth and keepeth his garments.” Here we stand still, and ask the unsaved: What will you do in that hour?

“Should now the Lord, the King, appear,

Like lightning’s flash across the sky;

His voice upon your startled ear,

Would rouse a wild and bitter cry –

‘The Bridegroom’s come!

We have no light,

Oh rise, and give us of your oil;

We did but slumber in the night,

And now He’s come! O give us oil!

Give of your oil!’ In vain, in vain,

Your day is past – in vain you cry;

Those who are ready join the train,

And meet the Bridegroom in the sky.”

As to you who are the wise virgins.

Perhaps the following historic incident may help you a little to conceive what may be your feeling when that voice is heard. When those who upheld the banner of the truth had almost lost heart, and Protestantism seemed failing, John Knox accepted the invitation from the true-hearted ones, and left Geneva for Scotland. When he did land, quick as lightning the news spread. The cry arose everywhere, “John Knox has come!” Edinburgh came rushing into the streets; the old and the young, the lordly and the low, were seen mingling together in delighted expectation. All business, all common pursuits, were forsaken. The priests and friars abandoned their altars and their masses, and looked out alarmed, or were seen standing by themselves, shunned like lepers. Studious men were roused from their books, mothers set down their infants and ran to enquire what had come to pass. Travellers suddenly mounted and sped into the country with the tidings, “John Knox has come!” At every cottage door the inmates stood and clustered, wondering, as horseman after horseman cried, “Knox has come.” Barques departing from the harbour, bore up to each other at sea to tell the news. Shepherds heard the news as they watched their flocks on the hills. The warders in the Castle challenged the sound of quick feet approaching, and the challenge was answered, “John Knox has come!” The whole land was moved; the whole land was stirred with a new inspiration, and the hearts of enemies withered. If that was the effect of the sudden presence of a man like ourselves (a man whom we will rejoice to meet in the kingdom, but only a man), what will the land feel, what will Earth feel, when the news comes, “The Son of Man! the Son of Man! His sign has been seen in the heavens!” O, wise virgins, with what joy you will go out to meet Him! Meanwhile, what should our attitude be? Every day let us go again and look upon the blood of the atoning sacrifice, look till we find our hearts burn within us with longing to know the love that passes knowledge; the love that has height, and depth, and length, and breadth! Every day let us go to the shore, and standing on the shore of that ocean, look across to yonder throne – and the King!

He is coming, Himself wearing many crowns, but with crowns also for all that love His appearing.

Andrew Bonar (1810-1897): The Cup of Wrath

The Cup of Wrath

Andrew Bonar (1810-1897)

Copyright: Public Domain

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The Cup of Wrath

“For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup, and the wine is red; it is full of mixture; and he pours out of the same: but the dregs thereof, all the wicked of the earth shall wring them out, and drink them.” Psalm 75:8.

It will help greatly to the right apprehension of this solemn subject, to notice that Christ is the speaker of these dreadful truths. They cannot, then, have been spoken harshly; they must have been uttered in all tenderness. As the head of His Church, Christ says (Psalm 75:1), “Unto You, O God, do we give thanks;” and then (Psalm 75:2), looking on a world lying in wickedness, He anticipates a different state of things before long: “I purpose when I shall receive the congregation that I shall judge uprightly.” This shall be in the day when He returns to judge the earth. It is He, meanwhile, who upholds all by the word of His power; He keeps the world from falling into ruin; He it is that sustains that blue sky, as well as earths foundations, “I bear up the pillars thereof” — and were I to withhold my hand, all would tumble into ruin. Oh that an unthinking world would consider! Oh that fools would learn wisdom, and the proud would fall down before their Lord. For the Judge shall surely come, with the cup of red wine in His hand—a cup of wrath, of which every rebellious one must drink to the dregs. The horns of the wicked shall soon be laid low, and the righteous alone exalted (Psalm 9:10).

It is of this cup that we this day wish to speak to you. It gives an alarming, awakening view of our God and Savior. It is not “God in Christ reconciling the world to Himself,” but God the Judge, Christ the Judge. It is not the King with the golden scepter, inviting all to draw near: it is the King risen up in wrath, in the evening of the day of grace, to “judge all the wicked of the earth.” Oh there is a hell, an endless hell, awaiting the ungodly! The Judge warns us of it—in order that none of us may be cast into that tremendous woe. Say not in your hearts, “God is too loving and merciful ever to condemn a soul to such woe.” If you continue in sin, you shall know too late that the Judge does condemn; not because He is not infinitely loving, but because your sin compels Him so to do. Listen to what is written, and you will see that surely, if unpardoned, he shall drink of this wine of God’s indignation.

I. The Cup of Wrath

The general idea of the verse is, that there is wrath against sin to be manifested by God, which is dreadful beyond conception. As it is written in Ezekiel 18:4, “The soul that sins—it shall die;” and Psalm 7:11-13, “God is a righteous judge. He is angry with the wicked every day. If he does not relent, he will sharpen his sword; he will bend and string his bow. He has prepared his deadly weapons; he makes ready his flaming arrows.” In Psalm 11:6-7, “He rains down blazing coals on the wicked, punishing them with burning sulfur and scorching winds. For the Lord is righteous, and he loves justice.” In Psalm 21:9, “You shall make them as a fiery oven in the time of Your anger.” In Romans 2:5 we read, You “treasurest up unto yourself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God;” and in Revelation 14:9-10, “If any man worships the beast, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of His indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of His holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb!” Can words be found more emphatic to express God’s indignation at man’s sin?

“For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup, and the wine is red; it is full of mixture; and he pours out of the same: but the dregs thereof, all the wicked of the earth shall wring them out, and drink them.” Psalm 75:8.

“A cup” is spoken of. A measured out portion. (Psalm 11:6 and Psalm 16:5, “The Lord is the portion of my cup”). It is frequently used to express a full amount; as when fulfillment of a curse is called the “cup of trembling,” (Isaiah 51:22); and in Ezekiel 23:31-33, wrath upon Samaria is, “the cup of Samaria.”

God’s wrath shall be given forth in a measured portion, deliberately and justly considered. There shall be nothing of caprice, nothing arbitrary, in God’s judgment on sin—all shall be fairly adjusted. Here are the sins—there is the cup, of a size proportioned to the sin, and full. God’s perfections direct and dictate the filling of it.

It is “a cup of red wine.” He elsewhere calls it “The wine of my fury;” and Revelation 16:19, it is “Wine of the fierceness of His wrath.” In the East, red wine was usually the strongest; but besides, the fiery nature of the contents is indicated by the color. This “red wine” is pressed out of the grapes by the divine attributes. It must be the concentrated essence of wrath; no weak potion, but one like that in Jeremiah 25:16, “When they drink it, they will stagger and go mad ;” or that in Ezekiel 23:32-33, “A cup large and deep; it will bring scorn and derision, for it holds so much. You will be filled with drunkenness and sorrow, the cup of ruin and desolation.”

It is “full of mixture.” This signifies that the wine’s natural quality has been strengthened; its force has been intensified by various ingredients cast into it. Such is the sense of “mingled wine” in Isaiah 5:22, and in Proverbs 9:5, “Come… drink of the wine which I have mingled.” We must distinguish this from the expression “without mixture,” in Revelation 14:10, where the speaker means to say, that there is no infusion of water to weaken the strength of the wine. Here there is everything that may enhance the bitterness of the cup!

Let us ask, What may be these various ingredients? The body, as well as the soul, shall be steeped in never-ending anguish, amid the unceasing wretchedness of eternal exile and lonely imprisonment.

Further, each attribute of Godhead casts something into the cup! Righteousness is there, so that the rich man in hell (Luke 16:19-31) dare not hint that his torment is too great. Mercy and Love stand by and cast on it their ray, testifying that the sinner was dealt with in patience, and salvation placed within his reach. O the aggravation which this thought will lend to misery. Omnipotence contributes to it; the lost man in the hands of the Almighty is utterly helpless—as weak as a worm. Eternity is an ingredient, telling that this wrath endures as long as God lives! And truth is there, declaring that all this is what God spoke, and so cannot be altered without overturning His throne.

Yet more! While shame and contempt, and the consciousness of being disowned by every holy being, fiercely sting the soul, there are ingredients cast in by the sinner himself. His conscience asserts and attests that this woe is all deserved—and the man loathes himself! Memory recalls past opportunities and times of hope despised. Sin goes on increasing, and passions rage; cravings gnaw the unsatisfied soul with eternal hunger.

It may be that every particular sin will contribute to the mixture—a woe for lusts gratified; a woe for every act of drunkenness, and every falsehood and dishonesty; a woe for every rejected invitation, and every threatening disregarded. Who can tell what more may be meant by the words: “Full of mixture!”

It has “dregs” in it. The dregs lie at the bottom, out of sight, but are the bitterest. Do these mean hidden woes not yet conceived of by any? Such as may be hinted at in the words, “Better he had never been born!” Such as Christ’s woes seem to speak of. These shall be the reverse of the saved man’s joys, “which never have entered the heart” to imagine! Backsliders seem sometimes to have begun to taste these dregs. But oh, the reality in the ages to come! For it shall be the wrath of Him whose breath makes the mountains smoke, and rocks earth to its center! O the staggering madness of despair!

“He pours out of the same. The wicked shall wring them out and drink them.” They are not meant to be merely shown; this is not a cup whose contents shall only be exhibited and then withdrawn. No, the wicked must “drink them” and cannot refuse. When Socrates, the Athenian sage, was adjudged to drink the cup of poison, he was able to protest his innocence, and thus to abate the bitterness of the draught, though he took it as awarded by the laws of his country. Here, however, there shall be nothing like protest, nothing of such alleviation of the awful draught which the sinner must drink. “God pours out,” and the guilty soul “shall wring out and drink” the very dregs. Job 27:22, says “They would gladly flee out of his hand,” but cannot, for it is written, “God shall cast upon him and not spare.” In Jeremiah 25:15-16, we have the Lord most peremptorily commanding, “Take from my hand this cup filled with the wine of my wrath and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it. When they drink it, they will stagger and go mad.” And further, He insists, verse 28, “But if they refuse to take the cup from your hand and drink, tell them, ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: You must drink it!” “They shall drink of the wrath of the Almighty” (Job 21:20).

And what mean those words already quoted in Revelation 14:10-11? “They must drink the wine of God’s wrath. It is poured out undiluted into God’s cup of wrath. And they will be tormented with fire and burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and the Lamb. The smoke of their torment rises forever and ever, and they will have no relief day or night!”

It shall not, on God’s part, be a mere silent feeling of indignation at sin; there must be infliction of curse. There is no thunder while the electricity sleeps in the cloud. The seven seals showed no deliverance for earth while unbroken; the seven trumpets summoned no avengers, until sounded; the seven vials brought down no judgment, while only held in the angels’ hands. Ah yes, the penalty must be exacted—and it will require eternity to exact it all!

O fellow-sinner, we have tried to say somewhat of this doom; but what are words of man? You have seen a porous vessel, in which was fine flavored liquor; outside you tasted the moisture, and it gave a slight idea of what was within; but slight indeed. So our words today. And remember each new sin of yours will throw in more mixture! It is the merciful One Himself who speaks in Ezekiel 22:13-14: “Can your hands be strong, in the days that I shall deal with you? I the Lord have spoken it and will do it.” It is dreadful to read and hear this proclamation of wrath; but it is all given in order to compel us to flee from it.

II. The story of One who drank this cup to the dregs.

We would not leave you merely contemplating the terrors of that wrath. We go on, in connection with it, to speak of one whose history has a strange bearing on our case. There has been only One who has ever “drunk this cup to its dregs.” Cain has been drinking it for 5,000 years and finds his punishment greater than he can bear, but has not come to the dregs. Judas had been drinking it for nearly 2000 years, often crying out with a groan that shakes hell, “Oh that I had never been born! Oh that I had never seen or heard of the Lord Jesus Christ!” But he has not reached the dregs. The fallen angels have not come near the dregs: for they have not arrived at the judgment of the Great Day.

The only One who has taken, tasted, drunk, and wrung out the bitterest of the bitter dregs—has been the Judge Himself, the Lord Jesus! You know how often, when on earth, He spoke of it. “Are you able to drink the cup that I shall drink of?” (Matthew 20:22). “The cup which My Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?” (John 18:11). In Psalm 88:15-17, “From my youth I have been afflicted and close to death; I have suffered your terrors and am in despair. Your wrath has swept over me; your terrors have destroyed me. All day long they surround me like a flood; they have completely engulfed me.” The universe saw Him with it at His lips. It was our cup of trembling; the cup in which the wrath due to the “multitude which no man can number” was mingled. What wrath, what woe! A few drops made Him cry, “Now is my soul troubled!” In the garden, the sight of it wrung out the strange, mysterious words, “Sorrowful unto death!” though God-man, He staggered at what He saw, and went on trembling. Next day, on Calvary, He drank it all. I suppose the three hours of darkness may have been the time when He “was wringing out the dregs”; for then arose from His broken heart the wail that so appealed to the heart of the Father, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!” As He ended the last drop, and cried out, “It is finished!” we may believe angels felt an inconceivable relief—and even the Father Himself! So tremendous was the wrath and curse!—the wrath and curse due to our sin.

In all this, there was nothing too much. Love would protest against one drop too much; and never do you find God exceeding. Did He not hasten to stay Abraham’s hand when enough had been done on Moriah? and at that same spot again, David’s day, when Justice had sufficiently declared the sharpness of its two-edged sword, did He not again hasten to deliver, crying, “It is enough?” How much more then when it was His beloved Son? He sought from Him all that was needed by justice. And so we find in this transaction what may well be good news to us. For Jesus drank that cup as the substitute for “the great multitude,” His innumerable people, given Him of the Father; and thereby freed them from ever tasting even one drop of that fierce wrath, that “cup of red wine, full of mixture,” with its dregs, its unknown terrors. Now, this One, this only One, who so drank the whole, presents to the sinners of our world the emptied Cup—His own Cup emptied. He sends it round the world, calling on sinners to take it and offer it to the Father as satisfaction for their sins. Come, O fellow-sinner, grasp it and hold it up to God! Plead it, and you are acquitted.

Yes, if you are anxious at all to be saved and blessed, take up this emptied cup. However cold your heart, however dull your feelings, however slight your sorrow for sin, take this emptied cup. Your appeal to this emptied cup arrests judgment at once. Do not think you need to endure some anguish of soul, some great sorrow —to take some sips of the red wine, far less to taste its dregs, before you can be accepted. What thoughtless presumption! Imitating Christ in His atoning work! If Uzziah, the king, presenting incense when he ought to have let the priest do it for him, was smitten for his presumption, take care lest you be thrust away, if you presume to bring the fancied incense of your sorrow and bitter tears. It is the emptied cup that is offered us, not the cup wet with our tears, or its purity dimmed by the breath of our prayers. Feelings of ours, graces of ours, can do nothing but cast a veil over the perfect merits of Christ.

Man of God who has used this cup, keep pleading it always. Ever make it the ground of your assurance of acceptance. Examine it often and well—see how God was glorified here, and how plentifully it illustrates and honors the claims of God’s righteousness. Full payment of every claim advanced by Justice is here; and so you, in using it, give good measure, pressed down and running over. What then remains but that you render thanks and take this salvation, often singing,— “Once it was mine, that cup of wrath, And Jesus drank it dry!”

What should ever hinder your triumphant joy? Be full of gratitude; and let this gratitude appear in your letting others know what it has done for you, and may do for them.

For again we say to you, fellow-sinner, if you accept it not, soon you shall have no opportunity of choice. May I never see one of my people drinking this awful cup! May I never see it put into their hands! The groaning of a soul, dying in sin, is at times heard on this side of the veil, and it is the saddest and most haunting of all solemn and awful scenes; but what is that to the actual drinking of the cup, and wringing out the very dregs, that God “pours out of the same.” Never may Satan have it in his power to upbraid you with having once had the offer of salvation, an offer never made to him! It seems to me that every Sabbath, especially the Lord takes Gospel-hearers aside into a quiet secluded nook, and there sets down before them the “cup of red wine, full of mixture,” and then the emptied cup of Jesus, earnestly, most earnestly, most sincerely, most compassionately, pressing them to decide and be blessed. Men and brethren, never rest until the Holy Spirit has in your eye so glorified Christ who drank the cup, that you see in Him your salvation and God’s glory secured beyond controversy, beyond even Satan’s power to question or assail.

Andrew Bonar (1810-1892): The Fear Nots of the Old and New Testament

The Fear Nots of the Old and New Testament


Andrew Bonar (1810-1892)

Copyright: Public Domain

External links are for reader convenience only, neither the linked web sites, its advertising content or its comments are endorsed by Late Night Watch. Be Berean (Acts 17:11) – Use the Internet with discernment.

The Fear Nots of the Old and New Testament

God’s promises are all “Yea and Amen” in Christ Jesus. But let us see that we take them all from the hand of Jesus. Let the Owner of the Vineyard give us the grapes; let us not pick them as they hang over the wall. Is Christ yours? Then His promises are yours.

“Fear not, Abraham; I am thy shield and thy exceeding great reward.” – Gen. 15:1.

The first time in the Bible “FEAR NOT” occurs. It is spoken to a sinner who simply believed God when He told him of the Promised Seed. It is for thee, also, who believest in that Promised One.
“Fear not; for God hath heard the voice of the lad where he is.” – Gen. 21:17.

The second time in the Bible “FEAR NOT” occurs. It is kindly spoken to one who had had shortly before a visit of the Angel of the Covenant (chap. 16:10). Has He taken away thy great burden of sin? Then, “What aileth thee, Hagar? FEAR NOT” – He will order this providence for good.
“Fear not; for I am with thee, and will bless thee.” – Gen. 26:24.

Spoken to Isaac, who had Abraham’s God as his God. Hast thou annoyance from envious neighbours? If the God of Isaac is thine, this “FEAR NOT” is for thee. Thou shalt prosper.
“Fear not; your God and the God of your father hath given you treasure.” – Gen. 43:23.

God removes our suspicious alarms, as Joseph did those of his brethren, here and in chap. 50:19, by showing us that He has got full payment, and has thoughts of love towards us. Just as Boaz (Ruth 3:11) removed fear from Ruth, by telling what was in his heart; and as David (1 Sam. 22:23) dispelled Abiathar’s by declaring that now he had on his side one who would die sooner than see him injured.

“Fear not to go down into Egypt.” – Gen. 46:3.

Spoken to Jacob, about to proceed on a journey, in his old age, under circumstances of anxiety. “I am God; FEAR NOT!” This is enough for thee, who knowest by experience that thy God has saved thy soul.

“Fear ye not; stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.” – Exod. 14:13.

To Israel at the Red Sea. Has God made the path of duty plain to thee? Then, hesitate not to trust Him to carry thee through it. Thy way will open out as thou advancest. How different the event when man, and not God, speaks! Those that stood by Rachel, Gen. 35:17, like those who stood by Phinehas’ daughter, 1 Sam. 4:20, said “FEAR NOT;” yet death did come. And Jael met Sisera (Judges 4:18) with the same words; but the end was death.

“Fear not; for God is come to prove you that His fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not.” – Exod. 20:20.

At Sinai, when the people so felt the law and majesty of God as to cry out for a Mediator. Art thou feeling the same? Let it drive thee to the Mediator, Jesus, in whom thy sin is hidden, and from whom the Spirit of Holiness comes.

“Fear not: I am the First and the Last: I am he that liveth and was dead, and behold! I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.” – Rev. 1:17.

Do you ever think you must tremble as you enter within the vail? or when the Lord comes again in His glory? Fear not! He will gently lay His hand on thee, put strength in thee, and show thee Himself – yes, Himself who died, and who liveth evermore for us! Himself, who has thy name on His heart!

LNW Note: No matter what your situation may be, if you are His in Christ Jesus the Lord, then truly you can with utmost confidence in Him, fear not for He will neither fail you nor forsake you.

Andrew Bonar (1810-1892): The Gospel pointing to the Person of Christ – Chapter 6 of 6

The Gospel pointing to the Person of Christ – Chapter 6


Andrew Bonar (1810-1892)

This is believed to be in the Public Domain

External links are for reader convenience only, neither the linked web sites, its advertising content or its comments are endorsed by Late Night Watch. Be Berean (Acts 17:11) – Use the Internet with discernment.

The Gospel pointing to the Person of Christ – Chapter 6


In proportion as the soul advances in grace, its state coincides with that of the apostle, ‘I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart and to be with Christ, which is far better; nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you’ (Phil. i.25). But at the same time that soul, if truly apostolic in its holiness, can add, ‘Not that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life’ (2 Cor. v.4). It desires resurrection-bliss most of all, while, at the same time, it yearns after the lesser bliss of immediately passing into glory.

I. The main, and, indeed, the only, attraction of the intermediate state is this – there the redeemed see the Lord Jesus. He Himself is with them, and this is their heaven. In Rev. vi.9, the ‘souls under the altar’ are, undoubtedly, in this state; they are not represented in the glory of their resurrection state, as chap. vii.15, 16, 17, and some passages may seem to set forth. These souls are at the altar, where they have taken up their station in order to cry for justice being done on the earth, as well as in order to show that justice is satisfied as to themselves; and there they are met by one who gives them ‘white robes,’ and who tells them they are to ‘rest for a season;’ leading them away to recline in their white robes on those couches of rest of which Isaiah (lvii.2) has told us. This is all we see of their outward bliss; but we cannot fail to notice that the ‘rest’ here, and in chap. xiv.13, is the continuation of the same ‘rest’ that their Lord from the very first spoke of giving (Matt. xi.28). It seems to be, like Lazarus in Abraham’s bosom (Luke xvi.22), a reclining with the Lord Jesus in view – reclining at a feast with the eye fixed on Jesus in the midst.

The moment a saint departs, he is ‘with Christ.’ This we read in Phil. i.23, and, as we have already said, this ‘being with Christ’ is the essence of the bliss of that intermediate state, and is really all we know about it. The spirit of the departing one is received by Jesus (Acts vii.59); angels may receive it as it leaves the body (Luke xvi.22), but they are not long of delivering it safe to their Lord. In His presence it rests, the sum of all its employments and its enjoyments being the sight and fellowship of the Lord Jesus. Nothing more is told us; for it would appear to be the design of the Lord to keep our eye on the Person of the beloved Son, as much on entering that unseen world as while here, and as much when arrived there as at entering.

‘Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord.’ They rest with Him, and see His face. They are gone to that ‘mountain of myrrh and hill of frankincense'(Song iv.6), where Jesus Himself sits – the right hand of the Father – and on the slopes of that hill they rest most pleasantly, beholding Him, and enjoying fellowship with Him, and waiting with Him for the daybreak and the flight of shadows. They are said to be ‘in Paradise’ (Luke xxiii.43), the name appropriated to some part of the glorious heavens where the throne of God is seen – appropriated to it because of being the special spot where the children of the Second Adam are gathered together. As paradise was an inner part of Eden (Genesis ii.8), so is this abode of the redeemed an inner part of heaven. Perhaps it is the same as New Jerusalem. (Rev. xxi.10) But at any rate, does not that name tell us of a place where God, as before the Fall, once more communes with men? It seems to say that the happy souls that dwell there, in light and love, are like unfallen Adam in his paradise – their chiefest joy being to hear the voice of the Lord God, to hear Him who is The Word of God.

We infer, then, that love to the Person of Jesus, and delight therein, is the state of mind nearest to that of those who have departed and are with Him. We are never more in sympathy with the saints departed than when rapt in intense meditation on the Lord’s Person – examining the unspeakable gift, even Him ‘in whom dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.’ Never are we ourselves in a better frame for departing than when enabled by the spirit of wisdom and revelation to gaze on the Lord Jesus, and claim that Mercy-seat, and that Ark with all its contents, as our own. Never do we realize so well what it is to be separate from earth and enter the suburbs of heaven as when thus engrossed with Him who is our Plant of Renown, with all its fruit and foliage, freshness and fragrance, beauty and shade. Sitting, in such an hour, at the feet of Him who has ‘the keys of death and the invisible world,’ we are almost already ushered over the threshold.

II. But our attention is fixed more directly still upon the Person of the Lord Jesus, when we turn to the blessed hope, His Second Coming. The glories of that day are such, in themselves and in their influence on us, as to guide our eye to Him personally, and keep it resting on Him. When a believer is enabled to meditate much and often on ‘that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of Him who is the Great God and our Saviour, Jesus Christ,’ his soul catches from afar something of the glory yet to be revealed – not unlike to what poetry has sung of the cheerful bird, ‘the messenger of day,’ which in the early dawn pours out its melody, soaring all the while higher and higher -‘until the unrisen sun Gleams on its breast.’

The believer, rapt into the future in his earnest anticipations, catches beams of that Better Sun which is yet to rise with healing on his wings. If the redeemed may say at death, ‘As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness’ (Ps. xvii.15), much more may they add, in hope of that resurrection day, ‘I shall be satisfied when I wake with His likeness’, as if the rays of that morning were already shining on them with transforming power.

It shall be the Lamb Himself that shall lead each believer up from his quiet grave: ‘The dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God.’ (John v.25) As in the hour of conversion, awakening from their wordly dreams, they saw that stupendous sight, the Son of Man lifted up on the cross (John iii.3-14), so in the hour of the First Resurrection, they shall see His face again, not now marred, but become the seat of majesty, glory, beauty, as well as holy love. The Lamb Himself shall then lead them to living fountains and feed them as a shepherd (Rev. vii.17); and this will keep the thoughts of the glorified forever on Himself. He is still their sun, whence beam forth light, and life, and joy – light, life, joy, worthy of the sore travail of His soul, worthy of His strong cries, worthy of His endless merits.

Why is it that we hope for That Day? Let John reply, ‘When He shall appear we shall be like Him (1 John iii.2), for we shall see Him as He is.’ Or let Paul tell how he, and Clement, and Epaphroditus, and the saints of Caesar’s household, and all the believers whom he knew, anticipated that day. He says that it was the Lord Himself they delighted to look for. It was not so much the triumphs of that day, nor its palms, and crowns, and white robes, and shouts of Hallelujah over sorrows forever vanished; but it was the thought of the Lord Himself being there that made that day so joyful. ‘Our conversation is in heaven, whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ’ (Phil. iii.21). And when they associated their own blessedness with these anticipations, it was in this form – ‘We shall be LIKE HIM.’ ‘He shall change our vile body that it may be fashioned LIKE UNTO HIS GLORIOUS BODY!’

What is this that Isaiah promises? ‘The Lord shall be unto her an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory!’ (Isa. lx.19). No stretch of thought can conceive the amount of honour and bliss expressed in these few words. And what is this that the same prophet promises to each one that now walks with God? He says, happy soul, ‘Thine eyes shall see the King in His beauty’ (Isa. xxxiii.17). This is the highest hope He can hold out to thee; this is the greatest of His rewards; this is His best joy. Thine eyes shall see, and not be dim ; thine eyes shall see, and not be dazzled into blindness; thine eyes shall see, and gaze with calm and constant delight on ‘the King in His beauty’ This is a promise of a true Transfiguration-day to thee. What was it that led the astonished multitude at the foot of the hill to run the Son of Man as He descended from the scene of His brief Transfiguration? (Mark. ix.15). What caused that assembly to salute Him with such reverence? Was it not the impression produced on them by even a few lingering beams of glory, that hung on His form as the brightness did on Moses after his forty days’ interview with God ? And if that were so then, while He was seen under the returning clouds of sorrow, and while they who saw had not been fully anointed with the eye-salve that they might discern His real beauty, what may we not expect to enjoy on that day when the prophet’s words are realized, ‘Thine eyes shall see the King in His beauty!’

Are you a disciple whose eyes are often wistfully turned to the heavens, like the men of Galilee on the day of His ascension? You shall not always gaze in vain: ‘Thine eyes shall see the King in His beauty.’ Thou shalt see Him who is ‘The fellow of the Almighty,’ and yet also ‘Man’ (Zech. xiii.7); who can tell of ‘men being His fellows’ at the very moment that the Father proclaims him ‘God’ (Heb. i.9); whose human countenance, lighted up now with the ‘joy unspeakable and full of glory,’ tells what ecstasy is found in the Father’s love; who is the brightness of the Father’s glory, the express image of His person, revealing Godhead to the very sense of the creature, in a manner so attractive and heart-satisfying that the song of rapturous delight never has a pause.

Art thou a weary pilgrim? Walk on a little longer with thine eye still toward the Right Hand of the Majesty on high; for soon thou shalt see ‘the King in His beauty.’ Hast thou been vexed, like righteous Lot, from day to day, in seeing and learning earth’s wickedness? hast thou been saddened by witnessing death ravaging families, and removing some of thine own dearest ones? hast thou but dimly descried amid thy tears the form of Him who walked on the sea at midnight to reassure His dejected and trembling disciples? hast thou often been disappointed when thou didst think thou hadst got a look of things within the veil that would forever turn thine eyes from beholding vanity ? – be of good cheer, ‘ Thine eyes shall see the King in His beauty.’ Thy heaven shall consist in seeing Him as He is – knowing Him as He knoweth thee.

Among all the rewards offered to those who overcome, by the Captain of Salvation (when, after a sixty years’ absence, He visited His suffering disciple in Patmos face to face), none is so magnificent, none so soul-filling, as that wherein He offers Himself in His glory. In this promised reward He may be said to offer us to Himself at the time when all His own reward has been bestowed, and when Himself has been anointed with the oil of gladness above His fellows. He writes, ‘To him that overcometh and keepeth My works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations; and he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers, even as I received of My Father.’ Is not this enough? No, not yet; one thing more and better still by far, ‘And I will give him the Morning Star’ (Rev. ii.28). That is, I will give him Myself at the time I appear as ‘Bright and Morning Star’ (Rev. xxii.16), rising in our sky after a night of gloom, the harbinger of an endless day. The great bliss of that day is this, the gift of Christ Himself at a time when joy, peace, love, and glory, and the holiness, wisdom, power, and majesty of Godhead, are the beams that radiate from His person, and bathe those on whom He shines.

If, believer, you love much that Person of whom we have all along in these pages been speaking, then press on to the day of His coming, for then it is you are to get Him in His fullest glory. Then it is you are to get as your Redemption Him who has been your Wisdom, your Righteousness, your Sanctification. That ‘Tower of David’ was long ago gifted to you, with all its armory; but your time for entering on the possession of it is now when it is furnished with whatever is magnificent, and royal, and heavenly, and divine; creation’s riches being stored up therein. You shall see the Lord Jesus as yours at a time when His own and the Father’s glory, and the glory of His angels, all combine to set forth His person. ‘And your look that day shall be (says one) that of an owner, not the shy gaze of a passer-by.’ That Christ, on yonder throne, is mine! With all His glory He is mine! That King of Kings, that Lord of Lords in His royal apparel, is mine! That beloved Son, whom the Father delighteth to honour for evermore, is mine! All that He is, all that He has, is mine!

Does not this prospect make a present life seem dull? It pours contempt on earth’s fairest scenes! It mocks ambition. It makes covetousness appear folly and infatuation. It renders trial light and duty easy! Christ Himself ours! ours on that day when ‘His peace’ and ‘His joy’ are at their height! Our life is discovered to be ‘Christ’ (Col. iii.4). Oh what a Christ that day reveals! The more intently we pore over what is to arrive on that day, we do the more intently gaze on the Person of the Son of God. We are kept in the very posture in which the Gospel of His First Coming placed us. On the one hand, we find that His coming to die and overcome death sends us forward to the coming again of Him who so overcame ; but on the other, no sooner are we in His presence, amid His own and the Father’s glory, than, in grateful remembrance, we go back to him as He appeared to us in His low estate – these two views of Him so act and react on each other, combining to keep us ever in the attitude of beholding Himself.

There is to be no new Gospel forever; and can there be need of any? The coming of the Lord shall fully unveil His Person, in whom all the Gospel is stored up. The feast of fat things full of marrow, in Isa. xxvi.6, is the visible, as well as inward, discovery of His matchless person, in the day of His glory, when the pure canopy of the New Heavens, and the beauty shed over a Restored Creation, with all the teeming luxuriance of its hills and plains, and the melody of attendant harpers harping on the harps of heaven, shall be all but forgotten, because of the presence of the ‘King in His beauty.’ Called in from the hedges and highways (Matt. xxii.1-10), we feast even at present on fragments of this greater feast; but we get as yet little more than the crumbs – for little indeed do we see of the real glory of the Lord.

The Holy Spirit then, even as now, will continue to glorify Christ. There will be a fully unveiled Christ before us, and also there will be in us the Holy Spirit (unresisted by us and no longer grieved), springing up to eternal life, showing us His beauty. One difference only will there be – at present He gives us but drops, then He will pour upon us the horn of oil; and so shall we enter into the full joy of the Lord, not a scale left on our eye, nor one film left of the earthly mist that used to prevent our seeing Him who is the Image of God. The days of eternity shall pass on, and our eye shall never weary of looking on Him, but ‘shall gaze upon His glories, as the eagle is said to do upon the meridian sun.’ Ages upon ages pass, and still He is to us all in all. We admit the light from His Person freely now; never did Moses so eagerly survey the goodly land from Pisgah, as we now survey the glories of the Lamb. We get looks into that heart where love has dwelt from everlasting, and where love shall dwell to everlasting. Eternity is in its full course! Long, long ago, we lost sight of the shores of time, and still He is the unexhausted and inexhaustible fountain to us of ‘Good tidings of Great Joy!’ Eternity only serves to let in upon our souls the fullness of the blessing given to us in the day when we received Him, and began to have fellowship in His Gospel. The Gospel is still ‘THE EVERLASTING GOSPEL;’ for Christ is its substance; Christ is its essence; Christ is its Alpha and Omega; and the life it has brought us is out of ‘Christ our life,’ and must be ‘Life Everlasting.’

Henceforth, then, this one thing I do: ‘I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ our Lord. I do count them but dung that I may win Christ, and that I may know Him. I follow after if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. I forget those things which are behind, and reach forth unto those things which are before – I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God, in Christ Jesus’ (Phil. iii.8, 9, 10, 12, 14). Dr. Owen spent some of the best years of his life in writing the ‘Treatise on the Person of Christ,’ and some of his last days in preparing for the press his ‘Meditations on the Glory of Christ.’ On the very day he died, a friend came to tell him that his book was now in the press, at which he expressed satisfaction. ‘But, O Brother,’ said he, ‘the long looked for day is come at last, in which I will see that glory in another manner than I have ever done yet, or was capable of doing in this world!’

O Holy Spirit, grant that all of us may be found by the Lord when He calls, or when He comes, thus occupied in meditation on His Person and Glory, ready to start up at the call, saying to one another, ‘O Brother, the looked for day is come at last!’

Andrew Bonar (1810-1892): The Gospel pointing to the Person of Christ – Chapter 5 of 6

The Gospel pointing to the Person of Christ – Chapter 5


Andrew Bonar (1810-1892)

This is believed to be in the Public Domain

External links are for reader convenience only, neither the linked web sites, its advertising content or its comments are endorsed by Late Night Watch. Be Berean (Acts 17:11) – Use the Internet with discernment.

LNW Note: Original document comments are preceded with an * and enclosed within (). LNW comments are preceded with “LNW”.

The Gospel pointing to the Person of Christ – Chapter 5


SANCTIFY them by the truth” was our Lord’s prayer; but it is truth in connection with Himself. For, separate from Him, doctrines “have no living power, but are as waters separated from the fountain; they dry up, or become a noisome puddle, or as a beam interrupted from its continuity with the sun is immediately deprived of light.” (Owen on Person of Christ.)

There is an expressive type in the old economy that bears on this subject. The cherubim (emblems of the redeemed) stood upon the mercy seat or lid of the Ark – that lid, or mercy seat, on which the blood was seventimes sprinkled every atonement day. In this manner is set forth the soul’s resting on the work of Christ; for here is His shed blood, and the feet of the cherubim touch that blood. But, at the same time, notice that they stood not on the blood alone, but on the mercy seat – a part of that Ark which altogether was typical of Christ Himself, the depositary or treasure-chest of all our blessings. Thus they exhibited rest on the Person as well as on the work of Christ. Again; the cherubim looked down upon the blood that lay on the mercy seat; but their look was not less fully directed towards the mercy seat itself, and the Ark too. Once more; these symbolic figures of the redeemed spread out their wings over the blood, but not over that alone, but at least as fully over the mercy-seat and Ark – a significant action, expressive of their regarding it as worthy of care – nay, as being to them what to the mother-bird her brood is in the nest. The wings were spread forth on either side, as if purposely to show that the whole of the Ark was their care, the object of their solicitude and their delight.

Perhaps there was still more signified in their connection with that Ark. They not only stood upon it, and leant their whole weight on it, but they were also joined to it. For they formed one piece with the mercy seat, which was the upper part of the Ark, and which was all of gold. Not content with representing them as ever gazing on this object, the Lord set forth their union to Himself who is the mercy-seat – union to Him in His glorified state (for they and it were of gold), sharing in all the fruits of His finished work and begun glory.

Union to Christ’s Person is a fact in the case of every believer, and ought therefore to be a constant subject of meditation to every believer. Now, this union realized leads to a realizing of the Person. Hence, in the Lord’s Supper, it is always important for the communicant to ask, with Paul, “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? (1 Cor. x.16). That ordinance, so rich in blessing and in blessed suggestions, is fitted always to bring us back to a fresh and present realizing of the Person of Jesus, by bringing us to a remembrance of our union to that Person. Can we think of union to Him, and not go on to ask, Who is this to whom I am united? Who is this that is my husband? Who is this that is far more mine than the husband is the wife’s? What is His heart? What is His hand of might? Where are His possessions? Where are the proofs of His love? Are His glories bursting on my view?

The great truth, which the Ark in the Old Testament, and the Lord’s Supper in the New, is so well fitted to keep before us, has been the object of endeavor and pursuit (if not always of attainment) to all believers who have been found growing in holiness. In the latter days of the life of Howell Harris, of Wales, the intent gaze of his soul on the Person of Jesus is as remarkable, as was his intent look to the terrors of Sinai in earlier days. He writes to a friend (Let. 43), “One view of Him, in His eternal Godhead, and so of the infinity of His Person, love, obedience, and suffering, is worth millions of worlds.” In another (Let. 52), “How is it with all you? Doth the veil wear off, and doth the glory of a crucified Savior appear brighter and brighter? Oh, my brother, that Man is indeed the eternal God. What views doth He give vile me of Himself! He shines brightly like the sun at noon! Oh, what heart of stone would not melt to see the eternal God lying in a manger, sweating and tired, wearing His thorny crown, not opening His mouth, because He bare our sin and shame? Go on, my dear brother, and be bold in the great mystery of God become man.”

Undoubtedly it mellows and matures the character of saints to be much occupied with their Lord’s Person; but as undoubtedly it quickens their sense of obligation, and keeps alive love and gratitude, to be thus ever in contact with a personal Savior. Ideas, however noble, may leave our souls comparatively dry, and they will always leave us infinitely less affected in our conscience, than when we meet our God in His personality.*

(* Trench, in one of his Hulsean Lectures, puts the case thus: “Oh, how great the difference between submitting ourselves to a complex of rules, and casting ourselves upon a beating heart” (P. 122)).

Now, while all believers do in some measure deal with a personal Christ, yet all do not seek to extend their experience of it; although the more this is done, the more fervent, and mild, and calm will all holiness be in their souls; for then they take it fresh from the spring, and that spring is the calm, deep soul of Jesus. There will be a difference in the tone of, their life, and the fullness of their conformity to the image of their Lord, in proportion as their eye rests more or less frequently on His Person. Indeed, so much is this the case, that we are inclined to think that Peter referred very specially to this style of experience, when he was inspired to write, “Grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior – Jesus Christ” (2 Peter iii.18).

Many saints seem to be little aware how much of grace there is in the knowledge of the Person of Jesus. It would singularly benefit some of these, who have lived much on what they know about Jesus, to try for a week the more blessed and fruitful way of dealing directly with Himself. There are treasures in the Person of Him whose doctrines they believe, if only they could use them. A great philosopher says, on another subject, what we may accommodate to this: “A man may believe in the work and Person of Christ for twenty years, and only in the twenty-first – in some great moment – is he astonished at the rich substance of His belief – the rich warmth of this naphtha spring.” He adds to his ideas a person, and exchanges knowledge about a truth for knowledge of Him that is true – yes, exchanges opinions for a deep joy in the Living One, a joy which nothing earthly gave nor can destroy.

By this looking to the Person, the believer’s holiness, or growth in grace, is advanced in a threefold way. For this looking to the Person leads – 1. To communion; 2. To a realizing of His life for us; 3. To imitation; all which conform the soul to His likeness.

1. Communion with Him is one result, and a sanctifying result. When we dwell on the Savior’s Person, we are in His company. Faith places us by His side, and shows us His glory, until what we see makes our heart burn within us. We are virtually put in the position of disciples walking by His side, witnessing His excellences, basking in the radiance of grace and truth from His countenance, hearing His words. Now, this contemplation of Him is transforming in its effects; “Beholding the glory of the Lord, we are changed: into the same image” (2 Cor. iii.18) This is the plan which the Holy Spirit takes in conforming us to Christ’s image. In this way He daguerreotypes on our prepared hearts the likeness of Him whom we look to.

This communion was carried on very constantly by Samuel Rutherford while in exile, hour after hour. The day seemed short while so engaged; and thus it was he exhorted a friend: “I urge upon you a nearer communion with Christ, and a growing communion. There are curtains to be drawn by in Christ that we never saw, and new foldings of love in Him. I despair that ever I shall win to the far end of that love; there are so many plies in it. Therefore, dig deep – and set by as much time in the day for Him as you can – He will be won by labor.”

But is it not intimated to us, by there being such a book as “the Song of Songs,” that the Lord desires far more of our communion with Him than we generally relish? Was not that Song of Songs written to teach us this dealing with Himself? It was given to the Church in Old Testament days, when His Person as yet was dimly seen; for so great was His desire for this personal converse with us, He would teach it even then. How much more now should it be our occupation, when we see the Bridegroom, and know Him as revealed by Himself. Is there much of that tender love in the present day? Are there many of His own who are saying to Him, “Let me kiss Him with the kisses of His love” (Song i.1) – using that figure for want of any other adequate terms? Are many telling Him , “I am sick of love. If ye find my beloved, tell Him that I am sick of love?” (Song v.8). Have we at all adequately realized our privilege of holding “fellowship” with Him, as a man speaketh to His friend? “Truly,” said John, “our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son, Jesus Christ” (1 John i.3). There was here personal intercourse, the soul of disciples with the soul of the master. There was no doubt, in spirit, all the reality of the converse exhibited in the Song of Songs, and realized by each disciple in the Upper Room.

2. Thus living on the Son of God personally leads us to realize His life for us. By His life for us is meant His manner of spending for us the three-and-thirty years He lived on earth, as well as His continually using for us “the power of his endless life,” now in heaven. All that is associated with that Person, we cannot but seek to call to mind. Every notice of His former walk on earth we eagerly read, that we may thereby know His heart, He being “the same yesterday, to-day, and forever.”

All the records of His sympathy with us in our misery, every trait of His tender pity, whatever indicates His thoughts, we peruse with untiring fondness – returning to the meditation again and again with as engrossing an interest as at first. On this account the four gospels possess indescribable attractions; for there it is we glean the finest wheat – glimpses of His glory and grace, human and divine. What He did, what He said, what He suffered, what He felt, what He thought; how He was silent, how He spoke; His journeyings, His places of rest; the words He used in healing, the look, the prayer, the touch, the command, the call – all have an engrossing interest, because God-man is there. And then, not less, the outgushings of grace and truth, in the outpouring of His soul unto death, and in the resurrection-victory, and in the discoveries of the same heart toward us when His exaltation was begun, and His robe of righteousness had been waved with acceptance before the Father.

But still more. We follow Him as “He feeds among the lilies.” We try to feel His heart beating for us in heaven; and just as one walking with Aaron, the High Priest, could not but see the breast-plate with its names, so we cannot fail to see that this Jesus bears the names of His own on His heart. We find it written, “We shall be saved by His life” (Rom. v.10). We go up to Him, and find His love as intense, and His merit as fresh, as when He rose from the tomb. We realize Him as “every moment watering His vine” – interceding and obtaining daily grace for us. His life above is a life of love, no less than was His life below. Behold, how He thinks upon us night and day! Not content with putting into our hand the cup of blessing on the day of our conversion He takes care to keep it in our possession and to keep us from spilling its new wine. He remembers still how he hid us in the cleft on that day when we flew as trembling doves to the rock; and he keeps us as safely hid as ever. Not only did He once blot out our sins, but he is employed in seeing that the writing never reappear. He once put on us a robe of righteousness: he every hour continues to keep it on us, in spite of blasts from earth and hell. He once plunged all our sins in the depth of the sea. He still appears for us in the presence of God, keeping the deep tide that buries these sins from ever ebbing. He once acquitted us and gained us honor far greater than was gained by Mordecai before Ahasuerus: He is every day still engaged in preventing us ever falling into disgrace.

In this manner we feel our acceptance and the communication of blessing to us fresh each day, through Him who is our life; and so nothing in our religion grows old, and none of our reasons for close dependence on Him are past and out of date; nay, our every-day life is in a manner a daily repetition of the day of our first conversion. By this view a daily impulse is given to our walk with God. Is not this what we need for continual progress? And is not this the Spirit’s manner of watering the roots of the plants of grace?

And at the same time, as a man much in Aaron’s company would see on His person and garments the anointing oil, so in our interceding Lord we see the Holy Spirit dwelling without measure. We see Him with the “seven Spirits of God,” and this all for us. Our eye, resting on the Person of Jesus, discovers therein a reservoir of all holiness for our souls, inasmuch as he has the Spirit without measure. And so we learn to take from Him “that other Comforter,” who delights to glorify the Savior, and who is Himself infinite love and loveliness. What a sight for a soul like ours! “The Spirit of wisdom and revelation,” dwelling in Him whom we long to know more and more. We read, in a manner, on His vesture and on His thigh, “Thou hast received gifts for men, yea, for the rebellious also!” (Psalm lxviii.18).

3. But further, there is Imitation – imitation of Him we look upon. Long ago Origen (Neander’s Ch. Hist., vol. ii.p.283) wrote: “Faith brings with it a spiritual communion with Him in whom one believes; and hence a kindred disposition of mind which will manifest itself in works – the object of faith being taken up into the inner life.” We do not look only on His wounds, but also on His holy steps; and we not only look, but by the sure leading of that Spirit who shows us what we see, we at the same moment seek to imitate. For the inmost soul is moved.*

(* The soul whose sight all-quickening grace renews,

Takes the resemblance of the good she views;

As diamonds stript of their opaque disguise,

Reflect the noonday glory of the skies (C0WPER)).

Looking much to Jesus in His person, we instinctively (so to speak) copy what we see. Indeed, real holiness is simply the “Imitation of Christ,” after He has washed us, and in the depth of His atoning grace left us without guilt. It is grateful imitation, not the imitation of those who are working for life. Much in the presence of our Benefactor who so loved us, we would fain resemble him in our character and state of mind, and so we seek to copy what is imitable in His ways, and in all He manifested of Himself while redeeming us. We are led to desire (as Paul recommends in Phil. ii.5) to be filled with the “mind that was in Christ,” that mind which shone out so attractively as He bore the cross and drank the cup to the dregs – for the Apostle Peter (1 Pet. ii.22-24) exhorts us to observe even His example while hanging on the cross as containing some matter for imitation, some footsteps for us to walk in.

In this same way true and steady looking to Christ’s Person would, by the Spirit’s teaching, lead us into the experience of that “charity” which is described in 1 Cor. xiii.4, 5, 6, 7. It is said to have these fourteen qualities, each one of which is best learned by beholding it in Christ, the original.

1. “Charity suffereth long.” Where was this love illustrated if not in our Lord when He refused to bring down fire on the rejecters of His grace – stretched out His hands all day to rebels – bore mockery, blasphemy, wrong, the scourge, the crown of thorns, the reed, the blindfolding napkin, and the cross itself?

2. Charity is “kind” And who so truly kind as Jesus, crying with loud voice, “It is finished,” and bringing us life in the moment of His own death – proclaiming the sweetest news with the vinegar at His lips! When was Joseph so kind to his brethren? Whoever so heaped coals of fire upon an enemy’s head?

3. If ever we are to learn the love that “envieth not,” we must see it in Him who desired nought for Himself, but disinterestedly and unceasingly sought to make our condition better, happier, greater. If our Priest, who wore the robe without a seam, had worn the priestly mitre on His brow, on it would have been written, “More blessed to give than to receive.” He interfered with none of our comforts, not even in thought: it was only with our miseries. Let us drink in His unenvious, unselfish love, leaving our fellow-men all the true good they have, anxious only to make them have as much as ourselves.

4. Looking to His Person again, we see “charity vaunteth not itself.” In Him is no ostentation, no parade of His doings. We read all the gospels through, and never find His love put itself forward for show. He does not clothe the naked and tell that He has done it; or relieve a Lazarus, and then remind the man that He has done him a favor; or heal, and proclaim His rare skill. Even His redeeming love is rather set within our view in His actions and agonies, as in so many wells whence we may draw, than pressed on us in words. Nor did He upbraid, or taunt, or shout haughty triumph over a soul subdued and forgiven – so little of parade had He. His is a Father’s love to a prodigal son, too glad to gain the opportunity of pouring out itself on its object. Where shall we learn unostentatious love, if not here?

5. Or, are we to learn the love that “is not puffed up” that has no inward self-gratulation, no self-complacent thought of its own magnanimity in the deed so kindly done? It is to be learned surely by looking to Him who was satisfied in gaining His gracious object, in finding scope for love. No look or tone of His ever made His benefactions disagreeable to those who received them; for His was a charity that despised none, being the great love of God (Job xxxvi.5). If we will learn holy love to others, let us learn it at Christ’s holy love to us; as painters take for models the masterpieces of the best artists and copy them line by line.

6. Behold His love, and see how charity “doth not behave itself unseemly.” You see a delicate propriety and a fine attention to the feelings in Christ’s dealings of love. No rudeness, no harshness, no indiscretion; nothing mean, nothing unpolite; time, place, and persons were all consistently and tenderly considered. Even in this, the Righteous Servant “dealt prudently.” With what tender delicacy, and yet determined love, did He deal with the woman of Samaria, till at last He had withdrawn the veil and confronted her conscience with her five husbands and the one that bore that name still! Even to Judas, in the hour of dark treachery, love could say, “Friend, wherefore art thou come?” Never was there extravagant demonstration; never the shadow of affectation. There is seemly love to be learned in its perfection here, but only here, only in Jesus Himself.

7. And need we dwell on the charity “that seeketh not her own”? In the life and death of Him, who “was servant of all,” we see this love to the full – the seeking love of God – the love that sought us and ours.

8. The same love is seen “not easily provoked.” See it personified in Him who stands there and groans over the city, “Oh, Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would I have gathered thy children together!” (Matt. xxiv.37). No bitter wrongs ever drew forth a hasty word, or angry look, or revengeful blow. They spat in His face, they plucked off His hair, they smote Him with the palms of their hand, they put on the purple robe – but it drew forth only love.

9. His love was charity that “thinketh no evil” – that never had a passing thought of injuring its worst foes, nor imagined them worse than they showed themselves to be. His were thoughts of peace, and not of evil, towards the men that crucified Him. “If thou hadst known, even thou!” (Luke xix.42).

10. It is at His side we see and learn “love rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth.” The good of those whom He loved He sought not to advance by any unholy gratification. His love was such as felt grieved at seeing its objects seeking happiness in ways not good and true. It had no joy in seeing iniquity anywhere, far less seeing it have place in the hearts of friends, however pleasing and fascinating that iniquity might be. The truth was what His love rejoiced in. Hence His love led him to protest and war against sinful pleasures and pursuits: for His love was no Eli-like fondness. It was love that would not give to those whom it embraced a cup in which one drop of gall was mingled, however much they thirsted. Where else shall we learn charity like this?

11. And then in Him we see love which “beareth all things” – endures trouble for others, and takes on itself the task of covering from view what is wrong.

12. This love, too, is love that” believeth all things.” Yes, His love was a love ever ready to confide in its objects, ready to trust Matthew as soon as he was called, making him an Apostle, and then an Evangelist – ready to trust Peter, after his fall, bidding him “feed His sheep ” – not suspicious and distrustful. Oh, to learn from Him such generous love! Surely it is well for us to keep much company with Him in whom it dwells.

13. His love “hoped all things.” It was like the love of a friend, who, sitting by the death-bed of one whom he loves, hopes on still, even when all physicians have given up hope – hopes because he loves so much and wishes what he hopes for. Such was the love of Jesus; not easily giving up its object – not soon cutting down its barren fig-trees (Luke xiii.8). More of His love would make our life more perseveringly devoted to the good of others, however slight were the symptoms of success. And it is this we need in our day! And once more:

14. His, indeed, was the charity that “endured all things,” which did not faint in its pursuit, nor was baffled by difficulties. “Many waters could not quench His love, nor could the floods drown it.” Oh, to drink in this love – this holy charity! finding it all in the Savior’s Person.

Such was the portrait an Apostle drew,

The bright original was one he knew;

Heaven held his hand – the likeness must be true (COWPER).

But the tendency to imitate the person whom we love, and with whom we oft personally converse, extends to the feelings as well as actions. We drink deep into his sorrows and his joys.

The Spirit of truth shows us “The Man of Sorrows;” and lifting up a little of the veil from such an hour as that which heard the cry, “Eli! Eli!” discovers to us the unknown anguish which was borne as the wrath due to us. This woe, of course, we are not asked to bear, though into it we are ever to desire to look; but in His other sorrows there is much by sympathizing with which we may be made to drink in His holiness. One of the sorrows that made Him cry, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove” (Ps. lv.4-6), was the sight of a man’s corruption. Into this feeling the soul that walks by the side of Jesus tries to enter. If, again, another source of sorrow to Christ was man’s misery, so that He groaned in spirit at the sight (John xi.33), into this the companion of Jesus tries to enter. If another was the prospect of the doom overhanging sinners, with this, too, the believer sympathizes, seeking to climb the Mount of Olives, and to stand with Jesus weeping over the guilty city (Luke xix.42). If Jesus is seen grieved over the fewness of the coming ones, “Where are the nine?” (Luke xvii.17), or is heard expressing sorrowful surprise at the slow progress of His own (Luke I xxiv.25), or if He watches like a sparrow alone (Psalm cii. 6, 7), or, “as an owl in the desert, as the pelican in the wilderness,” content with His Father’s sympathy – in all this the soul that loves the company of “the Man of Sorrows” seeks to share. And by this means the Holy Ghost pours the melted soul into the mold of Christ’s heart. Or, if it be the joys of the Man of Sorrows that he is tracing out, in these, too, he seeks to be like Him. One of Christ’s joys – one brook by the way, of which He drank – was the certainty that the Father’s will was done (Luke x.21) ; a second was the consciousness that He Himself was doing the Father’s will (John iv.34); a third was the presence of the Father felt around Him (Acts ii.25, 26) ; a fourth, the conversion of sinners (Luke xv.1-10); a fifth, the growth of faith in His own (Matt. viii.10); and a sixth, the hope of the reward (Heb. xii.2, 3). In all these the growing believer, making Christ Himself his friend and divine companion, seeks to sympathize. He would fain be like Him whom he so loves.

There is something pleasant in noticing how Peter learnt to imitate his Lord by being so much in His company. When he goes to heal Dorcas (Acts ix.40, 41) he put all out that wept and wailed, just as his Master did (Mark v.37), and then the words, ” Tabitha, arise,” are brief, yet authoritative as his Master’s “Talitha, cumi” (Mark v.41). So also he lifts up the lame man at the Beautiful Gate by the right hand (Acts iii.7), just as he had seen his Lord do (Mark i.31) at Capernaum to his relative in her fever. Even so in greater things, the disciple falls into his Master’s way and manner. Read his Epistles, and you see that, walking with the wise, he becomes wise; walking with the Gracious One, he becomes gracious; walking with Him who is holy, he becomes holy; walking with incarnate love and mercy, he becomes loving and merciful.

Among the friends of Alexander the Great, there was one named Hephaestion. It was said in regard to this man that he was “A lover of Alexander;” none could doubt that man’s personal affection for him. There was at the same time another friend, Oraterus, who seemed equally warm in heart and devotedness. It was, however, more because of the benefits conferred on him by one so exalted and great than from personal attachment – and hence he was said to be “A lover of the King.” Which of these two most resembled their master in character? All history tells us it was Hephaestion, he who so loved the Person. And even so shall it be with the saint who dwells more on the Person of Immanuel than upon his gifts. The latter will be what was said of Peter (somewhat deprecatingly) by some of the ancients, “A lover of Christ,” while the former will be what was said most truly of John, “A lover of Jesus ” – and, like John, will bear close resemblance to his Lord in every peculiar trait.

Andrew Bonar (1810-1892): The Gospel pointing to the Person of Christ – Chapter 4 of 6

The Gospel pointing to the Person of Christ – Chapter 4


Andrew Bonar (1810-1892)

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The Gospel pointing to the Person of Christ – Chapter 4


No one could be supposed to have seen the Alps, if he tells you that all he saw was some rocky ridges of hills which his eye felt no strain in looking to. The Alps are not such hills; they tower to the clouds. Equally true it is that no one can be considered as having really seen sin, who never saw it to be very great; or to have got real rest to his soul, who has not seen the Saviour to be very great. Indeed, very great salvation is needed in order to give any true peace to a soul truly awakened; such salvation as is discovered when the soul discovers the Person of the Saviour. Then it sings, “Jah Jehovah is my strength and song, and has become my salvation” (Isa. xii.2). “In Jah Jehovah”*

(*These are the only passages where that particular combination occurs, “Jah-Jehovah;” as if to gather up the fullness of Godhead-existence in one clause, when singing of Him who is our salvation. He from whom every drop of being came is mine! is the Rock of ages” (Isa. xxvi.4)).

Even one sin makes peace flee from the soul, as we see in the case of Adam and Eve. Even one sin fills the soul with suspicions of God and suggestions of fear. Of course, then, the conscience of every sinner abounds in materials for fear before God. Achan may be secure for a time, while his wedge of gold and his Babylonish garment remain hid in the tent; but let a hurricane from the howling wilderness shake the cords and canvas of his tent, threatening to blow aside the covering of his theft, and then he is full of alarm! Now, to the conscience of the sinner, every sin is like Achan’s theft. There may be a present calm in the air, but who can promise that there shall not arise a stormy wind? a hurricane threatening to tear up the stakes of his earthly tabernacle? Who can engage that every sin shall not be laid bare? Who can give security that the sinner shall not in the twinkling of an eye be sited at the bar of the Holy One? It is a small matter to say that at present all is at rest within. A city may be wrapt in slumber, and under the calm moon may seem as quiet as a cemetery; and yet the first beams of the morning sun may awake sleeping rebels, and witness the burst of revolutionary frenzy.

Every sin is secretly uttering to the man God’s sentence of death; insinuating uneasy forebodings regarding coming wrath. Every sin mutters to the sinner something more or less distinct about having wronged God, and about God being too holy and just to let it slip from remembrance. And when the quickening Spirit is at work in the conscience, every sin cries loudly to the Lord for vengeance against him in whose heart it has its abode.

For such a state of soul only one thing can avail – namely the discovery which the Spirit makes to the man in conversion, the discovery of Christ’s full sacrifice for sin. Therein may be seen a propitiation as full and efficacious as conscience craves, because it was wrought out by Him who is God-man. Therein may be seen the whole Person of the Saviour presented to the soul as the object to be embraced, and that person associated with the merit of all He has done and suffered. Nay more, every act and suffering of that glorious Person confronts the case of every sinner. Not only does he remedy the case of every individual sinner of all that “multitude which no man can number,” but besides He meets every individual sin, and applies out-poured life to each stain, to blot it out. This is exactly what was needed. If I see Him who is the atonement to be God-man, then I see an offering so vast, and so extensive in its applications, that every crevice of the conscience must be reached.

He is our peace, not by His death only, but by His life of obedience also, imputed to us. The more, therefore, we go into details with His Person (the Person of Him whose every act and agony has an infinite capability of application because of His being the God-man), then the more shall we see good reason why our peace through Him should be peace “passing understanding” (Phil. iv.7). Let us exhibit some details of the kind we refer to – viz., His personal acts and sufferings meeting my personal disobedience and my personal desert of wrath.*

(* “His humiliation expiates our pride; His perfect love atones for our ingratitude; His exquisite tenderness pleads for our insensibility” (JOHN NEWTON, Sermon I)).

I confess the sin of my nature, my original sin; “Behold! I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Ps. li.5). But I see in Christ one who, while He was “that Holy One,” was born to be holiness to others (Luke i.25). His dying was fully sufficient to remove the guilt of my conception, and my connection with Adam; while His doing was holy from the womb. Behold! then, here am I in my substitute! My infancy without iniquity, nay, with actual purity, in the eye of Him who is well pleased with my Substitute.

I confess the sin of my childhood. My childhood and youth were vanity. But I find in Christ, God-man and my Substitute, deliverance from all this guilt. “The child grew and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon him” (Luke ii.40). I get all the positive merit of this childhood of my surety, full as it was of holy wisdom, and free from every taint of folly and thoughtlessness; and along with this I get the atoning merit of His death. And thus I present to God both satisfaction for the trespasses I have done in my childhood, and also obedience equivalent in full to what the law had right even then to expect or claim from me.

I confess more particularly the sin of my thoughts, “Every imagination of the thoughts of my heart has been only evil continually” (Gen. vi.5). But I discover Him who not only by death perfected the atonement for me, but who also obeyed my obedience in the thoughts of the heart, saying, “Thy law is within my heart” (in midst of my bowels) (Ps. xl.8).

I confess the sin of my words, my idle words, my evil words. For it is written (Matt. xii.36), “Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.” But I find in this great atonement the penalty paid for my every idle word. I find, at the same time, the rendering of the obedience due by me, inasmuch as his mouth was a well of life, “grace was poured into his lips” (Ps. xlv.2), and men never heard him utter aught but words of holiness.

I confess the sin of my duties; for example, the sin of my careless worship in the sanctuary. But I find my glorious Substitute worshipping for me in the synagogue. (Luke iv.16), “He came to Nazareth, and as His custom was He went into the synagogue.” I find Him vindicating the honour of His Father in the temple-service. (John ii.17), “Make not My Father’s house an house of merchandise. And His disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.” His songs of praise, His deep attention to the written Word there read, His joining in the public prayers, all this He puts to my account, as if I had done it acceptably and done so always, – while in the same moment, by His shed blood, He blots out every accusation against me for omissions and guilty acts.

I confess my prayerlessness in secret. It has grieved the Lord to the heart. But I find my Surety “rising a great while before day, and departing to a solitary place to pray” (Mark i.35); or, “continuing all night in prayer to God” (Luke vi.12). This He will impute to me, as if I had so prayed every day and night; at the same time plunging my sins of omission into the depths of the sea.

I confess and deplore heart-sins of various kinds. I lament instability of soul; my goodness is like the early dew. But He was “the same yesterday, to-day, and forever,” both God-ward and man-ward (Heb. xiii.8). I feel hardness of heart. But He imputes to me His own tenderness, and reckons to my account His own yearnings of soul for the glory of His Father. I am stubborn; but He can say, “The Lord God opened mine ear, and, I was not rebellious, neither turned away backwards” (Isa. 1.5). In me is guile; but “in His mouth was no guile found” (1 Pet. ii.22). And thus there is ready not only the warp of satisfaction for transgression, but also the woof of rendered obedience.

Let me still go on a little in this application of my Lord’s active and passive righteousness. Do I feel my soul in anguish, because of indulging ambitious projects, seeking to be somewhat? I find Him “not seeking His own glory” (John viii.50): and this fold of His robe He will cast over me, while by His blood He washes me from all my self-seeking.

I have pleased myself. But of Him it is testified, “He pleased not Himself” (Rom. xiv.2). I have sought my own will. But He could declare before the Father and to men, “I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me” (John v.30). And thus has He fully given the very form of obedience that I have omitted to render. He gave what I withheld; and He will give it for me, at the same time that my guilt in withholding it is hidden in His blood.

I have been worldly. I have loved “the world and the things that are in the world” (1 John ii.15); not only the objects it presents, but the very place itself, in preference to place and things wherein the direct presence of God might be enjoyed. But He did not. “He was not of the world” (John xvii.14). He never had any of its treasure; it is doubtful if He ever possessed or handled any of its money; we are sure He had nowhere to lay His head. The world hated Him, “because He testified that the works thereof were evil” (John vii.7). And all this He has at hand to impute to me, while He washes me from guilt.

I have been often double-minded. His eye was always single. “I have glorified Thee” (John xvii.4) was always true of Him. I have been inconsistent; but even Satan could find “nothing in Him” (John xvi.30). And He could challenge His foes, “which of you convinceth me of sin?” (John viii.46).

My pride and haughtiness have need of One who was “meek and lowly.” And such I find in Him; and I find Him calling me to come to Him as such, and use Him (Matt. xi.29).

If I have backslidden, yet my Surety’s course was truly like “the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day” (Prov. iv.18). “He increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man” (Luke ii.52). Instead of lukewarmness ever on any occasion appearing in Him , such was His zeal for men’s salvation that at one time friends stood by and said, “He is beside Himself” (Mark iii.21); and at another, His disciples were irresistibly led back to the words of the Psalmist, “The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up” (John ii.17). Now, all this active righteousness in Him is for my use. He will throw over me this other fold of His robe, as well as apply His infinitely precious death, – and thus no one shall ever be able to accuse me of backsliding, God accepting my Surety’s work for me.

I have grieved the Spirit. But oh, how Christ honoured Him! Such blessed things He said of Him! “The Comforter,” “the Spirit of truth,” “the Holy Spirit,” were names which He applied to Him; and Himself had been led by Him in delighted acquiescence. “Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost, returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness” (Luke iv.1). He has something here to present instead of my provocations; and what He has, He will use for me. Only let me know the treasures hid in His Person, and my consolation must abound.

I have been unthankful; but oh! how my Surety abounded in thanksgivings, – thanksgivings for food, – thanksgivings for the Gospel revealed to babes, – thanksgivings for the communion table, because it proclaimed His dying for us. Herein I find obedience to a law I broke, the law of gratitude – while in the sacrifice of Calvary I find expiation for my guilty ingratitude.

I think upon my unconcern for souls. And I find the remedy for that iniquity in Him whose heart burned “to seek and save that which was lost,” and who plunged into the sea of wrath in order to redeem – for every step in His atonement has in it something of obedience as well as satisfaction.

Oh, inconceivable fullness for us in Him! whatever be the special sin which our conscience at any moment is feeling. Only let us ever keep Christ Himself in view, Christ clothed to the foot in that garment of active and passive righteousness.

It is thus we get the sea, with all its multitudinous waves*

(* There is a wave of it for ministerial failures; for He never failed, but could appeal to His Father, “I have declared thy faithfulness, and thy salvation” (Ps. xl 9,10). His Shepherd’s heart and work cover over ours. And so let a teacher repair to Him for the hiding of sins in teaching. “In the day-time He was teaching in the temple” (Luke xxi.37). “I ever taught in the synagogue and in the temple” (John xviii.20)).

(Isa. xlviii.18, “righteousness like the waves of the sea”), to flow up every creek and sweep round every bay. His Person being such, His work completely fits into the soul’s necessities. And all this is so great, that not only does it affect us negatively, – not only does this full view of Christ remove every tremor from the soul, – it works besides into the heart a positive bestowal of bliss.

It is as sometimes in nature when every breath of wind is so lulled asleep that not a leaf moves on the bough of any tree; the sun is shedding his parting ray on the still foliage; and the sea rests as if it had become a pavement of crystal. This is peace in nature. Your heart feels, amid such a scene, not only the absence of whatever might create alarm or disquiet, but the presence also of some elements of positive enjoyment, as if there were an infusion of bliss in the scene. Now, infinitely more is this the case in the kingdom of grace. The presence of Christ in the heart (the Spirit there testifying of Christ) lulls fear to sleep; and while He makes disquiet almost an impossibility, never fails to bring in positive delight and bliss. There is something in it to “keep the heart and mind” (garrison, and so preserve secure) (Phil. iv.7). And what is this positive element but the real outbreathing of direct friendship and love for Him whose heart we now know? He removes the barriers out of the way and out of sight, in order to bring in Himself with all His love, – Himself rich in all affections and bowels of mercy. And is not this the true “healing” of the “hurt”? Was not the “hurt,” our separation from the Holy One, caused by sin? Is not this the “healing,” then, our return to fellowship with Him?

It is worthwhile asking, in every case of apparent peace, whether or not this positive element exists. Is there not only the absence of dread and a calmness in looking towards the Holy One, but, in addition to this, is there direct enjoyment of Him who gives the peace? The work of Christ, if seen apart from His Person, may give freedom from dread of wrath, but it can scarcely impart that positive delight in His restored friendship, which alone “keepeth the heart and mind.”

“HE is our Peace,” says Paul, in Eph. ii.14. And when, in Phil. iv.7 he spoke of His peace keeping the heart and mind (“the thoughts”- in the original), he said it was “by Christ Jesus.” Was not Paul here directed by the Spirit to insert this clause in order to fix our eye on the Person who is our peace – the true “Jehovah-shalom?” (Judges vi.24). And is not the reason of this to be found in the fact that in proportion as we see the Person, our soul’s peace spreads and deepens? Certainly, all who have tried it find this to be the case. The more they know of Him, the more complete is their souls’ rest. It is shallow peace (if it be indeed the “peace of God” at all), when the Person of the Peacemaker is not directly realized.

And now, seeing we have such advantages above Old Testament saints, who saw the Person so dimly, are there not duties and responsibilities resulting? “The darkness is past and the true light now shineth” (1 John ii.8). Therefore (says John) there is for you “A new commandment.” He seems to mean that the increase of light has given force to every demand for obedience; and especially that the appearing of this Light, the Person Jesus, has brought with it peculiar motives to obedience. May we not say that if we get such peace in Jesus Christ, and have Himself to calm our souls, the Lord may well expect at our hands a higher style of obedience than in former days?

Peace has its responsibilities – such peace through such a Redeemer, has no common responsibilities. We are freed from burdens in order to work for God – we are fully justified in order to be the more fully sanctified. Carry this kind of peace with you everywhere, and you cannot fail ever, where to show that you are with Jesus; for it is Himself realized that gives it. Your claim to real peace implies your seeing Christ Himself, and enjoying His fellowship. If so, then you may well be expected to show likeness to Jesus; for “he that walketh with the wise men shall be wise” (Prov. xiii.20). Your peace will be characterized by purity, as all ever is that comes from God (Jas. iii.17), and as all must be that is the direct effect of an eye fixed on “God manifest in the flesh.” Your peace “in Jesus Christ” will keep you daily at His side, engaged in His work, guided by His look, satisfied with His smile, living to do His will. Who could have his eye on that Saviour continually, and there see “peace in heaven” toward himself, and yet at the same time turn his feet into the by-paths of unholiness?

Were your peace gotten or maintained by looking at an act of your own – viz., your having once believed, or having done the thing called believing, then possibly you might be at peace, and yet after all not walk with God. But in as much as true Scriptural peace is gotten and maintained by the sinner’s eye resting at the moment on the Person of Him who is our peace – on the person of Jehovah-shalom.*

(* Judges vi.24, “Jehovah is peace;” like John iv.8, “God is Love.” It is at the altar of sacrifice that “Jehovah is peace.” – it is not possible to be at peace and yet at the same time willingly wander from fellowship with the Holy One. Christ, our Peace-maker, walks among us wherever is to be found anything “true, or honest, or just, or lovely, or of good report ” – wherever is to be seen “any virtue or any praise” (Phil. iv.8)).

And he who has peace by having his eye on Christ cannot enjoy this peace without being led at the same moment to these walks of Christ. Hence it is that Paul writes to the Philippian Church – to Lydia, and the Jailor, and Euodias, and Syntyche, and Clement – that “the God of peace would be with them” while they pursued these objects (Phil. iv.8, 9). If they were found at any time wandering from these holy paths, it would be a sufficient sign to them (as it will be to us also), that they had for the time taken off their eyes from Him who was their peace – and so, ere they were aware, had lost the enjoyment of that deep, profound peace, which “keepeth the heart and mind.”