John Newton (1725-1807): Communion With God

Communion With God
John Newton (1725-1807)

Copyright: Public Domain

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On Communion with God.

Dear Sir,

Though many authors have written largely and well concerning communion with God, I shall not refer you to books, or have recourse to them myself; but, in compliance with your request, shall simply offer you what occurs to my thoughts upon the subject. I propose not to exceed the limits of a sheet of paper, and must therefore come immediately to the point.

That God is to be worshipped, is generally acknowledged; but that they who worship him in spirit, and in truth, have real fellowship and communion with him, is known only to themselves. The world can neither understand nor believe it. Many who would not be thought to have cast off all reverence for the Scripture, and therefore do not choose flatly to contradict the apostle’s testimony, 1 John i. 3, attempt to evade its force by restraining it to the primitive times. They will allow that it might be so then; but they pretend that circumstances with us are greatly altered. Circumstances are, indeed, altered with us, so far, that men may now pass for Christians who confess and manifest themselves strangers to the Spirit of Christ: but who can believe that the very nature and design of Christianity should alter in the course of time? and that communion with God, which was essential to it in the apostle’s days, should be now so unnecessary and impracticable, as to expose all who profess an acquaintance with it, to the charge of enthusiasm and folly? However, they who have tasted that the Lord is gracious, will not be disputed out of their spiritual senses. If they are competent judges whether they ever saw the light, or felt the beams of the sun, they are no less certain that, by the knowledge of the Gospel, they are brought into a state of communion with God.

Communion presupposes union. By nature we are strangers, yea, enemies to God; but we are reconciled, brought nigh, and become his children, by faith in Christ Jesus. We can have no true knowledge of God, desire towards him, access unto him, or gracious communications from him, but in and through the Son of his love He is the medium of this inestimable privilege: for he is the way, the only way, of intercourse between heaven and earth; the sinner’s way to God, and God’s way of mercy to the sinner. If any pretend to know God, and to have communion with him, otherwise than by the knowledge of Jesus Christ, whom he hath sent, and by faith in his name, it is a proof that they neither know God nor themselves. God, if considered abstracted from the revelation of himself in the person of Jesus, is a consuming fire; and if he should look upon us without respect to his covenant of mercy established in the Mediator, we could expect nothing from him but indignation and wrath. But when his Holy Spirit enables us to receive the record which he has given of his Son, we are delivered and secured from condemnation; we are accepted in the Beloved; we are united to him in whom all the fulness of the Godhead substantially dwells, and all the riches of divine wisdom, power, and love, are treasured up. Thus in him, as the temple wherein the glory of God is manifested; and by him, as the representative and high priest of his people; and through him, as the living head of his mystical body the church, believers maintain communion with God. They have meat to eat which the world knows not of, honour which cometh of God only, joy which a stranger intermeddleth not with. They are for the most part poor and afflicted, frequently scorned and reproached, accounted hypocrites or visionaries, knaves or fools; but this one thing makes amends for all, “they have fellowship with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.”

I would observe further, that as the incarnation of that Mighty One, on whom our help is laid, was necessary, that a perfect obedience to the law, and a complete and proper atonement for sin, might be accomplished in the human nature that had sinned, and fallen short of the glory of God: so, in another view, it affords us unspeakable advantage for our comfortable and intimate communion with God by him. The adorable and awful perfections of Deity are softened, if I may so speak, and rendered more familiar and engaging to our apprehensions, when we consider them as resident in him, who is very bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh; and who, having by himself purged our sins, is now seated on the right hand of the Majesty on high, and reigns in the nature of man, over all, God blessed for ever. Thus he who knows our frame, by becoming man like ourselves, is the supreme and ultimate object of that philanthropy, that human affection, which he originally implanted in us. He has made us susceptible of the endearments of friendship and relative life; and he admits us to communion with himself under the most engaging characters and relations, as our friend, our brother, and our husband.

They who, by that faith which is of the operation of God, are thus united to him in Christ, are brought thereby into a state of real habitual communion with him. The degree of its exercise and sensible perception on our parts, is various in different persons, and in the same person at different times; for it depends upon the communications we receive from, the Lord, the Spirit, who distributes to every man severally according to his will, adjusting his dispensations with a wise and merciful respect to our present state of discipline. If we were wholly freed from the effects of a depraved nature, the snares of an evil world, and the subtle temptations of Satan, our actual communion with God would be always lively, sensible, and fervent. It will be thus in heaven; there its exercise will be without obstruction, abatement, or interruption. But so long as we are liable to security, spiritual pride, indolence, an undue attachment to worldly things, and irregular distempered passions, the Lord is pleased to afford, increase, suspend, or renew, the sensible impressions of his love and grace, in such seasons and measures as he sees most suitable to prevent or control these evils, or to humble us for them. We grieve his Spirit, and he withdraws; but, by his secret power over our hearts, he makes us sensible of our folly and loss, teaches us to mourn after him, and to entreat his return. These desires, which arc the effects of his own grace, he answers in his own time, and shines forth upon the soul with healing in his beams. But such is our weakness, and so unapt are we to retain even those lessons which we have learnt by painful experience, that we are prone to repeat our former miscarriages, and to render a repetition of the same changes necessary. From hence it is that what we call our frames are so very variable, and that our comfortable sense of divine communion is rather transient than abiding. But the communion itself, upon which the life and safety of our souls depend, is never totally obstructed; nor can it be, unless God should be unmindful of his covenant, and forsake the work of his own hands. And when it is not perceptible to sense, it may ordinarily be made evident to faith, by duly comparing what we read in the Scripture with what passes in our hearts. I say ordinarily, because there may be some excepted cases. If a believer is unhappily brought under the power of some known sin, or has grievously and notoriously declined from his profession, it is possible that the Lord may hide himself behind so dark a cloud, and leave him for a while to such hardness of heart, as that he shall seem to himself to be utterly destitute and forsaken. And the like apprehensions may be formed under some of Satan’s violent temptations, when he is permitted to come in as a flood, and to overpower the apparent exercise of every grace by a torrent of blasphemous and evil imaginations. Yet the Lord is still present with his people in the darkest hours, or the unavoidable event of such cases would be apostasy or despair. Psalm xli.11.

The communion we speak of comprises a mutual intercourse and communication in love, in counsels, and in interests.

In love. The Lord, by his Spirit, manifests and confirms his love to his people. For this purpose he meets them at his throne of grace, and in his ordinances. There he makes himself known unto them, as he does not unto the world; causes his goodness to pass before them; opens, applies, and seals to them his exceeding great and precious promises; and gives them the Spirit of adoption, whereby, unworthy as they are, they are enabled to cry, ” Abba, Father.” He causes them to understand that great love wherewith he has loved them, in redeeming them by price and by power, washing them from their sins in the blood of the Lamb, recovering hem from the dominion of Satan, and preparing for them an everlasting kingdom, where they shall see his face, and rejoice in his glory. The knowledge of this his love to them, produces a return of love from them to him. They adore him, and admire him; they make an unreserved surrender of their hearts to him. They view him, and delight him as their God, their Saviour, and their portion. They account his favour better than life. He is the sun of their souls: if he is pleased to shine upon them, all is well, and they are not greatly careful about other things; but if he hides his face, the smiles of the whole creation can afford them no solid comfort. They esteem one day or hour spent in the delightful contemplation of his glorious excellencies, and in the expression of their desires towards him, better than a thousand; and when their love is most fervent, they are ashamed that it is so faint, and chide and bemoan themselves that they can love him no more. This often makes them long to depart, willing to leave their dearest earthly comforts, that they may see him as he is, without a vail or cloud; for they know that then, and not till then, they shall love him as they ought.

In counsels. The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him. He deals familiarly with them. He calls them not servants only, but friends; and he treats them as friends. He affords them more than promises; for he opens to them the plan of his great designs from everlasting to everlasting; shows them the strong foundations and inviolable securities of his favour towards them, the height, and depth, and length, and breadth of his love, which passeth knowledge, and the unsearchable riches of his grace. He instructs them in the mysterious conduct of his providence, the reasons and ends of all his dispensations in which they are concerned; and solves a thousand hard questions to their satisfaction, which are inexplicable to the natural wisdom of man. He teaches them likewise the beauty of his precepts, the path of their duty, and the nature of their warfare. He acquaints them with the plots of their enemies, the snares and dangers they are exposed to, and the best methods of avoiding them. And he permits and enables them to acquaint him with all their cares, fears, wants, and troubles, with more freedom than they can unbosom themselves to their nearest earthly friends. His ear is always open to them; he is never weary of hearing their complaints, and answering their petitions. The men of the world would account it a high honour and privilege to have an unrestrained liberty of access to an earthly king; but what words can express the privilege and honour of believers, who, whenever they please, have audience of the King of kings, whose compassion, mercy, and power, are, like his majesty, infinite. The world wonders at their indifference to the vain pursuits and amusements by which others are engrossed; that they are so patient in trouble, so inflexible in their conduct, so well satisfied with that state of poverty and obscurity which the Lord, for the most part, allots them; but the wonder would cease, if what passes in secret were publicly known. They have obtained the pearl of great price; they have communion with God; they derive their wisdom, strength, and comfort from on high, and cast all their cares upon him who, they assuredly know, vouchsafes to take care of them. This reminds me of another branch of their communion, namely,

In interests. The Lord claims them for his portion, he accounts them his jewels, and their happiness in time and eternity is the great end which, next to his own glory, and in inseparable connexion with it, he has immediately and invariably in view. In this point all his dispensations of grace and providence shall finally terminate. He himself is their guide and their guard; he keeps them as the apple of his eye; the hairs of their head are numbered, and not an event in their lives takes place but in an appointed subserviency to their final good. And as he is pleased to espouse their interest, they, through grace, are devoted to his. They are no longer their own, they ‘would not be their own; it is their desire, their joy, their glory, to live to him who died for them. He has won their hearts by his love, and made them a willing people in the day of his power. The glory of his name, the success of his cause, the prosperity of his people, the accomplishment of his will, these are the great and leading objects which are engraven upon their hearts, and to which all their prayers, desires, and endeavours, are directed. They would count nothing dear, not even their lives, if set in competition with these. In the midst of their afflictions, if the Lord is glorified, if sinners are converted, if the church flourishes, they can rejoice. But when iniquity abounds, when love waxes cold, when professors depart from the doctrines of truth, and the power of godliness, then they are grieved and pained to the heart; then they are touched in what they account their nearest interest, because it is their Lord’s.

This is the spirit of a true Christian. May the Lord increase it in us, and in all who love his name! I have room only to subscribe myself, &c.


J.C. Ryle (1816-1900): The Ten Virgins


Commentary on: The Ten Virgins
J.C. Ryle (1816-1900)
Copyright: Public Domain

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“Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh: go ye out to meet him. Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil ,- for our lamps are gone out. But .the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.” (MATT. xxv. 1-13.)

THE passage of Scripture before our eyes is one that deserves the close attention of all professing Christians. We ought to read it again and again, until we are thoroughly familiar with every sentence that it contains. It is a passage that concerns us all, whether ministers or people, rich or poor, learned or unlearned, old or young. It is a passage that can never be known too well.

These thirteen verses make ‘up one of the most solemn parables that our Lord Christ ever spoke; partly because of the time at which it was spoken, partly because of the matter which it contains.

As to the time, it was but a few days before our Lord’s Crucifixion. It was spoken within view of Gethsemane and Calvary, of the cross and the grave.

As to the matter, it stands as a beacon to the Church of Christ in‘ all ages. It is a witness against carelessness and slothfulness,—against apathy and indifference about religion,—and a witness of no uncertain sound. It cries to thoughtless sinners, “Awake!” It cries to true servants of Christ, “Watch!”

There are many trains of thought which this parable opens up, that I must of necessity leave alone. It would be foreign to my purpose to follow them out. I do not sit down to compose a learned commentary, but to write a simple practical address. I shall only clear my way by explaining two things, which otherwise might not be understood. And when I have done that, I shall keep to those main truths which it is most useful for us to know.

The marriage customs of the country where the parable was spoken, call for a few words of explanation. Marriages there generally took place in the evening. The bridegroom and his friends came in procession to the bride’s house after nightfall. The young women who were the bride’s friends were all assembled there, waiting for him. As soon as the lamps and torches, carried by the bridegroom’s party, were seen coming in the distance, these young women lighted their lamps, and went forth to meet him. Then, having formed one united party, they all returned together to the bride’s home. As soon as they arrived there they entered in, the doors were shut, the marriage ceremony went forward, and no one else was admitted. All these were familiar things to those who heard the Lord Jesus speak; and it is right and proper that you should have them in your mind’s eye while you read this parable.

The figures and emblems used in the parable also call for some explanation. I will give you my own view of their meaning. I may be wrong. I freer admit that they are not always interpreted exactly in the same way. But you have a right to have my opinion, and I will give it you shortly and decidedly.

I believe the parable to be a prophecy all the way through.

I believe the time spoken of in the parable, is the time when Christ shall return in person to this world, and a time yet to come. , The very first word, the word “then,” compared with the end of the twenty-fourth chapter, appears to me to settle that question.

I believe the ten virgins carrying lamps represent the whole body of professing Christians,—the visible Church of Christ.

I believe the Bridegroom represents our Lord Jesus Christ Himself.

I take the wise virgins to be the true believers, the real disciples of Christ, the converted part of the visible Church.

I take the foolish to be the mere nominal Christians, the unconverted, the whole company of those who have no vital godliness?*

* “I am aware that Dean Alford does not take the view I have here stated. But his arguments do not satisfy me. My reasons will be found in my “Expository Thoughts on St. Matthew.” Most of the foreign Reformers and English Puritans maintain, as I do, that the foolish virgins represent the unconverted.

I take the lamps, which all alike carried, to be that mere outward profession of Christianity which every one possesses who has been baptized and has never formally renounced his baptism.

I take the oil, which some virgins had with their lamps, and others had not, to be the grace of the Holy Ghost—that “unction of the Holy One ” which is the mark of all true Christians.

I consider the coming of the Bridegroom to mean the second personal coming or advent of the Lord Christ, when He shall return in the clouds with glory.

I consider the going in to the marriage of the wise virgins, to mean the believers entrance into his full reward in the day of Christ’s appearing.

I consider the shutting out of the foolish virgins to mean the exclusion from Christ’s kingdom and glory of every soul whom He shall find unconverted at His second advent.

I offer these short explanations to your attention. I am not going to enter. into any unprofitable discussion about them. And without saying another word in the way of preface, I will at once go on to point out the great practical lessons which the parable of the ten virgins is meant to teach us.

I. Learn, first of all, that the visible Church of Christ will always be a mixed body till Christ comes again.

II. Learn, secondly, that the visible Church is always in danger of neglecting the doctrine of Christ’s second advent.

III. Learn, thirdly, that whenever Christ does come again, it will be a very sudden event.

IV. Learn, fourthly, that Christ’s second advent will make an immense change to all the members of the visible Church, both good and bad.

Reader, let me try to set each of these four truths plainly before you. If I can bring you, by God’s help, to see their vast importance, I believe I shall have done your soul an essential service.

I. Learn, rst of all, that the visible Church of Christ will always be a mixed body, till Christ comes again.

I can gather no other meaning from the beginning of the parable we are now considering. I there see wise and foo1ish virgins mingled together in one company,—virgins with oil, and virgins with no oil, all side by side And I see this state of things going on till the very moment the Bridegroom appears. I see all this, and I cannot avoid the conclusion that the visible Church will always be a mixed body till Jesus comes again. Its members will never be, all unbelievers: Christ will always have His witnesses. Its members will never be all believers: there will always be a vast proportion of formality, unbelief, hypocrisy, and false profession.

I frankly say that I can find no standing ground for the common opinion that the visible Church will gradually advance to a state of perfection—that it will become better and better, holier and holier, up to the very end,—and that little by little the whole body shall become full of light. I see no warrant of Scripture for believing that sin will gradually dwindle away in the earth, consume, melt, and disappear by inches, like the last snow-drift in spring. Nor yet do I see warrant for believing that holiness will gradually increase, like the banyan tree of the East, until it blossoms, blooms, and fills the face of the world with fruit. I know that thousands think in this way. All I say is, that I cannot see it in God’s Word.

I fully admit that the Gospel appears sometimes to make rapid progress in some countries; but that it ever does more than call out an elect people, I utterly deny. It never did more in the days of the Apostles. Out of all the cities that Paul visited, there is not the slightest proof that in any one the whole population became believers. It never has done more in any country, from the time of the Apostle down. to the present day. There never yet was a parish or congregation in any part of the world,—however favoured in the ministry it enjoyed—there never was one, I believe, in which all the people were converted. At all events, I never read or heard of it, and my belief is the thing never has been, and never will. I believe that now is the time of election, not of universal conversion. Now is the time for the gathering out of Christ’s little flock. The time of general obedience is yet to come.

I fully admit that missions are doing a great work among the heathen, and that schools and district-visiting are rescuing thousands from the devil at home. I do not undervalue these things. I would to God that all _ professing Christians would value them more. But men appear to me to forget that Gospel religion is often withering in one place while it is flourishing in another. They look at the progress of Christianity in the West of Europe. They forget how fearfully it has lost ground in the East. They point to the little flood-tide of Tinnevelly and Krishnaghur. They forget the tremendous ebb in North Africa, Egypt, and Asia Minor. And as for any signs that all the ends of the earth shall turn to the Lord, under the present order of things, there are none. God’s work is going forward, as it always has done. The Gospel is being preached- for a witness to every quarter of the globe. The elect are being brought to Christ one by one, and there is everything to encourage us to persevere. But more than this no missionary can report in any station in the world.

I long for the conversion of all mankind as much as anyone. But I believe it is utterly beyond the reach of any instrumentality that man possesses. I quite expect that ‘the earth will one day be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord. But I believe that day will be in an entirely new dispensation: it will not be till after the Lord’s return. I would not hesitate to preach the Gospel, and offer Christ’s salvation to every man and woman alive; but that there always will be a vast amount of unbelief and wickedness until the second advent, I am fully persuaded. The Gospel-net may perhaps be spread far more widely than it has been-hitherto, but the angels shall nd abundance of bad sh in it as well as good, in the last day. The Gospel labourers may possibly be multiplied a thousand-fold, and I pray God it may be so; but however faithfully they may sow, a large proportion of tares will be found growing together with the wheat, at the time of harvest.

Reader, how is it with your own soul? Remember, that till the Lord Jesus Christ comes again there always will be wise and foolish in the Church. Now, which are you?

The wise are they who have that wisdom which the Holy Ghost alone can give. They know their own sinfulness. They know Christ as their own precious Saviour. They know how to walk and please God, and they act upon their knowledge. They look on life as a season of preparation for eternity,—not as an end, but as a way,—not as a harbour, but as a voyage,—not as a home, but as a journey,—not as their full age, but their time of school. Happy are they who know’ these things! The world may despise them, but they are the wise.

The foolish are they who are without spiritual knowledge. They neither know God, nor Christ, nor sin, nor their own hearts, nor the world, nor heaven, nor hell, nor the value of their souls as they ought. There is no folly like this. To expect wages after doing no work,—or prosperity after taking no pains,—or learning after neglecting books,—this is rank folly. But to expect heaven without faith in Christ,—or the kingdom of God without being born again,—or the crown of glory without the cross and a holy walk,—all this is greater folly still, and yet more common. Alas! for the folly of the world!

Reader, till the Lord Jesus Christ comes, there always will be some who have grace, and some who have not grace, in the visible Church. Now which are you? How is it with your own soul?

Some have nothing but the name of Christian: others have the reality. Some have only the outward profession of religion: others have the possession also. Some are content if they belong to the Church; others are never content, unless they are also united by faith to Christ. Some are satisfied if they have only the baptism of water: others are never satisfied unless they also feel within the baptism‘ of the Spirit, and the sprinkling of the blood of atonement. Some stop short in the form of Christianity: others never rest until they have also the substance.

Reader, the visible Church of Christ is made up of these two classes. There always have been such. There always will be such until the end. There must, no doubt, be borderers and waverers, whom man’s eye cannot make out, though God’s eye can. But gracious and graceless, wise and foolish, makeup the whole visible Church of Christ. You yourself are described and written down in this parable. You are either one of the wise virgins, or one of the foolish. You have either got the oil of grace, or you have got none. You are either a member of Christ, or a child of the devil. You are either travelling towards heaven, or towards hell. Never for a moment forget this. This is the point that concerns your soul. Whatever your opinion may be on other points, this is the one that you should never lose sight of. Let not the devil divert your attention from it. Say to yourself, as you read this parable, “I am spoken of here.”

II. Learn, secondly, that the visible Church is always in danger of neglecting the doctrine of Christ’s second advent.

I draw this truth from that solemn verse in the parable, “While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.” I am quite aware that many good men explain these words in a different way. But I dare not call any man master. I feel that I am set for the proclamation of that which my own conscience tells me is true, and I cannot be bound by the opinions of others. There are, such things as erroneous interpretations received by tradition, as well as false doctrines received ’by tradition, and against both I think we ought to be on our guard.

I do not believe that the words, “they all slumbered and slept,” mean the death of all, though many think so. To my mind such an interpretation is contrary to plain facts. All the professing Church will not be sleeping the sleep of death when Jesus comes again. St. Paul himself says in one place, “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed” (1 Cor. xv. 51);—and in another, “We which are alive and remain shall be caught up, to meet the Lord in the air.” (1 Thess. iv. 17.) Now the interpretation of which I speak involves a most awkward contradiction to these two plain texts.

I do not believe that the words were meant to teach us that the whole professing Church will get into a slumbering and sleeping state of soul, though many think so. I would not be misunderstood in saying this. I do not for a moment deny that the love of even the brightest Christians is very cold, and that neither their faith nor works are what they ought to be. All I mean to say is, that this is not the truth which appears to me to ‘be taught here. Such a view of the text seems to me to wipe away that broad line of distinction between believers and unbelievers, which, with all the short-comings of believers, undoubtedly does exist. Sleep is one of those very emblems which the Spirit has chosen to represent the state of the- unconverted man. “Awake, thou that sleepest,” He says, “and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.” (Ephes. v. 14.)

But what does the verse mean? I believe that the words “all slumbered and slept,” are to be interpreted with a special regard to the great event on which the whole parable hinges;—even the second advent of Christ. And I believe our Lord’s meaning was simply this, that during the interval between His first and second advent, the whole Church, both believers and unbelievers, would get into a dull and dim-sighted state of soul about the blessed doctrine of His own personal return to earth.

And, reader, I say deliberately, that so far as my own judgment goes, there never was a saying of our Lord’s more thoroughly verified by the event. I say that of all doctrines of the Gospel, the one about which Christians have become most unlike the first Christians, in their sense of its true value, is the doctrine of Christ’s second advent. I am obliged to say this of all denominations of Protestants. I know not of any exception. In our view of man’s corruption, of justification by faith, of our need of the sanctifying work of the Spirit, of the sufficiency of Scripture,—upon these points I believe we should find that English believers were much of one mind with believers at Corinth, Ephesus, Philippi, or Rome, in former times. But in our view of the second advent of Christ, I fear we should find there was a mighty difference between us and them, if our experience could be compared. I am afraid we should find that we fall woefully short of them in our estimate of its importance; that in our system of doctrine it is a star of the fifteenth magnitude, while in their’s it was one of the first In one word, we should discover, that compared to them in this matter, we slumber and sleep.

I must speak my mind on this subject, now that I am upon it. I do so most unwillingly. I do so at the risk of giving offence, and of rubbing against the prejudices of many Whom I love. But it is a cross I feel it a duty to take up. And speak I must.

I submit, then, that in the matter of Christ’s second coming and kingdom, the Church of Christ has not dealt fairly with the prophecies of the Old Testament. We have gone on far too long refusing to see that there are two personal advents of Christ spoken of in those prophecies,—an advent in humiliation, and an advent in glory,—an advent to suffer, and an advent to reign,—a personal advent to carry the cross, and a personal advent to wear the crown. We have been “slow of heart to believe ALL that the Prophets have written.” . (Luke xxiv. 25.) The Apostles went into one extreme: they stumbled at Christ’s sufferings. We have gone into the other extreme: we have stumbled at Christ’s glory. We have got into a confused habit of speaking 0f the kingdom of Christ as already set up amongst us, and have shut our eyes to the fact that the devil is still prince of this world, and served by the vast majority; and that our Lord, like David in Adullam, though anointed, is not yet set upon His throne. We have got into a vicious habit .of taking all the promises spiritually, and all the denunciations and threats literally. The denunciations against Babylon, and Nineveh, and Edom, and Tyre, and Egypt, and the rebellious Jews, we have been content to take literally and hand over to our neighbours. The blessings and promises of glory to Zion, Jerusalem, Jacob, and Israel, we have taken spiritually, and comfortably applied them to ourselves and the Church of Christ. To bring forward proofs of this would be waste of time. No man can hear many sermons, and read many commentaries, Without being aware that it is a fact.

Now I believe this to have been an unfair system of interpreting Scripture. I hold that the first and primary sense of every Old Testament promise as well as threat is the literal one,—and that Jacob means Jacob, Jerusalem means Jerusalem, Zion means Zion, and Israel means Israel, as much as Egypt means Egypt, and Babylon means Babylon. That primary sense, I believe, we have sadly lost sight of. We have adapted and accommodated to the Church of Christ the promises that were spoken by God to Israel and Zion. I do not mean to say that this accommodation is in no sense allowable. But I do mean to say that- the primary sense of every prophecy and promise in Old Testament prophecy was intended to have a literal fulfillment, and that this literal fulfillment has been far too much put aside and thrust into a corner. And by so doing I think we have exactly fulfilled our Lord’s words in the parable of the ten virgins,—we have proved that we are slumbering and sleeping about the second advent of Christ.

But I submit further, that in the interpretation of the New Testament, the Church of Christ has dealt almost as unfairly with our’ Lord’s second advent, as she has done in the interpretation of the Old Men have got into the habit of putting a strange sense upon many of those passages which speak of “the coming of the Son of Man,” or of the Lord’s “appearing.” And this habit has – been far too readily submitted to. Some tell us that the coming of the Son of Man often means death. No one can read the thousands of epitaphs in churchyards, in which some text about the coming of Christ is thrust in, and not perceive how wide-spread this view is. Some tell’ us that our Lord’s coming means the destruction of Jerusalem. This is a very common way of interpreting the expression. Many find the literal Jerusalem everywhere in New Testament prophecies, though, oddly enough, they refuse to see it in the Old Testament prophecies, and, like Aaron’s rod, they make it swallow up everything else. Some tell us that our Lord’s coming means the general judgment, and the end of all things. This is their one answer to all inquiries about things to come.

Now I believe that all these interpretations are entirely beside the mark. I have not the least desire to underrate the importance of such subjects as death and judgment. I willingly concede that the destruction of Jerusalem is typical of many things connected with our Lord’s second advent, and is spoken of in chapters where that mighty event is foretold. But I must express my own rm belief that the coming of Christ is one distinct thing, and that death, judgment, and the destruction of Jerusalem, are three other distinct things. And the wide acceptance which these strange interpretations have met with I hold to be one more proof that in the matter of Christ’s second advent the Church has long slumbered and slept.

The plain truth of Scripture I believe -to be as follows. When the number of the elect is accomplished, Christ will come again to this world with power and great glory. He will raise His saints, and gather them to Himself. He will punish with fearful judgments all who are found His enemies, and reward with glorious rewards all His believing people. He will take to Himself His great power, and reign, and establish an universal kingdom. He will gather the scattered tribes of Israel, and place them once more in their own land. As He came the first time in person, so He will come the second time in person. As He went away from earth visibly, so He will return visibly. As He literally rode upon an ass,—was literally sold for thirty pieces of silver,—had His hands and feet literally pierced—was numbered literally with the transgressors,—and had lets literally cast upon His raiment,—and all that Scripture might be fulfilled,—so also will He literally come, literally set up a kingdom, and literally reign over the earth, because the very same Scripture has said it shall be so.

The words of the angels, in the first of Acts, are plain and unmistakable: “This same Jesus which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven.” (Acts i. 11.) So also the words of the Apostle Peter: “The times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; and He shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: whom the heavens must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.” (Acts iii. 19-21.) So also the words of the Psalmist: “When the Lord shall build up Zion He shall appear in His glory.” (Ps. cii. 16.) So also the words of Zechariah: “The Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with thee.” (Zech. xiv. 5.) So also the words of Isaiah: “The Lord of hosts shall reign in Mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before His ancients gloriously.” (Isai. Xxiv. 23.) So also the words of Jeremiah: “I will bring again the captivity of my people Israel and Judah, saith the Lord, and I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it.” “I will bring again the captivity of Jacob’s tents, and have mercy on his dwelling-place; and the city shall be built on her own heap.” (Jer. xxx. 3, 18.) So also the words of Daniel: “Behold one like the Son of Man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. And there was given Him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve Him: His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away; and His kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.” (Dan. vii. 13, 14.) All these texts are to my mind plain prophecies of Christ’s second coming and kingdom. All are yet without their accomplishment, and all shall yet be literally and exactly fulfilled.

I say “literally and exactly fulfilled,” and I say so advisedly. From the first day that I began to read the Bible with my heart, I have never been able to see these texts, and hundreds like them, in any other light. It always seemed to me that as we take literally the texts foretelling that the walls of Babylon shall be cast down, so we ought to take literally the texts fortelling that the walls of Zion shall be built up,—that as according to prophecy the Jews were literally scattered, so according to prophecy the Jews will be literally gathered,—and that as the least and minutest predictions were made good on the subject of our Lord’s coming to suffer, so the minutest predictions shall be made good which describe our Lord’s coming to reign. And I have long felt it is one of the greatest shortcomings of the Church of Christ that we ministers do not preach enough about this advent of Christ, and that private believers do not think enough about it. A few of us here and there receive the doctrine, and profess to love it; but the number of such persons is comparatively very small And, after all, we none of us live on it, feed on it, act on it, work from it, take comfort in it, as much as God intended us to do. In short, the Bridegroom tarries, and we all slumber and Sleep.

It proves nothing against the doctrine of Christ’s second coming and kingdom, that it has sometimes been fearfully abused. I should like to know what doctrine of the Gospel has not been abused. Salvation by grace has been made a pretext for licentiousness,—election, an excuse for all manner of unclean 1iving,—and justification by faith, a warrant for Antinomianism. But if men will draw wrong conclusions we are not therefore obliged to throw aside good principles. We do not give up the Gospel because of the outrageous conduct of the Anabaptists of Munster, or the extravagant assertions of Saltmarsh and William Huntingdon, or the strange proceedings of Jumpers and Shakers. And where is the fairness of telling us that we ought to reject the second advent of Christ because there were Fifth Monarchy Men in the days of the Commonwealth, and Irvingites and Millerites in our own time. Alas, men must be hard pressed for an argument when they have no better reasons than this!

It proves nothing against the second advent of Christ, that those who hold the doctrine differ among themselves on many particular points in prophecy. Such differences need never stumble any one who recollects that unity on great points is perfectly consistent with disagreement on small ones. Luther and Zuinglius differed widely in their views of the Lord’s Supper: yet who would think of saying that therefore Protestantism is all false? Fletcher and Toplady were both clergymen in the Church of England, but differed widely about Calvinism: yet where would be the sense of saying that all Evangelical religion was therefore untrue? In common fairness this ought to be remembered when people talk of the differences among those who study prophecy. It is possible for men to differ much as to the meaning they place on the symbols in the book of Revelation, and yet on the matter of Christ’s coming and kingdom they may be entirely and substantially agreed.

It proves nothing against the doctrine that it is encompassed with many difficulties. This I fully concede. The order of events connected with our Lord’s coming, and the manner of His kingdom when it is set up, are both deep subjects, and hard to be understood. But I firmly believe that the difficulties connected with any other system of interpreting unfulfilled prophecy, are just twice as many as those which are said to stand in our way. I believe too that the difficulties connected with our Lord’s second coming, are not half so many as those connected with His first, and that it was a far more improbable thing, “a priori,” that the Son of God should come to safer, than it is’ that He should come to reign. And, after all, what have we to do with the “how,” and “in what manner” prophecies are to be fulfilled? Is our miserable understanding of what is possible to be the. measure and limit of God’s dealings? The only question we have to do with is, “Has God said a thing?” If He has, we ought not to doubt it shall be done.

For myself, I can only give my own individual testimony; but the little I know experimentally of the doctrine of Christ’s second coming makes me regard it as most practical and precious, and makes me long to see it more generally received.

I find it a powerful spring and stimulates holy living,—a motive for patience, for moderation, for spiritual mindedness,—a test for the employment of time, and a gauge for all my actions: “Should I like my Lord to find me in this place—should I like Him to find me so doing?”

I find it the strongest argument for missionary work. The time is short. The Lord is at hand. The gathering out from all nations will soon be accomplished. The heralds and forerunners of the King will soon have proclaimed the Gospel in every nation. The night is far spent. The King will soon be here.

I find it the best answer to the infidel. He sneers at our churches and chapels, at our sermons and services, at our tracts and our schools. He points to the millions who care nothing for Christianity, after 1800 years of preaching. He asks me how I can account for it, if Christianity be true? I answer, It was never said that all the world would believe, and serve Christ under the present dispensation. I tell him the state of things he ridicules was actually foreseen, and the number of true Christians, it was predicted, would be few. But I tell him that Christ’s kingdom is yet to come; and that – though we see not yet all things put under Him, they will be so one day.

I find it the best argument with the Jew. If I do not take all the prophecy of Isaiah literally, I know not how I can persuade him that the fifty-third chapter is literally fulfilled. But if I do, I have a resting-place for my lever, which I know he cannot shake. How men can expect the Jews to see a Messiah coming to suffer in Old Testament prophecies if they do not themselves see in them a Messiah coming to reign, is past my understanding.

And now, is there any one among the readers of this address who cannot receive the doctrine of Christ’s second advent and kingdom? I invite that man to consider the subject calmly and dispassionately. Dismiss from your mind traditional interpretations. Separate the doctrine from the mistakes and blunders of many who hold it. Do not reject the foundation because of the wood, hay, and stubble which some have built upon it. Do not condemn it and cast it aside because of injudicious friends. Only examine the texts which speak of it, as calmly and fairly as you weigh texts in the Romish, Arian, or Socinian controversies, and I am hopeful as to the result on your mind. Alas, if texts of Scripture were always treated as unceremoniously as I have known texts to be treated by those who dislike the doctrine of Christ’s second advent, I should indeed tremble for the cause of truth!

Is there any one among the readers of this address who agrees with the principles I have tried to advocate? I beseech that man to endeavour to realize the second coming of- Christ more and more. Truly we feel it but little compared to what we ought to do, at the very best. Be gentle in argument with those that differ from you. Remember that a man may be mistaken on this subject, and yet be a holy child of God. It is not the slumbering on this subject that ruins souls, but the want of grace! Above all, avoid dogmatism and positiveness, and specially about symbolical pr0phecy. It is a sad truth, but a truth never to be forgotten, that none have injured the doctrine of the second coming so much as its overzealous friends.

III. Learn, in the third place, that whenever Christ does come again, it we’ll be a very sudden event.

I draw that truth from the verse in the parable which says, “At midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh, go ye out to meet him.”

I do not know when Christ will come again. I should think it most presumptuous if I said that I did. I am no prophet, though I love the subject of prophecy. I dislike all fixing of dates, and naming of years, and I believe it has done great harm. I only assert positively that Christ will come again one day to set up His kingdom on earth, and that whether the day be near, or whether it be far off, it will take the Church and the world exceedingly by surprise.

It will come on men suddenly. It will break on the world all at once. It will not have been talked over, prepared for, and looked forward to by everybody. It will awaken men’s minds like the cry of re at midnight. It will startle men’s hearts like a trumpet blown at their bedside in their first sleep. Like Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea, they will know nothing till the very waters are upon them. Like Dathan, and Abiram, and their company, when the earth opened under them, the moment of their hearing the report of the visitation will be the same moment when they will see it with their eyes. Before they can recover their breath and know where they are, they shall find that-the Lord is come.

I suspect there is a vague notion floating in men’s minds that the present order of things will not end quite so suddenly. I suspect men cling to the idea that there will be a kind of Saturday night in the world,—a time when all will know the day of the Lord is near; a time when all will be able to cleanse their consciences, look out their wedding garments, shake off their earthly business, and prepare to meet their God. If any reader of this address has got such a notion into his head, I charge him to give it up for ever. If anything is clear in unfulfilled prophecy, this one fact seems clear,—that the Lord’s coming will be sudden, and take men by surprise. And any view of prophecy which destroys the possibility of its being sudden,—whether by interposing a vast number of events as yet to happen, or by placing the millennium between ourselves and the advent,—any such view appears to my mind to carry with it a fatal defect. Everything which is written in Scripture on this point confirms the truth, that Christ’s second coming will be sudden. “As a snare shall it come,” says one place.—“As a thief in the night,” says another.—“As the lightning,” says a third.—“In such an hour as ye think not,” says a fourth.—“When they shall say, Peace and safety,” says a fifth. (Luke xxi. 35; 1 Thess. v. 2; Luke xvii. 24; Matt. xxiv. 44:; l Thess. v. 3.)

Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself uses two most striking comparisons when dwelling on this subject Both are most teaching, and both ought to raise in us solemn thoughts. In one He compares His coming to the days of Lot. In the days when Lot. fled from Sodom, the men of Sodom” were buying and selling, eating and drinking, planting and building. They thought of nothing but earthly things: they were entirely absorbed in them. They despised Lot’s warning. They mocked at his counsel. The sun rose on the earth as usual. All things were going on as they had done for hundreds of years. They saw no sign of danger. But now mark what our Lord says? “The same day that Lot went out of Sodom, it rained re and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed.” (Luke xvii. 28—30.)

In the other passage I allude to, our Lord compares His coining to the days of Noah. Do you remember how it was in Noah’s day? Stay a little, and let me remind you. When the flood- came on the earth in Noah’s time, there was no appearance beforehand of anything so awful being near. The days and nights were following each other in regular’ succession. The grass, and trees, and crops were growing as usual. The business of the world was going on. And though Noah preached continually of coming danger, and warned men to repent, no one believed what he. said. But at last, one day the rain began and did not cease: the waters rose and did not stop: the flood came, and swelled, and went on, and covered one thing after another; and all were drowned who were not in the ark. Now mark what our Lord says: “As it was in the Days of Noe, so shall it also be in the days of the Son of Man: they did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.” (Luke xvii. 26, 27.) The flood took the world by surprise—so also will the coming of the Son of Man. In the midst of the world’s business, when everything is going on just as usual,—in such an hour as this the Lord Jesus Christ will return.

Reader, the suddenness of the Lord’s second advent is a truth that should lead every professing Christian to great searchings of heart. It should lead him to serious thought, both about himself and about the world.

Think for a moment how little the world is prepared for such an event. Look at the towns and cities of the earth, and think of them. Mark how most men are entirely absorbed in the things of time, and utterly engrossed with the business of their callings. Banks, counting-houses, shops, politics, law, medicine, commerce, railways, banquets, balls, theatres,—each and all are drinking up the hearts and souls of thousands, and thrusting out the things of God. Think what a fearful shock the sudden stoppage of all these things would be, the sudden stoppage which will be in the day of Christ’s appearing. If only one great house of business stops payment now, it makes a great sensation. What then shall be the crash when the whole machine of worldly affairs shall stand still at once? From money-counting and earthly scheming, from racing after riches and A wrangling about tries, to .be hurried away to meet the King of kings, how tremendous the change! From dancing and dressing, from opera-going and novel-reading, to be summoned away by the voice of the archangel and .the trump of God, how awful the transition! Yet remember, all this shall one day be.

Look at the rural parishes of such all and as ours, and think of them. See how the minds of the vast majority of their inhabitants are buried in farms and allotments, in cattle and corn, in rent and wages, in rates and tithes, in digging and sowing, in buying and selling, in planting and building. See how many there are who evidently care for nothing, and feel nothing, excepting the things of this world; who reek nothing whether their minister preaches law or Gospel, Christ or anti-christ, and would be utterly unconcerned if the Archbishop of Canterbury was turned out of Lambeth Palace, and the Pope of Rome put in his place. See how many there are of whom it can only be said that their bellies and their pockets are their gods. And then fancy the awful effect of a sudden call to meet the Lord Christ,—a call to a day of reckoning, in which the price of wheat and the rate of wages shall be nothing, and the Bible shall be the only rule of trial! And yet remember, all this shall one day be.

Reader, picture these things to your mind’s eye. Picture your own house, your own family, your own re-side. What will be found there? Picture, above all, your own feelings, your own state of mind. And then, remember, that this is the end towards which the world is hastening. There will be no long notice to quit. This is the way in which the world’s affairs will be wound up. This is an event which may possibly happen in your own .time. And surely you cannot avoid the conclusion that the second coming of Christ is no mere curious speculation. It is an event of vast practical importance to your own soul.

“Ah I” I can imagine some reader saying, “This is all foolishness, raving, and nonsense; this writer is beside himself. This is all extravagant fanaticism. Where is the likelihood, where is the probability of all this? The world is going on as it always did. The world will last my time.” Do not say so. Do not drive away the subj ect by such language as this. This is the way that men talked in the days of Noah and Lot, but what happened? They. found to their cost that Noah and Lot were right. Do not say so. The Apostle Peter foretold, eighteen hundred years ago, that men would talk in this way. “There shall come in the last day scoffers,” he tells us, “saying, Where is the promise of His coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.” (2 Pet. Iii. 3, 4.) Oh, do not fulfill his prophecy by your unbelief!

Where is the raving and fanaticism of the things which I have been saying? Show it to me if you can. I calmly assert that the present order of things will come to an end one day. Will any one deny that? Will any one tell me we are to go on as we do now for ever?—I calmly say that Christ’s second coming will be the end of the present order of things. I have said so because the Bible says it.—I have calmly said that Christ’s second coming will be a sudden event, whenever it may be, and may possibly be in our own time. I have said so, because thus and thus I find it written in the Word of God. If you do not like it, I am sorry for it. One thing only you must remember,—you are finding fault with the Bible, not with me.

IV. Learn, in the last place, that Christ’s second coming we’ll make an immense change to all members of the visible Church, both good and bad.

I draw this truth from the ‘concluding portion of the parable,—’from the discovery of the foolish virgins that their lamps were gone out,—from their anxious address to the wise, “Give us of your oil,”—from their vain knocking at the door when too late, crying, “Lord, Lord, open to us,”—from the happy admission of the wise who were found ready, in company with the bridegroom. Each and all of these points are full of food for thought. But I have neither time nor space to dwell upon them particularly. I can only take one single broad view of all. To all who have been baptized in the name of Christ,—converted or unconverted—believers or unbelievers,—holy or unholy,—godly or ungodly,—wise or foolish,—gracious or graceless,—to all the second advent of Christ will be an immense change.

It will be an immense change to the ungodly,—to all who are found mere nominal Christians,—a change both in their opinions and position.

All such persons, when Christ comes again, will see the value of real spiritual religion, if they never saw it before. They will do in effect what the parable describes under a figure—they will cry to the godly, “Give us of your oil, for our lamps are gone out.”

Who does not know, that, as things are now, spiritual religion never brings a man the world’s praise? It never has done, and it never does at this day. It entails on a man the world’s disapprobation,—the world’s persecution—the world’s mockery,—the World’s opposition,—the world’s ridicule, —the world’s sneers. The world will let a man serve the devil and go to hell quietly, and no one lifts a little finger to stop him, or says, “Be merciful to your soul” The world will never let a man serve Christ and go to heaven quietly, everybody cries, “Hold hard,” and does everything that can be done to keep him back.

Who has not heard of nicknames in plenty, bestowed on those who follow Christ, and try to be saved—Pietists, Puritans, Methodists, Fanatics, Enthusiasts, Calvinists, Ultra-religionists, the Saints, the Righteous overmuch, the Very Good People, and many more? Who does not know the petty family persecutions which often go on in private society in our day? Let a young person go to every ball, and opera, and race-course, and worldly party, and utterly neglect his soul, and no one interferes; no one says “Spare thyself,”—no one says “Take care: remember God, judgment, and eternity.” But let him only begin to read his Bible, and be diligent in prayer,—let him decline worldly amusements, and become particular in his employment of time,—let him seek an evangelical ministry, and live like an immortal being;—let him do this, I say, and all his friends and relations will probably be up in arms. “You are going too far. You need not be so very good. You are taking up extreme views.” This, in all probability, is the very least that such a person will hear. If a young woman, she will be marked and avoided by all her equals. If a young man, he will be set down by all who. know him, as weak, silly, and precise. In short, such a person will soon discover that there is no help from the world in the way to heaven, but plenty of help in the way to hell.

Alas, that it should be so: but so it is! These are ancient things. As it was in the days of Cain and Abel,—as it was in the days of Isaac and Ishmael, even so it is now. “They that are born after the flesh will persecute those that are born after the Spirit.” (Gal. iv. 29.) The Cross of Christ will always bring reproach with it. As the Jews hated Christ, so the world hates Christians. As the Head was bruised,»so also the members, will be. As contempt was poured on the Master, so it will be also on the disciples. In short, if a man will become a decided evangelical Christian, in the present order of things, he must “count the cost,” and make up his mind to lose the world’s favour. In a word, he must be content to. Be thought by many little better than a fool.

Reader, there will be an end of all this when Christ returns to this world. The light of that day will at length show everything in its true colours. The scales will fall from the poor worldling’s eyes. The value of the soul will ash on his astonished mind. The utter uselessness of a mere nominal Christianity will burst upon him like a thunder-storm. The blessedness of regeneration and faith in Christ, and a holy walk, will shine before him like “Mene, Mene, Tekel, Peres,” on the wall of the Babylonian palace. The veil will fall from his face. He will discover that the godly have been the wise, and that he has played the fool exceedingly. And just as Saul wanted Samuel when it was too late, and Belshazzar sent for Daniel when the kingdom was about to be taken from him, so will the ungodly turn to the very men they once mocked and despised, and cry to them, “Give us of your oil, for our lamps are gone out.”

But as there will be a complete change in the feelings of the ungodly, in the day of Christ’s second advent, so will there also be a complete change in their position. Hope, the plank to which they now cling, and on which they generally depend to the very last,—hope will be entirely taken away in that awful day. They will seek A salvation with earnestness, but not be able to find it. They will run hither and thither in a vain search for the oil of grace. They will knock loudly at the door of mercy, and get no answer. They will cry, “Lord, Lord, open to us,” but all to no purpose. They will discover to their sorrow that opportunities once let slip can never be regained, and that the notion of universal mercy always to be obtained, is a mere delusion of the devil.

Who does not know that thousands are urged to pray and repent now, who never attempt it? They mean to try one day perhaps. Like Felix, they hope for a convenient season. They fancy it will never be too late to seek the Lord. But there is a time coming when prayer shall be heard no longer, and repentance shall be unavailing. There is a time when the door by which Manasseh and Saul the persecutor entered, shall be shut and opened no more. There is a time when the fountain in which Magdalene, and John Newton, and thousands of others were washed and made clean, shall be sealed for ever. There is a time when men shall know the folly of sin, but like Judas too late for repentance,—when they shall desire to enter the promised land, but like Israel at Kadesh not be able,—when they shall see the value of God’s favour and covenant blessing, but like Esau when they can no longer possess it,—when they shall believe every jot and tittle of God’s revealed Word, but like the miserable devils only to tremble.

Yes, reader, men may come to this, and many will come to this in the day of Christ’s appearing. They will ask and not receive! They will seek and not find. They will knock and the door shall not be opened to them. Alas, indeed, that so it should be. Woe to the man who puts off seeking his manna till the Lord’s day of return Like Israel of old, he will find none—Woe to the man who goes to buy oil when he ought to be burning it! Like the foolish virgins, he will nd himself shut out from the marriage supper of the Lamb—Oh, that professing Christians would consider these things! Oh, that they would remember the words of our Lord have yet to be fulfilled, “When once the Master of the house is risen up, and bath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and He shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are: then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in Thy presence, and Thou hast taught in our streets. But He shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from Me, all ye workers of iniquity.” (Luke xiii. 25—27.)

But as Christ’s second coming will be a mighty change to the ungodly,so Will it also be a mighty change to the godly.

They shall at length be freed from everything which now mars their comfort. “The door shall be shut.” Against the ery darts of Satan,—against the loathsome weakness of the flesh which now clings to them,—-against the unkind world which now misrepresents and misunderstands them,—against the doubts and fears which now so often darken their path, —against the weariness which now clogs their best efforts to serve the Lord,—against coldness and deadness,—against shortcomings and backslidings,—against all these the door shall be shut for ever. Not one single Canaanite shall be found in the land. They shall no longer be vexed by temptation, persecuted by the world, warred against by the devil. Their conflict shall all be over. Their strife with the flesh shall for ever cease. The armour of God, which they have so long worn, shall at length be laid aside. They shall be where there is no Satan, no sorrow, and no sin. Ah, reader, the second Eden shall be far better than the first. In the first Eden the door was not shut; our joy – was but for a moment. But, blessed be God, in the second Eden the Lord shall “shut us in.”

And as the godly shall enjoy a freedom from all evil in the day of Christ’s appearing, so shall they also enjoy the presence of all good. They shall go in with the Bridegroom to the marriage. They shall be for ever in the company of Christ, and go out no more. Faith shall then be swallowed up in sight. Hope shall become certainty. Knowledge shall at – length be perfect. Prayer shall be turned into praise. Desires shall receive their full accomplishment. Hunger and thirst after conformity to Christ’s image shall at length be satisfied. The thought of parting shall not spoil the pleasure of meeting. The company of saints shall be enjoyed without hurry and distraction. The family of Abraham shall no more feel temptations; nor the family of Job, afflictions; nor the family of David, household bereavements; nor the family of Paul, thorns in the flesh; nor the family of Lazarus, poverty and sores. Every tear shall be wiped away in that day. It is the time when the Lord shall say, “I make all things new.”

Oh, reader, if God’s children find joy and peace in believing even now; what tongue shall tell their feelings when they behold the King in His beauty! If the report of the land that is far off has been sweet to them in the wilderness, what pen shall describe their happiness, when they see it with their own eyes?—If it has cheered them now and then to meet two or three like-minded in this evil world, how their hearts will burn within them when they see a multitude that no man can number, the least defects of each purged away, and not one false brother in the list!—If the narrow way has been a way of pleasantness to the scattered few who have travelled it with their poor frail bodies, how precious shall their rest seem in the day of gathering together, when they shall have a glorious body like their Lord’s!—Then shall we understand the meaning of the text, “ In Thy presence is fulness of joy, and at Thy right hand are pleasures for evermore.” (Psalm xvi. 11.) Then shall we experience the truth of that beautiful hymn, which says,—

“Let me be with Thee where Thou art,

My Saviour, my eternal rest;

Then only shall this longing heart

Be fully and for ever blest.

Let me be with Thee where Thou art,

Thy unveil’d glory to behold;

Then only shall this wand’ring heart

Cease to be false to Thee, and cold.

Let me be with Thee where Thou art,

Where none can die, where none remove;

There neither death nor life shall part

Me from Thy presence and Thy love.”

Is there a man or woman among the readers of this address who ever laughs at true religion? Is there one who persecutes and ridicules vital godliness in others, and dares to talk of people being over-particular, and righteous over-much? Oh, beware what you are doing! Again I say, beware! You may live to think very differently. You may live to alter your opinion, but perhaps too late. Ah, reader, there is a day before us all when there will be no infidels! No: not one! There is a day when the disciples of Paine, and Voltaire, and Emerson, shall call on the rocks to fall on them, and on the hills to cover them. Before the throne of Jesus every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess that He is the Lord. Remember that day, and beware.

Is there among the readers of this address some dear child of God, who is mocked and despised for the Gospel’s sake, and feels as if he stood alone 2 Take comfort. Be patient. “Wait a little longer.” Your turn shall yet come. When the spies returned from searching Canaan, men talked of stoning Caleb and Joshua, because they brought a good report of the land. A few days passed away, and all the assembly confessed that they alone had been right. Strive to be like them. Follow the Lord fully, as they did, and sooner or later all men shall confess that you did well. Never, never be afraid of going too far. Never, never be afraid of being too holy. Never, never . be ashamed of desiring to go to heaven, and of seeking to have a great crown. Millions will lament in the day of Christ’s return, because they have not got religion enough: not one will be heard to say that he has got too much. Take comfort. Press on.

And now, reader, it only remains for me to close this paper by three words of application, which seem to me to arise naturally out of the parable of which I have been writing. I heartily pray God to bless them to your soul, and to make them words in season.

1. My first word of application shall be a question. I take the parable of the ten virgins as my warrant, and I address that question to every one of my readers. I ask you, “Are you ready?” Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, “They that were ready went in with the bridegroom to the marriage:” they that were ready, and none else. Now here, in the sight of God, I ask each and every reader, Is this your case? Are you ready?

I do not ask whether you are a Churchman, and make a profession of religion—I do not ask whether you attend an evangelical ministry, and like evangelical people, and can talk of evangelical subjects, and read evangelical tracts and books. All this is the surface of Christianity. All this costs little, and may be easily attained. I want to search your heart more thoroughly, and probe your conscience more deeply. I want to know whether you have been born again, and whether you have got the Holy Ghost dwelling in your soul.» I want. to know whether you have any oil in your vessel while you carry the lamp of profession and whether you are ready to _ meet the bridegroom—ready for Christ’s return to the earth. I want to know, if the Lord should come this week, whether you could lift up your head with joy, and say, “This is our God; we have waited for Him; let us be glad, and rejoice in His salvation.” These things I want to know, and this is what I mean when I say, “Are you ready?”

“Ah!” I can imagine some saying, “this is asking far too much. To be ready for Christ’s appearing! this is far too high a standard. This is extravagance. There would be no living in the world at this rate. This is a hard saying. Who can hear it?”—I cannot help it. I believe this 18 the standard of the Bible. I believe this is the standard Paul sets before us when he says the Thessalonians were “waiting for the Son of God from heaven,” and the Corinthians “waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 These. i. 10; 1 Cor. i. 7.) And surely this is the standard Peter sets before us, when he speaks of “looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God.” (2 Peter iii; 12.) I believe it is a mark, that every true believer should be continually aiming at, —to live so as to be ever ready to meet Christ. God forbid that I should place the standard of Christian practice a hair’s breadth higher than the level at which the Bible places it. But God forbid that I should ever put it a hair’s breadth lower. If I do, what right have I to say that the Bible is my rule of faith?

I want to disqualify no man for usefulness upon earth. I require no man to become a hermit, and cease to serve his generation. I call on no man to leave his lawful calling, and neglect his earthly affairs. But I do call on every one to live like one who expects Christ to return, to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world, —to live like a pilgrim and a stranger, ever. looking unto Jesus,—to live like a good servant, with his loins girded, and his lamp burning—to live like one whose treasure is in heaven, with his heart packed up and ready to be gone. This is readiness. This is preparation. And is this too much to ask? I say unhesitatingly that it is not.

Now, reader, are. you ready in this way? If not, I should like to know what good your religion does you. What is it all but a burdensome form? What is it but a mere temporary cloak that will not wear beyond this world? Truly a religion that does not make a man ready for every thing,—for death, for judgment, for the second advent, for the resurrection,—such a religion may well be looked on with suspicion. Reader, if your religion does not make you ready for anything, you may depend the sooner it is changed the better.

2. My second word of application shall be an invitation. I address it to everyone who feels in his conscience that he has no grace in his heart,—to everyone who feels that the character of the foolish virgins is his own. To every such person I give an invitation this day, in my Master’s name. I invite you “to awake and flee to Christ.”

Reader, if you are a man of this sort, you know that all within you is wrong in the sight of God. Nothing can be said more true about you than that you are asleep, asleep not merely about the doctrine of Christ’s second advent, but about everything that concerns your soul. You are wide awake perhaps about temporal things. You read the newspapers, it may be, and are mighty in the “Times.” You have your head stored with earthly wisdom and useful knowledge. But you have no heartfelt sense of sin, no peace or friendship with God, no experimental acquaintance with Christ, no delight in the Bible and prayer. And yet you are a sinner, a dying sinner, an immortal sinner, a sinner going to meet Christ, a sinner going to be judged. What, I would put it to your conscience as an honest man, what is all this but being asleep?

How long is this .to go on? When do you mean to arise and live as if you had a soul? When will you cease to hear. as one who hears not? When will you give up running after shadows, and seek something substantial? When will you throw off the mockery of a religion which cannot satisfy, cannot comfort, cannot sanctify, cannot save, and will not bear a calm examination? When will you give up having a faith which does not influence your practice,—having a book which you say is God’s Word, but treat as if it was not,—having the name of Christian, but knowing nothing of Christ? Oh! reader, when, when shall it once he?

Why not this very year? Why not this very day? Why not at once awake and call upon your God, and resolve that you will sleep no longer? I set before you an open door. I set before you Jesus Christ the Saviour, who died to make atonement for sinners,—-Jesus who is able to save to the uttermost,—Jesus willing to receive. The hand that was nailed to the cross is held out to you in mercy—The eye that wept over Jerusalem is looking on you with pity. The voice that has said ‘to many wanderers, “Thy sins are forgiven,” is saying to you, “Come to Me.” Go to Jesus first and foremost, if you would know what step to take. Think ‘not to wait for repentance, and faith, and a new heart, but go to Him just as you are. Go to Him in prayer, and cry, “Lord save me, or I perish. I am weary of sleeping; I would fain sleep no longer.” Oh! awake, thou that sleepest, and Christ shall give thee light.

Sun, moon, and stars are all witnessing against you: they continue according to God’s ordinances, and you are ever transgressing them. The grass, the birds, the very worms of the earth are all witnessing against you: they ll their place in creation, and you do not. Sabbaths and ordinances are continually witnessing against you: they are ever proclaiming that there is a God and a judgment, and you are living as if there were none. The tears and prayers of godly relations are witnessing against you: others are sorrowfully thinking you have a soul, though you seem to forget it. The very grave-stones that you see every week are witnessing against you: they are silently witnessing that life is uncertain, time is short, the resurrection is yet to come, the Lord is at hand. All, all are saying, Awake, awake, awake! Oh! Reader, the time past may surely suffice you to have slept Awake to be wise. Awake to be safe. Awake to be happy. Awake, and sleep no more.

3. My last word of application shall be an exhortation to all true believers, -to all who have the oil of grace in their hearts, and have ed for pardon to the blood of the Lamb. I draw it from the words of the Lord Jesus at the end of the parable. I exhort you earnestly “to watch.”

I exhort you to watch against everything which might interfere with a readiness for Christ’s appearing. Search your own hearts. Find out the things which most frequently interrupt your communion with Christ, and cause fogs to rise between you and the sun. Mark these things, and know them, and against them ever watch and be on your guard.

Watch against sin of every kind and description. Think not to say of any sin whatever, “Ah! that is one of the things that I shall never do.” I tell you there is no possible sin too abominable for the very best of us all to commit. Remember David and Uriah. The. spirit may . be sometimes very willing, but the flesh is always very weak. You are yet in the body. Watch and pray.

Watch against doubts and unbelief as to the complete acceptance of your soul, if you are a believer in Christ Jesus. The Lord Jesus finished the work He came to do: —do not tell Him that He did not. The Lord Jesus. paid your debts in full:—do not tell Him that you think He left you to pay part. The Lord Jesus promises eternal life to every sinner that comes to Him:—do not tell Him, even while you are coming, that you think He lies. Alas, for our unbelief In Christ you are like Noah in the ark, and Lot in Zoar,—nothing can harm you. The earth may be burned up with re at the Lord’s appearing, but not a hair of your head shall perish. Doubt it not. Pray for more faith. Watch and pray.

Watch against inconsistency of walk, and conformity to the world. Watch against sins of temper and of tongue. These are the kind of things that grieve the Spirit of God, and make His witness within us faint and low. Watch and pray.

Watch against the leaven of false doctrine. Remember that Satan can transform himself into an angel of light. Remember that had money is never marked bad, or else it would never pass. Be very jealous for the whole truth as it is in Jesus. Do not put up with a grain of error merely for the sake of a pound of truth. Do not tolerate a little false doctrine one bit more than you would a little sin. Oh, reader, remember this caution! watch and pray.

Watch against slothfulness about the Bible and private prayer. There is nothing so spiritual but we may at last do it formally. Most backslidings begin in the closet. When a tree is snapped in two by a high wind, we generally find there had been some long hidden decay. Oh, watch and pray!

Watch against bitterness and uncharitableness towards others. A little love is more valuable than many gifts. Be eagle-eyed in seeing the good that is in your brethren, and dim-sighted as the mole about the evil. Let your memory be a strong box for their graces, but a sieve for their faults. Watch and pray.

Watch. against pride and self-conceit. Peter said at first, “ Though all men deny Thee, yet will not I.” And presently he fell. Pride is the high road to a fall. Watch and pray.

Watch against the sins of. Galatia, Ephesus, and Laodicea. Believers may run well for a season, then lose their first love, and then become lukewarm. Watch and pray.

Watch not least against the sin of Jehu. A man may have great zeal to all appearance, and yet have very bad motives. It is a much easier thing to oppose Anti-Christ than to follow Christ. It is one thing to protest against error, it is quite another thing to love the truth. So watch and pray.

Oh, my believing readers, let us all watch more than we have done! Let us watch more every year that we live. Let us watch, that we may not be startled when the Lord appears.

Let us watch for the world’s sake. We are the books they chiefly read. They mark our ways far more than we think. Let us aim to be plainly-written epistles of Christ.

Let us watch for our own sakes. As our walk is, so will be our peace. As our conformity to Christ’s mind, so will be our sense of Christ’s atoning blood. If a man will not walk in the full light of the sun, how can he expect to be warm.

And, above all, let us watch for our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake. Let us live as if His glory was concerned in our behaviour. Let us live as if every slip and fall was a reflection on the honour of our King. Let us live as if every allowed sin was one more thorn in His head,—one more nail in His feet,—one more spear in His side. Oh, let us exercise a godly jealousy over thoughts, words, and actions;—over motives, manners, and walk. Never, never let us fear being too strict. Never, never let us think we can watch too much. Leigh Richmond’s dying words were very solemn. Few believers were ever more useful in their day and generation. Of few can it be said so truly, that he “being dead yet speaketh.” But what did he say to one who stood by, while he lay dying?—



Andrew Bonar (1810-1892): What Gives Assurance

What Gives Assurance
Andrew Bonar (1810-1892)
Copyright: Public Domain

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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.

John Newton (1725-1807): Trust in the Providence of God

Trust in the Providence of God

and Benevolence to His Poor
John Newton (1725-1807)
Copyright: Public Domain

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On Trust in the Providence of God, and Benevolence to his Poor.

My Dear Friend,

THE more I think of the point you proposed to me, the more I am confirmed to renew the advice I then gave. There is doubtless such a thing as Christian prudence; but, my friend, beware of counterfeits. Self-love and the evil heart of unbelief, will endeavour to obtrude upon us a prudence, so called, which is as opposite to the former as darkness to light. I do not say, that, now you have a wife, and the prospect of a family, you are strictly bound io communicate with the poor in the same proportion as formerly. I say, you are not bound; for every thing of this sort should proceed from a willing mind. But if you should tell me, the Lord has given you such a zeal for his glory, such a concern for the honour of the Gospel, such a love to his members, such a grateful sense of his mercies, (especially by granting you, in this late instance of your marriage, the desire of your heart,) and such an affiance in his providence and promises, that you find yourself very unwilling to be one sixpence in the year less useful than you was before, I could not blame you or dissuade you from it. But I do not absolutely advise it; because I know not the state of your mind, or what measure of faith the Lord has given you. Only this I believe, that when the Lord gives such a confidence, he will not disappoint it.

When I look among the professors, yea, among the ministers of the Gospel, there are few tilings I see a more general want of, than such a trust in God as to temporals, and such a sense of the honour of being permitted to relieve the necessities of his people, as might dispose them to a more liberal distribution of what they have at present in their power, and to a reliance on him for a sufficient supply in future. Some exceptions there are. Some persons I have the happiness to know whose chief pleasure it seems to be, to devise liberal things. For the most part, we take care, first, to be well supplied, if possible, with all the necessaries, conveniencies, and not a few of the elegancies of life; then to have a snug fund laid up against a rainy day, as the phrase is, (if this is in an increasing way, so much the better) that when we look at children and near relatives, we may say to our hearts, “Now they are well provided for.” And when we have gotten all this and more, we are perhaps content, for the love of Christ, to bestow a pittance of our superfluities, a tenth or twentieth part of what we spend or hoard up for ourselves, upon the poor. But, alas! what do we herein more than others? Multitudes who know nothing of the love of Christ, will do thus much, yea, perhaps, greatly exceed us, from the mere feelings of humanity.

But it may be asked, would you show no regard to the possibility of leaving your wife or children unprovided for? Quite the reverse: I would have you attend to it very much; and behold, the Scriptures show you the more excellent way. If you had a little money to spare, would you not lend it to me, if I assured you it should be repaid when wanted I can point out to you better interest and better security than I could possibly give you: Prov. xix. 17. .. “He that hath pity upon the poor, lendeth unto the Lord: and that which he hath given, will he pay him again.” What think you of this text? Is it the word of God, or not? Is he worthy of belief, or not? Is he able to make good his word, or is he not? I dare stake all my interest in your friendship, (which I should be very loath to forfeit,) that if you act upon this maxim, in a spirit of prayer and faith, and with a single eye to his glory, you shall not be disappointed. Read over Matt. vi. 26—34. Shall we confine that reasoning and those promises to the primitive times? Say not, “If the Lord would make windows in heaven this thing might be.” He has more ways to bless and prosper those who trust in him, than we are able to point out to him. But I tell you, my friend, he will sooner make windows in heaven, turn stones into bread, yea, stop the sun in his course, than he will suffer those who conscientiously serve him, and depend upon him, to be destitute.

Some instances we have had of ministers who have seemed to transgress the bounds of strict prudence in their attention to the poor. But they have been men of faith, prayer, and zeal; if they did it, not from a caprice of humour, or a spirit of indolence, but from such motives as the Scripture suggests and recommends, I believe their families have seldom suffered for it. I wish you to consult upon this head, what Mrs. Alleine says, in the affecting account she has given of that honoured and faithful servant of God, her husband, Joseph Alleine. Besides, you know not what you may actually save in the course of years by this method. The apostle, speaking of some abuses that obtained in the church of Corinth, says, “For this cause many are sick among you.” If prudence should shut up the bowels of your compassion, (which I trust it never will,) the Lord might quarter an apothecary upon your family, which would perhaps cost you twice the money that would have sufficed to refresh his people, and to commend your ministry and character.

But if, after all, prudence will be heard, I counsel you to do these two things. First, Be very certain that you allow yourselves in nothing superfluous. You cannot, I trust, in conscience think of laying out one penny more than is barely decent; unless you have another penny to help the poor. Then, secondly. Let your friends who are in good circumstances, be plainly told, that, though you love them, prudence, and the necessary charge of a family, will not permit you to entertain them; no, not for a night. What! say you, shut my door against my friends? Yes, by all means, rather than against Christ. If the Lord Jesus was again upon earth in a state of humiliation, and he, and the best friend you have, standing at your door, and your provision so strait that you could not receive both, which would you entertain? Now, he says of the poor, “Inasmuch as ye did it to the least of these my brethren, ye did it unto me.” Your friends have houses of their own, and money to pay at an inn, if you do not lake them in; but the poor need relief One would almost think that passage, Luke xiv. 12—14. was not considered as a part of God’s word; at least I believe there is no one passage so generally neglected by his own people. I do not think it unlawful to entertain our friends; but if these words do not teach us, that it is in some respects our duty to give a preference to the poor, I am at a loss to understand them.

I was enabled to set out upon the plan I recommend to you, at a time when my certain income was much too scanty for my own provision, and before I had the expectation or promise of assistance from any person upon earth. Only I knew that the Lord could provide me with whatever he saw needful; and I trusted, that if he kept me dependent upon himself, and desirous to live for his service only, he assuredly would do so. I have as yet seen no cause to repent it. I live upon his promise; for as to any present ways or means, every thing here below is so uncertain, that I consider myself in the same situation with the birds of the air, who have neither storehouse nor barn. To-day I have enough for myself, and something to impart to them that need; as to futurity, the Lord must provide; and for the most part I can believe he will. I can tell you, however, that now and then my heart is pinched; unbelief creeps in, and self would much rather choose a strong box, or what the world calls a certainty, than a life of absolute dependence upon the providence of God. However, in my composed hours I am well satisfied. Hitherto he has graciously taken care of me; therefore may my heart trust in him, and not be afraid.

Consider, my friend, the Lord has done well for you likewise. He has settled you peaceably in a good and honourable interest; he has now answered your prayers, in giving you a partner, with whom you may take sweet counsel, one that will help and strengthen you in your best desires. Beware, therefore, of that reasoning which might lead you to distrust the Lord your God, or to act as if you did. You complain that there is too much of an expensive taste among some persons in your congregation. If you set yourself to discountenance this, and should at the same time too closely shut up your hands, they will be ready to charge you with being governed by the same worldly spirit, though in another form. If you have been hitherto tender and bountiful to the poor, and should make too great and too sudden an alteration in this respect, if the blame should not fall upon you, it probably would upon your wife, who, I believe, would be far from deserving it. If the house which has been open to the poor in former times, should be shut against them now you live in it, would it not lead the people’s thoughts back? Would it not open the mouths of those who do not love your ministry, to say, That notwithstanding all your zeal about doctrines, you know how to take care of your own interest, as well as those whom you have thought indifferent and lukewarm in the cause of the Gospel? Would it not? But I forbear. I know you need not such arguments. Yet consider how many eyes are upon you, watching for your halting. Now, at your first setting out, is the proper time seriously to seek the Lord’s directions, that you may, from the beginning, adopt such a plan as may be most to your own comfort, the honour of your character as a minister, the glory of him who has called you, and the edification of your people. It is easier to begin well, than to make alterations afterwards. I trust the Lord will guide and bless you in your deliberations. And for my own part, I am not in the least afraid that you will ever have cause to blame me for the advice I have given, if you should be disposed to follow it.

I have given you my opinion freely, and perhaps with an appearance of more strictness than is necessary. But I would apply our Lord’s words in another case to this: “few men cannot receive this saying; he that is able to receive it, let him receive it.” If the Lord has given you this confidence in his word, you are happy. It is better than the possession of thousands by the year.

I am, &c.

John Newton (1725-1807): I Was Once Bind, But Now I See

LETTER XXI: I Was Once Bind, But Now I See
John Newton (1725-1807)
Copyright: Public Domain

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Dear Sir,

THE question. What is the discriminating characteristic nature of a work of grace upon the soul? has been upon my mind; if I am able to give you satisfaction concerning it, I shall think my time well employed.

The reason why men in a natural state are utterly ignorant of spiritual truths is, that they are wholly destitute of a faculty suited to their perception. A remarkable instance we have in the absurd construction which Nicodemus put upon what our Lord had spoken to him concerning the new birth. And in the supernatural communication of this spiritual faculty, by the agency of the Holy Spirit, I apprehend the inimitable and abiding criterion, which is the subject of our inquiry, does primarily consist. Those passages of Scripture wherein the gospel-truth is compared to light, lead to a familiar illustration of my meaning. Men by nature are stark blind with respect to this light; by grace the eyes of the understanding are opened. Among a number of blind men, some may be more ingenious and of better capacity than others. They may be better qualified for such studies and employments which do not require eye-sight than many who can see, and may attain to considerable skill in them; but with respect to the true nature of light and colours, they are all exactly upon a level. A blind man, if ingenious and inquisitive, may learn to talk about the light, the sun, or the rainbow, in terms borrowed from those who have seen them; but it is impossible that he can have, (I mean a man born blind,) a just idea of either; and whatever hearsay-knowledge he may have acquired, he can hardly talk much upon these subjects without betraying his real ignorance. The case of one mentioned by Mr. Locke has been often quoted. He believed, that after much inquiry and reflection, he had at last found out what scarlet was; and being asked to explain himself, “I think,” says he, “scarlet is something like the sound of a trumpet.” This man had about the same knowledge of natural light as Nicodemus had of spiritual. Nor can all the learning or study in the world enable any person to form a suitable judgment of divine truth, till the eves of his mind are opened, and then he will perceive it at once.

Indeed, this comparison is well suited to show the entire difference between nature and grace, and to explain the ground of that enmity and scorn which fills the hearts of blinded sinners, against those who profess to have been enlightened by the Spirit of God. The reason why blind men are not affronted when we tell them they cannot see, seems to be, that they are borne down by the united testimony of all who are about them. Every one talks of seeing; and they find by experience, that those who say they can see can do many things which the blind cannot. Some such conviction as this many have, who live where the Gospel is preached, and is made the power of God to the salvation of others. The conversation and conduct of the people of God convinces them, that there is a difference, though they cannot tell wherein it consists. But if we could suppose it possible, that there was a whole nation of blind men, and one or two persons should go amongst them, and profess that they could see, while they could not offer them such a proof of their assertion as they were capable of receiving, nor even explain, to their satisfaction, what they meant by sight; what may we imagine would be the consequence? I think there is little doubt but these innovators would experience much the same treatment as the believers of Jesus often meet with from a blind world. The blind people would certainly hate and despise them for presuming to pretend to what they had not. They would try to dispute them out of their senses, and bring many arguments to prove, that there could be no such thing as either light or sight. They would say, as many say now, How is it, it” these things are so, that we should know nothing of them? Yea, I think it probable, they would rise against them as deceivers and enthusiasts, and disturbers of the public peace, and say, “Away with such fellows from the earth; it is not fit that they should live.” But if we should suppose further, that during the heat of the contest some of these blind men should have their eyes suddenly opened, the dispute as to them would be at an end in a minute; they would confess their former ignorance and obstinacy, confirm the testimony of those whom they had before despised, and of course share in the same treatment from their blind brethren, perhaps be treated still worse, as apostates from the opinion of the public.

If this illustration is justly applicable to our subject, it may lead us to several observations, or inferences, which have a tendency to confirm what we are elsewhere expressly taught by the word of God.

In the first place, it shows, that regeneration, or that great change without which a man cannot see the kingdom of God, is the effect of Almighty power. Neither education, endeavours, nor arguments, can open the eyes of the blind. It is God alone, who at first caused light to shine out of darkness, who can shine into our hearts, “to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” People may attain some natural ideas of spiritual truths by reading books, or hearing sermons, and may thereby become wise in their own conceits; they may learn to imitate the language of an experienced Christian; but they know not what they say, nor whereof they affirm, and are as distant from the true meaning of the terms, as a blind man, who pronounces the words blue or red, is from the ideas which those words raise in the mind of a person who can distinguish colours by his sight. And from hence we may infer the sovereignty, as well as the efficacy, of grace; since it is evident, not only that the objective light, the word of God, is not afforded universally to all men; but that those who enjoy the same outward means, have not all the same perceptions. There are many who stumble in the noon-day, not for want of light, but for want of eyes: and they who now see were once blind even as others, and had neither power nor will to enlighten their own minds. It is a mercy, however, when people are so far sensible of their own blindness, as to be willing to wait for the manifestation of the Lord’s power, in the ordinances of his own appointment. He came into the world, and he sends forth his Gospel, that those who see not may see; and when there is a desire raised in the heart for spiritual sight, it shall in his due time be answered.

From hence likewise we may observe the proper use and value of the preaching of the Gospel, which is the great instrument by which the Holy Spirit opens the blind eyes. Like the rod of Moses, it owes all its efficacy to the appointment and promise of God. Ministers cannot be too earnest in the discharge of their office; it behooves them to use all diligence to find out acceptable words, and to proclaim the whole counsel of God. Yet when they have done all, they have done nothing, unless their word is accompanied to the heart by the power and demonstration of the spirit. Without this blessing, an apostle might labour in vain; but it shall be in a measure afforded to all who preach the truth in love, in simplicity, and in an humble dependence upon him who alone can give success. This in a great measure puts all faithful ministers on a level, notwithstanding any seeming disparity in gifts and abilities. Those who have a lively and pathetic talent;, may engage the ear, and raise the natural passions of their hearers; but they cannot reach the heart. The blessing may be rather expected to attend the humble than the voluble speaker.

Further we may remark, that there is a difference in kind, between the highest attainments of nature, and the effects of grace in the lowest degree. Many are convinced, who are not truly enlightened; are afraid of the consequences of sin, though they never saw its evil have a seeming desire of salvation, which is not founded upon a truly spiritual discovery of their own wretchedness, and the excellency of Jesus. These may, for a season, hear the word with joy, and walk in the way of professors; but wc need not be surprised if they do not hold out, for they have no root. Though many such fall, the foundation of God still standeth sure. We may confidently affirm, upon the warrant of Scripture, that they who, having for a while escaped the pollutions of the world, are again habitually entangled in them, or who, having been distressed upon the account of sin, can find relief in a self-righteous course, and stop short of Christ, “who is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth;” we may affirm that these, whatever profession th^y may have made, were never capable of receiving the beauty and glory of the Gospel-salvation. On the other hand, though, where the eyes are divinely enlightened, the soul’s first views of itself and of the Gospel may be confused and indistinct, like him who saw men as it were trees walking; yet this light is like the dawn, which, though weak and faint at its first appearance, shineth more and more unto the perfect day. It is the work of God; and his work is perfect in kind, though progressive in the manner. He will not despise or forsake the day of small things. When he thus begins, he will make an end; and such persons, however feeble, poor, and worthless, in their own apprehensions, if they have obtained a glimpse of the Redeemer’s glory, as he is made unto us, of God, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, so that his name is precious, and the desire of their hearts is towards him, have good reason to hope and believe, as the wife of Manoah did in a similar case, that if the Lord had been pleased to kill them, he would not have showed them such things as these.

Once more: This spiritual sight and faculty is that which may be principally considered as inherent in a believer. He has no stock of grace, or comfort, or strength in himself. He needs continual supplies; and if the Lord withdraws from him, he is as weak and unskilful, after he has been long engaged in the Christian warfare, as he was when he first entered upon it. The eye is of little present use in the dark; for it cannot see without light. But the return of light is no advantage to a blind man. A believer may be much in the dark; but his spiritual sight remains. Though the exercise of grace may be low, he knows himself, he knows the Lord, he knows the way of access to a throne of grace. His frames and feelings may alter; but he has received such a knowledge of the person and offices, the power and grace of Jesus the Saviour, as cannot be taken from him; and he could withstand even an angel that should preach another gospel, because he has seen the Lord. The paper constrains me to break off. May the Lord increase his light in your heart, and in the heart of, &c.

LNW: End Times Prophecy: Update No. 2

End Times Prophecy Fulfillment

Today’s Headlines on twitter

Update No. 2






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Follow us on twitter @LateNightWatch; read the daily headlines and respective articles, and find out for yourself and see Biblical prophecy unfolding before your very eyes.  God’s word stands; He cannot and will not lie for He is the Righteous, Just and Holy God, Who knows the end from the beginning, and everything in between.


This UPDATE on Gog/Magog (Ezekiel 38) uses this article as the substantive foundation for what follows in the SUMMARY POINTS below.


In our previous update Gog/Magog focused on Russia, Iran/Hizballah, Turkey & Syria’s formulated alignment in defense of Syria’s Bashar Al-Assad’s control of Syria.  At that time they were amassing at the Syrian/Iraqi/Jordanian Al-Tanf border crossing being protected by the U.S. led coalition forces (see here).

Now, much more emboldened by Russia’s “proven” leadership and protection, Iran & Hezbollah have literally encircled Israel from Gaza to the Golan (Syria) and Lebanon borders.  Also note that Iran is building a troop landing terminal in the port of Tartus in Syria (Iran does not need this to fight battles in Syria – only to battle Israel in the near future).

A point to note is Iran’s friendly interactions with the DPRK (North Korea) and the shipment of chemical arms to Syria.  Syria has been, perhaps in a left-handed way, the testing ground for these arms which Iran most likely would try to use on Israel at some point.

It is worth noting that Turkey is also expanding in Syria as well as Iraq, while Hezbollah tightens its grip on Lebanon (see below).  Turkey’s plans are to develop and rule a Caliphate in the Middle East.  Should such come about, it would strive to annihilate Israel (something to which Russia might use to its advantage against Israel).

Ezekiel 38:7  Be thou prepared, and prepare for thyself, thou, and all thy company that are assembled unto thee, and be thou a guard unto them. – Russia has been doing this “preparing” of all its company for the past few years, and, most recently with Iran & Turkey in the Middle East.  And we can see in the current Middle East debacle, of Russia’s “be thou a guard unto them” by way of providing effective defensive coverage, staying in the immediate area with the necessary resources to assist them.  These deployed Russian resources keep the U.S. and Israel at a distance presently, and perhaps the U.S. completely; for God Himself will defend Israel from Gog and his company (see Ezekiel 38:18-23).

An article on Libya being prepped for inclusion into the Gog/Magog fold can be found here.

Gog/Magog (Ezekiel 38) related headlines:

LNW will have updates forth coming as events support it.

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AW Pink (1886-1952): The Claims of God

The Claims of God
AW Pink (1886-1952)
Copyright: Public Domain

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Only fear the LORD, and serve him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things he hath done for you. But if ye shall still do wickedly, ye shall be consumed” (1Sa 12:24-25). These words were uttered by God’s servant to Israel at an important crisis in their national history. Dissatisfied with the divine theocracy, they wished to be like the heathen and have a human king to be their head and leader. The Lord suffered them to have their wish gratified, but pressed upon them the wickedness of it. Then, His servant faithfully presented to them the certain issues of two courses of conduct—if they feared and served the Lord, He would prosper them. If they rebelled against Him, His hand would smite them (1Sa 12:14-15; 24-25).

In our text, we find Samuel setting before Israel the requirements of God from them. They were to fear and serve Him. In it, he reminds them of the wondrous mercies which had been shown them, and the obligation which these imposed. He bids them consider the great things which God had done for them. In 1 Samuel 12:7, he called upon them to “stand still” while he reasoned with them before the Lord of His “benefits” (margin) unto them. God had brought them out of the house of bondage (1Sa 12:8). He had made them to dwell in the favoured land of Canaan. When they had departed from Him and He sorely chastened them, then, they cried unto Him, confessed their sin, and He graciously delivered them from their enemies (1Sa 12:9-11). What then ought to be their response? Fear and serve Him.

“Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning” (Rom 15:4). The temporal deliverances, which JEHOVAH wrought of old for Israel, shadowed forth the spiritual deliverances which Christ has secured for His people, and which the Holy Spirit applies to them experimentally. Their emancipation from Egypt figured our redemption from the bondage of sin, “Redeemed from…your vain conversation” or “manner of living” (1Pe 1:18). Christ died not only to save His people from Hell, but also to “deliver us from this present evil world” (Gal 1:4). Such inestimable blessings carry with them immense obligations. The claims of God upon His people are infinitely greater than those He has upon the wicked. And naught but divine grace can enable us to answer our obligations and meet His claims. What these are we shall now consider.

1. “Fear the Lord.” Of the unregenerate, it is said, “There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Rom 3:18). They have no respect for His authority, no concern for His glory, no love for His law. But concerning the righteous, we are told, “Surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before Him” (Ecc 8:12). And why? Because “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil” (Pro 8:13), and “By the fear of the LORD men depart from evil” (Pro 16:6). Thus, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” (Pro 9:10), for without it, man is a consummate fool, on a lower level than the beasts which perish, for “The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib” (Isa 1:3), but the wicked own not the voice of their Maker.

To “fear the Lord” is for the heart to be deeply impressed by His awful majesty, His immeasurable power, His ineffable holiness. It is to stand in reverent awe of Him. If the seraphim veil their faces in His presence (Isa 6:2), how much more ought worms of the earth bow in the dust before Him! To fear the Lord is to tremble at the very thought of knowingly opposing Him. It is to have the utmost respect for every revelation of His imperial will. When the father of Isaac obeyed the divine command to lay his beloved son on the altar of sacrifice, the Lord said, “Now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me” (Gen 22:12). And this godly fear which is required from us (compare Act 9:31; 2Co 7:1; 1Pe 1:17) is not to be spasmodic and occasional, but as Proverbs 23:17 says, “Be thou in the fear of the LORD all the day long.” Then, what cause have we to cry daily, “Unite my heart to fear thy name” (Psa 86:11).

Observe well the opening word of our text, “Only fear the LORD.” If the fear of the Lord is truly upon our hearts, everything else will (so to speak) take care of itself. If the fear of the Lord be upon us, pride will be abased, self-will and self-seeking will be subdued, and the evil whisperings of Satan will have no power over us. If the fear of the Lord be upon us, we shall be delivered from the fear of man, as we shall be quite indifferent whether or not we please him. If the fear of the Lord be upon us, doubtings and questionings of our salvation will be at an end, “In the fear of the LORD is strong confidence; and his children shall have a place of refuge” (Pro 14:26). “The secret of the LORD is with them that fear him; and he will show them his covenant” (Psa 25:14).

2. “And serve him.” Yes, Him, not self, not sin, not our fellows. God is the only one who has any real claims upon us, for He is our Creator, our Owner, our Lord. Him, we are commanded, under pain of everlasting woe, to serve. Not simply believe in Him, pray to Him, but be in complete subjection to Him. His will is to be our law, His commands the regulator of our ways. “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve” (Mat 4:10). We cannot “serve” two masters, as Christ affirmed, “For either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other” (Mat 6:24). Note well that this call to “serve” the Lord comes after “fear” Him. We cannot truly serve Him unless His fear be upon us. Any so-called service which flows not from a reverent awe of God is only the restless energy of the flesh putting itself into action.

“Serve Him in truth.” What is meant by this? At least three things. First, the Lord is to be served in sincerity, not in pretence. A form of godliness, no matter how precise and punctilious, is of no avail in His sight if the power of it be lacking. Second, the Lord requires to be served in reality, not in mere lip profession. “Let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth” (1Jo 3:18). Nothing is more vain than an empty formality. Third, in a scriptural way. “Thy word is truth” (Joh 17:17). To serve the Lord “in truth” is the opposite of following the fashions of the day, or the inclinations of our hearts. It is an obedient walk regulated by the divine precepts.

“With all your heart.” Ah, it is at the heart that God looks, and not merely at the outward appearance, as does man. His great requirement is, “My son, give me thine heart” (Pro 23:26). We do not find Him until we search for Him with all our heart (Jer 29:13). He bids us, “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart” (Pro 3:5). He commands us to love Him with all the heart (Mat 22:37). So He demands that we shall “serve him with a perfect heart” (1Ch 28:9). Of Rehoboam, it is said, “And he did evil, because he prepared not his heart to seek the LORD” (2Ch 12:14). To serve the Lord with all the heart means with undivided affections. It is the opposite of a “double heart” (1Ch 12:33). Of old, God complained against Israel, “Their heart is divided” (Hos 10:2). God requires the throne of our hearts that He may reign over us, that we may be out and out for Him, with no reserve, nothing kept back. “Whoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he can not be my disciple” (Luk 14:33).

3. “For consider how great things he hath done for you.” This is the motive. We are to fear and serve Him in truth with all our hearts, not that we may gain the reputation of being very spiritual people, not in order to escape the everlasting burnings, but because of what the Lord “has done” for us. Let the realization of that be the mainspring of action. Let the remembrance of that move you to fear and serve Him wholeheartedly. That is the only motive which God will accept. A daily life lived to please Him out of gratitude for what He has done for you. “I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God” (Rom 12:1). God’s claims upon us are founded upon what He has done for us. Our obligations are measured by the blessings which we have received from Him.

“Consider what great things He hath done for You.” You, an insignificant worm of the earth (Isa 41:14), a mere “grasshopper” (Isa 40:22). You, a vile sinner, with “no good” in you by nature (Rom 7:18). You, who merit nothing at His hands but untempered judgment. Yet, instead of casting you into Hell years ago, what has He done for you? Preserved your worthless life these many years, showered His daily blessings upon you, and supplied your every need. And, if truly saved, has delivered you from the wrath to come, given you a place in His family nearer to Himself than that which the holy angels will occupy, and made you an heir of everlasting glory. Oh, that our hearts may be so melted by the realization of His amazing grace, that the love of Christ shall “constrain” us to fear and serve Him in truth with all our hearts.

“For consider what great things He hath done for you.” Turn them over and over in your mind, dwell on them frequently. As the man of the world is constantly scheming how to make money, or how to have “a good time”—his whole heart being wrapped up in such things—so do you make it your chief business to be occupied with the wonders of God. “Set your affection on things above.” Many a person on the beach shivers and is miserable while he is only paddling in the waters. Not till he plunges right in does he really enjoy himself. So it is in connection with the things of God. So long as they have a subordinate and secondary place in our thoughts and lives, we do not really “delight” ourselves in the Lord. “Give thyself wholly to them” (1Ti 4:15) is a word which each Christian needs to lay to heart.

If you be a real Christian, what are the “great things” which the Lord has done for you? Set His heart upon you, loved you from all eternity (Jer 31:3), and written your name in the Lamb’s book of life (Luk 10:20). Spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up to the cross, to atone for your sins (Rom 8:32). Sent the Holy Spirit into your heart to regenerate and raise you up into newness of life (Gal 4:6). Given you an unfailing Lamp unto your feet and Light unto your path (Psa 119:105), to direct your steps through this dark world (2Pe 1:19). Granted you, even now, access to His throne of grace, that there you may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Heb 4:16). Blest you with His abiding Presence (as He did Daniel in the lions’ den), promising never to leave nor forsake you (Heb 13:5). Assured you that, in a soon-coming day, you shall be done with sin forever (Heb 9:28), be made like Christ (1Jo 3:2), and spend eternity with Him (1Th 4:17), beholding His glory.

Ah, my brethren and sisters, the things mentioned above are indeed “great.” Then, surely we ought to “consider” them day and night. We should consider them prayerfully, begging God to make them more real and precious to our hearts, that we may so “consider” them as to be transformed by them (2Co 3:18), that they may order all the details of our lives to His glory. The more they are so “considered,” the easier and the more blessed will it be to “fear and serve him in truth.” Then shall we find that all Wisdom’s ways are “pleasantness, and all her paths are peace” (Pro 3:17). For “His commandments are not grievous” (1Jo 5:3). They are so to the unregenerate, but not to those who have tasted that the Lord is gracious.

But what if we do not fear and serve the Lord in truth with all our hearts? That will prove that our profession is vain, that we are yet in our sins. “He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1Jo 2:4). Make no mistake on this point, my reader. All around us are those who “profess that they know God, but in works they deny him,” and such are said to be “abominable” (Ti 1:16). And what shall be their end? This, “But if ye shall still do wickedly, ye shall be consumed” (1Sa 12:25). “If they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven” (Heb 12:25).

May the Lord deign to add His blessing and to Him shall be all the praise.