John Newton (1725-1807): Practical Influence Of Faith

Of The Practical Influence Of Faith
By
John Newton (1725-1807)
Copyright: Public Domain

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John Newton is the slave trader-become-Christian who also wrote the hymn Amazing Grace.

The use and importance of faith, as it respects a sinner’s justification before God, has been largely insisted on; but it is likewise of great use and importance in the daily concerns of life. It gives evidence and subsistence to things not seen, and realizes the great truths of the Gospel, so as that they become abiding and living principles of support and direction while we are passing through this wilderness. Thus, it is as the eye and the hand, without which we cannot take one step with certainty, or attempt any service with success. It is to be wished that this practical exercise of faith were duly attended to by all professors. We should not then meet with so many cases that put us to a stand, and leave us at a great difficulty to reconcile what we see in some of whom we would willingly hope well, with what we read in Scripture of the inseparable concomitants of a true and lively faith. For how can we but be staggered, when we hear persons speaking the language of assurance, that they know their acceptance with God through Christ, and have not the least doubt of their interest in all the promises; while, at the same time, we see them under the influence of unsanctified tempers, of a proud, passionate, positive, worldly, selfish, or churlish carriage?

It is not only plain, from the general tenor of Scripture, that a covetous, a proud, or a censorious spirit, are no more consistent with the Spirit of the Gospel, than drunkenness or whoredom; but there are many express texts directly pointed against the evils which too often are found amongst professors. Thus the Apostle James assures us, “That if any man seemeth to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, his religion is vain;” and the Apostle John, “That if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him;” and he seems to apply this character to any man, whatever his profession or pretences may be, who having this world’s goods, and seeing his brother have need, shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him.” Surely these texts more than intimate, that the faith which justifies the soul, does likewise receive from Jesus grace for grace, whereby the heart is purified, and the conversation regulated as becomes the Gospel of Christ.

There are too many who would have the ministry of the Gospel restrained to the privileges of believers; and when the fruits of faith, and the tempers of the mind, which should be manifest in those who have “tasted that the Lord is gracious,” are inculcated, think they sufficiently evade all that is said, by calling it legal preaching. I would be no advocate for legal preaching; but we must not be deterred, by the fear of a hard word, from declaring the whole counsel of God; and we have the authority and example of St. Paul, who was a champion of the doctrines of free grace, to animate us in exhorting professors to ” walk worthy of God, who has called them to his kingdom and glory.” And indeed the expression of a believer’s privilege is often misunderstood. It is a believer’s privilege to walk with God in the exercise of faith, and, by the power of his Spirit, to mortify the whole body of sin; to gain a growing victory over the world and self, and to make daily advances in conformity to the mind that was in Christ. And nothing that we profess to know, believe, or hope for, deserves the name of a privilege, further than we are influenced by it to die unto sin, and to live unto righteousness. Whosoever is possessed of true faith, will not confine his inquiries to the single point of his acceptance with God, or be satisfied with the distant hope of heaven hereafter. He will be likewise solicitous how he may glorify God in the world, and enjoy such foretastes of heaven as are attainable while he is yet upon earth.

Faith, then, in its practical exercise, has for its object the whole word of God, and forms its estimate of all things with which the soul is at present concerned, according to the standard of Scripture. Like Moses, it “endures, as seeing him who is invisible.” When our Lord was upon earth, and conversed with his disciples, their eyes and hearts were fixed upon him. In danger he was their defender; their guide when in perplexity; and to him they looked for the solution of all their doubts, and the supply of all their wants. He is now withdrawn from our eyes; but faith sets him still before us, for the same purposes, and, according to its degree, with the same effects, as if we actually saw him. His spiritual presence, apprehended by faith, is a restraint from evil, an encouragement to every service, and affords a present refuge and help in every time of trouble. To this is owing the delight a believer takes in ordinances, because there he meets his Lord; and to this likewise it is owing, that his religion is not confined to public occasions; but he is the same person in secret as he appears to be in the public assembly; for he worships him who sees in secret; and dares appeal to his all-seeing eye for the sincerity of his desires and intentions. By faith he is enabled to use prosperity with moderation; and knows and feels, that what the world calls good is of small value, unless it is accompanied with the presence and blessings of him whom his soul loveth. And his faith upholds him under all trials, by assuring him, that every dispensation is under the direction of his Lord; that chastisements are a token of his love; that the season, measure, and continuance of his sufferings, are appointed by infinite wisdom, and designed to work for his everlasting good; and that grace and strength shall be afforded him, according to his day. Thus, his heart being fixed, trusting in the Lord, to whom he has committed all his concerns, and knowing that his best interests are safe, he is not greatly afraid of evil tidings, but enjoys a stable peace in the midst of a changing world. For, though he cannot tell what a day may bring forth, he believes that he who has invited and enabled him to cast all his cares upon him, will suffer nothing to befall him but what shall be made subservient to his chief desires, the glory of God in the sanctification and final salvation of his soul. And if, through the weakness of his flesh, he is liable to be startled by the first impression of a sharp and sudden trial, he quickly flees to his strong refuge, remembers it is the Lord’s doing, resigns himself to his will, and patiently expects a happy issue.

By the same principle of faith, a believer’s conduct is regulated towards his fellow-creatures; and in the discharge of the several duties and relations of life, his great aim is to please God, and to let his light shine in the world. he believes and feels his own weakness and unworthiness, and lives upon the grace and pardoning love of his Lord. This gives him an habitual tenderness and gentleness of spirit. Humbled under a sense of much forgiveness to himself, he finds it easy to forgive others, if he has aught against any. A due sense of what he is in the sight of the Lord, preserves him from giving way to anger, positiveness, and resentment: he is not easily provoked, but is “swift to hear slow to speak, slow to wrath;” and if offended, easy to be entreated, and disposed, not only to yield to a reconciliation, but to seek it. As Jesus is his life, and righteousness, and strength, so he is his pattern. By faith he contemplates and studies this great exemplar of philanthropy. With a holy ambition he treads in the footsteps of his Lord and Master, and learns of him to be meek and lowly, to requite injuries with kindness, and to overcome evil with good. From the same views, by faith he derives a benevolent spirit, and, according to his sphere and ability, he endeavours to promote the welfare of all around him. The law of love being thus written in his heart, and his soul set at liberty from the low and narrow dictates of a selfish spirit, his language will be truth, and his dealings equity. His promise may be depended on, without the interposition of oath, bond, or witness; and the feelings of his own heart, under the direction of an enlightened conscience, and the precepts of Scripture, prompt him “to do unto others as he would desire they, in the like circumstances, should do unto him.” If he is a master, he is gentle and compassionate; if a servant, he is faithful and obedient; for in either relation he acts by faith, under the eye of his Master in heaven. If he is a trader, he neither dares nor wishes to take advantage either of the ignorance or the necessities of those with whom he deals. And the same principle of love influences his whole conversation. A sense of his own infirmities makes him candid to those of others: he will not readily believe reports to their prejudice, without sufficient proof; and even then, he will not repeat them, unless he is lawfully called to it. He believes that the precept, “Speak evil of no man,” is founded upon the same authority with those which forbid committing adultery or murder; and therefore he “keeps his tongue as with a bridle.”

Lastly, Faith is of daily use as a preservative from a compliance with the corrupt customs and maxims of the world. The believer, though in the world, is not of it: by faith he triumphs over its smiles and enticements; he sees that all that is in the world, suited to gratify the desires of the flesh or the eye, is not only to be avoided as sinful, but as incompatible with his best pleasures. He will mix with the world so far as is necessary, in the discharge of the duties of that station of life in which the providence of God has placed him, but no further. His leisure and inclinations are engaged in a different pursuit. They who fear the Lord are his chosen companions; and the blessings he derives from the word, and throne, and ordinances of grace, make him look upon the poor pleasures and amusements of those who live without God in the world with a mixture of disdain and pity; and by faith he is proof against its frowns. He will obey God rather than man; he will “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but will rather reprove them.” And if, upon this account, he should be despised and injuriously treated, whatever loss he suffers in such a cause, he accounts his gain, and esteems such disgrace, his glory. I am not aiming to draw a perfect character, but to show the proper effects of that faith which justifies, which purifies the heart, worketh by love, and overcomes the world. An habitual endeavour to possess such a frame of spirit, and thus to adorn the Gospel of Christ, and that with growing success, is what I am persuaded you are not a stranger to; and I am afraid that they who can content themselves with aiming at any thing short of this in their profession, are too much strangers to themselves, and to the nature of that liberty wherewith Jesus has promised to make his people free. That you may go on from strength to strength, increasing in the light and image of our Lord and Saviour, is the sincere prayer of, &c.

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CH Spurgeon (1834–1892):Casting all your care upon him; for He careth for you

Casting all your care upon him; for He careth for you.

By

C.H. Spurgeon (1834–1892)

Copyright: Public Domain

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1 Peter 5:7

It is a happy way of soothing sorrow when we can feel—“HE careth for me.” Christian! do not dishonour religion by always wearing a brow of care; come, cast your burden upon your Lord. You are staggering beneath a weight which your Father would not feel. What seems to you a crushing burden, would be to him but as the small dust of the balance. Nothing is so sweet as to “Lie passive in God’s hands, And know no will but his.”

O child of suffering, be thou patient; God has not passed thee over in his providence. He who is the feeder of sparrows, will also furnish you with what you need. Sit not down in despair; hope on, hope ever. Take up the arms of faith against a sea of trouble, and your opposition shall yet end your distresses. There is One who careth for you. His eye is fixed on you, his heart beats with pity for your woe, and his hand omnipotent shall yet bring you the needed help. The darkest cloud shall scatter itself in showers of mercy. The blackest gloom shall give place to the morning. He, if thou art one of his family, will bind up thy wounds, and heal thy broken heart. Doubt not his grace because of thy tribulation, but believe that he loveth thee as much in seasons of trouble as in times of happiness. What a serene and quiet life might you lead if you would leave providing to the God of providence! With a little oil in the cruse, and a handful of meal in the barrel, Elijah outlived the famine, and you will do the same. If God cares for you, why need you care too? Can you trust him for your soul, and not for your body? He has never refused to bear your burdens, he has never fainted under their weight. Come, then, soul! have done with fretful care, and leave all thy concerns in the hand of a gracious God.

Matthew Henry (1662-1714): Commentary on Luke 21:5-19

Commentary on Luke 21:5-19

By

Matthew Henry (1662-1714)

Copyright: Public Domain

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Luke 21:5-19 

See here, I. With what admiration some spoke of the external pomp and magnificence of the temple, and they were some of Christ’s own disciples too; and they took notice of it to him how it was adorned with goodly stones and gifts, Luke 21:5. The outside was built up with goodly stones, and within it was beautified and enriched with the presents that were offered up for that purpose, and were hung up in it. They thought their Master should be as much affected with those things as they were, and should as much regret the destruction of them as they did. When we speak of the temple, it should be of the presence of God in it, and of the ordinances of God administered in it, and the communion which his people there have with him. It is a poor thing, when we speak of the church, to let our discourse dwell upon its pomps and revenues, and the dignities and powers of its officers and rulers; for the king’s daughter is all glorious within.

II. With what contempt Christ spoke of them, and with what assurance of their being all made desolate very shortly (Luke 21:6): “As for those things which you behold, those dear things which you are so much in love with, behold, the days will come, and some now living may live to see them, in which there shall not be left one stone upon another. This building, which seems so beautiful that one would think none could, for pity, pull it down, and which seems so strong that one would think none would be able to pull it down, shall yet be utterly ruined; and this shall be done as soon as ever the spiritual temple of the gospel church (the substance of that shadow) begins to flourish in the world.” Did we by faith foresee the blasting and withering of all external glory, we should not set our hearts upon it as those do that cannot see, or will not look, so far before them.

III. With what curiosity those about him enquire concerning the time when this great desolation should be: Master, when shall these things be? Luke 21:7. It is natural to us to covet to know future things and the time of them, which it is not for us to know, when we are more concerned to ask what is our duty in the prospect of these things, and how we may prepare for them, which it is for us to know. They enquire what sign there shall be when these things shall come to pass. They ask not for a present sign, to confirm the prediction itself, and to induce them to believe it (Christ’s word was enough for that), but what the future signs will be of the approaching accomplishment of the prediction, by which they may be put in mind of it. These signs of the times Christ had taught them to observe.

IV. With what clearness and fullness Christ answers their enquiries, as far as was necessary to direct them in their duty; for all knowledge is desirable as far as it is in order to practice.

1. They must expect to hear of false Christs and false prophets appearing, and false prophecies given out (Luke 21:8): Many shall come in my name; he does not mean in the name of Jesus, though there were some deceivers who pretended commissions from him (as Acts 19:13), but usurping the title and character of the Messiah. Many pretended to be the deliverers of the Jewish church and nation from the Romans, and to fix the time when the deliverance should be wrought, by which multitudes were drawn into a snare, to their ruin. They shall say, hoti egō eimiI am he, or I am, as if they would assume that incommunicable name of God, by which he made himself known when he came to deliver Israel out of Egypt, I am; and, to encourage people to follow them, they added, “The time draws near when the kingdom shall be restored to Israel, and all who will follow me shall share in it.” Now as to this, he gives them a needful caution (1.) “Take heed that you be not deceived; do not imagine that I shall myself come again in external glory, to take possession of the throne of kingdoms. No, you must not expect any such thing, for my kingdom is not of this world.” When they asked solicitously and eagerly, Master, when shall these things be? the first word Christ said was, Take heed that you be not deceived. Note, Those that are most inquisitive in the things of God (though it is very good to be so) are in most danger of being imposed upon, and have most need to be upon their guard. (2.) “Go you not after them. You know the Messiah is come, and you are not to look for any other; and therefore do not so much as hearken to them, nor have any thing to do with them.” If we are sure that Jesus is the Christ, and his doctrine is the gospel, of God, we must be deaf to all intimations of another Christ and another gospel.

2. They must expect to hear of great commotions in the nations, and many terrible judgments inflicted upon the Jews and their neighbours. (1.) There shall be bloody wars (Luke 21:10): Nation shall rise against nation, one part of the Jewish nation against another, or rather the whole against the Romans. Encouraged by the false Christs, they shall wickedly endeavour to throw off the Roman yoke, by taking up arms against the Roman powers; when they had rejected the liberty with which Christ would have made them free they were left to themselves, to grasp at their civil liberty in ways that were sinful, and therefore could not be successful. (2.) There shall be earthquakes, great earthquakes, in divers places, which shall not only frighten people, but destroy towns and houses, and bury many in the ruins of them. (3.) There shall be famines and pestilences, the common effects of war, which destroys the fruits of the earth, and, by exposing men to ill weather and reducing them to ill diet, occasions infectious diseases. God has various ways of punishing a provoking people. The four sorts of judgments which the Old Testament prophets so often speak of are threatened by the New Testament prophets too; for, though spiritual judgments are more commonly inflicted in gospel times, yet God makes use of temporal judgments also. (4.) There shall be fearful sights and great signs from heaven, uncommon appearances in the clouds, comets and blazing stars, which frighten the ordinary sort of beholders, and have always been looked upon as ominous, and portending something bad. Now, as to these, the caution he gives them is, “Be not terrified. Others will be frightened at them, but be not you frightened, Luke 21:11. As to the fearful sights, let them not be fearful to you, who look above the visible heavens to the throne of God’s government in the highest heavens. Be not dismayed at the signs of heaven, for the heathen are dismayed at them, Jeremiah 10:2. And, as to the famines and pestilences, you fall into the hands of God, who has promised to those who are his that in the days of famine they shall be satisfied, and that he will keep them from the noisome pestilence; trust therefore in him, and be not afraid. Nay, when you hear of wars, when without are fightings and within are fears, yet then be not you terrified; you know the worst that any of these judgments can do to you, and therefore be not afraid of them; for,” [1.] “It is your interest to make the best of that which is, for all your fears cannot alter it: these things must first come to pass; there is no remedy; it will be your wisdom to make yourselves easy by accommodating yourselves to them.” [2.] “There is worse behind; flatter not yourselves with a fancy that you will soon see an end of these troubles, no, not so soon as you think of: the end is not by and by, not suddenly. Be not terrified, for, if you begin so quickly to be discouraged, how will you bear up under what is yet before you?”

3. They must expect to be themselves for signs and wonders in Israel; their being persecuted would be a prognostic of the destruction of the city and temple, which he had now foretold. Nay, this would be the first sign of their ruin coming: “Before all these, they shall lay their hands on you. The judgment shall begin at the house of God; you must smart first, for warning to them, that, if they have any consideration, they may consider, If this be done to the green tree, what shall be done to the dry? See 1Peter 4:17, 1Peter 4:18. But this is not all; this must be considered not only as the suffering of the persecuted, but as the sin of the persecutors. Before God’s judgments are brought upon them, they shall fill up the measure of their iniquity by laying their hands on you.” Note, The ruin of a people is always introduced by their sin; and nothing introduces a surer or sorer ruin than the sin of persecution. This is a sign that God’s wrath is coming upon a people to the uttermost when their wrath against the servants of God comes to the uttermost. Now as to this,

(1.) Christ tells them what hard things they should suffer for his name’s sake, much to the same purport with what he had told them when he first called them to follow him, Mt. 10: They should know the wages of it, that they might sit down and count the cost. St. Paul, who was the greatest labourer and sufferer of them all, not being now among them, was told by Christ himself what great things he should suffer for his name’s sake (Acts 9:16), so necessary is it that all who will live godly in Christ Jesus should count upon persecution. The Christians, having themselves been originally Jews, and still retaining an equal veneration with them for the Old Testament and all the essentials of their religion, and differing only in ceremony, might expect fair quarter with them; but Christ bids them not expect it: “No, they shall be the most forward to persecute you.” [1.] “They shall use their own church-power against you: They shall deliver you up to the synagogues to be scourged there, and stigmatized with their anathemas.” [2.] “They shall incense the magistrates against you: they shall deliver you into prisons, that you may be brought before kings and rulers for my name’s sake, and be punished by them.” [2.] “Your own relations will betray you (Luke 21:16), your parents, brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; so that you will not know whom to put a confidence in, or where to be safe.” [4.] “Your religion will be made a capital crime, and you will be called to resist unto blood. Some of you shall they cause to be put to death; so far must you be from expecting honour and wealth that you must expect nothing but death in its most frightful shapes, death in all its dreadful pomp. Nay.” [5.] “You shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake.” This is worse than death itself, and was fulfilled when the apostles were not only appointed to death, but made a spectacle to the world, and counted as the filth of the world, and the offscouring of all things, which every body loathes, 1Corinthians 4:9, 1Corinthians 4:13. They were hated of all men, that is, of all bad men, who could not bear the light of the gospel (because it discovered their evil deeds), and therefore hated those who brought in that light, flew in their faces, and would have pulled them to pieces. The wicked world, which hated to be reformed, hated Christ the great Reformer, and all that were his, for his sake. The rulers of the Jewish church, knowing very well that if the gospel obtained among the Jews their usurped abused power was at an end, raised all their forces against it, put it into an ill name, filled people’s minds with prejudices against it, and so made the preachers and professors of it odious to the mob.

(2.) He encourages them to bear up under their trials, and to go on in their work, notwithstanding the opposition they would meet with.

[1.] God will bring glory both to himself and them out of their sufferings: “It shall turn to you for a testimony, Luke 21:13. Your being set up thus for a mark, and publicly persecuted, will make you the more taken notice of and your doctrine and miracles the more enquired into; your being brought before kings and rulers will give you an opportunity of preaching the gospel to them, who otherwise would never have come within hearing of it; your suffering such severe things, and being so hated by the worst of men, men of the most vicious lives, will be a testimony that you are good, else you would not have such bad men for your enemies; your courage, and cheerfulness, and constancy under your sufferings will be a testimony for you, that you believe what you preach, that you are supported by a divine power, and that the Spirit of God and glory rests upon you.”

[2.] “God will stand by you, and own you, and assist you, in your trials; you are his advocates, and you shall be well furnished with instructions, Luke 21:14, Luke 21:15. Instead of setting your hearts on work to contrive an answer to informations, indictments, articles, accusations, and interrogatories, that will be exhibited against you in the ecclesiastical and civil courts, on the contrary, settle it in your hearts, impress it upon them, take pains with them to persuade them not to meditate before what you shall answer; do not depend upon your own wit and ingenuity, your own prudence and policy, and do not distrust or despair of the immediate and extraordinary aids of the divine grace. Think not to bring yourselves off in the cause of Christ as you would in a cause of your own, by your own parts and application, with the common assistance of divine Providence, but promise yourselves, for I promise you, the special assistance of divine grace: I will give you a mouth and wisdom.” This proves Christ to be God; for it is God’s prerogative to give wisdom, and he it is that made man’s mouth. Note, First, A mouth and wisdom together completely fit a man both for services and sufferings; wisdom to know what to say, and a mouth wherewith to say it as it should be said. It is a great happiness to have both matter and words wherewith to honour God and do good; to have in the mind a storehouse well furnished with things new and old, and a door of utterance by which to bring them forth. Secondly, Those that plead Christ’s cause may depend upon him to give them a mouth and wisdom, which way soever they are called to plead it, especially when they are brought before magistrates for his name’s sake. It is not said that he will send an angel from heaven to answer for them, though he could do this, but that he will give them a mouth and wisdom to enable them to answer for themselves, which puts a greater honour upon them, which requires them to use the gifts and graces Christ furnishes them with, and redounds the more to the glory of God, who stills the enemy and the avenger out of the mouths of babes and sucklings. Thirdly, When Christ gives to his witnesses a mouth and wisdom, they are enabled to say that both for him and themselves which all their adversaries are not able to gainsay or resist, so that they are silenced, and put to confusion. This was remarkably fulfilled presently after the pouring out of the Spirit, by whom Christ gave his disciples this mouth and wisdom, when the apostles were brought before the priest sand rulers, and answered them so as to make them ashamed, Acts 4, 5, and Acts 6:1-15.

[3.] “You shall suffer no real damage by all the hardships they shall put upon you (Luke 21:18): There shall not a hair of your head perish.” Shall some of them lose their heads, and yet not lose a hair? It is a proverbial expression, denoting the greatest indemnity and security imaginable; it is frequently used both in the Old Testament and New, in that sense. Some think that it refers to the preservation of the lives of all the Christians that were among the Jews when they were cut off by the Romans; historians tell us that not one Christian perished in that desolation. Others reconcile it with the deaths of multitudes in the cause of Christ, and take it figuratively in the same sense that Christ saith, He that loseth his life for my sake shall find it. “Not a hair of your head shall perish but,” First, “I will take cognizance of it.” To this end he had said (Matthew 10:30), The hairs of your head are all numbered; and an account is kept of them, so that none of them shall perish but he will miss it. Secondly, “It shall be upon a valuable consideration.” We do not reckon that lost or perishing which is laid out for good purposes, and will turn to a good account. If we drop the body itself for Christ’s name’s sake, it does not perish, but is well bestowed. Thirdly, “It shall be abundantly recompensed; when you come to balance profit and loss, you will find that nothing has perished, but, on the contrary, that you have great gain in present comforts, especially in the joys of a life eternal;” so that though we may be losers for Christ we shall not, we cannot, be losers by him in the end.

[4.] “It is therefore your duty and interest, in the midst of your own sufferings and those of the nation, to maintain a holy sincerity and serenity of mind, which will keep you always easy (Luke 21:19): In your patience possess ye your souls; get and keep possession of your souls.” Some read it as a promise, “You may or shall possess your souls.” It comes all to one. Note, First, It is our duty and interest at all times, especially in perilous trying times, to secure the possession of our own souls; not only that they be not destroyed and lost for ever, but that they be not distempered now, nor our possession of them disturbed and interrupted. “Possess your souls, be your own men, keep up the authority and dominion of reason, and keep under the tumults of passion, that neither grief nor fear may tyrannize over you, nor turn you out of the possession and enjoyment of yourselves.” In difficult times, when we can keep possession of nothing else, then let us make that sure which may be made sure, and keep possession of our souls. Secondly, It is by patience, Christian patience, that we keep possession of our own souls. “In suffering times, set patience upon the guard for the preserving of your souls; by it keep your souls composed and in a good frame, and keep out all those impressions which would ruffle you and put you out of temper.”

George Whitefield (1714-1770): An Exhortation to the People of God not to be discouraged in their Way

An Exhortation to the People of God Not to be Discouraged in Their Way

By

George Whitefield (1714-1770)

Copyright: Public Domain

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An Exhortation to the People of God not to be discouraged in their Way, by the Scoffs and Contempt of wicked Men. (Hebrews 4:9)

Hebrews 4:9, “There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.”

When we consider the persecutions they are exposed to, who live righteously and godly in this present world; it is amazing to consider, that the people of this generation should be so fond of a name to live, while they are in effect dead. The people of God are to expect little else but troubles and trials while they are in this world; common experience is a contradiction to my text, that there is a rest to the people of God; but the author of the Hebrews, when speaking of this rest, did not mean that they should have a rest here. No; he too well knew that the people of God, all who would seek and serve the Lord Jesus, must be despised, hated, scoffed, slandered, and evil entreated; but the time was hastening when they should have a perfect rest: there is a rest laid up for them, and this is an encouragement for you, my brethren, to hold on, and hold out your way rejoicing; after death there will be a rest for ever; at judgment, you shall be taken up to dwell with the Lord Jesus Christ; and there, you shall be for ever exempted from sin; you shall rest from all manner of sorrow, and be no more troubled with the temptations of Satan. Now, you can set about nothing for the glory of God, or for your own soul’s welfare, but the devil is dissuading you from it, or distracting you in it, or discouraging you after it. Here we are scoffed and derided; as the world hated the Lord Jesus Christ, so will it hate you: but be not discouraged, though we are here the scorn and offscouring of all things; and are as a gazing stock to men and angels. Though they put us out of their synagogues, cast out our name as evil, and look on us as persons unfit for their company; yet, in that rest which is prepared for you, my brethren, we shall then be gazed at for our glory, and they shut out of the assembly of the saints, and separated from us, whether they will or no; unless the Lord Jesus Christ, by his free, rich, and sovereign grace, brings them unto himself.

The letter-learned Scribes and Pharisees of this day, look on us as madmen and enthusiasts; but though they make so much noise about the word enthusiast, it means no more than this, one in God; and what Christian can say, he is not in God, and God in him? And if this is to be an enthusiast, God grant I may be more and more so; if we being in Christ, and Christ in us, makes us enthusiasts. I would to God we were all more and more enthusiasts. They now think it strange, that we run not with them into all excess of riot, and because we will not go to the devil’s diversions with them, therefore they speak evil of us. We cannot now go along the street, but every one is pointing out his finger with scorn, and cries, Here comes another of his followers; what! You are become one of his disciples too! But there is a rest which will be a complete deliverance for you. Let none of these things move you; for, though you are thus treated here, consider, you shall in heaven have no discouraging company, nor any but what will be an assistance to you; you will have no scoffer there, all will be ready to join with heart and voice in your everlasting joy and praises. You will not be counted enthusiasts, madmen, and rabble, in that rest which remaineth for the people of God. Therefore, possess your souls in patience; account it matter of joy when you fall into tribulation; God, in his own time, will deliver us; let not their hindering us from preaching in the church, be any discouragement; do not shrink, and draw back, because of opposition; be not ashamed of your work or master; but hold fast your integrity. You must expect to go through evil report, and good report; fear not the violence of unreasonable men; let them hate you, and cast you out for the Lord’s sake, behold he shall appear to your joy, and they shall be ashamed: therefore hold on, and hold out to the end. Be steadfast and patient, and bear the troubles of the world; if you are the people of God, there is a rest provided for you, which you shall certainly obtain.

I shall not speak unto you, Pharisees, this morning, nor to any, except to you who have experienced the pangs of the new-birth, or are at present under them, and who know what it is to love the Lord Jesus in sincerity and truth: do not be discouraged, or think hard of the ways of God, my dear brethren, because you are not loved by the men of this world; if you were of the world it would love you; it would then be pleased with your company; it would not thrust you from a tavern, or an alehouse; it would not dislike you for singing the songs of the drunkard, or for going to plays, balls, or other polite and fashionable entertainments, as they are called; no, these the children of the world like; but if you will sing hymns and psalms, and go to hear what God hath to say unto your souls, and spend your time in reading, praying, and frequenting religious assemblies, then it is that they dislike you, and thrust you out of their company, as unworthy thereof; but let none of these things move you, for the rest which Jesus Christ hath prepared for you, is an ample recompense for all you may meet with here.

This rest is the fruit of the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ: O how will it fill our souls with love, to think that through the streams of this blood, we have overcome the violence of the world, and the snares of the devil. My dear brethren, be not discouraged at the treatment you meet with here, but let it be a means to stir you up to advance in the love of the Lord Jesus Christ, who hath prepared a rest for you. Can you consider, what Christ has done and suffered for you, and have your hearts stupefied with vile and senseless pleasures? Can you hear of a panting, bleeding, dying Jesus, and yet be dull and unaffected? Was there any sorrow like unto his sorrow? And all this, he underwent to save you, who were vile, and polluted, and by nature, since the fall, a motley mixture of the beast and devil. Jesus Christ, by dying upon the cross, intended to take away the devil and beast from your heart, and to prepare it for himself to dwell in. Think of the love of this your Jesus, and then, will a little reproach and scorn move you? Sure it will not. I hope better things of you, and things that accompany salvation.

O think with what pleasing astonishment you will see the Lord Jesus Christ, when he comes to take you to his rest: now his heart is open to us; but our hearts are shut against him; then, then, his heart shall be open, and ours shall be so too. O my brethren, how will your love be increased? With what raptures will you see the Lord Jesus Christ? Therefore, undergo a few reproaches here patiently, and revile not again. Let them say what they please of me, the reproaches, scorns, and contempt of this world, will no ways hurt me, but will recoil upon their own heads; leave it to the Lord, who knows what is best for you and me: do not question his love; he will be with you; only do you, who have tasted the Lord to be gracious, follow hard after him.

And now, let me speak a word unto you, who have not yet experienced the love of Christ to your souls, but are waiting for his appearance. I shall be but very short, because I would not break in upon the duties of the day.

I shall speak unto you a word of invitation; even, to wait still on the Lord; do not forsake him, though he may not answer your petitions at once or twice seeking unto him; hold on, do not leave seeking him, and you shall have an answer of peace; remember the poor man who was lame, and had lain at the pool of Bethesda thirty-eight years for relief, yet at last he found that it was worth waiting for, he obtained his desire.

And if you are but zealous for the Lord, and seek unto Jesus, if your zeal be according to godliness, and you pray unto him for his Spirit, you shall certainly have an answer of peace; you shall find it is good to seek unto the Lord, you will be adopted into his family, and by his spirit be enabled to cry, “Abba, Father.” O then do not leave, but be continually waiting at wisdom’s gate, and you shall find all her ways to be ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace; then, you shall find that it is worth waiting on the Lord Jesus; and when you have got his Spirit within you, all the power of men or devils cannot make you forsake the ways of the Lord Jesus Christ.

If you do but once taste of his pardoning love, it will be so delightful unto you, that you will cry for more and more thereof; you will be as full as you can hold, and still not be satisfied; you will desire more and more of this love of Jesus, you will hunger and thirst, and hunger and thirst again, and never be satisfied till you come to that rest which is prepared for the people of God, where all hungering and thirsting will cease, and will be turned into songs and hallelujahs, and that for ever and ever.

As many of you as design to partake of the emblems of the body and blood of our dying Lord, examine well yourselves, lest by eating and drinking unworthily, you eat and drink damnation unto yourselves: remember the dying love of your dying Lord, and eat and drink in commemoration thereof; do not let the world keep you from partaking hereof; and when you have eaten and drank, do not go away and run into the world; let the world see that you have been with Jesus; give them no room to speak unseemly, they do that enough without occasion; but how would they rejoice if they had just reason.

Look well then unto your paths, that you do not slip; remember that all your faults are magnified, and that all your little slips are laid upon him; therefore, look well unto your ways, your words, your actions, that they may silence gainsayers; let them see that we have the presence of God with us, and that there has been good done by field preaching.

Let me exhort you once more to consider the love of the Lord Jesus Christ. O do not forget this love. Consider, I beseech you, how great it has been unto you, and do not slight this his grace, the riches, the love, the kindness of your dear Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ, who hath prepared this eternal rest for you; he also laid down his life for your sakes: what great love was here! that while you were enemies to the Lord of glory, he died for you, to redeem you from sin, from hell and wrath, that you might live and reign with him, world without end.

The Lamb that died, and was buried, is now risen and exalted, and sits on the right-hand of God the Father; and when he shall come to judge all the world, then, my brethren, it will be seen whether we have deserved the usage the world has given us; then it will be known who are the true followers of the Lord Jesus, and who are madmen and fools; but, may it be determined in this world, that we and our present enemies may enter into that rest which God hath prepared for those that love him.

Which God of his infinite mercy grant!

My brethren, let not these few words of exhortation be forgotten, but lay them up in your hearts, and remember they must be called over another day. I should have enlarged, but the duties of the day obliged me to forbear.

Now, to God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, be all power, &c.

Andrew Bonar (1810-1892): The Trial of Faith

The Trial of Faith

BY

Andrew Bonar (1810-1892)

This is believed to be in the Public Domain

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Andrew Bonar: The Trial of Faith

Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: 1 Peter 1:6,7.

The prevailing state of our mind should be great joy – ‘Wherein ye greatly rejoice.’ Have you got at the Gospel at all if you have not great joy, if it does not every day make you glad? Our joy comes from a great Fountain – Christ Himself. Are you a disciple? Then can you bear to live below this standard? In spite of this joy you may be ‘in heaviness through manifold trials.’ Indeed, it is your great joy that enables you to bear them. What is the trial of faith? It is the outward pressure of circumstances, the waves dashing upon you as you stand on the Rock of Ages. Christ was tried. He was the crystal vessel, full of the purest water, and Satan was allowed to shake it to see if there was any mud in it, and there was not. The trial of faith came to Abraham in a strange way, threatening to bereave him of his beloved son. Abraham stood the test, and went on step by step till God said, ‘Now I know that thou fearest Me,’ etc., and the trial ended in ‘praise, and honour, and glory.’ The ‘trial of faith’ may come in disappointment in those we trusted in; it may come directly from the devil it may come from the state of the church; it may come from persecutions, bonds, imprisonments. It is quite natural to feel these trials. Down in the trough of the wave, then up again on the crest; that was Paul’s experience. Then it is only ‘for a season.’

I. God’s deep interest in the trial of faith. – He says it is much more important than the goldsmith’s trial of his gold. It is said that the goldsmith waits till he sees his face reflected in the gold, then he knows it is ready to be taken out. If we had seen with what intense interest the Father watched His beloved Son when He was ‘tried’ on the mount of temptation and on Mount Calvary! So with the members of His body. It is said, ‘Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints,’ and the word is literally ‘death pangs’ – what they may be suffering at the time of their death. The Lord watches them with intense interest. You have multiplied trials; are you murmuring? Do you say ‘It is very hard’? Would you say that to God? He is standing by and saying, ‘See how faith sustains this disciple of mine!’ Catch His eye, and you will be able to bear the ‘trial.’

II. The result of this process. – ‘Unto praise and honour and glory,’ etc. This means to our praise, to our honour, to our glory. It will be to God’s praise and honour and glory, for we will see that all His ways are excellent. An old Puritan says, ‘A stick in the water looks crooked. Take it out, and it is quite straight.’ So it will be when we look at God’s dealings with us. When we see all, we will say of our bitterest sorrows that it would have been unkind in God not to have sent them. But it will be to our praise and honour and glory too. Angels will serve us all the more willingly because we never permitted a doubt or surmise of God’s love to enter our mind. We shall have the greater glory, the more we have borne the trial of our faith. We are to be rewarded, not only for work done, but for burdens borne, and I am not sure but that the brightest rewards will be for those who have borne burdens without murmuring. Are you not often saying, ‘Oh, that that day would arrive, when God will reveal His Son Jesus Christ!’ On that day He will take the lily that has been growing so long among thorns and lift it up to the glory and wonder of all the universe, and the fragrance of that lily will draw forth ineffable praises from all the hosts of heaven.

Is it not worthwhile being ‘tested’ for a season?

Andrew Murray (1828-1917): Having Begun In The Spirit

Having Begun In The Spirit

BY

Andrew Murray (1828 – 1917)

Copyright – Public Domain

Andrew Murray (1828 – 1917): Having Begun In The Spirit

The words from which I wish to address you, you will find in the epistle to the Galatians, the third chapter, the second and third verses (Gal 3:2,3): “This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?

Are ye so foolish?” And then comes my text-“Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?”

When we speak of the quickening or the deepening or the strengthening of the spiritual life, we are thinking of something that is feeble and wrong and sinful. It is a great thing to take our place before God with the confession: “Oh, God, our spiritual life is not what it should be!” May God work that in your heart, reader.

As we look around at the Church, we see so many indications of feebleness, failure, sin, and shortcoming. They compel us to ask: Why is it? Is there any necessity for the Church of Christ to be living in such a low state? Or is it actually possible that God’s people should be living always in the joy and strength of their God?

Every believing heart must answer: It is possible.

Then comes the great question: Why is it, how is it to be accounted for, that God’s Church as a whole is so feeble, and that the great majority of Christians are not living up to their privileges? There must be a reason for it. Has God not given Christ His Almighty Son to be the Keeper of every believer, to make Christ an ever-present reality, and to impart and communicate to us all that we have in Christ? God has given His Son, and God has given His Spirit. How is it that believers do not live up to their privileges?

In more than one of the epistles, we find a very solemn answer to that question. There are epistles, such as the first to the Thessalonians, where Paul writes to the Christians, in effect: “I want you to grow, to abound, to increase more and more.” They were young, and there were things lacking in their faith. But their state was so far satisfactory, gave him such great joy, that he writes time after time: “I pray God that you may abound more and more; I write to you to increase more and more” (I Thessalonians 4: 1,10). But there are other epistles where he takes a very different tone, especially the epistle to the Corinthians and to the Galatians, and he tells them in many different ways what the one reason was that they were .not living as Christians ought to live. Many were under the power of the flesh. My text is one example. He reminds them that by the preaching of faith they had received the Holy Spirit. He had preached Christ to them; they had accepted that Christ and had received the Holy Spirit in power.

But what happened? Having begun in the Spirit, they tried to perfect the work that the Spirit had begun in the flesh by their own effort. We find the same teaching in the epistle to the Corinthians.

Now, we have here a solemn discovery of what the great need is in the Church of Christ. God has called the Church of Christ to live in the power of the Holy Spirit. But the Church is living, .for the most part, in the power of human flesh, and of will and energy and effort apart from the Spirit of God. I do not doubt that this is the case with many individual believers. And oh, if God will use me to give you a message from Him, my one message will be this: “If the Church will return to acknowledge that the Holy Spirit is her strength and her help, and if the Church will return to give up everything, and wait on God to be filled with the Spirit, her days of beauty and gladness will return. We will see the glory of God revealed among us.” This is my message to every individual believer: “Nothing will help you unless you come to understand that you must live every day under the power of the Holy Spirit.” God wants you to be a living vessel in whom the power of the Spirit is to be manifested every hour and every moment of your life. God will enable you to be that.

Now, let us try to learn what this word to the Galatians teaches us-some very simple thoughts. It shows us how (1) the beginning of the Christian life is receiving the Holy Spirit. It shows us (2) what great danger there is of forgetting that we are to live know what it is, since that time, to walk in the power of the Holy Spirit. Let us try to take hold of this great truth: The beginning of the true Christian life is to receive the Holy Spirit. And the work of every Christian minister is that which was the work of Paul-to remind his people that they received the Holy Spirit, and must live according to His guidance and in His power.

If those Galatians who received the Holy Spirit in power were tempted to go astray by that terrible danger of perfecting in the flesh what had been begun in the Spirit, how much more danger do those Christians run who hardly ever know that they have received the Holy Spirit. How much more danger is there for those who, if they know it as a matter of belief, hardly ever think of the gift of the Holy Spirit, and hardly ever praise God for it!

NEGLECTING THE HOLY SPIRIT

But now look, in the second place, at the great danger.

You may all know what shunting is on a railway. A locomotive with its train may be traveling in a certain direction, and the points at some place may not be properly opened or closed, and unobservingly it is shunted off to the right or to the left. And if that takes place, for instance, on a dark night, the train goes in the wrong direction, and the people might never know it until they have gone some distance.

And just so, God gives Christians the Holy Spirit with this intention-that every day, all their life, should be lived in the power of the Spirit. A man cannot live one hour of a godly life unless by the power of the Holy Spirit. He may live a proper, consistent life, as people call it, an irreproachable life, a life of virtue and diligent service. But to live a life acceptable to God, in the enjoyment of God’s salvation and God’s love, to live and walk in the power of the new life-he cannot do it unless he is guided by the Holy Spirit every day and every hour.

But now listen to the danger. The Galatians received the Holy Spirit, but what was begun by the Spirit they tried to perfect in the flesh. How? They fell back again under Judaizing teachers who told them they must be circumcised. They began to seek their religion in external observances. And so Paul uses that expression about those teachers who had them circumcised so “that they may glorify in your flesh” (Galatians 6:13).

You sometimes hear the expression used, religious flesh. What is meant by that? It is simply an expression made to give utterance to these thoughts: My human nature and my human will and my human effort can be very active in religion. After being converted, and after receiving the Holy Spirit, I may begin in my own strength to try to serve God.

I may be very diligent and doing a great deal, and yet all the time it is more the work of human flesh than of God’s Spirit. What a solemn thought, that man can, without noticing, be shunted off from the line of the Holy Spirit onto the line of the flesh.

How solemn it is that man can be most diligent and make great sacrifices, and yet it is all in the power of the human will! Ah, the great question for us to ask of God in self-examination is that we may be shown whether our Christian life is lived more in the power of the flesh than in the power of the Holy Spirit. A man may be a preacher, he may work most diligently in his ministry, a man may be a Christian worker, and others may say of him that he makes great sacrifices, and yet you can feel there is something lacking. You feel that he is not a spiritual man; there is no spirituality about his life. How many Christians there are about whom no one would ever think of saying: “What a spiritual man he is!” Ah! there is the weakness of the Church of Christ. It is all in that one word-flesh.

Now, the flesh may manifest itself in many ways. It may be manifested in fleshly wisdom. My mind may be most active about Christianity. I may preach or write or think or meditate, and delight in being occupied with things in God’s Book and in God’s Kingdom. Yet, the power of the Holy Spirit may be markedly absent. I fear that if you take the preaching throughout the Church of Christ and ask why there is so little converting power in the preaching of the Word, why there is so much work and often so little result for eternity, why the Word has so little power to build up believers in holiness and in consecration-the answer will be: It is the absence of the power of the Holy Spirit. And why is this? There can be no other reason except that the flesh and human energy have taken the place that the Holy Spirit ought to have. That was true of the Galatians; it was true of the Corinthians. You know Paul said to them: “I could not speak unto you as unto spiritual men, but as unto carnal” (1 Corinthians 3:1). And you know how often in the course of his epistle he had to reprove and condemn them for strife and for divisions.

LACKING THE FRUIT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

A third thought: What are the proofs or indications that a church like the Galatians, or a Christian, is serving God in the power of the flesh-is perfecting in the flesh what was begun in the Spirit? The answer is very easy. Religious self effort always ends in sinful flesh. What was the state of those Galatians? They were striving to be justified by the works of the law. And yet they were quarreling and in danger of devouring one another. Count the number of expressions that the apostle uses to indicate their want of love. You will find more than twelve-envy, jealousy, bitterness, strife, and all sorts of others. Read in the fourth and fifth chapters what he says about that. You see how they tried to serve God in their own-.strength, and they failed utterly. All this religious effort resulted in failure. The power of sin and the sinful flesh got the better of them. Their whole condition was one of the saddest that could be thought of.

This comes to us with unspeakable solemnity.

There is a complaint everywhere in the Christian Church of the lack of a high standard of integrity and godliness, even among the professing members of Christian churches. I remember a sermon which I heard preached on commercial morality. But let us not speak only of the commercial morality or immorality; let us go into the homes of Christians. Think of the life to which God has called His children, and which He enables them to live by the Holy Spirit. Think of how much there is of unlovingness, temper, sharpness, and bitterness. Think how often there is strife among the members of churches, and how much there is of envy, jealousy, sensitiveness, and pride. Then we are compelled to say: “Where are marks of the presence of the Spirit of the Lamb of God?” Wanting, sadly wanting!

Many people speak of these things as though they were the natural result of our feebleness and cannot be helped. Many people speak of these things as sins, yet have given up the hope of conquering them. Many people speak of these things in the church around them, and do not see the least prospect of ever having the things changed. There is no prospect until there is a radical change, until the Church of God begins to see that every sin in the believer comes from the flesh-from a fleshly life midst our Christian activities, from a striving in self-effort to serve God. We will fail until we learn to make confession, and until we begin to see that we must somehow or other get God’s Spirit in power back to His Church. Where did the Church begin in Pentecost? There they began in the Spirit. But, how the Church of the next century went off into the flesh! They thought to perfect the Church in the flesh.

Do not let us think, because the blessed Reformation restored the great doctrine of justification by faith, that the power of the Holy Spirit was then fully restored. If it is our belief that God is going to have mercy on His Church in these last ages, it will be because the doctrine and the truth about the Holy Spirit will not only be studied, but sought after with a whole heart. It is not only because that truth will be sought after, but because ministers and congregations will be found bowing before God in deep abasement with one cry: “We have grieved God’s Spirit. We have tried to be Christian churches with as little as possible of God’s Spirit. We have not sought to be churches filled with the Holy Spirit.”

All the feebleness in the Church is owing to the refusal of the Church to obey its God. And why is that so? I know your answer. You say: “We are too feeble and too helpless, and we vow to obey, but somehow we fail.” Ah yes, you fail because you do not accept the strength of God. God alone can work out His will in you. You cannot work out God’s will, but His Holy Spirit can. Until the Church and the believers grasp this, and cease trying by human effort to do God’s will, and wait upon the Holy Spirit to come with all His omnipotent and enabling power, the Church will never be what God wants her to be. It will never be what God is willing to make of her.

YIELDING TO THE HOLY SPIRIT

I come now to my last thought, that question: What is the way to restoration?

Beloved friend, the answer is simple and easy. If that train has been shunted off, there is nothing for it to do but to come back to the point at which it was led away. The Galatians had no other way in returning but to come back to where they had gone wrong. They had to come back from all religious effort in their own strength, and from seeking anything by their own work, and to yield themselves humbly to the Holy Spirit. There is no other way for us as individuals.

Is there any brother or sister whose heart is conscious: “My life knows little of the power of the Holy Spirit”? I come to you with God’s message that you can have no conception of what your life would be in the power of the Holy Spirit. It is too high, too blessed, and too wonderful. But I bring you the message that just as truly as the everlasting Son of God came to this world and did His wonderful works, that just as truly as on Calvary He died and brought about your redemption by His precious blood, so can the Holy Spirit come into your heart. With His divine power, He may sanctify you and enable you to do God’s blessed will, and fill your heart with joy and strength. But, we have forgotten; we have grieved; we have dishonored the Holy Spirit; and, He has not been able to do His work. But I bring you the message: The Father in heaven loves to fill His children with His Holy Spirit. God longs to give each one individually, separately, the power of the Holy Spirit for daily life. The command comes to us individually, unitedly. God wants us as His children to arise and place our sins before Him, and to call on Him for mercy. Oh, are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you perfecting in the flesh that which was begun in the Spirit? Let us bow in shame, and confess before God how our fleshly religion, our self-effort and self-confidence, have been the cause of every failure.

I have often been asked by young Christians: “Why is it that I fail so? I did so solemnly vow with my whole heart, and did desire to serve God. Why have I failed?” To such I always give this answer: “My dear friend, you are trying to do in your own strength what Christ alone can do in you.” And when they tell me: “I am sure I knew Christ alone could do it; I was not trusting in myself,” my answer is: “You were trusting in yourself, or you could not have failed. If you had trusted Christ, He could not fail.” Oh, this perfecting in the flesh what was begun in the Spirit runs far deeper through us than we know. Let us ask God to show us that it is only when we are brought to utter shame and emptiness that we will be prepared to receive the blessing that comes from on high.

And so I come with these two questions. Are you living, beloved brother-minister-I ask it of every minister of the Gospel-under the power of the Holy Spirit? Are you living as an anointed, Spirit-filled man in your ministry and your life before God? Oh friends, our place is an awful one. We have to show people what God will do for us, not in our words and teaching, but in our life. God help us to do it!

I ask it of every member of Christ’s Church and of every believer: Are you living a life under the power of the Holy Spirit day by day? Or are you attempting to live without that? Remember, you cannot. Are you consecrated, given up to the Spirit to work in you and to live in you? Oh, come and confess every failure of temper, every failure of tongue however small. Confess every failure owing to the absence of the Holy Spirit and the presence of the power of self. Are you consecrated, are you given up to the Holy Spirit?

If your answer is no, then I come with a second question-Are you willing to be consecrated? Are you willing to give yourself up to the power of the Holy Spirit? You well know that the human side of consecration will not help you. I may consecrate myself a hundred times with all the intensity of my being, and that will not help me. What will help me is this-that God from heaven accepts and seals the consecration.

And now are you willing to give yourselves up to the Holy Spirit? You can do it now. A great deal may still be dark and dim, and beyond what we understand. You may feel nothing; but come. God alone can work the change. God alone, who gave us the Holy Spirit, can restore the Holy Spirit in power into our life. God alone can “strengthen us with might by his Spirit in the inner man” (Ephesians 3:16). And to every waiting heart that will make the sacrifice, and give up everything, and give time to cry and pray to God, the answer will come. The blessing is not far off. Our God delights in helping us. He will enable us to perfect, not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, what was begun in the Spirit.

J.C. RYLE (1816-1900): Are You Fighting?

Are You Fighting?

BY

J.C. RYLE (1816-1900)

Copyright – Public Domain

“Fight the good fight of faith”—1 Timothy 6:12

It is a curious fact that there is no subject about which most people feel such deep interest as “fighting.” Young men and maidens, old men and little children, high and low, rich and poor, learned and unlearned, all feel a deep interest in wars, battles, and fighting.

This is a simple fact, whatever way we may try to explain it. We should call that Englishman a dull fellow who cared nothing about the story of Waterloo, or Inkermann, or Balaclava, or Lucknow. We should think that heart cold and stupid which was not moved and thrilled by the events at Sedan, and Strasburg, and Metz, and Paris.

But, reader, there is another warfare of far greater importance than any war that was ever waged by man. It is a warfare which concerns not two or three nations only, but every Christian man and woman born into the world. The warfare I speak of is the spiritual warfare. It is the fight which every one who would be saved must fight about his soul.

This warfare, I am aware, is a thing of which many know nothing. Talk to them about it, and they are ready to set you down as a madman, an enthusiast, or a fool. And yet it is as real and true as any war the world has ever seen. It has its hand-to-hand conflicts and its wounds. It has his watchings and fatigues. It has its sieges and assaults. It has its victories and its defeats. Above all, it has consequences which are awful, tremendous, and most peculiar. In earthly warfare the consequences to nations are often temporary and remediable. In the spiritual warfare it is very different. Of that warfare, the consequences, when the fight is over, are unchangeable and eternal.

Reader, it is of this warfare that St. Paul spake to Timothy, when he wrote those burning words: “Fight the good fight of faith; lay hold on eternal life.” It is of this warfare that I want to speak to you today. We meet each other at a critical period of the world’s history. Men’s minds are full of “wars and rumors of wars.” Men’s hearts are full of fear while they look at the things which seem coming on the earth. On every side the horizon looks black and gloomy. Who can tell when the storm will burst? Give me your attention for a few moments, while I try to impress on you the solemn words which the Holy Ghost taught St. Paul to write down: “Fight the good fight of faith.”

1. The first thing I have to say is this: True Christianity is a fight.

True Christianity”—mind that word “true.” Let there be no mistake about my meaning. There is a vast quantity of religion current in the world which is not true, genuine Christianity. It passes muster; it satisfies sleepy consciences; but it is not good money. It is not the real thing which was called Christianity eighteen hundred years ago. There are thousands of men and women who go to churches and chapels every Sunday, and call themselves Christians. Their names are in the baptismal register. They are reckoned Christians while they live. They are married with a Christian marriage-service. They are buried as Christians when they die. But you never see any “fight” about their religion! Of spiritual strife, and exertion, and conflict, and self-denial, and watching, and warring they know literally nothing at all. Such Christianity may satisfy man, and those who say anything against it may be thought very hard and uncharitable; but it certainly is not the Christianity of the Bible. It is not the religion which the Lord Jesus founded, and His Apostles preached. True Christianity is “a fight.”

The true Christian is called to be a soldier, and must behave as such from the day of his conversion to the day of his death, he is not meant to live a life of religious ease, indolence, and security, He must never imagine for a moment that he can sleep and dose along the way to heaven, like one travelling in an easy carriage. If he takes his standard of Christianity from the children of this world he may be content with such notions, but he will find no countenance for them in the Word of God. If the Bible is the rule of his faith and practice, he will find his lines laid down very plainly in this matter. He must “fight.”

With whom is the Christian soldier meant to fight? Not with other Christians. Wretched indeed is that man’s idea of religion who fancies that it consists in perpetual controversy He who is never satisfied unless he is engaged in some strife between church and church, chapel and chapel, sect and sect, party and party, knows nothing yet as he ought to know. Never is the cause of sin so helped as when Christians waste their strength in quarrelling with one another, and spend their time in petty squabbles.

No, indeed! The principal fight of the Christian is with the world, the flesh, and the devil. These are his never-dying foes. These are the three chief enemies against whom he must wage war. Unless he gets the victory over these three, all other victories are useless and vain. If he had a nature like an angel, and was not a fallen creature, the warfare would not be so essential. But with a corrupt heart, a busy devil, and an ensnaring world, he must either “fight” or be lost.

He must fight the flesh. Even after conversion he carries within him a nature prone to evil, and a heart weak and unstable as water. To keep that heart from going astray, there is need of a daily struggle and a daily wrestling in prayer. “I keep under my body,” cries St. Paul, “and bring it into subjection.” “I see a law in my members warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity.” “O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death? .… They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.” “Mortify your members which axe upon the earth” (1 Cor. ix.27; Rom. vii.23, 24; Gal. v.24; Col. iii.5).

He must fight the world. The subtle influence of that mighty enemy must be daily resisted, and without a daily battle can never be overcome. The love of the world’s good things, the fear of the world’s laughter or blame, the secret desire to keep in with the world, the secret wish to do as others in the world do, and not to run into extremes—all these are spiritual foes which beset the Christian continually on his way to heaven, and must be conquered. “The friendship of the world is enmity with God: whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world, is the enemy of God.” “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” “The world is crucified unto Me, and I unto the world.” “Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world.” “Be not conformed to this world” (James iv.4; 1 John ii.15; Gal. vi.4; 1 John v.4; Rom. xii.2).

He must fight the devil. That old enemy of mankind is not dead. Ever since the fall of Adam and Eve he has been going to and fro in the earth, and walking up and down in it, and striving to compass one great end—the ruin of man’s soul. Never slumbering and never sleeping, he is always going about as a lion seeking whom he may devour. An unseen enemy, he is always near us, about our path and about our bed, and spying out ail our ways. A murderer and a liar from the beginning, he labours night and day to cast us down to hell. Sometimes by leading into superstition, sometimes by suggesting infidelity, sometimes by one kind of tactics and sometimes by another, he is always carrying on a campaign against our souls. “Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat.” This mighty adversary must be daily resisted if we wish to be saved. But “this kind goeth not out” but by watching and praying, and putting on the whole armour of God. The strong man armed will never be kept out of our hearts without a daily battle. (Job i.7; 1 Peter v.8; John viii.44; Luke xxii.31; Ephes. vi.11).

Reader, perhaps you think these statements too strong. You fancy that I am going too far, and laying on the colours too thickly. You are secretly saying to yourself, that men and women in England may surely get to heaven without all this trouble and warfare and fighting. Listen to me for a few minutes, and I will show you that I have something to say on God’s behalf. Remember the maxim of the wisest general that ever lived in England: “In time of war it is the worst mistake to underrate your enemy, and try to make a little war.” This Christian warfare is no light matter. Give me your attention and consider what I say.

What saith the Scripture? “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life. .… Endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” “Strive to enter in at the strait gate.” “Labour for the meat that endureth unto everlasting life.” “Think not that I am come to send peace on the earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.” “He that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.” “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.” “War a good warfare; holding faith, and a good conscience” (1 Tim. vi.12; 2 Tim. ii.8; Ephes. vi.11-13; Luke xiii.24; John vi.27; Matt. x.84; Luke xxii.36; 1 Cor. xvi.18; 1 Tim. i.18, 19). Words such as these appear to me clear, plain and unmistakable. They all teach one and the same great lesson, if we are willing to receive it. That lesson is, that true Christianity is a struggle, a fight, and a warfare.

What says the Baptismal Service of the Church of England? No doubt that service is uninspired, and like every uninspired composition, it has its defects, but to the millions of people all over the globe, who profess and call themselves English Churchmen, its voice ought to speak with some weight. And what does it say? It tells us that over every new member who is admitted into the Church of England the following words are used: “I baptise thee in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.” “I sign this child with the sign of the cross, in token that hereafter he shall not be ashamed to confess the faith of Christ crucified, and manfully to fight under His banner against sin, the world, and the devil, and to continue Christ’s faithful soldier and servant unto his life’s end.” Of course we all know that in myriads of eases baptism is a mere form, and that parents bring their children to the font without faith or prayer or thought, and receive no blessing. The man who supposes that baptism in such cases acts mechanically, like a medicine, and that godly and ungodly, praying and prayerless parents all alike get the same benefit for their children, must be in a strange state of mind. But one thing at any rate is very certain. Every baptised Churchman is by his profession a “soldier of Jesus Christ,” and is pledged “to fight under His banner against sin, the world, and the devil.” He that doubts it had better take up his Prayer-book, and read, and mark, and learn its contents. The worst thing about many very zealous Churchmen is their total ignorance of what their own Prayer book contains.

Reader, whether you are a Churchman or not, one thing is very certain, this Christian warfare is a subject of vast importance. It is not a matter like Church government and ceremonial, about which men may differ, and yet reach heaven at last. Necessity is laid upon us. There are no promises in .the Lord Jesus Christ’s Epistles to the Seven Churches, except to those who “overcome.”

It is a fight of absolute necessity. Think not that in this war you can remain neutral and sit still. Such a line of action may be possible in the strife of nations, but it is utterly impossible in that conflict which concerns the soul. The boasted policy of non-interference, the “masterly inactivity” which pleases so many statesmen, the plan of keeping quiet and letting things alone—all this will never do in the Christian warfare. Here at any rate no one can escape under the plea that he is “a man of peace.” To be at peace with the world, the flesh, and the devil, is to be at enmity with God, and in the broad way that leadeth to destruction. We have no choice or option. We must either fight or be lost.

It is a fight of universal necessity, No rank, or class, or age, can plead exemption, or escape the battle. Ministers and people, preachers and hearers, old and young, high and low, rich and poor, gentle and simple, kings and subjects, landlords and tenants, learned and unlearned, all alike must carry arms and go to war. All have by nature a heart full of pride, unbelief, sloth, worldliness, and sin. All are living in a world beset with snares, traps, and pitfalls for the soul. All have near them a busy, restless, malicious devil. All, from the king in His palace down to the pauper in the workhouse, all must fight if they would be saved.

It is a fight of perpetual necessity. It admits of no breathing time, no armistice, no truce. On weekdays as well as on Sundays, in private as well as in public, at home by the family fireside as well as abroad, in little things like the management of tongue and temper, as well as in great ones like the government of kingdoms—the Christian’s warfare must unceasingly go on. The foe we have to do with keeps no holidays, never slumbers, and never sleeps. So long as we have breath in our bodies we must keep on our armour, and remember we are on the enemy’s ground. “Even on the brink of Jordan,” said a dying saint, “I find Satan nibbling at my heels.” We must fight till we die.

Reader, consider well what I have been saying. Take care that your own personal religion is real, genuine, and true. The saddest symptom about many so-called Christians, is the utter absence of anything like conflict and fight in their Christianity. They eat, they drink, they dress, they work, they amuse themselves, they get money, they spend money, they go through a scanty round of formal religious services once every week. But of the great spiritual warfare—its watchings and strugglings, its agonies and anxieties, its battles and contests—of all this they appear to know nothing at all. Take care that this case is not your own. The worst state of soul is when the “strong man armed keepeth his palace, and his goods are at peace,” when he leads men and women “captive at his will,” and they make no resistance. The worst chains are those which are neither felt nor seen by the prisoner. (Luke xi.21; 2 Tim. ii.26).

Reader, take comfort about your soul, if you know anything of an inward fight and conflict. It is not everything, I am well aware, but it is something. Do you find in your heart of hearts a spiritual struggle? Do you feel anything of the flesh lusting against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh, so that you cannot do the things you would? (Gal. v.17). Are you conscious of two principles within you, contending for the mastery? Do you see anything of war in your inward man? Well, thank God for it! It is a good sign. It is evidence not to be despised. Anything is better than apathy, stagnation, deadness, and indifference. You are in a better state than many. The most part of so-called Christians have no feeling at all. You are evidently no friend of Satan. Like the kings of this world, he wars not against his own subjects. The very fact that he assaults you, should fill your mind with hope. Reader, I say again, take comfort, the child of God has two great marks about him, and of these two you have one. HE MAY BE KNOWN BY HIS INWARD WARFARE, AS WELL AS BY HIS INWARD PEACE.

II. I pass on to the second thing which I have to say, in handling my subject: True Christianity is the fight of faith.

In this respect the Christian warfare is utterly unlike the conflicts of this world. It does not depend on the strong arm, the quick eye, or the swift foot. It is not waged with carnal weapons, but with spiritual. Faith is the hinge on which victory turns. Success depends entirely on believing.

A general faith in the truth of God’s written Word is the primary foundation of the Christian soldier’s character. He is what he is, does what he does, thinks as he thinks, acts as he acts, hopes as he hopes, behaves as he behaves, for one simple reason—he believes certain propositions revealed and laid down in Holy Scripture. “He that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him” (Heb. xi.6).

A religion without doctrine or dogma, is a thing which many are fond of talking of in the present day. It sounds very fine at first. It looks very pretty at a distance. But the moment you sit down to examine and consider it, you will find it a simple impossibility. You might as well talk of a body without bones and sinews. No man will ever be anything or do anything in religion, unless he believes something. Even those who profess to hold the miserable and uncomfortable views of the Deists are obliged to confess that they believe something. With all their bitter sneers against dogmatic theology and Christian credulity, as they call it, they themselves have a kind of faith.

As for true Christians, faith is the very backbone of their spiritual existence. No one ever fights earnestly against the world, the flesh, and the devil, unless he has engraven on his heart certain great principles which he believes. What they are he may hardly know, and certainly not be able to define or write down. But there they are, and consciously or unconsciously they form the roots of his religion. Wherever you see a man, whether rich or poor, learned or unlearned, wrestling manfully with sin, and trying to overcome it, you may depend there are certain great principles which this man believes. The poet who wrote the famous lines:

“For modes of faith let graceless zealots fight, He can’t be wrong whose life is in the right,”
was a clever man, but a poor divine. There is no such thing as right living without faith and believing.

A special faith in our Lord Jesus Christ’s person, work, and office, is the life, heart and mainspring of the Christian soldier’s character.

He sees by faith an unseen Saviour, who loved him, gave Himself for him, paid his debts for him, bore his sins, carried his transgressions, rose again for him, and appears in heaven for him as his Advocate at the right hand of God. Seeing this Saviour and trusting in Him, he feels peace and hope, and willingly does battle against the foes of his soul.

He sees his own many sins—his weak heart, a tempting world, a-busy devil, and if be looked only at them he might well despair. But he sees also a mighty Saviour, an interceding Saviour, a sympathising Saviour—His blood, His righteousness, His everlasting priesthood—and he believes that all this is his own. Believing this, he cheerfully fights on, with a full confidence that He will prove “more than conqueror through Him that loved him.”

Habitual lively faith in Christ’s presence and readiness to help is the secret of the Christian soldier fighting successfully.

It must never be forgotten that faith admits of degrees. All men do not believe alike, and even the same person has his ebbs and flows of faith, and believes more heartily at one time than another. According to the degree of his faith the Christian fights well or ill, wins victories, or suffers occasional repulses, comes off triumphant, or loses a battle. He that has most faith will always be the happiest and most comfortable soldier. Nothing makes the anxieties of warfare sit so lightly on a man as the assurance of Christ’s love and God’s protection. Nothing enables him to bear the fatigue of watching, struggling, and wrestling against sin, like the indwelling confidence that God is on his side and success is sure. It is the “shield of faith” which quenches all the fiery darts of the wicked one. It is the man who can say: “I know whom I have believed,” who can say in time of suffering: “I am not ashamed.”

“Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,” was the man who wrote with the same pen, “We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (Eph. vi.16; 2 Tim. i.12; 2 Cor. iv.17, 18). The more faith the more victory! The more faith the more inward peace!

Reader, I think it impossible to overrate the value and importance of faith. Well may the Apostle Peter call it “precious” (2 Pet. i.1). Time would fall me if I tried to recount a hundredth part of the victories which by faith Christian soldiers have obtained.

Take down your Bible and read with attention the eleventh chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews. Mark the long list of worthies whose names are thus recorded, from Abel down to Moses. Note well what battles they won against the world, the flesh, and the devil. And then remember that believing did it all. “By it the elders obtained a good report.” (Heb. xi.2).

Turn to the pages of early Church history. See how the primitive Christians held fast their religion even unto death, and were not shaken by the fiercest persecutions of heathen emperors. For centuries there were never wanting men like Polycarp and Ignatius, who were ready to die rather than deny Christ. Fines, and prisons, and torture, and fire, and sword, were unable to crush the spirit of the noble army of martyrs. The whole power of imperial Rome, the mistress of the world, proved unable to stamp out the religion which began with a few fishermen and publicans in Palestine! And then remember that believing was the Church’s strength. They won their victory by faith.

Examine the story of the Protestant Reformation. Study the lives of its leading champions—Wycliffe, and Huss, and Luther, and Ridley, and Latimer, and Hooper. Mark how these gallant soldiers of Christ stood firm against a host of adversaries, and were ready to die for their principles. What battles they fought! What controversies they maintained! What contradiction they endured! What tenacity of purpose they exhibited against a world in arms! And then remember that believing was the secret of their strength. They overcame by faith.

Consider the men who have made the greatest marks in Church history in the last hundred years. Observe how men like Wesley, and Whitefield, and Venn, and Romaine, stood alone in their day and generation, and revived English religion in the face of opposition from men high in office—and in the face of slander, ridicule, and persecution from nine-tenths of professing Christians in our land. Observe how men like William Wilberforce, and Havelock, and Hedley Vicars, have witnessed for Christ in the most difficult positions, and displayed a banner for Christ even at the regimental mess-table, or on the floor of the House of Commons. Mark how these home witnesses never flinched to the end, and won the respect even of their worst adversaries. And then remember that believing is the key to all their characters. By faith they lived, and walked, and stood, and overcame.

Reader, would you live the life of a Christian soldier? Pray for faith. It is the gift of God; and a gift which those who ask shall never ask for in vain. You must believe before you do. If men do nothing in religion, it is because they do not believe. Faith is the first step toward heaven.

Would you fight the fight of a Christian soldier successfully and prosperously? Pray for a continual growth of faith. Let your dally prayer be that of the disciples—“Lord, increase my faith.” Watch jealously over your faith, if you have any. It is the citadel of the Christian character, on which the safety of the whole fortress depends. It is the point which Satan loves to assail. All lies at His mercy if faith is overthrown. Here, if you love life, you must especially stand on your guard.

III. The last thing I have to say is this: True Christianity is a good fight.

“Good” is a curious word to apply to any warfare. All worldly war is more or less evil. No doubt it is an absolute necessity in many cases, to procure the liberty of nations, to prevent the weak from being trampled down by the strong; but still it is an evil.

It entails an awful amount of bloodshed and suffering. It hurries into eternity myriads who are completely unprepared for their change. It calls forth the worst passions of man. It causes enormous waste and destruction of property. It fills peaceful homes with mourning widows and orphans. It spreads far and wide poverty, taxation, and national distress. It disarranges all the order of society. It interrupts the work of the Gospel and the growth of Christian missions. In short, war is an immense and incalculable evil, and every praying man should cry night and day: “Give peace in our times.” And yet there is one warfare which is emphatically “good,” and one fight in which there is no evil. That warfare is the Christian warfare. That fight is the fight of the soul.

Now what are the reasons why the Christian fight is a “good fight?” What are the points in which his warfare is superior to the warfare of this world? Let me examine this matter, and open it out in order. I dare not pass the subject, and leave it unnoticed. I want no one to begin the life of a Christian soldier without counting the cost. I would not keep back from any one that the Christian fight, though spiritual, is real and severe. It needs courage, boldness, and perseverance. But I want my readers to know that there is abundant encouragement, if they will only begin the battle. The Scripture does not call the Christian fight “a good fight” without reason and cause. Let me try to shew what I mean.

(a) The Christian’s fight is good because fought under the best of generals. The Leader and Commander of all believers is our Divine Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ—a Saviour of perfect wisdom, infinite love, and almighty power. The Captain of our salvation never falls to lead His soldiers to victory. He never makes any useless movements, never errs in judgement, never commits any mistake. His eye is on all His followers, from the greatest of them even to the least. The humblest servant in His army is not forgotten. The weakest and most sickly is cared for, remembered, and kept unto salvation. The souls whom He has purchased and redeemed with His own blood are far too precious to be wasted and thrown away. Surely this is good!

(b) The Christian’s fight is good, because fought with, the best of helps. Weak as each believer is in himself, the Holy Spirit dwells in him, and his body is a temple of the Holy Ghost. Chosen by God the Father, washed in the blood of the Son, renewed by the Spirit, he does not go a warfare at his own charges, and is never alone. God the Holy Ghost dally teaches, leads, guides, and directs him. God the Father helps him by His almighty power. God the Son intercedes for him every moment, like Moses on the mount, while he is fighting in the valley below. A threefold cord like this can never be broken! His dally provisions and supplies never fall. His commissariat is never defective. His bread and his water are sure. Weak as he seems in himself, like a worm, he is strong in the Lord to do great exploits. Surely this is good!

(c) The Christian fight is a good fight, because fought with the best of promises. To every believer belong exceeding great and precious promises—all yea and amen in Christ—promises sure to be fulfilled because made by Him who cannot He, and has power as well as will to keep His word. “Sin shall not have dominion over you.” “The God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly.” “he which hath begun a good work in you, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee.” My sheep “shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand.” “Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out.” “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” “I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, . . . nor things present, nor things to come .… shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. vi.14; Rom. xvi.20; Phi. i.6; Isa. xliii.2; John x.28; John vi.37; Isa. xiii.5; Rom. viii.38, 39). Words like these are worth their weight in gold! Who does not know that promises of coming aid have cheered the defenders of besieged cities like Lucknow, and raised them above their natural strength? Who does not know that the promise of help before night had much to say to the mighty victory of Waterloo? Yet all such promises are as nothing compared to the rich treasure of believers, the eternal promises of God. Surely this is good!

(d) The Christian’s fight is a good fight, because fought with the best of issues and results. No doubt it is a war in which there are tremendous struggles, agonising conflicts, wounds, bruises, watchings, fastings, and fatigue. But still every believer, without exception, is “more than conqueror through Him that loved him.” No soldiers of Christ are ever lost, missing, or left dead on the battlefield. No mourning will ever need to be put on, and no tears be shed for either private or officer in the army of Christ. The muster-roll, when the last evening comes, will be found precisely the same that it was in the morning. The English Guards marched out of London to the Crimean campaign a magnificent body of men; but many of the gallant fellows laid their bones in a foreign grave, and never saw London again. Far different shall be the arrival of the Christian army in “the city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” Not one shall be found lacking. The words of our great Captain shall be found true: “Of them which Thou gavest Me have I lost none” (John xviii.9). Surely this is good!

(e) The Christian’s fight is good, because it does good to the soul of him that fights it. All other wars have a bad, lowering, and demoralising tendency. They call forth the worst passions of the human mind. They harden the conscience, and sap the foundations of religion and morality. The Christian warfare alone tends to call forth the best things that are left in man. It promotes humility and charity, it lessens selfishness and worldliness, it induces men to set their affection on things above. The old, the sick, the dying, are never known to repent of fighting Christ’s battles against sin, the world, and the devil. Their only regret is that they did not begin to serve Christ long before. The experience of that eminent saint, Philip Henry, does not stand alone. In his last days he said to his family: “I take you all to record that a life spent in the service of Christ is the happiest life that a man can spend upon earth.” Surely this is good!

(f) The Christian’s fight is a good fight, because it does good to the world. All other wars have a devastating, ravaging, and injurious effect. The march of an army through a land is an awful scourge to the inhabitants. Wherever it goes it impoverishes, wastes, and does harm. Injury to persons, property, feelings, and morals invariably accompanies it. Far different are the effects produced by Christian soldiers. Wherever they live they are a blessing. They raise the standard of religion and morality. They invariably check the progress of drunkenness, Sabbath-breaking, profligacy, and dishonesty. Even their enemies are obliged to respect them. Go where you please, you will rarely find that barracks and garrisons do good to the neighbourhood. But go where you please, you will find that the presence of 4 few true Christians is a blessing. Surely this is good!

(g) Finally, the Christian’s fight is good, because the end is a glorious reward for all who fight it. Who can tell the wages that Christ will pay to all His faithful people? Who can estimate the good things that our Divine Captain has laid up for those who confess Him before men? A grateful country can give to her successful warriors medals, Victoria crosses, pensions, peerages, honours, and titles. But it can give nothing that will last and endure for ever, nothing than can be carried beyond the grave. Palaces like Blenheim and Strathfield say can only be enjoyed for a few years. The bravest generals and soldiers must go down one day before the king of terrors. Better, far better, is the position of him who fights under Christ’s banner against sin, the world, and the devil, He may get little praise of man while he lives, and go down to the grave with little honour; but he shall have that which is far better, because far more enduring. It shall have “a crown of glory that fadeth not away.” Surely this is good.

Reader, settle it in your mind that the Christian fight is a good fight, really good, truly good, emphatically good. You see only part of it yet. You see the struggle, but not the end; you see the campaign, but not the reward; you see the cross, but not the crown. You see a few humble, broken-spirited, penitent, praying people, enduring hardships and despised by the world; but you see not the hand of God over them, the face of God smiling on them, the kingdom of glory prepared for them. These things are yet to be revealed. Judge not by appearances. There are more good things about the Christian warfare than you see.

And now, reader, let me conclude my whole subject with a few words of practical application. Our lot is cast in times when the world seems thinking of little else but battles and fighting. The iron is entering into the soul of more than one nation, and the mirth of many a fair district is clean gone. Surely at a time like this a minister may fairly call on men to remember the spiritual warfare. Bear with me while I say a few parting words about the great fight of the soul.

(1) It may be you are struggling hard for the rewards of this world. Perhaps you are straining every nerve to obtain money, or place, or power, or pleasure. Reader, if that be your case, take care. You are sowing a crop of bitter disappointment. Unless you mind what you are about your latter end will be to He down in sorrow.

Thousands have trodden the path you are pursuing, and have awoke too late to find it end in misery and eternal ruin. They have fought hard for wealth, and honour, and office, and promotion, and turned their backs on God, and Christ, and heaven, and the world to come. And what has their end been? Often, far too often, they have found out that their whole life has been a grand mistake. They have tasted by bitter experience the feelings of the dying statesman who cried aloud in his last hours: “The battle is fought: the battle is fought: but the victory is not won.”

Reader, for your own happiness’ sake resolve this day to join the Lord’s side. Shake off your past carelessness and unbelief. Come out from the ways of a thoughtless, unreasoning world. Take up the cross, and become a good soldier of Christ. Fight the good fight of faith, that you may be happy as well as safe.

Think what the children of this world will often do for liberty, without any religious principle. Remember how Greeks, and Romans, and Swiss, and Tyrolese, have endured the loss of all things, and even life itself, rather than bend their necks to a foreign yoke. Let their example provoke you for emulation. If men can do so much for a corruptible crown, how much more should you do for one which is incorruptible! Awake to a sense of the misery of being a slave. For life, and happiness, and liberty, arise and fight.

Fear not to begin and enlist under Christ’s banner. The great Captain of your salvation rejects none that come to Him. Like David in the cave of Adullam, he is ready to receive all who come to him, however unworthy they may feel themselves.—None who repent and believe are too bad to be enrolled in the ranks of Christ’s army. All who come to Him by faith are admitted, clothed, armed, trained, and finally led on to complete victory. Reader, fear not to begin this very day. There is yet room for you.

Fear not to go on fighting, if you once enlist. The more thorough and whole-hearted you are as a soldier, the more comfortable will you find your warfare. No doubt you will often meet with trouble, fatigue, and hard fighting, before your warfare is accomplished. But let none of these things move you. Greater is He that is for you than all they that be against you. Everlasting liberty or everlasting captivity are the alternatives before you. Choose liberty, and fight to the last.

(2) Reader, it may be you know something of the Christian warfare, and are a tried and proved soldier already. If that be your case, accept a parting word of advice and encouragement from a fellow-soldier. Let me speak to myself as well as to you. Let us stir up our minds by way of remembrance. There are some things which we cannot remember too well.

Let us remember that if we would fight successfully we must put on the whole armour of God, and never lay it aside till we die. Not a single piece of the armour can be dispensed with. The girdle of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the sword of the Spirit, the helmet of hope, each and all are needful. Not a single day can we dispense with any part of this armour. Well says an old veteran in Christ’s army, who died 200 years ago: “In heaven we shall appear, not in armour, but in robes of glory. But here our arms are to be worn night and day. We must walk, work, sleep in them, or else we are not true soldiers of Christ.”—Gurnall’s “Christian Armour”).

Let us remember the solemn words of an old warrior, who went to his rest more than 1800 years ago: “No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please Him who hath chosen him to be a soldier” (2 Tim. ii.4). May we never forget that saying!

Let us remember that some have seemed good soldiers for a little season, and talked loudly of what they would do, and yet turned back disgracefully in the day of battle. Let us never forget Balaam, and Judas, and Demas, and Lot’s wife. Whatever we are, and however weak, let us be real, genuine, true, and sincere.

Let us remember that the eye of our loving Saviour is upon us morning, noon, and night. He will never suffer us to be tempted above that we are able to bear. He can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, for He suffered himself being tempted. He knows what battles and conflicts are, for He Himself was assaulted by the prince of this world. Having such a High Priest, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.

Let us remember that thousands of soldiers before us have fought the same battle that we are fighting, and come off more than conquerors through Him that loved them. They overcame by the blood of the Lamb; and so also may we. Christ’s arm is quite as strong as ever, and Christ’s heart is just as loving as ever. He that saved men and women before us, is one who never changes. He is able to save to the uttermost both you and me and all who come unto God by Him. Then let us cast doubts and fears away. Let us follow them who through faith and patience inherit the promises, and are waiting for us to join them.

Finally, let us remember that the time is short, and the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. A few more battles and the last trumpet shall sound, and the Prince of Peace shall come to reign on a renewed earth. A few more struggles and conflicts, and then we shall bid an eternal goodbye to sin and sorrow and death. Then let us fight on to the last, and never surrender. Thus saith the Captain of our salvation: “he that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be My son” (Rev. xxi.7).

Let me conclude all with the words of John Bunyan, in one of the most beautiful parts of “Pilgrim’s Progress.” He is describing the end of one of his best and holiest pilgrims:—

“After this it was noised abroad that Mr. Valiant-for-truth was sent for by a summons, by the same party as the others. And he had this word for a token that the summons was true, ‘The pitcher was broken at the fountain’ (Eccles. xii.6). When he understood it, he called for his friends, and told them of it. Then said he: ‘ I am going to my Father’s house; and though with great difficulty I have got hither, yet now I do not repent me of all the troubles I have been at to arrive where I am. My sword I give to him that shall succeed me in my pilgrimage, and my courage and skill to him that can get it. My marks and scars I carry with me, to be a witness for me that I have fought His battles, who will now be my Rewarder.’ When the day that he must go home was come, many accompanied him to the riverside, into which, as he went down, he said, ‘O death, where is thy sting?’ And as he went down deeper, he cried, ‘O grave, where is thy victory?’ So he passed over, and all the trumpets sounded for him on the other side.”

Reader, may our last end be like this!