John Newton (1725-1807): Of The Lord’s Promised Guidance

Of The Lord’s Promised Guidance
By
John Newton (1725-1807)
Copyright: Public Domain

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LETTER No. XXVIII

Answer to the Question, In what manner are we to expect the Lord’s promised Guidance to influence our Judgments, and direct our Steps in the Path of Duty?

            Dear Sir,

It is well for those who are duly sensible of their own weakness and fallibility, and of the difficulties with which they are surrounded in life, that the Lord has promised to guide his people with his eye, and to cause them to hear a word behind them, saying, “This is the way, walk ye in it,” when they are in danger of turning aside, either to the right hand or to the left. For this purpose, he has given us the written word to be a lamp to our feet, and encouraged us to pray for the teaching of his Holy Spirit, that we may rightly understand and apply it. It is, however, too often seen, that many widely deviate from the path of duty, and commit gross and perplexing mistakes, while they profess a sincere desire to know the will of God, and think they have his warrant and authority. This must certainly be owing to misapplication of the rule by which they judge, since the rule itself is infallible, and the promise sure. The Scripture cannot deceive us, if rightly understood; but it may, if perverted, prove the occasion of confirming us in a mistake. The Holy Spirit cannot mislead those who are under his influence; but we may suppose that we are so, when we are not. It may not be unseasonable to offer a few thoughts upon a subject of great importance to the peace of our minds, and to the honour of our holy profession.

Many have been deceived as to what they ought to do, or in forming a judgment beforehand of events in which they are nearly concerned, by expecting direction in ways which the Lord has not warranted. I shall mention some of the principal of these, for it is not easy to enumerate them all.

Some persons, when two or more things have been in view, and they could not immediately determine which to prefer; have committed their case to the Lord by prayer, and have then proceeded to cast lots: taking it for granted, that after such a solemn appeal, the turning up of the lot might be safely rested in as an answer from God. It is true, the Scripture, and indeed right reason, assures us, that the Lord disposes the lot; and there are several cases recorded in the Old Testament, in which lots were used by divine appointment; but I think neither these, nor the choosing Matthias by lot to the apostleship, are proper precedents for our conduct. In the division of the lands of Canaan, in the affair of Achan, and in the nomination of Saul to the kingdom, recourse was had to lots by God’s express command. The instance of Matthias likewise was singular, such as can never happen again; namely, the choice of an apostle, who would not have been upon a par with the rest, who were chosen immediately by the Lord, unless He had been pleased to interpose in some extraordinary way; and all these were before the canon of Scripture was completed, and before the full descent and communication of the Holy Spirit, who was promised to dwell with the church to the end of time. Under the New Testament dispensation, we are invited to come boldly to the throne of grace, to make our requests known to the Lord, and to cast our cares upon him: but we have neither precept nor promise respecting the use of lots; and to have recourse to them without his appointment, seems to be tempting him rather than honouring him, and to savour more of presumption than dependence. The effects likewise of this expedient have often been unhappy and hurtful: a sufficient proof how little it is to be trusted to as a guide of our conduct.

Others, when in doubt, have opened the Bible at a venture, and expected to find something to direct them in the first verse they should cast their eye upon. It is no small discredit to this practice, that the Heathens, who knew not the Bible, used some of their favourite books in the same way: and grounded their persuasions of what they ought to do, or of what should befall them, according to the passage they happened to open upon. Among the Romans, the writings of Virgil were frequently consulted upon those occasions; which gave rise to the well-known expression of the Sortes Virgilanæ.

And indeed Virgil is as well adapted to satisfy inquirers in this way, as the Bible itself; for if people will be governed by the occurrence of a single text of Scripture, without regarding the context, or duly comparing it with the general tenor of the word of God, and with their own circumstances, they may commit the greatest extravagances, expect the greatest impossibilities, and contradict the plainest dictates of common sense, while they think they have the word of God on their side. Can the opening upon (2 Sam. vii. 3. when Nathan said unto David, “Do all that is in thine heart, for the Lord is with thee,” be sufficient to determine the lawfulness or expediency of actions? Or can a glance of the eye upon our Lord’s words to the woman of Canaan, Matt. XV. 28. “Be it unto thee even as thou wilt,” amount to a proof, that the present earnest desire of the mind, (whatever it may be,) shall be surely accomplished? Yet it is certain that matters big with important consequences have been engaged in, and the most sanguine expectations formed, upon no better warrant than dipping, (as it is called,) upon a text of Scripture.

A sudden strong impression of a text, that seems to have some resemblance to the concern upon the mind, has been accepted by many as an infallible token that they were right, and that things would go just as they would have them: or, on the other hand, if the passage bore a threatening aspect, it has filled them with fears and disquietudes, Much they have afterwards found were groundless and unnecessary. These impressions, being more out of their power than the former method, have been more generally regarded and trusted to, but have frequently proved no less delusive. It is allowed, that such impressions of a precept or a promise, as humble, animate, or comfort the soul, by giving it a lively sense of the truth contained in the words, are both profitable and pleasant; and many of the Lord’s people have been instructed and supported, (especially in a time of trouble,) by some seasonable word of grace applied and sealed by his Spirit with power to their hearts. But if impressions or impulses are received as a voice from heaven, directing to such particular actions as could not be proved to be duties without them, a person may be unwarily misled into great evils and gross delusions; and many have been so. There is no doubt but the enemy of our souls, if permitted, can furnish us with Scriptures in abundance in this way, and for these purposes.

Some persons judge of the nature and event of their designs, by the freedom which they find in prayer. They say they commit their ways to God, seek his direction, and are favoured with much enlargement of spirit; and therefore they cannot doubt but what they have in view is acceptable in the Lord’s sight. I would not absolutely reject every plea of this kind, yet, without other corroborating evidence, I could not admit it in proof of what it is brought for. It is not always easy to determine when we have spiritual freedom in prayer. Self is deceitful; and when our hearts are much fixed and bent upon a thing, this may put words and earnestness into our mouths. Too often we first secretly determine for ourselves, and then come to ask counsel of God; in such a disposition we are ready to catch at every thing that may seem to favour our darling scheme; and the Lord, for the detection and chastisement of our hypocrisy, (for hypocrisy it is, though perhaps hardly perceptible to ourselves,) may answer us according to our idols; see Ezek. xiv. 3, 4. Besides, the grace of prayer may be in exercise, when the subject-matter of the prayer may be founded upon a mistake, from the intervention of circumstances which we are unacquainted with. Thus I may have a friend in a distant country, I hope he is alive, I pray for him, and it is my duty so to do. The Lord, by his Spirit, assists his people in what is their present duty. If I am enabled to pray with much liberty for my distant friend, it may be a proof that the Spirit of the Lord is pleased to assist my infirmities, but it is no proof that my friend is certainly alive at the time I am praying for him; and if the next time I pray for him I should find my spirit straightened, I am not to conclude that my friend is dead, and therefore the Lord will not assist me in praying for him any longer.

Once more: A remarkable dream has sometimes been thought as decisive as any of the foregoing methods of knowing the will of God. That many wholesome and seasonable admonitions have been received in dreams, I willingly allow; but, though they may be occasionally noticed, to pay a great attention to dreams, especially to be guided by them, to form our sentiments, conduct, or expectations, upon them, is superstitious and dangerous. The promises are not made to those who dream, but to those who watch.

Upon the whole, though the Lord may give to some persons, upon some occasions, a hint or encouragement out of the common way; yet expressly to look for and seek his direction in such things as I have mentioned, is unscriptural and ensnaring. I could fill many sheets with a detail of the inconveniences and evils which have followed such a dependence, within the course of my own observation. I have seen some presuming they were doing God service, while acting in contradiction to his express commands. I have known others infatuated to believe a lie, declaring themselves assured, beyond the shadow of a doubt, of things which, after all, never came to pass; and when at length disappointed, Satan has improved the occasion to make them doubt of the plainest and most important truths, and to account their whole former experience a delusion. By these things weak believers have been stumbled, cavils and offenses against the Gospel multiplied, and the ways of truth evil spoken of.

But how then may the Lord’s guidance be expected? After what has been premised negatively, the question may be answered in a few words. In general, he guides and directs his people, by affording them, in answer to prayer, the light of his Holy Spirit, Which enables them to understand and to love the Scriptures. The word of God is not to be used as a lottery; nor is it designed to instruct us by shreds and scraps, which, detached from their proper places, have no determinate import; but it is to furnish us with just principles, right apprehensions to regulate our judgments and affections, and thereby to influence and direct our conduct. They who study the Scriptures, in an humble dependence upon divine teaching, are convinced of their own weakness, are taught to make a true estimate of every thing around them, are gradually formed into a spirit of submission to the will of God, discover the nature and duties of their several situations and relations in life, and the snares and temptations to which they are exposed. The word of God dwells richly in them, is a preservative from error, a light to their feet, and a spring of strength and consolation. By treasuring up the doctrines, precepts, promises, examples, and exhortations of Scripture, in their minds, and daily comparing themselves with the rule by which they walk, they grow into an habitual frame of spiritual wisdom, and acquire a gracious taste, which enables them to judge of right and wrong with a degree of readiness and certainty, as a musical ear judges of sounds. And they are seldom mistaken, because they are influenced by the love of Christ, which rules in their hearts, and a regard to the glory of God, which is the great object they have in view.

In particular cases, the Lord opens and shuts for them, breaks down walls of difficulty which obstruct their path, or hedges up their way with thorns, when they are in danger of going wrong, by the dispensations of his providence. They know that their concernments are in his hands; they are willing to follow whither and when he leads; but are afraid of going before him. Therefore they are not impatient: because they believe, they will not make haste, but wait daily upon him in prayer; especially when they find their hearts most engaged in any purpose or pursuit, they are most jealous of being deceived by appearances, and dare not move further or faster than they can perceive his light shining upon their paths. I express at least their desire, if not their attainment: thus they would be. And though there are seasons when faith languishes, and self too much prevails, this is their general disposition; and the Lord, whom they serve, does not disappoint their expectations. He leads them by a right way, preserves them from a thousand snares, and satisfies them that he is and will be their guide even unto death.

I am, &c.

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Matthew Henry (1662-1714): Commentary on Genesis One

Commentary on Genesis One

By

Matthew Henry (1662-1714)

Copyright: Public Domain

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LNW Note: To get the most out of Commentaries that incorporate the Hebrew and Greek spellings, use an interlinear Bible

Genesis 1

The foundation of all religion being laid in our relation to God as our Creator, it was fit that the book of divine revelations which was intended to be the guide, support, and rule, of religion in the world, should begin, as it does, with a plain and full account of the creation of the world – in answer to that first enquiry of a good conscience, “Where is God my Maker?” (Job 35:10). Concerning this the pagan philosophers wretchedly blundered, and became vain in their imaginations, some asserting the world’s eternity and self-existence, others ascribing it to a fortuitous concourse of atoms: thus “the world by wisdom knew not God,” but took a great deal of pains to lose him. The holy scripture therefore, designing by revealed religion to maintain and improve natural religion, to repair the decays of it and supply the defects of it, since the fall, for the reviving of the precepts of the law of nature, lays down, at first, this principle of the unclouded light of nature, That this world was, in the beginning of time, created by a Being of infinite wisdom and power, who was himself before all time and all worlds. The entrance into God’s word gives this light, Psa 119:130. The first verse of the Bible gives us a surer and better, a more satisfying and useful, knowledge of the origin of the universe, than all the volumes of the philosophers. The lively faith of humble Christians understands this matter better than the elevated fancy of the greatest wits, Heb 11:3.

We have three things in this chapter: – I. A general idea given us of the work of creation (Gen 1:1, Gen 1:2). II. A particular account of the several days’ work, registered, as in a journal, distinctly and in order. The creation of the light the first day (Gen 1:3-5); of the firmament the second day (Gen 1:6-8); of the sea, the earth, and its fruits, the third day (Gen 1:9-13); of the lights of heaven the fourth day (Gen 1:14-19); of the fish and fowl the fifth day (Gen 1:20-23); of the beasts (Gen 1:24, Gen 1:25); of man (Gen 1:26-28); and of food for both the sixth day (Gen 1:29, Gen 1:30). III. The review and approbation of the whole work (Gen 1:31).

 

Genesis 1:3-5

We have here a further account of the first day’s work, in which observe, 1. That the first of all visible beings which God created was light; not that by it he himself might see to work (for the darkness and light are both alike to him), but that by it we might see his works and his glory in them, and might work our works while it is day. The works of Satan and his servants are works of darkness; but he that doeth truth, and doeth good, cometh to the light, and coveteth it, that his deeds may be made manifest, Joh 3:21. Light is the great beauty and blessing of the universe. Like the first-born, it does, of all visible beings, most resemble its great Parent in purity and power, brightness and beneficence; it is of great affinity with a spirit, and is next to it; though by it we see other things, and are sure that it is, yet we know not its nature, nor can describe what it is, or by what way the light is parted, Job 38:19, Job 38:24. By the sight of it let us be led to, and assisted in, the believing contemplation of him who is light, infinite and eternal light (1Jn 1:5), and the Father of lights (Jas 1:17), and who dwells in inaccessible light, 1Ti 6:16. In the new creation, the first thing wrought in the soul is light: the blessed Spirit captives the will and affections by enlightening the understanding, so coming into the heart by the door, like the good shepherd whose own the sheep are, while sin and Satan, like thieves and robbers, climb up some other way. Those that by sin were darkness by grace become light in the world. 2. That the light was made by the word of God’s power. He said, Let there be light; he willed and appointed it, and it was done immediately: there was light, such a copy as exactly answered the original idea in the Eternal Mind. O the power of the word of God! He spoke, and it was done, done really, effectually, and for perpetuity, not in show only, and to serve a present turn, for he commanded, and it stood fast: with him it was dictum, factuma word, and a world. The world of God (that is, his will and the good pleasure of it) is quick and powerful. Christ is the Word, the essential eternal Word, and by him the light was produced, for in him was light, and he is the true light, the light of the world, Joh 1:9; Joh 9:5. The divine light which shines in sanctified souls is wrought by the power of God, the power of his word and of the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, opening the understanding, scattering the mists of ignorance and mistake, and giving the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ, as at first, God commanded the light to shine out of darkness, 2Co 4:6. Darkness would have been perpetually upon the face of fallen man if the Son of God had not come, and given us an understanding, 1Jn 5:20. 3. That the light which God willed, when it was produced, he approved of: God saw the light that it was good. It was exactly as he designed it, and it was fit to answer the end for which he designed it. It was useful and profitable; the world, which now is a palace, would have been a dungeon without it. It was amiable and pleasant. Truly the light is sweet (Ecc 11:7); it rejoiceth the heart, Pro 15:30. What God commands he will approve and graciously accept; he will be well pleased with the work of his own hands. That is good indeed which is so in the sight of God, for he sees not as man sees. If the light is good, how good is he that is the fountain of light, from whom we receive it, and to whom we owe all praise for it and all the services we do by it! 4. That God divided the light from the darkness, so put them asunder as that they could never be joined together, or reconciled; for what fellowship has light with darkness? 2Co 6:14. And yet he divided time between them, the day for light and the night for darkness, in a constant and regular succession to each other. Though the darkness was now scattered by the light, yet it was not condemned to a perpetual banishment, but takes its turn with the light, and has its place, because it has its use; for, as the light of the morning befriends the business of the day, so the shadows of the evening befriend the repose of the night, and draw the curtains about us, that we may sleep the better. See Job 7:2. God has thus divided time between light and darkness, because he would daily remind us that this is a world of mixtures and changes. In heaven there is perfect and perpetual light, and no darkness at all; in hell, utter darkness, and no gleam of light. In that world between these two there is a great gulf fixed; but, in this world, they are counterchanged, and we pass daily from one to another, that we may learn to expect the like vicissitudes in the providence of God, peace and trouble, joy and sorrow, and may set the one over-against the other, accommodating ourselves to both as we do to the light and darkness, bidding both welcome, and making the best of both. 5. That God divided them from each other by distinguishing names: He called the light day, and the darkness he called night. He gave them names, as the Lord of both; for the day is his, the night also is his, Psa 74:16. He is the Lord of time, and will be so, till day and night shall come to an end, and the stream of time be swallowed up in the ocean of eternity. Let us acknowledge God in the constant succession of day and night, and consecrate both to his honour, by working for him every day and resting in him every night, and meditating in his law day and night. 6. That this was the first day’s work, and a good day’s work it was. The evening and the morning were the first day. The darkness of the evening was before the light of the morning, that it might serve for a foil to it, to set it off, and make it shine the brighter. This was not only the first day of the world, but the first day of the week. I observe it to the honour of that day, because the new world began on the first day of the week likewise, in the resurrection of Christ, as the light of the world, early in the morning. In him the day-spring from on high has visited the world; and happy are we, for ever happy, if that day-star arise in our hearts.

Genesis 1:6-8

We have here an account of the second day’s work, the creation of the firmament, in which observe, 1. The command of God concerning it: Let there be a firmament, an expansion, so the Hebrew word signifies, like a sheet spread, or a curtain drawn out. This includes all that is visible above the earth, between it and the third heavens: the air, its higher, middle, and lower, regions – the celestial globe, and all the spheres and orbs of light above: it reaches as high as the place where the stars are fixed, for that is called here the firmament of heaven (Gen 1:14, Gen 1:15), and as low as the place where the birds fly, for that also is called the firmament of heaven, Gen 1:20. When God had made the light, he appointed the air to be the receptacle and vehicle of its beams, and to be as a medium of communication between the invisible and the visible world; for, though between heaven and earth there is an inconceivable distance, yet there is not an impassable gulf, as there is between heaven and hell. This firmament is not a wall of partition, but a way of intercourse. See Job 26:7; Job 37:18; Psa 104:3; Amo 9:6. 2. The creation of it. Lest it should seem as if God had only commanded it to be done, and some one else had done it, he adds, And God made the firmament. What God requires of us he himself works in us, or it is not done. He that commands faith, holiness, and love, creates them by the power of his grace going along with his word, that he may have all the praise. Lord, give what thou commandest, and then command what thou pleasest. The firmament is said to be the work of God’s fingers, Psa 8:3. Though the vastness of its extent declares it to be the work of his arm stretched out, yet the admirable fineness of its constitution shows that it is a curious piece of art, the work of his fingers. 3. The use and design of it – to divide the waters from the waters, that is, to distinguish between the waters that are wrapped up in the clouds and those that cover the sea, the waters in the air and those in the earth. See the difference between these two carefully observed, Deu 11:10, Deu 11:11, where Canaan is upon this account preferred to Egypt, that Egypt was moistened and made fruitful with the waters that are under the firmament, but Canaan with waters from above, out of the firmament, even the dew of heaven, which tarrieth not for the sons of men, Mic 5:7. God has, in the firmament of his power, chambers, store-chambers, whence he watereth the earth, Psa 104:13; Psa 65:9, Psa 65:10. He has also treasures, or magazines, of snow and hail, which he hath reserved against the day of battle and war, Job 38:22, Job 38:23. O what a great God is he who has thus provided for the comfort of all that serve him and the confusion of all that hate him! It is good having him our friend, and bad having him our enemy. 4. The naming of it: He called the firmament heaven. It is the visible heaven, the pavement of the holy city; above the firmament God is said to have his throne (Eze 1:26), for he has prepared it in the heavens; the heavens therefore are said to rule, Dan 4:26. Is not God in the height of heaven? Job 22:12. Yes, he is, and we should be led by the contemplation of the heavens that are in our eye to consider our Father who is in heaven. The height of the heavens should remind us of God’s supremacy and the infinite distance there is between us and him; the brightness of the heavens and their purity should remind us of his glory, and majesty, and perfect holiness; the vastness of the heavens, their encompassing of the earth, and the influence they have upon it, should remind us of his immensity and universal providence.

Genesis 1:9-13

The third day’s work is related in these verses – the forming of the sea and the dry land, and the making of the earth fruitful. Hitherto the power of the Creator had been exerted and employed about the upper part of the visible word; the light of heaven was kindled, and the firmament of heaven fixed: but now he descends to this lower world, the earth, which was designed for the children of men, designed both for their habitation and for their maintenance; and here we have an account of the fitting of it for both, and building of their house and the spreading of their table. Observe,

I. How the earth was prepared to be a habitation for man, by the gathering of the waters together, and the making of the dry land to appear. Thus, instead of the confusion which there was (Gen 1:2) when earth and water were mixed in one great mass, behold, now, there is order, by such a separation as rendered them both useful. God said, Let it be so, and it was so; no sooner said than done. 1. The waters which had covered the earth were ordered to retire, and to gather into one place, namely, those hollows which were fitted and appointed for their reception and rest. The waters, thus cleared, thus collected, and thus lodged, in their proper place, he called seas. Though they are many, in distant regions, and washing several shores, yet, either above ground or under ground, they have communication with each other, and so they are one, and the common receptacle of waters, into which all the rivers flow, Ecc 1:7. Waters and seas often, in scripture, signify troubles and afflictions, Psa 42:7; Psa 69:2, Psa 69:14, Psa 69:15. God’s own people are not exempted from these in this world; but it is their comfort that they are only waters under the heaven (there are none in heaven), and that they are all in the place that God has appointed them and within the bounds that he has set for them. How the waters were gathered together at first, and how they are still bound and limited by the same Almighty had that first confined them, are elegantly described, Psa 104:6-9, and are there mentioned as matter of praise. Those that go down to the sea in ships ought to acknowledge daily the wisdom, power, and goodness, of the Creator, in making the great waters serviceable to man for trade and commerce; and those that tarry at home must own themselves indebted to him that keeps the sea with bars and doors in its decreed place, and stays its proud waves, Job 38:10, Job 38:11. 2. The dry land was made to appear, and emerge out of the waters, and was called earth, and given to the children of men. The earth, it seems, was in being before; but it was of no use, because it was under water. Thus many of God’s gifts are received in vain, because they are buried; make them to appear, and they become serviceable. We who, to this day, enjoy the benefit of the dry land (though, since this, it was once deluged, and dried again) must own ourselves tenants to, and dependents upon, that God whose hands formed the dry land, Psa 95:5; Jon 1:9.

II. How the earth was furnished for the maintenance and support of man, Gen 1:11, Gen 1:12. Present provision was now made, by the immediate products of the upstart earth, which, in obedience to God’s command, was no sooner made than it became fruitful, and brought forth grass for the cattle and herb for the service of man. Provision was likewise made for time to come, by the perpetuating of the several kinds of vegetables, which are numerous, various, and all curious, and every one having its seed in itself after its kind, that, during the continuance of man upon the earth, food might be fetched out of the earth for his use and benefit. Lord, what is man, that he is thus visited and regarded – that such care should be taken, and such provision made, for the support and preservation of those guilty and obnoxious lives which have been a thousand times forfeited! Observe here, 1. That not only the earth is the Lord’s, but the fulness thereof, and he is the rightful owner and sovereign disposer, not only of it, but of all its furniture. The earth was emptiness (Gen 1:2), but now, by a word’s speaking, it has become full of God’s riches, and his they are still – his corn and his wine, his wool and his flax, Hos 2:9. Though the use of them is allowed to us, the property still remains in him, and to his service and honour they must be used. 2. That common providence is a continued creation, and in it our Father worketh hitherto. The earth still remains under the efficacy of this command, to bring forth grass, and herbs, and its annual products; and though, being according to the common course of nature, these are not standing miracles, yet they are standing instances of the unwearied power and unexhausted goodness of the world’s great Maker and Master. 3. That though God, ordinarily, makes use of the agency of second causes, according to their nature, yet he neither needs them nor is tied to them; for, though the precious fruits of the earth are usually brought forth by the influences of the sun and moon (Deu 33:14), yet here we find the earth bearing a great abundance of fruit, probable ripe fruit, before the sun and moon were made. 4. That it is good to provide things necessary before we have occasion to use them: before the beasts and man were made, here were grass and herbs prepared for them. God thus dealt wisely and graciously with man; let not man then be foolish and unwise for himself. 5. That God must have the glory of all the benefit we receive from the products of the earth, either for food or physic. It is he that hears the heavens when they hear the earth, Hos 2:21, Hos 2:22. And if we have, through grace, an interest in him who is the fountain, when the streams are dried up and the fig-tree doth not blossom we may rejoice in him.

Genesis 1:14-19

This is the history of the fourth day’s work, the creating of the sun, moon, and stars, which are here accounted for, not as they are in themselves and in their own nature, to satisfy the curious, but as they are in relation to this earth, to which they serve as lights; and this is enough to furnish us with matter for praise and thanksgiving. Holy Job mentions this as an instance of the glorious power of God, that by the Spirit he hath garnished the heavens (Job 26:13); and here we have an account of that garniture which is not only so much the beauty of the upper world, but so much the blessing of this lower; for though heaven is high, yet has it respect to this earth, and therefore should have respect from it. Of the creation of the lights of heaven we have an account,

I. In general, Gen 1:14, Gen 1:15, where we have 1. The command given concerning them: Let there be lights in the firmament of heaven. God had said, Let there be light (Gen 1:3), and there was light; but this was, as it were, a chaos of light, scattered and confused: now it was collected and modelled, and made into several luminaries, and so rendered both more glorious and more serviceable. God is the God of order, and not of confusion; and, as he is light, so he is the Father and former of lights. Those lights were to be in the firmament of heaven, that vast expanse which encloses the earth, and is conspicuous to all; for no man, when he has lighted a candle, puts it under a bushel, but on a candlestick (Luk 8:16), and a stately golden candlestick the firmament of heaven is, from which these candles give light to all that are in the house. The firmament itself is spoken of as having a brightness of its own (Dan 12:3), but this was not sufficient to give light to the earth; and perhaps for this reason it is not expressly said of the second day’s work, in which the firmament was made, that it was good, because, till it was adorned with these lights on the fourth day, it had not become serviceable to man. 2. The use they were intended to be of to this earth. (1.) They must be for the distinction of times, of day and night, summer and winter, which are interchanged by the motion of the sun, whose rising makes day, his setting night, his approach towards our tropic summer, his recess to the other winter: and thus, under the sun, there is a season to every purpose, Ecc 3:1. (2.) They must be for the direction of actions. They are for signs of the change of weather, that the husbandman may order his affairs with discretion, foreseeing, by the face of the sky, when second causes have begun to work, whether it will be fair or foul, Mat 16:2, Mat 16:3. They do also give light upon the earth, that we may walk (Joh 11:9), and work (Joh 9:4), according as the duty of every day requires. The lights of heaven do not shine for themselves, nor for the world of spirits above, who need them not; but they shine for us, for our pleasure and advantage. Lord, what is man, that he should be thus regarded! Psa 8:3, Psa 8:4. How ungrateful and inexcusable are we, if, when God has set up these lights for us to work by, we sleep, or play, or trifle away the time of business, and neglect the great work we were sent into the world about! The lights of heaven are made to serve us, and they do it faithfully, and shine in their season, without fail: but we are set as lights in this world to serve God; and do we in like manner answer the end of our creation? No, we do not, our light does not shine before God as his lights shine before us, Mat 5:14. We burn our Master’s candles, but do not mind our Master’s work.

II. In particular, Gen 1:16-18.

1. Observe, The lights of heaven are the sun, moon, and stars; and all these are the work of God’s hands. (1.) The sun is the greatest light of all, more than a million times greater than the earth, and the most glorious and useful of all the lamps of heaven, a noble instance of the Creator’s wisdom, power, and goodness, and an invaluable blessing to the creatures of this lower world. Let us learn from Psa 19:1-6 how to give unto God the glory due unto his name, as the Maker of the sun. (2.) The moon is a less light, and yet is here reckoned one of the greater lights, because though, in regard to its magnitude and borrowed light, it is inferior to many of the stars, yet, by virtue of its office, as ruler of the night, and in respect of its usefulness to the earth, it is more excellent than they. Those are most valuable that are most serviceable; and those are the greater lights, not that have the best gifts, but that humbly and faithfully do the most good with them. Whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister, Mat 20:26. (3.) He made the stars also, which are here spoken of as they appear to vulgar eyes, without distinguishing between the planets and the fixed stars, or accounting for their number, nature, place, magnitude, motions, or influences; for the scriptures were written, not to gratify our curiosity and make us astronomers, but to lead us to God, and make us saints. Now these lights are said to rule (Gen 1:16, Gen 1:18); not that they have a supreme dominion, as God has, but they are deputy-governors, rulers under him. Here the less light, the moon, is said to rule the night; but in Psa 136:9 the stars are mentioned as sharers in that government; The moon and stars to rule by night. No more is meant than that they give light, Jer 31:35. The best and most honourable way of ruling is by giving light and doing good: those command respect that live a useful life, and so shine as lights.

2. Learn from all this, (1.) The sin and folly of that ancient idolatry, the worshipping of the sun, moon, and stars, which, some think, took rise, or countenance at least, from some broken traditions in the patriarchal age concerning the rule and dominion of the lights of heaven. But the account here given of them plainly shows that they are both God’s creatures and man’s servants; and therefore it is both a great affront to God and a great reproach to ourselves to make deities of them and give them divine honours. See Deu 4:19. (2.) The duty and wisdom of daily worshipping that God who made all these things, and made them to be that to us which they are. The revolutions of the day and night oblige us to offer the solemn sacrifice of prayer and praise every morning and evening.

Genesis 1:20-23

Each day, hitherto, has produced very noble and excellent beings, which we can never sufficiently admire; but we do not read of the creation of any living creature till the fifth day, of which these verses give us an account. The work of creation not only proceeded gradually from one thing to another, but rose and advanced gradually from that which was less excellent to that which was more so, teaching us to press towards perfection and endeavour that our last works may be our best works. It was on the fifth day that the fish and fowl were created, and both out of the waters. Though there is one kind of flesh of fishes, and another of birds, yet they were made together, and both out of the waters; for the power of the first Cause can produce very different effects from the same second causes. Observe, 1. The making of the fish and fowl, at first, Gen 1:20, Gen 1:21. God commanded them to be produced. He said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly; not as if the waters had any productive power of their own, but, “Let them be brought into being, the fish in the waters and the fowl out of them.” This command he himself executed: God created great whales, etc. Insects, which perhaps are as various and as numerous as any species of animals, and their structure as curious, were part of this day’s work, some of them being allied to the fish and others to the fowl. Mr. Boyle (I remember) says he admires the Creator’s wisdom and power as much in an ant as in an elephant. Notice is here taken of the various sorts of fish and fowl, each after their kind, and of the great numbers of both that were produced, for the waters brought forth abundantly; and particular mention if made of great whales, the largest of fishes, whose bulk and strength, exceeding that of any other animal, are remarkable proofs of the power and greatness of the Creator. The express notice here taken of the whale, above all the rest, seems sufficient to determine what animal is meant by the Leviathan, Job 41:1. The curious formation of the bodies of animals, their different sizes, shapes, and natures, with the admirable powers of the sensitive life with which they are endued, when duly considered, serve, not only to silence and shame the objections of atheists and infidels, but to raise high thoughts and high praises of God in pious and devout souls, Psa 104:25, etc. 2. The blessing of them, in order to their continuance. Life is a wasting thing. Its strength is not the strength of stones. It is a candle that will burn out, if it be not first blown out; and therefore the wise Creator not only made the individuals, but provided for the propagation of the several kinds; God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful and multiply, Gen 1:22. God will bless his own works, and not forsake them; and what he does shall be for a perpetuity, Ecc 3:14. The power of God’s providence preserves all things, as at first his creating power produced them. Fruitfulness is the effect of God’s blessing and must be ascribed to it; the multiplying of the fish and fowl, from year to year, is still the fruit of this blessing. Well, let us give to God the glory of the continuance of these creatures to this day for the benefit of man. See Job 12:7, Job 12:9. It is a pity that fishing and fowling, recreations innocent in themselves, should ever be abused to divert any from God and their duty, while they are capable of being improved to lead us to the contemplation of the wisdom, power, and goodness, of him that made all these things, and to engage us to stand in awe of him, as the fish and fowl do of us.

Genesis 1:24-25

We have here the first part of the sixth day’s work. The sea was, the day before, replenished with its fish, and the air with its fowl; and this day were made the beasts of the earth, the cattle, and the creeping things that pertain to the earth. Here, as before, 1. The Lord gave the word; he said, Let the earth bring forth, not as if the earth had any such prolific virtue as to produce these animals, or as if God resigned his creating power to it; but, “Let these creatures now come into being upon the earth, and out of it, in their respective kinds, conformable to the ideas of them in the divine counsels concerning their creation.” 2. He also did the work; he made them all after their kind, not only of divers shapes, but of divers natures, manners, food, and fashions – some to be tame about the house, others to be wild in the fields – some living upon grass and herbs, others upon flesh – some harmless, and others ravenous – some bold, and others timorous – some for man’s service, and not his sustenance, as the horse – others for his sustenance, and not his service, as the sheep – others for both, as the ox – and some for neither, as the wild beasts. In all this appears the manifold wisdom of the Creator.

Genesis 1:26-28

We have here the second part of the sixth day’s work, the creation of man, which we are, in a special manner, concerned to take notice of, that we may know ourselves. Observe,

I. That man was made last of all the creatures, that it might not be suspected that he had been, any way, a helper to God in the creation of the world: that question must be for ever humbling and mortifying to him, Where wast thou, or any of thy kind, when I laid the foundations of the earth? Job 38:4. Yet it was both an honour and a favour to him that he was made last: an honour, for the method of the creation was to advance from that which was less perfect to that which was more so; and a favour, for it was not fit he should be lodged in the palace designed for him till it was completely fitted up and furnished for his reception. Man, as soon as he was made, had the whole visible creation before him, both to contemplate and to take the comfort of. Man was made the same day that the beasts were, because his body was made of the same earth with theirs; and, while he is in the body, he inhabits the same earth with them. God forbid that by indulging the body and the desires of it we should make ourselves like the beasts that perish!

II. That man’s creation was a more signal and immediate act of divine wisdom and power than that of the other creatures. The narrative of it is introduced with something of solemnity, and a manifest distinction from the rest. Hitherto, it had been said, “Let there be light,” and “Let there be a firmament,” and “Let the earth, or waters, bring forth” such a thing; but now the word of command is turned into a word of consultation, “Let us make man, for whose sake the rest of the creatures were made: this is a work we must take into our own hands.” In the former he speaks as one having authority, in this as one having affection; for his delights were with the sons of men, Pro 8:31. It should seem as if this were the work which he longed to be at; as if he had said, “Having at last settled the preliminaries, let us now apply ourselves to the business, Let us make man.” Man was to be a creature different from all that had been hitherto made. Flesh and spirit, heaven and earth, must be put together in him, and he must be allied to both worlds. And therefore God himself not only undertakes to make him, but is pleased so to express himself as if he called a council to consider of the making of him: Let us make man. The three persons of the Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, consult about it and concur in it, because man, when he was made, was to be dedicated and devoted to Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Into that great name we are, with good reason, baptized, for to that great name we owe our being. Let him rule man who said, Let us make man.

III. That man was made in God’s image and after his likeness, two words to express the same thing and making each other the more expressive; image and likeness denote the likest image, the nearest resemblance of any of the visible creatures. Man was not made in the likeness of any creature that went before him, but in the likeness of his Creator; yet still between God and man there is an infinite distance. Christ only is the express image of God’s person, as the Son of his Father, having the same nature. It is only some of God’s honour that is put upon man, who is God’s image only as the shadow in the glass, or the king’s impress upon the coin. God’s image upon man consists in these three things: – 1. In his nature and constitution, not those of his body (for God has not a body), but those of his soul. This honour indeed God has put upon the body of man, that the Word was made flesh, the Son of God was clothed with a body like ours and will shortly clothe ours with a glory like that of his. And this we may safely say, That he by whom God made the worlds, not only the great world, but man the little world, formed the human body, at the first, according to the platform he designed for himself in the fulness of time. But it is the soul, the great soul, of man, that does especially bear God’s image. The soul is a spirit, an intelligent immortal spirit, an influencing active spirit, herein resembling God, the Father of Spirits, and the soul of the world. The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord. The soul of man, considered in its three noble faculties, understanding, will, and active power, is perhaps the brightest clearest looking-glass in nature, wherein to see God. 2. In his place and authority: Let us make man in our image, and let him have dominion. As he has the government of the inferior creatures, he is, as it were, God’s representative, or viceroy, upon earth; they are not capable of fearing and serving God, therefore God has appointed them to fear and serve man. Yet his government of himself by the freedom of his will has in it more of God’s image than his government of the creatures. 3. In his purity and rectitude. God’s image upon man consists in knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness, Eph 4:24; Col 3:10. He was upright, Ecc 7:29. He had an habitual conformity of all his natural powers to the whole will of God. His understanding saw divine things clearly and truly, and there were no errors nor mistakes in his knowledge. His will complied readily and universally with the will of God, without reluctancy or resistance. His affections were all regular, and he had no inordinate appetites or passions. His thoughts were easily brought and fixed to the best subjects, and there was no vanity nor ungovernableness in them. All the inferior powers were subject to the dictates and directions of the superior, without any mutiny or rebellion. Thus holy, thus happy, were our first parents, in having the image of God upon them. And this honour, put upon man at first, is a good reason why we should not speak ill one of another (Jas 3:9), nor do ill one to another (Gen 9:6), and a good reason why we should not debase ourselves to the service of sin, and why we should devote ourselves to God’s service. But how art thou fallen, O son of the morning! How is this image of God upon man defaced! How small are the remains of it, and how great the ruins of it! The Lord renew it upon our souls by his sanctifying grace!

IV. That man was made male and female, and blessed with the blessing of fruitfulness and increase. God said, Let us make man, and immediately it follows, So God created man; he performed what he resolved. With us saying and doing are two things; but they are not so with God. He created him male and female, Adam and Eve – Adam first, out of earth, and Eve out of his side, ch. 2. It should seem that of the rest of the creatures God made many couples, but of man did not he make one? (Mal 2:15), though he had the residue of the Spirit, whence Christ gathers an argument against divorce, Mat 19:4, Mat 19:5. Our first father, Adam, was confined to one wife; and, if he had put her away, there was no other for him to marry, which plainly intimated that the bond of marriage was not to be dissolved at pleasure. Angels were not made male and female, for they were not to propagate their kind (Luk 20:34-36); but man was made so, that the nature might be propagated and the race continued. Fires and candles, the luminaries of this lower world, because they waste, and go out, have a power to light more; but it is not so with the lights of heaven: stars do not kindle stars. God made but one male and one female, that all the nations of men might know themselves to be made of one blood, descendants from one common stock, and might thereby be induced to love one another. God, having made them capable of transmitting the nature they had received, said to them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth. Here he gave them, 1. A large inheritance: Replenish the earth; it is this that is bestowed upon the children of men. They were made to dwell upon the face of all the earth, Act 17:26. This is the place in which God has set man to be the servant of his providence in the government of the inferior creatures, and, as it were, the intelligence of this orb; to be the receiver of God’s bounty, which other creatures live upon, but do not know it; to be likewise the collector of his praises in this lower world, and to pay them into the exchequer above (Psa 145:10); and, lastly, to be a probationer for a better state. 2. A numerous lasting family, to enjoy this inheritance, pronouncing a blessing upon them, in virtue of which their posterity should extend to the utmost corners of the earth and continue to the utmost period of time. Fruitfulness and increase depend upon the blessing of God: Obed-edom had eight sons, for God blessed him, 1Ch 26:5. It is owing to this blessing, which God commanded at first, that the race of mankind is still in being, and that as one generation passeth away another cometh.

V. That God gave to man, when he had made him, a dominion over the inferior creatures, over the fish of the sea and over the fowl of the air. Though man provides for neither, he has power over both, much more over every living thing that moveth upon the earth, which are more under his care and within his reach. God designed hereby to put an honour upon man, that he might find himself the more strongly obliged to bring honour to his Maker. This dominion is very much diminished and lost by the fall; yet God’s providence continues so much of it to the children of men as is necessary to the safety and support of their lives, and God’s grace has given to the saints a new and better title to the creature than that which was forfeited by sin; for all is ours if we are Christ’s, 1Co 3:22.

Genesis 1:29-30

We have here the third part of the sixth day’s work, which was not any new creation, but a gracious provision of food for all flesh, Psa 136:25. He that made man and beast thus took care to preserve both, Psa 36:6. Here is,

I. Food provided for man, Gen 1:29. Herbs and fruits must be his meat, including corn and all the products of the earth; these were allowed him, but (it should seem) not flesh, till after the flood, Gen 9:3. And before the earth was deluged, much more before it was cursed for man’s sake, its fruits, no doubt, were more pleasing to the taste and more strengthening and nourishing to the body than marrow and fatness, and all the portion of the king’s meat, are now. See here, 1. That which should make us humble. As we were made out of the earth, so we are maintained out of it. Once indeed men did eat angels’ food, bread from heaven; but they died (Joh 6:49); it was to them but as food out of the earth, Psa 104:14. There is meat that endures to everlasting life; the Lord evermore give us this. 2. That which should make us thankful. The Lord is for the body; from him we receive all the supports and comforts of this life, and to him we must give thanks. He gives us all things richly to enjoy, not only for necessity, but plenty, plenty, dainties, and varieties, for ornament and delight. How much are we indebted! How careful should we be, as we live upon God’s bounty, to live to his glory! 3. That which should make us temperate and content with our lot. Though Adam had dominion given him over fish and fowl, yet God confined him, in his food, to herbs and fruits; and he never complained of it. Though afterwards he coveted forbidden fruit, for the sake of the wisdom and knowledge he promised himself from it, yet we never read that he coveted forbidden flesh. If God give us food for our lives, let us not, with murmuring Israel, ask food for our lusts, Psa 78:18; see Dan 1:15.

II. Food provided for the beasts, Gen 1:30. Doth God take care for oxen? Yes, certainly, he provides food convenient for them, and not for oxen only, which were used in his sacrifices and man’s service, but even the young lions and the young ravens are the care of his providence; they ask and have their meat from God. Let us give to God the glory of his bounty to the inferior creatures, that all are fed, as it were, at his table, every day. He is a great housekeeper, a very rich and bountiful one, that satisfies the desire of every living thing. Let this encourage God’s people to cast their care upon him, and not to be solicitous respecting what they shall eat and what they shall drink. He that provided for Adam without his care, and still provides for all the creatures without their care, will not let those that trust him want any good thing, Mat 6:26. He that feeds his birds will not starve his babes.

Genesis 1:31

We have here the approbation and conclusion of the whole work of creation. As for God, his work is perfect; and if he begin he will also make an end, in providence and grace, as well as here in creation. Observe,

I. The review God took of his work: He saw every thing that he had made. So he does still; all the works of his hands are under his eye. He that made all sees all; he that made us sees us, Ps. 139:1-16. Omniscience cannot be separated from omnipotence. Known unto God are all his works, Act 15:18. But this was the Eternal Mind’s solemn reflection upon the copies of its own wisdom and the products of its own power. God has hereby set us an example of reviewing our works. Having given us a power of reflection, he expects we should use that power, see our way (Jer 2:23), and think of it, Psa 119:59. When we have finished a day’s work, and are entering upon the rest of the night, we should commune with our own hearts about what we have been doing that day; so likewise when we have finished a week’s work, and are entering upon the sabbath-rest, we should thus prepare to meet our God; and when we are finishing our life’s work, and are entering upon our rest in the grave, that is a time to bring to remembrance, that we may die repenting, and so take leave of it.

II. The complacency God took in his work. When we come to review our works we find, to our shame, that much has been very bad; but, when God reviewed his, all was very good. He did not pronounce it good till he had seen it so, to teach us not to answer a matter before we hear it. The work of creation was a very good work. All that God made was well-made, and there was no flaw nor defect in it. 1. It was good. Good, for it is all agreeable to the mind of the Creator, just as he would have it to be; when the transcript came to be compared with the great original, it was found to be exact, no errata in it, not one misplaced stroke. Good, for it answers the end of its creation, and is fit for the purpose for which it was designed. Good, for it is serviceable to man, whom God had appointed lord of the visible creation. Good, for it is all for God’s glory; there is that in the whole visible creation which is a demonstration of God’s being and perfections, and which tends to beget, in the soul of man, a religious regard to him and veneration of him. 2. It was very good. Of each day’s work (except the second) it was said that it was good, but now, it is very good. For, (1.) Now man was made, who was the chief of the ways of God, who was designed to be the visible image of the Creator’s glory and the mouth of the creation in his praises. (2.) Now all was made; every part was good, but all together very good. The glory and goodness, the beauty and harmony, of God’s works, both of providence and grace, as this of creation, will best appear when they are perfected. When the top-stone is brought forth we shall cry, Grace, grace, unto it, Zec 4:7. Therefore judge nothing before the time.

III. The time when this work was concluded: The evening and the morning were the sixth day; so that in six days God made the world. We are not to think but that God could have made the world in an instant. He said that, Let there be light, and there was light, could have said, “Let there be a world,” and there would have been a world, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, as at the resurrection, 1Co 15:52. But he did it in six days, that he might show himself a free-agent, doing his own work both in his own way and in his own time, – that his wisdom, power, and goodness, might appear to us, and be meditated upon by us, the more distinctly, – and that he might set us an example of working six days and resting the seventh; it is therefore made the reason of the fourth commandment. So much would the sabbath conduce to the keeping up of religion in the world that God had an eye to it in the timing of his creation. And now, as God reviewed his work, let us review our meditations upon it, and we shall find them very lame and defective, and our praises low and flat; let us therefore stir up ourselves, and all that is within us, to worship him that made the heaven, earth, and sea, and the fountains of waters, according to the tenour of the everlasting gospel, which is preached to every nation, Rev 14:6, Rev 14:7. All his works, in all places of his dominion, do bless him; and, therefore, bless thou the Lord, O my soul!

John Blair (1719-1771): Observations on Regeneration

Observations on Regeneration

by

John Blair (1719-1771)

Copyright: Public Domain

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Observations on Regeneration

As no truth is more interesting and important, so none has been more frequently and fully treated in a practical view, by pious writers, than the doctrine of regeneration. Many have, in this way, very excellently and largely described the happy change, which, by virtue of the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit, takes place in the whole man. I have therefore no design at present to enter upon a full consideration of the subject, but shall only beg leave to make a few very brief observations; some of which have not been so particularly considered in practical treatises, but yet perhaps, may be of some use to assist in the right apprehension of, and tend to prevent mistakes about a doctrine, which lies so much at the foundation of all true religion.

Observation 1. Regeneration is the communication of a principle of spiritual life to the soul of a sinner, naturally dead in trespasses and sins, by the agency of the Holy Spirit.

I call it a principle, not only because it is a beginning of spiritual life, but especially, because it denotes a settled determination of the mind, to right activity towards spiritual objects, under a moral consideration of them, whence results every right exercise of heart about divine things. It is the determination of the soul to a holy activity about God and divine things, or to such a kind of action, not from the impulsion of an external force, but an internal active principle, and therefore is justly called life—life of the most excellent kind. It is the life of life.*

But as our apostasy from God has fixed in us, by nature, a very contrary determination, to a course of sinful action, therefore, while that continues (which will be till some power subdues it), there can be no tendency in the soul to an holy temper. The power of the soul to any activity lies formally in the will. Hence its whole power, by nature, is to sin, and to reject God. For “the carnal mind is enmity against God.” Rom. viii. 7. Consequently some other power must be exerted in order to break this evil determination, and reduce the rebellious creature to a right temper. And that must be a power that has dominion over the will. This new determination, therefore, is from the almighty agency of the Holy Spirit; it is he that communicates this new principle of life. Accordingly, it is everywhere ascribed to him in scripture. (John iii. 3-5, John vi. 63, Tit. iii. 5).

Observation 2. This principle of spiritual life and the manner of its communication are not immediately in themselves perceptible.

As Adam did not perceive when God breathed into his nostrils the breath of natural life, but perceived its existence and nature from its activity and effects, so the existence and nature of spiritual life are known only by the experience the Christian has of its exercise and efficacy. In this view our Lord observes, “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh nor whither it goeth; so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” John iii. 8. There are, indeed, those who greatly abuse this passage, thence flattering themselves that they may be the subjects of regeneration, without perceiving any great change in their hearts and lives. But this is not only foreign to the sense of the place, but contradictory to it, for the wind is very sensibly perceived. The design of our Lord seems to be to remove the surprise of Nicodemus at the mysteriousness of the doctrine, by showing him it is a supernatural work performed by the Holy Spirit, as a gracious Sovereign, to which the sinner himself is so far from contributing anything, that he is not so much as sensible of the article of communication, nor perceives the manner of the Holy Spirit’s operation; q. d. there are mysteries in nature which you cannot account for. You cannot immediately perceive the origin of the wind, nor account for its ceasing when once in motion, or perceive the reason why it continually, and often very suddenly, changes its direction. You hear the sound and feel the effects, but it is only by observations on these sensations, either made by yourself, or suggested by others, that you can infer any conclusions about its nature or causes. Why then should you be surprised to find mysteries in the manner of divine operations, when performing works of grace? In this new birth, a man can only perceive the exercises of divine life in his heart, and by scriptural observations on these, infer what sort of life he lives, or form conclusions about its nature and principle. For any one, therefore, to pretend to tell what the principle of divine life is, antecedent to all exercises of life in the heart, and undertake from thence to demonstrate and explain those exercises, is a vain attempt. When he distinguishes this life from all its exercises, and goes about to tell us what it is antecedent to them all, he must talk in the dark about a certain something, of which he has no idea. To give it a name, to call it, for instance, a new temper or taste, is not to tell us what it is. Let any man explain what he means by a new or holy temper, without including some exercises of life in heart, if he can.

Observation 3. Regeneration and conversion, strictly taken, are not distinct things; but these different denominations express the same thing under different views. I say conversion strictly taken; for largely taken, it includes the first exercises of the several graces of the Holy Spirit which are but the various modifications of the same principle of spiritual life, such as a justifying faith, hope, joy, zeal, sorrow for sin, &c. From which, regeneration (though the term is often also used in the same latitude, yet) is so distinct in a strict sense, as to be altogether antecedent, not only in the order of nature, but of time too. But strictly taken, conversion is the actual submission or turning of a soul to God in the most simple motion of it. This may be, perhaps, in the soul’s submitting itself into the hands of divine sovereignty, a most fitly having a right to do with him as he pleases, or in a supreme regard to God as a most glorious Being and rightful Lord. Now this, when considered as the effect of the Holy Spirit’s agency, enabling or causing the soul to turn to God, is called regeneration; but when considered as an activity essential to spiritual life, and formally as the soul’s act, is called conversion; but these are only different views and respects of the same thing. For regeneration undoubtedly denotes a moral effect produced by the Spirit of God. But this effect which he produced, is the soul’s turning to God. Surely, nothing short of this can be called the new birth. Regeneration is the implantation of holiness in the heart. Now, certainly, there can be no real holiness without turning to God; the soul that has not turned to God is still, without controversy, unregenerate. Hence it follows,

Observation 4. That this principle wrought in the soul in regeneration is not something antecedent to every act and exercise of holiness, but includes in it, or is a first act or exercise of holiness, of the same nature with all the exercises of holiness that follow after through the course of life.

To cause life, is to cause action; for activity is essential to the idea of life. When the Holy Spirit regenerates a sinner, he communicates an active principle, otherwise it were not life. But to talk of an active principle existing in the soul absolutely without action, would be a contradiction; now this action must be cleaving to God. Hence arises,

Observation 5. Viz: that this principle of spiritual life consists in, or includes some new view of the mind, and determination or approbation of the will. This must be the case, because it is a moral principle; otherwise it would not be the principle of a course of oral action. When therefore a principle of spiritual life is implanted, a moral effect is produced; but that effect which includes no acts of the understanding and will, but is absolutely antecedent to them, must be a mere physical, and not a moral effect, and then to regenerate would be to create in a physical, not a moral sense.

I think the sacred scriptures set the matter in the same light with the above observations. Sometimes this happy change is expressed by the term “light.” “Ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord.” Eph. v. 8. Sometimes it is represented under the notion of being made willing. “Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power.” Ps. cx. 3. Either of these expressions includes the other. Thus when the regenerate are called light, the matter is not confined to the understanding only, but includes the approbation of the will, and to be willing, certainly includes the view of the understanding; for there can be no act of the will without it; sometimes both are set in view together, as: “To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God.” Acts xxvi. 18. Certainly to open the eyes and turn from darkness to light is to enlighten the understanding; and to turn to God is the act of the will. To the same purpose is, “For God hath shined into our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” 2 Cor. iv. 6. To see the glory of God must include both the view of the understanding, and the approbation of the will. It is no objection to this, to say, these scriptures speak of this change largely taken. For admitting that, yet it is not by way of contradistinction from, or exclusive of, the first instance; but the first existence of life comes under the same predicament. Thus they, who were sometimes darkness, are not said to be enlightened only, but to be light. God, in the new creation, shines into the heart, in a manner analogous to his shining in the natural world, when he created light in it. It is very easy to say, that in regeneration, a holy temper is produced whence this knowledge and volition arises; but perhaps it would not be so easy to tell, in that connection, what we are to understand by that temper. Surely we are not to conceive of a moral, in the same manner as of a natural temper. In the latter, we take into the consideration such a certain, yet various construction of the human frame, as is apt to produce such and such passions, and feelings of nature. Now if we have any idea of the former, any thing like this, we must then consider it only as a new faculty created in the soul, which has nothing moral in it, any more than the understanding or will considered as natural faculties. But if we conceive of it as a moral determination of the soul towards God, then we must consider it as including some apprehension of God in the understanding, and an act of the will embracing him, which brings the matter to what I have said. Thus, we are, as it were, insensibly led to some apprehension of what this divine principle is, or wherein it consists, though we cannot comprehend the manner of the Holy Spirit’s operation in producing it, or explain how it exists. It is an experimental, practical knowledge of God, or it is a new view of the infinite perfections of God, with the approbation of them in the will as most excellent; or, which is indeed the same thing under its proper denomination, it is a supreme love to God. Supreme love to God is the very essence of true religion; hence it is called “the fulfilling of the law.” Rom. xiii. 10. Our Lord mentions love to God and our neighbour, as the sum and substance of the whole law. Matt. xxii. 37-40. No action can be called true obedience, if it do not flow from love to God, and every exercise of true grace may be reduced to this as its principle.

Observation 6. The Holy Spirit makes use of the word of God as a means in the work of regeneration, which he renders irresistibly efficacious for that purpose. I am far from thinking with the Arminians, that the only influence of the Holy Spirit in this matter lies in what they call moral suasion; that is, as I understand it, the Holy Spirit having set before us the arguments and motives of the gospel in the word, both by his providence and an influence upon the mind, excites its attention to these things, and assists the natural faculties in weighing those arguments and motives, and thus strives to persuade the sinner to a compliance with gospel overtures, but still leaves it with himself to yield to or reject those arguments by a sovereign act of his own will. According to this, it is only an objective light that is set before the mind, as contained in the word; a representation of objects, as yet at a distance, of which the mind has no knowledge, but by the report and description of the word; and, perhaps, the most, if not all the light, which is usually called common illumination, may be obtained this way.

Nor can I agree with some, even eminent Calvinistic divines, that there is only a gradual difference between common and saving illumination. I believe there is a specific difference; there is in regeneration a subjective light created in the soul, which, though it is the knowledge of a glorious object presented to the mind, yet may fitly be called subjective in respect of the manner of its communication, as contradistinguished from, though not opposed to, the mere objective light of the word before described. It is an immediate intuitive sense or knowledge of the moral perfections and character of God, not gained by way of conclusion from premises, or by argumentation, but arising from the approach of God to the soul by the way of gracious presence. He thus takes possession of the heart, and fills it with a sense of himself by his presence in a peculiar manner. And this is a way of knowing, very different from that received merely by description and report of the word, and, therefore, a different kind of knowledge, viz: by way of spiritual sense and experience. Though we cannot perceive or experience the manner of the divine presence or access to the soul, yet the fact is abundantly witnessed by the experience of God’s people. Notwithstanding they have an habitual spiritual knowledge of God and divine truth, yet, at one season, they are distressed with darkness, and cannot get any proper views of God; at another, they shall be full of light, and astonished with the view of divine glory: now, what is the reason of this last difference? Surely, not from any difference in the objective light of the word, or their capacity to meditate upon it. But the reason of it is, the absence of God in the one case, and his glorious presence in the other; therefore, their first such knowledge of God was from such an approach to the soul, or divine presence in it. And for the reality of the experience of God’s people, I refer to the account the sacred scriptures give us sometimes of their bitter complaints of God’s hiding himself, and panting for him as the hart for the water-brooks; at other times, at their rejoicing in his beauty and glory, with which they are, as it were, transported; and I think these words of Job, “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee,” (Job xiii. 5) fully justify this distinction of objective and subjective knowledge. For admit that the design of the word is to represent the very lively views he had of the divine excellency, so that, comparatively speaking, all his former, even experimental views were but like report; yet by a parity of reason, there is a vast difference between experience in the lowest degree and report; and he goes upon this principle, that report, or by the hearing of the ear, is a very languid and imperfect way of knowing, compared with sight and intimate acquaintance. These are very different kinds of knowledge; as different as the knowledge a man has of a country from an historical account and map of it, or the report of travelers, and that he has from travelling through, and seeing it himself. Thus then, by this presence of God in the soul, it has a knowledge of him, which it could not possibly have without it, by the most animated descriptions and representations of the word. It was thus, even innocent Adam knew the moral character and excellency of God, not only by objective evidence from without, but also by subjective evidence from his experience of the divine presence.

But all this does not exclude moral influence by way of argument, the argument contained in the word; but rather accounts for their irresistible efficacy. Though mere moral suasion will not do the business, yet it is not excluded; it is a moral effect that is to be produced; therefore, it is natural enough to expect that the power producing it should be exerted in a moral way; and, consequently, a moral mean with great propriety be admitted.

That this matter may be better apprehended, I beg leave to observe, that the blessed God must be exhibited to the mind as an object of contemplation, in order to any act of the will towards him. The will approves him as most fit and worthy to be chosen, which must be founded upon the contemplation of him in the mind. Length of time is not, indeed, necessary for this purpose. The operations of the mind are very quick. Were we to suppose an adult, who had no opportunity of the word, to be regenerated, no doubt a reflection upon his own intuitive perceptions would exhibit the blessed God to the mind, as an object of contemplation. For it is absurd to suppose a new heart to exist in an adult person without any ideas of God and divine things in the understanding; for that is to suppose a person regenerated, and yet altogether ignorant of God; to turn to God without any knowledge of him, which I think is a contradiction, and the same thing as to say a man is changed without any alteration. The thief on the cross seems to be an instance to the contrary; though he lived in the land of Judea, and had opportunity of the word of God, it is not probable a man of his abandoned character sought any considerable acquaintance with it; yet his speech to his fellow-criminal, and his address to Jesus Christ, showed very considerable discoveries of God, and the character of his Saviour.

But let it be considered, that with respect to sinners who live under the means of grace, and enjoy the word of God, though, by reason of their estrangement from God, they have no proper views of divine truths, yet their understandings are possessed of some general speculative knowledge of them. Yea, convinced sinners have more; they have such an experimental knowledge of the law convincing them of sin, as is effectual to arouse them out of their fatal security, and confute their false notions, and awaken them to a very solemn attention to the word of God. Now in regeneration, the intuitive views impressed on the mind by the divine presence, are exactly the same with the descriptions and delineations of the divine character in the word. The mind therefore, instead of reflecting immediately upon its own perceptions, looks forward to the word. Now the man’s eyes are opened, and he understands the scripture in a manner he never could before. There he sees this glorious object represented as in a glass; from thence the reflection is so strong and lively as irresistibly, though in a moral way, to determine the will; for surely it is very apprehensible that the views of the mind may be so experimental, strong and full of evidence, that it is impossible for a rational being to withold the approbation and consent of the will; and thus this divine temper is formed in the heart. In this point of light, I think the apostle sets the matter, “But we all with open face, beholding, as in a glass, the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” 2 Cor. iii. 18. Though these words comprehend the gradual perfecting the image of God, in the progress of the work of grace; yet, certainly, the first step of the process is in the same way with all the subsequent, in the whole series. Nor does the use of the glass at all derogate from the efficacy of the Spirit, in causing and conducting this whole matter. And indeed there is as really an immediate agency of the Spirit upon the soul, in every progressive perfecting of the image of God, and every instance of the quickening grace in believers, (when yet the concurring instrumentality of the word, notwithstanding, is acknowledged,) as there is in the first begetting of the divine life.

Here I would take notice, how very different this view of divine illumination is from the wild conceits of enthusiasts. Their pretended extraordinary discoveries and inspirations consist in unaccountable impulses without the word, the warm flights of imagination, and agitation of their passions; in all this they either have no reference to the word of God, but rather set light by it in comparison of their own great light; or else in pretending to the word, put inconsistent, ridiculous constructions upon it. But these intuitive views of God, I mentioned as primarily arising from his presence in the soul, are but the impression of such truths as the word of God describes; they lead to the scriptures, and give a rational, consistent view of them; this light is tried and judged by the word of God. “To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” Isa. viii. 20.

I cannot but think the instrumentality of the word in regeneration, in the view I have given of it, is once and again asserted in the sacred scriptures; thus, “being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God which liveth and abideth for ever.” 1 Pet. i. 23. The word, here rendered “born again,” is the same which is used John iii. 3, of which new birth the word is declared to be an instrument or mean. In the same view, the same apostle tells the Christians to whom he wrote, that “by great and precious promises, they were made partakers of the divine nature;” (2 Pet. i. 4) and to be made partakers of the divine nature is to be regenerated. Another passage is, “Of his own will begat he us with (or by) the word of truth.” James i. 18. The word here used cannot with any propriety, I think, be understood of any thing else than the first infusion or begetting of spiritual life. When this is said to be done with or by the word, it must intend that it is used as an instrument or mean: in this view this blessed change is expressed by “putting God’s law in the inward parts, and writing it in the heart.” Jer. xxxi. 33.

Doubtless the Holy Spirit could as easily accomplish this great work without using any means; yet, as it appears very plain he has chosen to do otherwise, we may not only suppose, but readily see, great propriety in his making use of the word in this matter. This change is to be tried and judged of by the word; therefore, must answer to the descriptions and characters there given, as the impression on the wax answers to the characters of the seal. The views of God in the mind must be such as exactly agree to the descriptions and representations of him in the word. It was, consequently, very fit that these characters of the word should be impressed upon the soul, as a medium of determining the will in regeneration.

When the Holy Spirit takes the sinner in hand, in order to bring him home to God, the first step he ordinarily takes is to convince him of sin, confute his false notions, and slay his legal hopes; in this he makes use of the law as a mean, as all acknowledge. Yet in order to this effectual access of the law to the conscience, there is as really an immediate exertion of power and influence upon the soul, as there is also in regeneration; and though this conviction does not make the sinner more worthy of the grace of God, yet the great design of it is to prepare the way for the opening of divine truths upon the mind, with the brighter evidence, in its passing this saving change; which reflects the image of this glory upon the beholding soul, and determines the will. (2 Cor. iii. 18, Ps. cx. 3)

Observation 7. From this new view of the mind, and determination of the will, or supreme regard to God, result the various exercises of heart, which are called the graces of the Holy Spirit, and distinguished by particular names, as their proper principle.

From this view of the divine character in the enlightened mind, naturally arises a discovery of the necessity of Christ’s satisfaction to divine justice, and the fitness and glory of that way of reconciliation with God; hence faith in Christ. The plan of mercy still more illustrates the glory of the divine character, for it shines in the face of Jesus Christ; by these views of faith, spiritual affections are excited, sorrow for, and hatred against sin raised; hence an habitual watchfulness against sin and opposition to it, and delight in the service of God; and all this infers a great and permanent change in the whole course of life and action; but practical writers have abundantly explained and described these things, to whom I refer my readers, and shall insist no further upon them here.

I therefore conclude with this general remark, viz: that it is of vastly more importance and concernment of us, to inquire into the reality of a gracious change, as discovered by the alteration, and holy exercises which the regenerate experience, than spend our time and zeal in disputing about the principle of spiritual life, wherein it consists, or what it is, antecedent to all exercises thereof. While we are warmly interested in deciding the speculative dispute, we are apt to forget the practical consideration of the important subject, and the application of it to ourselves; and these who attend to us, are led to treat the matter in the same manner; by this means, the interests of vital piety languish. While we justly lament the low state of experimental religion, to devote ourselves to these speculative refinements will not be found the way to revive it. Experience will always show, that to keep up a practical view of divine truths, and the solemn application of them in serious, pungent addresses to the conscience, is the best calculated for that purpose. Besides, if we lay down, by way of hypothesis, a certain something, of which we can have no idea, (as of a principle of life, antecedent to all exercises of life, we cannot; nor can we infer any conclusions about its nature from any exercises of the heart, if it include neither idea nor volition, but is something absolutely antecedent to both,) then we shall be in danger of a superstructure as unintelligible as the basis upon which we build. Thus some have wildly dreamed, that the principle of spiritual life may exist in the soul without any act or exercise of life, as a taste, which lies dormant until a proper object be applied to it; and if it may exist one moment, why not two? And if two, why not a minute? And so on, till they bring the supposition to hours, days, months, and years; and so a regenerate person may still continue an unbeliever, and of consequence, in an unjustified state. And I see not why it would not be as easy to continue the supposition till death, and to send him to hell, with his dormant principle along with him. Thus the cause of vital religion is greatly disserved.

But if we attend to the plain, practical views the scriptures give us of this matter, consider the exercises of divine life which discover the happy change produced in regeneration, and trace these to their first principle, which, from the nature of these exercises, we conclude to be something of the same nature with them—to be a first act of the series of acts or exercises that follow after, which the Holy Spirit causes the soul to exert, (i. e., causes it to live,) we are in no danger of any fatal mistake. In this way, the heart will be more likely to feel itself interested; and thus people become more solemn and exercised in examining and judging the state of their own souls. And that this may be more extensively the case among professors, may God of his infinite mercy grant for Christ’s sake! Amen.

* There is some distinction between a natural and a moral principle of action; the former lies in the very essence of the being to which it belongs, or is a determination to some particular kind of action resulting from its frame or constitution. Thus, self-activity, or natural life, which is essential to the soul, is a principle of action in general. A determination to particular kinds of natural action, such as we call instinct in brutes, or reason in man, arises immediately from the existence of natural faculties, or something in the frame or constitution of creatures respectively. But a moral principle is a determination to some particular kind of action, arising from some settled judgment or sentiment, in which the will acquiesces. Thus a principle of holy action is the fixed impression of some spiritual truth or truths upon the heart.

FB Meyer (1847-1929): The Fruit of The Spirit – Faith

THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT – FAITH

F.B. Meyer (1847-1929)

(Daily Devotional)

Copyright: Public Domain

“Let us hold fast the profession of our Faith without wavering; for He is faithful that promised.”—Hebrews 10:23.

FAITH IS an attribute of the heart, rather than of the head. It is largely intuitive in its first promptings. It is impossible to argue men into faith. Do not think, discuss, or reason too much about Faith, or you will miss it. It is like Love in this, that when you turn the dissecting knife on it for the purpose of analysis, its spirit and life vanish, leaving only the faded relics of what was once a thing of beauty and a joy for ever. If, however, turning from Faith to any object which is worthy of it, you concentrate heart and mind there, almost unconsciously Faith will have arisen and thriven to maturity.

Faith has two kinds of objective, first a person, and secondly a statement. When we are drawn powerfully towards a person, so as to feel able to entrust our soul, our destiny, our most precious possessions to His care, with an inward feeling of tranquility and certainty that all is safe with Him, and that He will do better for us than we could do for ourselves, that is faith.

We may be attracted by a statement, which appeals to our moral sense; it is consistent with the decisions of our conscience; or perhaps, as the utterance of One in whom we repose utter confidence, it commends itself to us for His sake. We accept that statement; we rest on it. We believe that what it attests as fact either did happen or will happen. We are as sure of it as though we have been able to attest it by our senses of sight, hearing, or touch. That also is faith. “Faith is a well grounded assurance of that for which we hope, and a conviction of the reality of the unseen” (Hebrews 11:1. Weymouth).

We must indicate a difference between this faith and “the faith once delivered to the saints.” The former is the heart that accepts, and the hand that reaches out to obtain; the latter is the body of Truth to be accepted.

Out of faith comes faithfulness. Faith is your trust in another; faithfulness is your worthiness to be trusted. A faithful soul, one that can be absolutely relied upon, is of great price. Nothing so quickens our faith as to meditate on God’s absolute trustworthiness. “Blessed is the man that trusteth in Him.”

 

PRAYER

Give us faith in Thy love that never wearies or faints. Whatever else we doubt, may we never question the perfectness of Thy lovingkindness. Fulfill in us the good pleasure of Thy will, and the work of faith with power. AMEN.

Andrew Murray (1828-1917): Absolute Surrender

Absolute Surrender

BY

Andrew Murray (1828 – 1917)

Copyright – Public Domain

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Absolute Surrender

“And Ben-hadad the king of Syria gathered all his host together: and there were thirty and two kings with him, and horses, and chariots: and he went up and besieged Samaria, and warred against it. And he sent messengers to Ahab king of Israel into the city, and said unto him, Thus saith Benhadad, Thy silver and thy gold is mine; thy wives also and thy children, even the goodliest, are mine. And the king of Israel answered and said, My lord, O king, according to thy saying, I am thine and all that I have” (1 Kings 20:1-4).

Ahab gave what was asked of him by Benhadad – absolute surrender. I want to use these words: “My lord, O king, according to thy saying, I am thine, and all that I have,” as the words of absolute surrender with which every child of God ought to yield himself to his Father. We have heard it before, but we need to hear it very definitely-the condition of God’s blessing is absolute surrender of all into His hands. Praise God! If our hearts are willing for that, there is no end to what God will do for us, and to the blessing God will bestow.

Absolute surrender-let me tell you where I got those words. I used them myself often, and you have heard them numerous times. But once, in Scotland, I was in a company where we were talking about the condition of Christ’s Church, and what the great need of the Church and of believers is. There was in our company a godly Christian worker who has much to do in training other workers for Christ, and I asked him what he would say was the great need of the Church-the message that ought to be preached. He answered very quietly and simply and determinedly:

“Absolute surrender to God is the one thing.”

The words struck me as never before. And that man began to tell how, in the Christian workers with whom he had to deal, he finds that if they are sound on that point, they are willing to be taught and helped, and they always improve. Whereas, others who are not sound there very often go back and leave the work. The condition for obtaining God’s full blessing is absolute surrender to Him.

And now, I desire by God’s grace to give to you this message-that your God in heaven answers the prayers which you have offered for blessing on yourselves and for blessing on those around you by this one demand: Are you willing to surrender yourselves absolutely into His hands? What is our answer to be? God knows there are hundreds of hearts who have said it, and there are hundreds more who long to say it but hardly dare to do so. And there are hearts who have said it, but who have yet miserably failed, and who feel themselves condemned because they did not find the secret of the power to live that life. May God have a word for all!

Let me say, first of all, that God claims it from us.

GOD EXPECTS YOUR SURRENDER

Yes, it has its foundation in the very nature of God. God cannot do otherwise. Who is God? He is the Fountain of life, the only Source of existence and power and goodness. Throughout the universe there is nothing good but what God works. God has created the sun, the moon, the stars, the flowers, the trees, and the grass. Are they not all absolutely surrendered to God? Do they not allow God to work in them just what He pleases? When God clothes the lily with its beauty, is it not yielded up, surrendered, given over to God as He works in it its beauty? And God’s redeemed children, oh, can you think that God can do His work if there is only half or a part of them surrendered? God cannot do it. God is life, love, blessing, power, and infinite beauty, and God delights in communicating Himself to every child who is prepared to receive Him. But ah! this one lack of absolute surrender is just the thing that hinders God. And now He comes, and as God, He claims it.

You know in daily life what absolute surrender is. You know that everything has to be given up to its special, definite object and service. I have a pen in my pocket, and that pen is absolutely surrendered to the one work of writing. That pen must be absolutely surrendered to my hand if I am to write properly with it. If another holds it partly, I cannot write properly. This coat is absolutely given up to me to cover my body. This building is entirely given up to religious services. And now, do you expect that in your immortal being, in the divine nature that you have received by regeneration, God can work His work, every day and every hour, unless you are entirely given up to Him? God cannot. The temple of Solomon was absolutely surrendered to God when it was dedicated to Him. And every one of us is a temple of God, in which God will dwell and work mightily on one condition-absolute surrender to Him. God claims it, God is worthy of it, and without it God cannot work His blessed work in us.

God not only claims it, but God will work it Himself.

GOD ACCOMPLISHES YOUR SURRENDER

I am sure there is many a heart that says: “Ah, but that absolute surrender implies so much!” Someone says: “Oh, I have passed through so much trial and suffering, and there is so much of the self-life still remaining. I dare not face entirely giving it up because I know it will cause so much trouble and agony.”

Alas! alas! that God’s children have such thoughts of Him, such cruel thoughts. I come with a message to those who are fearful and anxious. God does not ask you to give the perfect surrender in your strength, or by the power of your will; God is willing to work it in you. Do we not read: “it is God that worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13)? And that is what we should seek-to go on our faces before God, until our hearts learn to believe that the everlasting God Himself will come in to turn out what is wrong. He will conquer what is evil, and work what is well pleasing in His blessed sight. God Himself will work it in you.

Look at the men in the Old Testament, like Abraham. Do you think it was by accident that God found that man, the father of the faithful and the friend of God? Do you think that it was Abraham himself, apart from God, who had such faith and such obedience and such devotion? You know it is not so. God raised him up and prepared him as an instrument for His glory.

Did God not say to Pharaoh: “For this cause have I raised thee up, for to show in thee my power” (Exodus 9:16)?

And if God said that of him, will God not say it far more of every child of His?

Oh, I want to encourage you, and I want you to cast away every fear. Come with that feeble desire. If there is the fear which says –“Oh, my desire is not strong enough. I am not willing for everything that may come, and I do not feel bold enough to say I can conquer everything” — l implore you, learn to know and trust your God now. Say: “My God, I am willing that You should make me willing.” If there is anything holding you back, or any sacrifice you are afraid of making, come to God now and prove how gracious your God is. Do not be afraid that He will command from you what He will not bestow.

God comes and offers to work this absolute surrender in you. All these searchings and hungerings and longings that are in your heart, I tell you, they are the drawings of the divine magnet, Christ Jesus. He lived a life of absolute surrender. He has possession of you; He is living in your heart by His Holy Spirit. You have hindered and hindered Him terribly, but He desires to help you to get a hold of Him entirely. And He comes and draws you now by His message and words. Will you not come and trust God to work in you that absolute surrender to Himself Yes, blessed be God! He can do it, and He will do it.

God not only claims it and works it, but God accepts it when we bring it to Him.

GOD ACCEPTS YOUR SURRENDER

God works it in the secret of our heart; God urges us by the hidden power of His Holy Spirit to come and speak it out, and we have to bring and yield to Him that absolute surrender. But remember, when you come and bring God that absolute surrender, it may, as far as your feelings or your consciousness go, be a thing of great imperfection. You may doubt and hesitate and say:

“Is it absolute?”

But, oh, remember there was once a man to whom Christ had said: “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth” (Mark 9:23). And his heart was afraid, and he cried out: “Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief” (Mark 9:24).

That was a faith that triumphed over Satan, and the evil spirit was cast out. And if you come and say: “Lord, I yield myself in absolute surrender to my God,” even though you do so with a trembling heart and with the consciousness: “I do not feel the power. I do not feel the determination. I do not feel the assurance,” it will succeed. Do not be afraid, but come just as you are. Even in the midst of your trembling the power of the Holy Spirit will work.

Have you not yet learned the lesson that the Holy Spirit works with mighty power, while on the human side everything appears feeble? Look at the Lord Jesus Christ in Gethsemane. We read that He, “through the eternal Spirit” (Hebrews 9:14), offered Himself a sacrifice unto God. The Almighty Spirit of God was enabling Him to do it. And yet what agony and fear and exceeding sorrow came over Him, and how He prayed! Externally, you can see no sign of the mighty power of the Spirit, but the Spirit of God was there. And even so, while you are feeble and fighting and trembling, with faith in the hidden work of God’s Spirit do not fear, but yield yourself.

And when you do yield yourself in absolute surrender, let it be with the faith that God does now accept it. That is the great point, and that is what we so often miss, that believers should be thus occupied with God in this matter of surrender. Be occupied with God. We want to get help, every one of us, so that in our daily life God will be clearer to us, God will have the right place, and be “all in all.” And if we are to have that through life, let us begin now and look away from ourselves and look up to God. Let each believe, I, a poor worm on earth and a trembling child of God, full of failure, sin, and fear, bow here, and no one knows what passes through my heart. I simply say, “Oh God, I accept Your terms. I have pleaded for blessing on myself and others. I have accepted Your terms of absolute surrender.” While your heart says that in deep silence, remember there is a God present that takes note of it, and writes it down in His book. There is a God present who at that very moment takes possession of you. You may not feel it, you may not realize it, but God takes possession if you will trust Him. God not only claims it and works it and accepts it when I bring it, but God maintains it.

GOD MAINTAINS YOUR SURRENDER

That is the great difficulty with many. People say: “I have often been stirred at a meeting or at a convention, and I have consecrated myself to God.

But it has passed away. I know it may last for a week or for a month, but it fades away. After a time it is all gone.

But listen! It is because you do not believe what I am now going to tell you and remind you of. When God has begun the work of absolute surrender in you, and when God has accepted your surrender, then God holds Himself bound to care for it and to keep it.

Will you believe that?

In this matter of surrender, there are God and I — I a worm; God the everlasting and omnipotent Jehovah. Worm, will you be afraid to trust yourself to this mighty God now? God is willing. Do you not believe that He can keep you continually, day by day, and moment by moment?

Moment by moment I’m kept in His love;

Moment by moment I’ve life from above.

If God allows the sun to shine on you moment by moment, without intermission, will God not let His life shine on you every moment? And why have you not experienced it? Because you have not trusted God for it, and you do not surrender yourself absolutely to God in that trust.

A life of absolute surrender has its difficulties. I do not deny that. Yes, it has something far more than difficulties: it is a life that with men is absolutely impossible. But by the grace of God, by the power of God, by the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, it is a life to which we are destined, and a life that is possible for us, praise God! Let us believe that God will maintain it.

Some of you have read the words of that aged saint who, on his ninetieth birthday, told of all God’s goodness to him — I mean George Muller. What did he say he believed to be the secret of his happiness and of all the blessing which God had given him? He said he believed there were two reasons. The one was that he had been enabled by grace to maintain a good conscience before God day by day. The other was that he was a lover of God’s Word. Ah, yes, a good conscience is complete obedience to God day by day, and fellowship with God every day in His Word and prayer — that is a life of absolute surrender.

Such a life has two sides — on one side, absolute surrender to work what God wants you to do; on the other side, to let God work what He wants to do.

First, to do what God wants you to do.

Give yourselves up absolutely to the will of God. You know something of that will; not enough, far from all. But say absolutely to the Lord God: “By Your grace I desire to do Your will in everything, every moment of every day.” Say: “Lord God, not a word upon my tongue but for Your glory. Not a movement of my temper but for Your glory. Not an affection of love or hate in my heart but for Your glory, and according to Your blessed will.”

Someone says: “Do you think that possible?”

I ask, What has God promised you, and what can God do to fill a vessel absolutely surrendered to Him? Oh, God wants to bless you in a way beyond what you expect. From the beginning, ear has not heard, neither has the eye seen, what God has prepared for them that wait for Him (1 Corinthians 2:9). God has prepared unheard-of-things, blessings much more wonderful than you can imagine, more mighty than you can conceive. They are divine blessings. Oh, say now:

“I give myself absolutely to God, to His will, to do only what God wants.”

It is God who will enable you to carry out the surrender.

And, on the other side, come and say: “I give myself absolutely to God, to let Him work in me to will and to do of His good pleasure, as He has promised to do.”

Yes, the living God wants to work in His children in a way that we cannot understand, but that God’s Word has revealed. He wants to work in us every moment of the day. God is willing to maintain our life. Only let our absolute surrender be one of simple, childlike, and unbounded trust.

GOD BLESSES WHEN YOU SURRENDER

This absolute surrender to God brings wonderful blessings.

What Ahab said to his enemy, King Benhadad — “My lord, O king, according to thy word I am thine, and all that I have” will we not say to our God and loving Father? If we do say it, God’s blessing will come upon us. God wants us to be separate from the world. We are called to come out from the world that hates God. Come out for God, and say: “Lord, anything for You.” If you say that with prayer, and speak that into God’s ear, He will accept it, and He will teach you what it means.

I say again, God will bless you. You have been praying for blessing. But do remember, there must be absolute surrender. At every tea table, you see it. Why is tea poured into that cup? Because it is empty, and given up for the tea. But put ink or vinegar or wine into it, and will they pour the tea into the vessel? And can God fill you, can God bless you if you are not absolutely surrendered to Him? He cannot. Let us believe God has wonderful blessings for us if we will but stand up for God and say, be it with a trembling will, yet with a believing heart:

“O God, I accept Your demands. I am Yours and all that I have. Absolute surrender is what my soul yields to You by divine grace.”

You may not have such strong, clear feelings of surrender as you would like to have, but humble yourselves in His sight, and acknowledge that you have grieved the Holy Spirit by your self-will, self-confidence, and self-effort. Bow humbly before Him in the confession of that, and ask Him to break the heart and to bring you into the dust before Him. Then, as you bow before Him, just accept God’s teaching that in your flesh “there dwelleth no good thing” (Romans 7:18), and that nothing will help you except another life which must come in. You must deny self once and for all. Denying self must every moment be the power of your life, and then Christ will come in and take possession of you.

When was Peter delivered? When was the change accomplished? The change began with Peter weeping, and the Holy Spirit came down and filled his heart.

God the Father loves to give us the power of the Spirit. We have the Spirit of God dwelling within us. We come to God confessing that, and praising God for it, and yet confessing how we have grieved the Spirit. And then we bow our knees to the Father to ask that He would strengthen us with all might by the Spirit in the inner man, and that He would fill us with His mighty power. And as the Spirit reveals Christ to us, Christ comes to live in our hearts forever, and the self-life is cast out.

Let us bow before God in humility, and in that humility confess before Him the state of the whole Church. No words can tell the sad state of the Church of Christ on earth. I wish I had words to speak what I sometimes feel about it. Just think of the Christians around you. I do not speak of nominal Christians, or of professing Christians, but I speak of hundreds and thousands of honest, earnest Christians who are not living a life in the power of God or to His glory. So little power, so little devotion or consecration to God, so little perception of the truth that a Christian is a man utterly surrendered to God’s will! Oh, we want to confess the sins of God’s people around us, and to humble ourselves.

We are members of that sickly body. The sickliness of the body will hinder us and break us down, unless we come to God. We must, in confession, separate ourselves from partnership with worldliness, with coldness toward each other. We must give ourselves up to be entirely and wholly for God.

How much Christian work is being done in the spirit of the flesh and in the power of self! How much work, day by day, in which human energy, our will and our thoughts about the work, is continually manifested, and in which there is little waiting upon God and upon the power of the Holy Spirit! Let us make a confession. But as we confess the state of the Church, and the feebleness and sinfulness of work for God among us, let us come back to ourselves. Who is there who truly longs to be delivered from the power of the self-life, who truly acknowledges that it is the power of self and the flesh, and who is willing to cast all at the feet of Christ? There is deliverance.

I heard of one who had been an earnest Christian, and who spoke about the “cruel” thought of separation and death. But you do not think that, do you? What are we to think of separation and death? This death was the path to glory for Christ. For the joy set before Him He endured the cross. The cross was the birthplace of His everlasting glory. Do you love Christ? Do you long to be in Christ, and yet not like Him? Let death be to you the most desirable thing on earth, death to self, and fellowship with Christ. Separation — do you think it a hard thing to be called to be entirely free from the world, and by that separation to be united to God and His love, by separation to become prepared for living and walking with God every day? Surely one ought to say: “Anything to bring me to separation, to death, for a life of full fellowship with God and Christ.”

Come and cast this self-life and flesh-life at the feet of Jesus. Then trust Him. Do not worry yourselves with trying to understand all about it, but come in the living faith that Christ will come into you with the power of His death and the power of His life. Then the Holy Spirit will bring the whole Christ — Christ crucified and risen and living in glory — into your heart.

FB Meyer (1847-1929): The Fruit of The Spirit — Gentleness

THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT — GENTLENESS

F.B. Meyer (Daily Devotional)

Copyright: Public Domain

“The Lord’s servant must not strive, but be gentle towards all… forbearing.” —

 

2Timothy 2:24.

IT IS not easy to cultivate this fruit of the Spirit because it has many counterfeits. Some people are naturally easy-going, devoid of energy and ambition, at heart cowardly, or in spirit mean. Many of us are characterized by a moral weakness and decrepitude that make it easy for us to yield rather than contest in the physical or intellectual arena.

But in gentleness there must be the consciousness of a considerable reserve of force. The gentleness of God is combined with omnipotence. The movements of creation, in which there is neither voice nor language, prove the infinite forces which are at work. When a boy is trying to lift or carry a heavy beam, as likely as not there will be a great crash when he reaches the end of his task, and puts it on the ground. His strength is so nearly exhausted that he is only too glad to get rid of his burden, anyhow, and at any cost. But if a strong man shoulders the same burden, and carries it for the same distance, he puts it down gently, because he has not taxed his strength and has plenty left.

It is the prerogative of great strength to be gentle. Always remember that you are linked with the Infinite God, and that all things are possible to you. There must also be infinite pity. We must be tolerant and pitiful to those who abuse us, or have been embittered by disappointment, or have been ill-used. It must be our aim to make allowances for such, and always to be sweetly reasonable towards any brusqueness, rudeness and bad manners of their behaviour. Let us be willing to admit that much is due to congenital moroseness. Therefore, we bear gently with the erring, and with those who are out of the way, because we also are encompassed with infirmity.

It is necessary also that there should be a deep humility. Thomas a Kempis says: “If thou wilt be borne with, bear also with another. Endeavour to be patient in bearing with the defects and infirmities of others, what sort soever they be: for that thyself also hast many failings which must be borne by others.” Our resentment against others should be always tempered by our remembrance of our own sins. So shall we be God’s own gentlefolk.

PRAYER

 

O God, our behaviour has not manifested all the fruits of the Spirit, or been full of the graciousness and gentleness of Christ. Forgive us, and enable us so to live that His beauty may be on our faces, the tone of His voice in our speech, the gentleness of His tread in our steps, the unselfishness of His deeds in our hands. AMEN.

FB Meyer (1847-1929): Witness-Bearing for Christ

WITNESS-BEARING FOR CHRIST

F.B. Meyer (Daily Devotional)

This is believed to be in the Public Domain

“Ye shall receive power, when the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea and Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”– Acts 1:8.

ALL MACHINERY needs driving-power. A motor-car may be bright and new, the wheels tired with rubber, and it may contain the latest contrivances for speed and comfort, but it will not move an inch until the driving-power is applied. So it is with the Gospel message. Christ died and rose again, and the work of redemption was finished. His disciples were appointed to carry the tidings of salvation to the world of men, but they could do nothing until they received the power of the Holy Spirit. It is a serious question for each of us–Have I received the Holy Spirit, to be in me the source of power? (Acts 19:2). If not, is it to be wondered at that we are weak, and our testimony for Christ faltering?

Notice the circles of our life: witnesses in Jerusalem, our home; in Judaea–the society in which we mingle and work; in Samaria–the city or town or village in which we live; the uttermost part of the earth, which represents the claim of the heathen world upon us all. For each of these we have some responsibility. Let us begin at Jerusalem, in our home, and God will lead us on step by step to the great world beyond. Alas, there are many who are eager enough for the “uttermost parts,” while they neglect Jerusalem, and ignore the claims of Judaea!

God wants witnesses. A witness is not expected to reason or argue, but simply to state what he saw or heard, and to give facts. We are required to tell people what we have found Jesus to be to ourselves–to say what we have known and tasted and handled of the Word of Life (1John 1:1-3). Our witness-box may be the shop in which we are employed, or the position in life where we are daily called to rub shoulders with those who know not Christ. Men cannot see Him, unless they see Him in us. As the moon reflects the sun during the dark hours of the night, so the Church of Christ bears witness to her unseen Lord. In every emergency, let us lift our hearts to Christ, and ask that His Holy Spirit may enable us to be true witnesses for His glory.

PRAYER

My gracious Master and my God,

Assist me to proclaim

And spread through all the earth abroad

The honours of Thy Name.

AMEN.