Andrew Bonar (1810-1892): Victory Over Sin

Victory Over Sin
By
Andrew Bonar (1810-1892)
Copyright: Public Domain

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

Victory Over Sin

There is a plant called Samphire, which grows only on cliffs near the sea. But though it grows near the salt waves, yet it is never found on any part of a cliff which is not above the reach of the tide. On one occasion, a party of ship wrecked sailors, flung ashore, were struggling up the face of precipitous rocks, afraid of the advancing tide overtaking them, when one of their number lighted upon a plant of samphire, growing luxuriantly. Instantly he raised a shout of joy, assuring his companions by this token that they were now in safety. The sea might come near this spot, and perhaps cast up its spray, but would never be found reaching it. Such is the position of a soul in Christ; justified and united to Him, the person may be in full sight still of the world’s threatening and angry waves; but he is perfectly safe, and cannot be overwhelmed. Paul says of all Christians: “Ye are risen with Christ” (Colossians iii. 1). We are not only at peace with God; but besides, “He hath raised us up together with Christ, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians ii. 6).

Any one who understands this union to Christ will see at once what a blessed plan it is, formed by the God of holiness, for giving a sinner victory over sin. If Lazarus be raised out of his tomb, he shall certainly be found no longer lying amid worms and rottenness, and the cold damps of the sepulchre, but walking in Bethany, in converse with living men. And so, says Paul in Colossians iii. 1-4: “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.

For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him, in glory. MORTIFY THEREFORE YOUR MEMBERS WHICH ARE UPON THE EARTH;” fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry! What resolutions cannot do, what vows and prayers have failed to accomplish, what self-denial and mortification and crosses have never succeeded in giving you, this plan of God at once attains, this union to Christ. The sinner is led by the Holy Spirit to know and believe in the Lord Jesus, and, in the very moment of believing on Him, becomes one with Him. Forthwith begins a heavenly partnership: Christ and the soul share together; Christ giving to the soul out of His fulness all manner of grace, as occasion requires.

But, fellow-sinner, you must not suppose that the mere assenting to this truth as a doctrine will give you the results. You must have real experience in regard to believing in Jesus. Come and try the personal application of it to your soul. Lean on Christ for yourself, and thus be you yourself united to Him. Doctrine must be turned into experience. Have you read of the process by which iron is turned into steel? You will see a great crucible, with its enormous mass of iron, subjected to intense heat, till it seems a mass of glowing fire. But all that might cool down, and would be only iron after all, if there were not poured into it a small quantity of a liquid, which alters every particle of its chemical constitution, and then it becomes steel. Has such a change taken place in your case: the turning the iron into steel? ―doctrine into experience?

We speak much of Christianity and Christians; but union to Christ by faith is the root of all; and faith is as much Christ’s hold of us, as ours of Him. It implies our hold of the truth; but it also implies that the Spirit of truth from Christ has taken hold of us. Baptism speaks, in a figure, of souls being saved in this way of union to the Lord: for the baptized one is represented as “baptized into Him.” The Lord’s Supper proclaims in another form this great truth of union to the Lord. And thus we are brought to ask all who profess to be Christ’s such questions as the following:

I. To what does union to Christ call you?

It calls you to make heavenly things your business. “If ye be risen with Christ, seek the things which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God” (Colossians iii. 1). Seek such things, pursue after them, make a business of them. The word is one that implies the soul’s fixed aim and employment, even as, Matthew vi. 33, “Seek the kingdom of God.” “The moment Christ rose,” says Bengel, “He was thinking of going upward” (John xx. 17); and so it should be with us who have risen with Him. The risen believer now carries on traffic with Him, seeking spiritual gains. He trades for an absent Lord as eagerly as ever he once traded for worldly gain. He is grieved at spiritual losses as deeply as he once was at losses in his business, when a ship was lost at sea, or a bank failed, or some speculation proved ruinous. On the other hand, he rejoices in spiritual gains: when, for example, the mist is cleared away from a truth, or when the excellency of some Scripture doctrine shines into his soul, or when he gets some fresh view of Christ, and some increase of faith, love, and hope. More specially still, he fixes his attention habitually upon Christ sitting at the right hand; for His being there tells so much about acceptance. His “sitting” declares that He has finished all His undertaking, and has no more toil to undergo. His sitting “at the right hand” declares the Father’s high approval, and delight, and honour. And so to this point he ever turns his eye, ―to this mountain of myrrh. And in truth he finds yet more there: he finds that by virtue of union to Christ he is himself, in a sense, there also, “sitting in heavenly places,” his toil done, his trials over, his victory won, himself altogether well-pleasing to the Father, and loved by the Father. The realization of this privilege has mighty power upon his soul; giving him wondrous liberty, helping his near communion, sending him forth to ever new and grateful service for One who so loves him.

It calls on you to disentangle your affection from earth. “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians iii. 2). Make the things above your care; they are to be “the things which you mind,” in opposition to such men as those spoken of (Philippians iii. 19), who mind earthly things. You will not be content with making these things your business; you will have a taste and relish for them, a real delight in them. Many men pursue business with little liking for the thing itself, and are glad when it is over. Many an industrious and eager trader longs for rest and retirement. But the believer risen with Christ loves his business, his whole heart is in it. He “minds,” ―cares for, has affection for ―“not things on earth,” such as to be rich, great, noble, enjoy pleasure, nor even domestic comfort and personal ease. His chief end is not earthly prosperity, nor is his highest bliss a few more acres than other men; but it is things above which he relishes so heartily and unfeignedly. He is at home among “things above.” He is like the patriarchs, who left all they had in their native land, “seeking a better, that is, a heavenly country.” Such men mind God’s favour, God’s glory, God’s love. And hence, their children’s salvation is more to them than their aggrandisement in the world, and the conversion of souls than the news of mines of gold discovered and secured.

Do you bear the name of Christian? Is this, then, a fair account of you? Speak not of difficulties; for of course there are such in all pursuits; and here all alleged hindrances are swept out of the way by that word: “If ye be risen with Christ.” This word cuts the string, and the balloon ascends.

II. What does union to Christ ensure to you?

It ensures many things; but here are some. It ensures your getting life from Christ. “For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God” (Colossians iii. 3). You who are Christ’s died with Him, and in that hour your former life passed away. You had lived it out; it was for ever over, and you were loosed from all former things. You died. It was as if you had been carried to the New Earth at once, to live ever more there amidst its holy scenes; as if to you that day had come in which Christ says, “Behold I make all things new.” You became a “new creature,” part of a new creation, one with Christ, so that you lost your former separateness. And you found that, while you had lost your old life, there was new life laid up for you. “Life was hid for you with Christ in God.” You got the beginnings of a far better life than even unfallen Adam had, for you got life from Christ. Christ’s very life is yours; the very sap of the vine-tree for you the branch; the same resurrection-life, which the Spirit poured into the man Christ Jesus, was now yours also.

That holy power to love God and man, which was in Christ, you began to receive. That holy joy and full energy of delight in God’s favour, which on earth was Christ’s endowment, and ever is, became your portion. And you go on claiming every day a share in His stores of grace, a share in His holiness, a share in the Spirit’s manifold blessings. Light, life, likeness, all are yours, by gift.

The moment you believed, you were united to Christ; and that moment the stone was rolled off the mouth of the well; you began to get the new life, and you had it more or less ever since. But you have as yet only the beginnings of it. As when a father leaves for his son, while yet a minor, only a portion of the property, which is given out by some trustee; so you at present receive only in measure. “The life,” in all its fulness, “is hid with Christ;” that is, Christ has it, and Christ who has it is hid, or concealed like a hid treasure; but hid in God, in the bosom of the Father, so that all is safe and sure. It is hid, like the manna in the golden pot, within the holy of holies. It is there for safety, “as men lay up jewels in a place where the short arms of children cannot reach them,” says Samuel Rutherford; “for if it was in our keeping, it would soon be lost.” But all is kept for us, as 1 Peter i. 4 declares. It is “our life” (Colossians iii. 4), life which we have a claim to, stored up for us, intended for us. Yes, Christ is “our Life;” Christ is, so to speak, keeping Himself for us, and keeping for us the life abundantly which He purchased for us.

But again, this union to Christ ensures your appearing with Christ in glory. “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall we also appear with Him in glory” (Colossians iii. 4). At present the believer, though one with Christ, lives outwardly as other men do: eating, drinking, sleeping, trading: he sows, he sails, he travels on railways, he goes to buy and sell, he reads news, he talks with his friends and children, ―all as other men. But all the while he has an interior life; he has a strong taste for spiritual things; he has desires toward God, which other men know not of; he yearns after God in Christ amid earth’s fairest scenes; he loves God in Christ beyond wife, or children, or parents, or possessions. “None of us liveth to himself” (Romans xiv. 7). And this life is preparing to bud forth fully into flower and fruit, whenever the present winter of earth has passed, and the Sun of righteousness arisen.

On the day when God’s time arrives for giving the larger fulness of the life to all who are members of Christ’s body ―on that day “Christ our life, shall appear.” The golden pot of manna, hidden long, shall be brought out of the Holy Place. He shall be fully in us, and we fully in Him. He shall appear who is “our Life” ―He on whom we nourish our souls ―who has life for us ―who is Himself the substance of that life; for (as one said) “Christ is a Christian’s life.” He shall appear, bringing this life to us; and this life, which He brings shall, at the same time, be the secret cause of “glory” to us; or, perhaps we should rather say, this life shall manifest its presence in us by our being forthwith invested with glory. As when a fountain gushes over, its waters make all round the margin green and flourishing; so, when our Life gushes into us our very bodies shall beam with glory. It was thus on the Transfiguration-hill with Christ Himself. The life in Him that evening ―the secret well of life ―suddenly overflowed, rising up to the brim; and see! what a body! yea, what garments even! And who could tell the joy of His soul in that hour, though He knew that sorrow was to return again to its channel, and fill up all its banks? Now, thus it shall be with us, ―ay, thus it shall be with us without any after return to sorrow, without any risk of the waters abating. Some weary day draws to its evening; we have wiped the sweat from our brow, and sighed over earth; we have groaned within ourselves, “Oh, who shall deliver me from the body of this death!” when lo! the sudden flash! It is the coming of the Son of man.

You may at times have envied Moses and Elias their blessed position, on either side of Jesus, appearing in glory (Luke ix. 31). But you yourself shall be as they: “Then shall ye also appear with Him in glory.” Yes, as truly “with Him” as they were; as bright as they “in glory;” seeing Christ, talking with Christ, hearing the voice that proclaims, “This is My beloved Son!” O Master, O King of glory, our Life, appear! Come forth from that light inaccessible, to be ever with us! No need of three tabernacles; for Thy tabernacle shall be there, and all shall ever say, as the ages roll, “It is good to be here.” That will be the day, which accomplishes what many in the church of God have often sung:

“One look of Jesus as He is,

Shall strike all sin for ever dead.”

III. What does union to Christ ensure to you even now?

It enables us to overcome the world, and to renounce all sin; for the Spirit dwells in every believer. “MORTIFY THEREFORE your members which are upon the earth” (Colossians iii. 5). We do not yet and now overcome self, and the world, and Satan, in the manner we shall do when Christ appears, when (as old Sibbes triumphantly exclaims) “we shall trample down foes in glorious confusion!” But we, nevertheless, do overcome; for that strain is a true one:

“Neither passion nor pride thy cross can abide,

But melt in the fountain that flows from thy side.”

“MORTIFY therefore,” that is, make dead, reduce to a state of death as regards your practice of them, and care for them, ―“members which are on the earth;” your hands, eyes, feet, are not to meddle with “fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness.” Whatever is yours belongs now to Christ, and is instinct with Christ’s Spirit; not merely ought to be, but really is so. Therefore, as men who are possessed of the power so to do ―as men who have the life within you, ready to be used ―control your members though they be still on the earth and in the presence of its objects. The fire is around you; but you have the supply of water beside you: make it play upon these flames, that they may not even singe a hair of your head. With your eye on things above, with your heart realizing your union to Christ, trample down the world and sin. In the power of your union to Christ, reckoning yourselves as one with Him, go forth and conquer. It is He that conquers. You go forth appealing to Him: “Lord, I am one with Thee: canst Thou be overcome?” In so doing, believers find lust sinks away, and passions grow cool, and covetousness relaxes its grasp; all tempting sin gives up its struggle for victory.

We might bring forward thousands of witnesses. Let us give the experience of one as a sample, ―the experience of one man who had yielded himself to sin and lust freely, and for long years. This man was led to listen to the gospel plan, under the preaching of Joseph Milner, the writer of the Church History. The text explained was 2 Corinthians v. 20, 21 ―reconciliation to God over Him who “was made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” John Howard heard it ―was overcome; all the happiness he ever enjoyed before was felt by him to be no more like it than midnight darkness to the noonday sun. From that moment all his strong passions died away. The man who used to be shunned by all who cared for chastity and purity, felt himself suddenly delivered from the power of his lusts, so remarkably indeed that from that hour, he was no more overcome; nay, from that hour all was soberness and calmness of spirit. He used to say, that his enjoyment of God dried up the streams of sinful concupiscence, as it did long ago in the case of Augustine. And this is God’s way of holiness. Legalists, and moralists, and philosophers, all fail in reaching the seat of the evil ―the will and the desire; they lop the branches, but do not reach the root; they imprison the felon, but do not change his nature. To overcome evil within, St. Benedict rolled himself on thorns; St. Martin burnt his flesh with hot irons; St. Francis tumbled in snow; St. Bernard plunged himself in pools of freezing water. Even the great Pascal wore an iron girdle, full of sharp points, next his skin. All these overlooked, or understood not, the apostle’s inspired words, Mortify THEREFORE;” that is, conscious of your union to Christ, set about the mortifying of your members in the strength of this union, and in no other way. Think of union to Christ, and how it involves partnership with Him in His grace. Believing thus in Him is our victory: doing, resolving, suffering, give us no victory at all. The fear of hell and wrath will scarcely keep a man from one sin, and will never touch the heart.

Who of you then have, in time past, failed to triumph over your corruptions, and evil propensities? Who of you has never been able to master covetousness? or the world in any shape? Take the way of believing in Christ, and being thus in partnership with Him. Understand the blessed mystery of “rising with Christ,” and being seated with Him above; be graft into the vine, and get its sap. You have tried other means of health and strength; but now use this inspired direction, which has never failed. As Daniel and his fellows asked to be proved whether the water and the pulse they were nourished on would not turn out far more strengthening than all the king’s finest food and rarest wines, so we say to you, Prove it now for yourselves. And do not say, “I will wait for the Spirit;” for by that you mean, “I will wait on till I feel the Spirit at work.” This is a device of Satan to get you to go on in sin, and die in sin; for no man ever felt the Spirit at work directly. The Spirit works in silence. The soul learns the gospel way, and ponders it; muses on Christ, who died, and rose, and who calls on sinners, every one, to come and use his death and resurrection. And it is while the sinner is thus engaged before the cross, that the Holy Spirit works effectually, ―uniting him to Christ in the same moment that He leads him to Christ. And so the believing man becomes at once a conqueror!

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John Blair (1719-1771): An Essay On The Means Of Grace

An Essay On The Means Of Grace

by

John Blair (1719-1771)

Copyright: Public Domain

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

I. The great God stands in no need of means in order to accomplish his purposes. He could, if he pleased, cause all events he sees meet to effect, to come to pass in the same way he caused the world at first to exist, viz: by the word of his power or sovereign act of his will; yet it does not at all derogate from his efficiency, but rather serves to illustrate his power, to use means, and appoint a connection between them and the end in view, both in the natural and moral world: yet such a connection as always depends upon the divine pleasure. Means are effectual or ineffectual, as he affords or withholds his concurrence—particularly, in the administration of his moral government, he deals with the subjects thereof in a way suited to their rational natures, and uses means of a moral nature in carrying on the interests of religion in our degenerate world. To this purpose, he has given his holy word, appointed a gospel ministry and ordinances of worship, such as the sacraments of the New Testament, praise and prayer.

II. These, divines commonly call means, not of instruction only, but of grace; the reason is, because it is in the use of these means, the Holy Spirit ordinarily communicates or bestows grace on sinners, and builds up his children in holiness, until he brings them safe home to glory. Now, whatever can be considered as a mean in reference to an end, must have some tendency to, and, in its own way, have influence upon, or concur in attaining it; for that which has no such tendency or influence, has no manner of connection with the existence or accomplishment of the end, and, consequently, is no means of it at all. If, therefore, these ordinances are means of grace, they must have a tendency to, and, in the hand of the Holy Spirit, concurrence in, the regeneration and conversion of sinners, and thence forward, in carrying on the work of grace in them. As all ordinances of worship are but various manners of administrating the word of God, it is especially to be considered as a mean for these purposes.

III. That we may see with what propriety these are called means of grace, let us attend to what we find ascribed to, or predicated of, the word in the Bible; which only can be said of it considered as an instrument or means, and not as an efficient cause, which it cannot be. The conviction of sinners is ascribed to it, “By the law is the knowledge of sin.” Rom. 3. 20. Peter’s hearers, upon hearing his discourse, wherein he proved from the scriptures of the Old Testament, that Jesus whom they had crucified was the true Messiah, “were pricked in their hearts.” Acts 2. 37. By this, God distinguishes his word delivered by the true prophets, from that delivered by the false, viz: this, that his “word is like a fire, and like a hammer, that breaketh the rock in pieces.” Jer. 23. 29. “The word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Heb. 4. 12. It kills the legal pride of sinners, “I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.” Gal. 2. 19. I have already taken notice in my Observations on Regeneration, that Christians are said to be “born again,”  begotten,” and “made partakers of the divine nature,”(1 Pet. 1. 23, James 1. 18, 2 Pet. 1. 4,) by the word of God; to which I would add Ps. 19. 7, 8, where the word under the terms “Law,” “Testimony,” “Commandments,” is said “to convert the soul,” “make wise the simple,” and “enlighten the eyes;” all which terms plainly express the saving change wrought in regeneration. This change is an inscription of the divine law upon the heart. Jer. 31. 33. All these expressions signify much more than merely instructing the speculative understanding. They must import the concurrence of the word as a mean or instrument in the hand of the Holy Spirit, both in the preparatory work of conviction, and also in effecting the saving change in regeneration. It is unnecessary to recite the many passages which represent the word and ordinances as means of quickening, supporting, comforting, sanctifying, perfecting and strengthening of God’s people. I would only observe, that the efficacy of the word for these purposes, depends upon the presence and immediate agency of the Holy Spirit in the heart; which as really takes place in these instances, as in the regeneration of a sinner, and the latter as easily admits the use of means as the former.

IV. The efficacy of the means of grace lies not in any intrinsic virtue in themselves, nor depends upon the power or will of those who attend upon them; for the effect to be produced is supernatural, to which sinners are by nature entirely averse, and destitute. of a true discernment of the excellency of the truths and weight of the arguments proposed in the word; but they are rendered effectual to the attainment of the end by the blessing of the Holy Spirit upon them, and his energy in them; they are means in the Spirit’s hand, rather than the creature’s. And sinners are to attend upon them in that view, that they may be in the way in which the Spirit meets with such and works upon them, like the poor impotent people who lay at the pool, waiting for the descent of the angel to trouble the waters. John 3. 4. With respect to creature agents, the application or use of means depends upon them; but the causality itself, or energy of means in order to the end, is not in their power, nor depends upon their will. Hence, they often fail of success in the use of the best adapted means; but when this divine agent condescends to use means, he causes their efficacy, and makes them effectual when, and with respect to whom, he pleases. I say, condescends to use means; for the very circumstance I have mentioned shows he needs them not; he could do immediately whatsoever he pleases; when, therefore, he is pleased to make use of means, it is in order to the more easy discovery of himself to his creatures. Hence it follows, that the great God is not the less an efficient for his using means, nor the less displays his power in accomplishing the end by them.

V. Yet, notwithstanding, there is an aptness and tendency in the means in order to the end in view, otherwise they would not be properly means. Those things which have no aptness or tendency to the attainment of the end can have no sort of influence upon it; the existence of the end has no kind of connection with them, and, consequently, they are no means at all of its existence. Now, the aptness or tendency of the word of God to reduce sinners to the obedience of Christ lies in, 1st. The clearness of representation, whereby divine truths are set before the mind. Divine truths are clothed in the most plain and intelligible language their sublime nature will allow of; they are descriptively expressed, so as not only to declare their nature, but also to describe their true influence, and the impressions they should make upon the heart. They are also illustrated by the most familiar similitudes. 2nd. In the interesting manner in which these sacred truths are urged, or the weight of the arguments with which they are pressed home. 3rd. In the awful authority and great majesty with which they are delivered, whence they bind and affect the conscience; they are set before us with a “thus saith the Lord or Jehovah,” our rightful Sovereign, with whom is terrible majesty, “and your God,” who has a covenant claim upon his professing people. Hence, then, when the Holy Spirit takes the word in his hand, and makes application of it to the heart, it is most apt and fit as a mean to instruct the mind and inform the conscience, and thus to convince and awaken the sinner; to lay restraints upon men, and repress, or in some measure restrain, even the natural enmity of the awakened sinner: and when the Holy Spirit effectually opens the sinner’s eyes, and makes him understand divine truths as they are represented in the word, they have a most apt tendency, by way of argument, to persuade and determine the will, and to promote the life and exercise of all the graces of the Holy Spirit in true Christians.1

I have said that when the word is so effectually applied to the conscience as to convince the sinner, it is a means of repressing or restraining his natural enmity. As this will probably in a particular manner be called in question, I beg leave to offer a few thoughts further upon it. I do not at all suppose the sinner’s enmity is in this case subdued; for then he would be regenerated, which is contrary to the supposition. The wickedness of men may be, yea, in many instances is, restrained, when its governing power is not all broken. Hence, those who were clean escaped from them who live in error, and escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, may be allured through the lusts of the flesh, and much wantonness, and be again entangled; yea, it too often proves to be the case, that, “according to the true proverb, the dog is turned to his own vomit again, and the sow that is washed, to her wallowing in the mire.” 2 Pet. 2. 18-22. The acting of the sinner’s enmity is, indeed, more direct against God and spiritual objects, thus brought near and set in view before him by conviction, and this, no doubt, is a great aggravation of those exercises of enmity; yet it will by no means follow that enmity, as an evil principle in the heart, is more prevalent, or has, in this case, acquired a greater degree of power. The power of this, as well as every other evil habit, lies in the sway and dominion it has in the heart. Enmity reigns in the heart ever while it is destitute of true love to God; but yet the more peaceably it possesses the heart, and the more fully it has its consent, the more powerful it is. While the sinner is in a state of security, though he does not feel so explicit opposition to God in his heart, as being more out of view; yet it is the same principle of enmity that carries him on in casting God’s law behind his back, in neglecting the divine service, and giving a loose rein to his corruptions, while he despises, and perhaps derides, strict religion. His enmity lords it over him without control, and hardens his heart against reproof and conviction. It is unmolested in its sway, and carries the sinner headlong whichever way it directs; and he justifies himself in all this, and refuses to take blame to himself; but the awakened sinner, while conviction is borne home upon the conscience, confesses the just authority over him, that he has most unjustly trampled upon it, and violated his law. Though he has no holy acquiescence in, or choice of, the divine government, yet he has a rational conviction that it is rightful, and that he deserves punishment for contradicting it; that he feels his heart averse, greatly alarms him, and convinces him of the existence of enmity in his heart. Instead of spurning at his convictions, trampling them under foot, and casting them off, which would be the case if enmity acquired strength in proportion to his convictions, he cherishes them, and is afraid of falling back into security again. Though he feels risings of heart, yea, some sinners make some attempts to shake off their convictions, with whom they are too powerful, and are increased till they break their stout spirits, as they give up their struggles to stifle them, and become afraid lest they should leave them again to fall into a hardened state; yet this is so far from proving the increase of enmity as to strength or prevalence, that, in reality, it proves the restraint of it by the authority of God’s law in the conscience, and convincing influences of the Holy Spirit. Upon a discovery of the exceeding depravity and wickedness of his heart, the sinner, upon some principle, wishes his heart was changed. True, he does not choose holiness or turning to God in itself considered, for that he does not, is one main thing that fills his conscience with so much guilt; yet he earnestly desires there was such a heart in him, as did see the beauty of holiness, and truly choose it. He desires this, indeed, upon no higher principle, than a regard to his own happiness. This, where there is no higher, is not a holy principle, nor is this sort of desire of grace such as denotes true grace in the heart; yet it is not, in itself, a wicked principle. That this respect to his own happiness does not regard holiness as an ingredient in it, and is not subordinate to, and under the influence of, a higher and more noble principle, is his crime; but that it is in him, and has influence upon him, is not. Surely, the sinner’s enmity is not as prevalent and unrestrained, when he is thus anxiously solicitous to obtain heart-changing grace, even on this principle, as when he utterly disregarded the matter, and justified himself in refusing to return.

When it is said, that the awakened sinner still continues to reject Christ, and hate God with all his heart, the meaning must either be, that, under all his convictions, the sinner exerts himself to the utmost with all his might in opposition to them; that he the more pours contempt on the gospel, and stoutly resolves to reject Jesus Christ, that he casts about to find out how he may bear himself up in a determined opposition to the gospel overtures of salvation, and the more he is convinced, the more maliciously does he oppose, and impudently justify himself in refusing, Christ and his redemption, like the Scribes and Pharisees of old, which would argue the increase of enmity with a witness; and then, the proposition is not true, yea, notoriously contrary to fact. Or else the meaning must only be, that notwithstanding all his convictions, and increase of light, his enmity is not at all subdued, but if present restraints were removed, it would return to its old stubborn stoutness in the way of sin; and all the faculties and powers of the soul are still under the reigning power of that hateful principle; and then I have no controversy with any man about it. But this is no way inconsistent with what I have said, unless we say, that to lay restraint upon the lusts and corruptions of men, is inconsistent with their dominion in the heart; or else, that they have as great a degree of power under restraints, as when most unrestrained; neither of which will any man in the due use of his reason assert, for that would destroy all ideas of different degrees of wickedness. The sinner’s convictions awaken his attention to those glorious objects, God, and his Son Jesus Christ, and the way of salvation through him; and thereby the actings of his natural enmity are more direct and explicit, which doubtless more aggravates them as particular acts, and exposes the malignity of that hateful principle. Yet that very discovery, and the sinner’s condemning himself for it, and cries to God for deliverance from it, show that it has not as quiet possession of the heart, and as prevalent energy in it as formerly. Now it is from the principles,  good or bad, which have the governing prevalence in the heart, that persons have their character, especially in the eye of the heart searching God; if, then, under solemn convictions by the authority of God’s law, and the convincing influences of the Holy Spirit, the sinner’s natural enmity be restrained, it will follow, that the awakened sinner’s character is not, on the whole, rendered more vile and odious in the sight of God, than it was in the days of his security and contented course of sin against him.2 Can it be imagined, that the sinner’s enmity has as strong an energy in him, when brought to break off from his course of external sins, as when he pursued them with greediness? When he earnestly attends to the duties of religion, as when he neglected them with scorn and contempt, or trifled with them in a listless formality? And when he eagerly seeks the company of God’s people, asking their advice, as when he hated to be near them, could not bear their conversation, but took delight in the company of the profane and ungodly? But to return.

That the means of grace have a tendency to the conviction and conversion of sinners, as well as the edification of God’s people, appears by the expostulations God uses with them in his word, as utterly inexcusable and perverse in continuing impenitents after all the pains he has taken upon them, and means used with them. In the fifth chapter of Isaiah from the beginning, the Lord represents the abundant provision he had made for their fruitfulness, in point of means and advantages which he had afforded them. “What could have been done to my vineyard that I have not done in it? Wherefore when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes? ” Isa. 5. 4. “But this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey my voice and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people: and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you; but they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear, but walked in the counsels and imaginations of their evil heart, and went backward and not forward. Since the day that your fathers came forth of the land of Egypt unto this day, I have even sent you all my servants the prophets, daily rising up early and sending them. Yet they hearkened not unto me, nor inclined their ear, but hardened their neck; they did worse than their fathers. Therefore, thou shalt speak all these words unto them, but they will not hearken unto thee; thou shalt also call unto them, but they will not answer thee; but thou shalt say unto them, This is a nation that obeyeth not the voice of the Lord their God, nor receiveth correction. Truth is perished and cut off from their mouth. Cut off thine hair, O Jerusalem, and cast it away, and take up a lamentation on high places, for the Lord hath rejected and forsaken the generation of his wrath.” Jer. 7. 23-29. Here we see their disobedience to, and abuse of, the means he had used with them, was the reason why they were so peculiarly the people of God’s wrath, and of the sad issue of their case. If it be said, the instruction they got from the word is sufficient to render impenitent sinners inexcusable, I answer, either this light and instruction has a tendency to their conversion, (and if this be admitted, the matter is fairly given up,) or it has no such tendency at all; and then how does it at all render them inexcusable in continuing impenitent and unconverted?

The conversion of sinners to God is the great scope of the means of grace; this the word of God calls for at their hands, commands and presses it with the greatest importunity. It is needless to recite authorities for this to such as are acquainted with their Bible, since we might quote a greater part of that sacred book to this purpose. Therefore it is, that the gospel ministry is called the ministry of reconciliation, and it is the business of gospel ministers to pray sinners in Christ’s stead to be reconciled to God. Yet …

VI. There is no certain or infallible connection between the most diligent and earnest attendance on the means of grace that unregenerate sinners are capable of, and their obtaining the saving grace of God. This issue of the matter is entirely from the sovereign mercy of God. If we suppose a certain necessary connection in this case, it must arise either from the nature of the thing, viz: some constitution or law of nature, or from some promise and positive appointment of God to that purpose; but in the case before us, there is no such connection in either way. Not the former; for the means of grace are positive institutions, and don’t fall under the laws of nature; nor do they operate by way of influence upon God to move him to show mercy, but are means whereby the blessed God deals with sinners, and works effectually on whom he pleases; their efficacy depends upon his blessing and energy. In this view he has appointed means, and requires fallen man to attend upon them. Guilty sinners lie at mercy upon which they have no claim, but it lies in the breast of God as a Sovereign, of his own grace, to show mercy or not as he pleases; and, therefore, according to his sovereign pleasure, he renders the means of grace effectual or not; and as to the latter part of connection, viz: by promise or positive appointment, there is not the smallest evidence of it in the word of God; if there be, let any one show it who thinks he can. I must confess I have not met with one such promise in all the book of God. As to such passages as Luke 11. 9 and Matt. 7. 7, “Ask and it shall be given you; seek and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you,” there the conduct of God as Father towards his children is plainly spoken of; and, therefore, asking, seeking, and knocking in faith, asking, &c., in a gracious manner is intended; and they are the children of God who are spoken of. So the moral efficacy of the means of grace terminated on God to move him to give grace, (the very mention of which shows the absurdity of the supposition,) or the sinner’s use of them were at all the ground or reason of his showing mercy; then, indeed, the very appointment of means would imply a promise of success, or something equal to it, in the required use of them; but this is so far from being the case, that, on the contrary, the tendency of the means to the end lies in their moral influence upon the consciences and hearts of sinners. Yet whatever aptness to such an influence there is in the means of grace, such is the blindness, deadness, enmity and prejudice of poor sinners, that until the Holy Spirit accompany them with his presence and energy, no such influence will effectually take place in their hearts. Now, he works in or by these means as a Sovereign; hence, he strives with many only in such a way as that he suffers them still to resist, until in just resentment he forsakes them. But with respect to the vessels of mercy, he prosecutes his gracious design, until by the “rod of his strength” (the word of his grace), he irresistibly conquers, “and rules in the midst of his enemies.” Psa. 110. 2.

Therefore sinners are to use the means of grace as creatures lying at mercy, seeking pure grace, which depends on the mighty energy of the Holy Spirit; but they can found no claim to grace on their most diligent use of said means. It is enough to engage sinners to the use of means, that God has appointed them as such, has required their attendance upon them; there is an aptness in the means themselves and a proper tendency, and it is by these means the Holy Spirit works; in this way he meets with perishing creatures in mercy, and they cannot expect the grace of God in the neglect of his institutions. While there is a “may be the Lord will be gracious,” (Amos 5. 15,) or, who knoweth if the Lord will return, and repent, and leave a blessing behind him?” (Joel 2. 14,) sinners will be utterly inexcusable in neglecting them, and justly charged with choosing their own destruction.

VII. From what has been said it will follow, as a conclusion on the whole, that all sinners, when the gospel comes, are under the most indispensable obligations to attend the means of grace. The design of their institution, as mediums of the Spirit’s dealing with their souls about their eternal interests, lays them under bonds of gratitude. For why, shall the offended majesty of heaven thus seek after rebellious sinners? Would it not then be the basest ingratitude to treat him with neglect? The gracious authority of God binds their consciences; he requires their attendance upon his ordinances; their very institution implies such a requisition, and it will be a disobedience, highly criminal, to neglect them.

We also hence see what grounds of encouragement sinners have, for their attendance on the means of grace; they have not the assurance of a promise that they shall be successful; the great God has come under no such engagement; they have no ground of present peace and security from their most diligent and earnest use of them. Such apprehensions would lead to, and support, a self-righteous spirit, and be an abuse of the means of grace. They have great reason of deepest anxiety lest they fail of the grace of God, and provoke the Holy Spirit to forsake them. Yet they have sufficient motives from the aforesaid design of their institution; their moral aptness and tendency, whereby they are adapted to our rational natures and the Spirit’s operations, and suited to affect the hearts of men in a moral way. It is the stated way of the Spirit’s dealing with the souls of men; by his word and ordinances he strives with sinners, and by the same means he accomplishes his special work of grace; and in this way there is the only probability of meeting with mercy. In the continued neglect of God’s ordinances there is certain destruction, but in waiting on God in this way there is a peradventure the Lord may have mercy. The Holy Spirit has rendered the means of grace effectual to multitudes, and how knows each sinner but, of his rich grace, he may effectually reach him?

Hence, also, we may see that ministers of the gospel not only may, with safety and propriety, but are bound, in duty, to urge unregenerate sinners, as well as others, to a diligent use and improvement of the means of grace, and in that way to seek unto God for regenerating grace. If the preceding view of the matter be kept up, such exhortations can have no tendency to settle people in a legal dependence on the means, nor promote security, nor carnal confidence. Yea, it is highly incumbent on the ministers of Christ to give particular directions to poor sinners in order to their improvement of the means, in such a manner as has the most likely tendency, and wherewith it is most probable the Holy Spirit may concur for their conversion to God. Certainly, a mere external attendance upon the administration of ordinances, while the heart is secure and careless, is not likely to answer any good end. Undoubtedly, such have need to be directed so to attend to the word of God as to compare themselves therewith, to examine themselves, and enter into a serious consideration of their own state and character, and lay to heart the danger they are in. Awakened sinners are inclined to seek shelter in the duties of religion, and to expect healing and relief to their consciences from their earnest use of means. These need to be warned of that dangerous rock, and be directed to such a view of God’s law as may more deeply convince them of their utter depravity, and slay them dead to the law. Gal. 2. 19. Their attention to the overtures of the gospel should be urged. Our safe path lies between two dangerous extremes, viz: of those who only try to convince men of their unregenerate state, call upon them to embrace Jesus Christ, and then leave them under all their perplexing exercises and distresses, without any counsel or direction; and thus their various temptations, discouragements, and despondencies are overlooked, and no assistance is administered when they most need it. It is a matter of great consequence into what hands poor, convinced sinners fall; an unskillful treatment of them is vastly injurious. The other extreme is of those who direct sinners to duties and attendance on the means of grace in such a legal manner as to encourage their dependence upon them; such lead poor creatures to think they can do something to recommend themselves to God; their utter insufficiency in themselves is never fairly opened up. On the contrary, they are told if they will do their part, God will do his; and thus they are made to believe there is a certain connection between their own best endeavours and the saving grace of God; that if they do what they can, God will do the rest. Thus the nature and design of the means is misrepresented. They are considered as means which sinners use with God in order to prevail with him, rather than means whereby he deals with them, in order to call them back again to himself, and renders them irresistibly efficacious for that purpose when he pleases. The first of these extremes tends to make sinners neglect all attempts to perform the duties of religion, or if they give their presence at ordinances, yet make no essay to strive with their own hearts, as being altogether in vain, without any tendency to promote their good, and not required of them in their present circumstances. While this doctrine is believed, Satan is not much afraid of damage to his interest from all their convictions of being in an unregenerate state; for the consequence is, they quench the Spirit. If convictions startle them, they, upon this principle, make no attempt to cherish their convictions, easily fall asleep again, and lie still in careless indolence. By the latter extreme, the striving of sinners is turned into a wrong channel, and they are directed to the use of means upon principles entirely wrong. The directions they get, send them to the law for life, and settle them upon a righteousness of their own. Both the extremes are injurious to the interests of religion, and destructive to the souls of men. Both are to be avoided; the ministers of the gospel are to endeavour the conviction and awakening of sinners, and when there are any awakenings they are to attend and cherish them, and by prudent, seasonable and evangelical counsel to direct their way, and point out the method of salvation to them. They have sufficient encouragement to such a conduct upon this principle, that however dead, miserable and helpless sinners are, yet it is by such views and impressions as evangelical counsels and directions tend to, that the Holy Spirit carries on his work in the souls of men; and therefore, when he concurs, they shall be rendered effectual. May the God of all grace teach his servants how to negotiate the treaty of peace and reconciliation, and make them abundantly wise to win souls to Jesus Christ! Amen.

1 I would here refer the reader to what I have said in the sixth Observation on Regeneration, concerning the instrumentality of the word therein.

2 It will by no means follow, that awakened sinners are, in a degree, accepted of God, on account of their being less sinful than they were in the days of their security; for the divine law still condemns them as falling short, infinitely short of its demands; and their less sinfulness makes no atonement for the smallest past transgression. It only follows that, in their present case, they merit a less degree of disapprobation and punishment; i.e., they are less offensive; and this we must admit, or else deny different degrees of wickedness; or assert that the lowest degree of wickedness is as offensive, and disapproved in as high a degree, as the greatest.

Robert Murray McCheyne (1813-1843): Perfect Love Casteth Out Fear

Perfect Love Casteth Out Fear

By

Robert Murray McCheyne (1813-1843)

Copyright: Public Domain

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Perfect Love Casteth Out Fear

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love Him, because He first loved us. If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar; for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from Him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.”—1 John 4:18–21.

Doctrine.—Perfect love casteth out fear.

I. The state of an awakened soul.—“Fear hath torment

There are two kinds of fear mentioned in the Bible very opposite from one another. The one is the very atmosphere of heaven, the other is the very atmosphere of hell.

(1.) There is the fear of love.—This is the very temper of a little child: the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. This was the mind of Job. “He feared God and hated evil.” Nay, it is the very spirit of the Lord Jesus. On Him rested “the spirit of the fear of the Lord, and made Him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord.”

(2.) There is the fear of terror.—This is the very temper of devils: “The devils believe and tremble.” This is what was in Adam and Eve after the Fall; they fled from the voice of God, and tried to hide themselves in one of the trees of the garden. This was the state of the jailor when he trembled, and sprang in and brought them out, and fell at their feet, saying, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved!” This is the fear here spoken of—tormenting fear. “Fear hath torment.” Some of you have felt this fear that hath torment. Many more might feel it this day; you are within reach of it. Let me explain its rise in the soul.

1st, A natural man casteth off fear, and restrains prayer before God. “They have been at ease from their youth, and settled down upon their lees; they have not been emptied from vessel to vessel, therefore their taste remains in them, and their scent is not changed.” They are like fallow-ground that has never been broken up by the plough, but is overrun with briers and thorns. Are there not some among you that never trembled for your soul? You think you are as good as your neighbours. Ah! well, your dream will be broken up one day soon.

2d, When the Spirit of God opens the eyes, He makes the stoutest sinner tremble. He shows him the number of his sins, or rather that they cannot be numbered. Before, he had a memory that easily forgot his sins; oaths slipped over his tongue, and he knew it not; every day added new sins to his page on God’s book, yet he remembered not. But now the Spirit of God sets all his sins straight before him. All unpardoned, long-forgotten enormities, rise up behind him. Then he begins to tremble. “Innumerable evils have compassed me about.”

3d, The Spirit makes him feel the greatness of sin, the exceeding sinfulness of it. Before, it seemed nothing; but now, it rises like a flood over the soul. The wrath of God he feels abiding on him; a terrible sound is in his ears. He knows not what to do; his fear hath torment. Sin is seen now as done against a holy God; done against a God of love; done against Jesus Christ and his love.

4th, A third thing which awfully torments the soul is corruption working in the heart. Often persons under conviction are made to feel the awful workings of corruption in their heart. Often temptation and conviction of sin meet together and awfully torment the soul, rending it in pieces. Conviction of sin is piercing his heart, driving him to flee from the wrath to come; and yet at the same moment some raging lust, or envy, or horrid malice, is boiling in his heart, driving him towards hell. Then a man feels a hell within him. In hell there will be this awful mixture: there will be an overwhelming dread of the wrath of God, and yet corruption, boiling up within, will drive the soul more and more into the flames. This is often felt on earth. Some of you may be feeling it. This is the fear that hath torment.

5th, Another thing the Spirit convinces the soul of, is his inability to help himself. When a man is first awakened, he says, I shall soon get myself out of this sad condition. He falls upon many contrivances to justify himself. He changes his life; he tries to repent, to pray. He is soon taught that “his righteousnesses are filthy rags”—that he is trying to cover rags with filthy rags; he is brought to feel that all he can do signifies just nothing, and that he never can bring a clean thing out of an unclean. This sinks the soul in gloom. This fear hath torment.

6th, He fears he shall never be in Christ. Some of you perhaps know that this fear hath torment. The free offer of Christ is the very thing that pierces you to the heart. You hear that He is altogether lovely—that He invites sinners to come to Him—that He never casts out those that do come. But you fear you will never be one of these. You fear you have sinned too long or too much—you have sinned away your day of grace. Ah! this fear hath torment.

Some will say, “It is not good to be awakened, then.”

Ans. 1. It is the way to peace that passeth understanding.—It is God’s chosen method, to bring you to feel your need of Christ before you come to Christ. At present your peace is like a dream! when you awake you will find it so. Ask awakened souls if they would go back again to their slumber. Ah, no; if I die, let me die at the foot of the cross; let me not perish unawakened.

Ans. 2. You must be awakened one day.—If not now, you will afterwards, in hell. After death, fear will come on your secure souls. There is not one unawakened soul in hell; all are trembling there. The devils tremble; the damned spirits tremble. Would it not be better to tremble now, and flee to Jesus Christ for refuge? Now, He is waiting to be gracious to you. Then, He will mock when your fear cometh. You will know to all eternity that “fear hath torment.”

II. The change on believing.—“There is no fear in love.” “Perfect love casteth out fear.”

(1.) The love here spoken of is not our love to God, but His love to us; for it is called perfect love. All that is ours is imperfect. When we have done all, we must say, “We are unprofitable servants.” Sin mingles with all we think and do. It were no comfort to tell us, that if we would love God perfectly, it would cast out fear; for how can we work that love into our souls? It is the Father’s love to us that casteth out fear. He is the Perfect One. All his works are perfect. He can do nothing but what is perfect. His knowledge is perfect knowledge; his wrath is perfect wrath; his love is perfect love. It is this perfect love which casteth out fear. Just as the sunbeams cast out darkness wherever they fall, so does this love cast out fear.

(2.) But where does this love fall?—On Jesus Christ. Twice God spake from heaven, and said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” God perfectly loves his own Son. He Sees infinite beauty in his person. God sees himself manifested. He is infinitely pleased with his finished work. The infinite heart of the infinite God flows out in love towards our Lord Jesus Christ. And there is no fear in the bosom of Christ. All his fears are past. Once He said, “While I suffer thy terrors I am distressed;” but now He is in perfect love, and perfect love casteth out fear. Hearken, trembling souls! Here you may find rest to your souls. You do not need to live another hour under your tormenting fears. Jesus Christ has borne the wrath of which you are afraid. He now stands a refuge for the oppressed—a refuge in the time of trouble. Look to Christ, and your fear will be cast out. Come to the feet of Christ, and you will find rest. Call upon the name of the Lord, and you will be delivered. You say you cannot look, nor come, nor cry, for you are helpless. Hear, then, and your soul shall live. Jesus is a Saviour to the helpless. Christ is not only a Saviour to those who are naked and empty, and have no goodness to recommend themselves, but He is a Saviour to those who are unable to give themselves to Him. You cannot be in too desperate a condition for Christ. As long as you remain unbelieving, you are under his perfect wrath—wrath without any mixture. The wrath of God will be as amazing as his love. It comes out of the same bosom. But the moment you look to Christ, you will come under his perfect love—love without any coldness—light without any shade—love without any cloud or mountain between. God’s love will cast out all your fears.

III. His love gives boldness in the day of judgment, ver. 17.—

There is a great day coming, often spoken of in the Bible—the day of judgment—the day when God shall judge the secrets of men’s hearts by Christ Jesus. The Christless will not be able to stand in that day. The ungodly shall not stand in the judgment. At present, sinners have much boldness; their neck is an iron sinew, and their brow brass. Many of them cannot blush when they are caught in sin. Amongst ourselves, is it not amazing how bold sinners are in forsaking ordinances? With what a brazen face will some men swear! How bold some ungodly men are in coming to the Lord’s table! But it will not be so in a little while. When Christ shall appear,—the holy Jesus, in all his glory,—then brazenfaced sinners will begin to blush. Those that never prayed will begin to wail. Sinners, whose limbs carried them stoutly to sin and to the Lord’s table last Sabbath, will find their knees knocking against one another. Who shall abide the day of his coming, and who shall stand when He appears? When the books are opened,—the one the book of God’s remembrance, the other the Bible,—then the dead will be judged out of those things written in the books. Then the heart of the ungodly will die within them; then will begin “their shame and everlasting contempt.” Many wicked persons comfort themselves with this, that their sin is not known—that no eye sees them; but in that day the most secret sins will be all brought out to the light. “Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give an account thereof in the day of judgment.” How would you tremble and blush, O wicked man, if I were now to go over before this congregation the secret sins you have committed during the past week,—all your secret fraud and cheating, your secret uncleanness, your secret malice and envy,—how you would blush and be confounded! How much more in that day, when the secrets of your whole life shall be made manifest before an assembled world! What eternal confusion will sink down your soul in that day! You will be quite chop-fallen; all your pride and blustering will be gone.

All in Christ will have boldness—

(1.) Because Christ shall be Judge.—What abundant peace will it give you in that day, believer, when you see Christ is Judge!—He that shed his blood for you—He that is your Surety, your Shepherd, your all. It will take away all fear. You will be able to say, Who shall condemn? for Christ hath died. In the very hand that opens the books you will see the marks of the wounds made by your sins. Christ will be the same to you in the judgment that He is now.

(2.) Because the Father himself loveth you.—Christ and the Father are one. The Father sees no sin in you; because, as Christ is, so are you in this world. You are judged by God according to what the Surety is; so that God’s love will be with you in that day. You will feel the smile of the Father, and you will hear the voice of Jesus saying, “Come, ye blessed of my Father.”

Learn to fear nothing between this and judgment. Fear not— wait on the Lord, and be of good courage.

IV. The consequences of being in the love of God

(1.) “We love Him, because He first loved us,” ver. 19.—

When a poor sinner cleaves to Jesus, and finds the forgiving love of God, he cannot but love God back again. When the prodigal returned home, and felt his father’s arms around his neck, then did he feel the gushings of affection toward his father. When the summer sun shines full down upon the sea, it draws the vapours upward to the sky. So when the sunbeams of the Sun of Righteousness fall upon the soul, they draw forth the constant risings of love to Him in return.

Some of you are longing to be able to love God. Come into his love, then. Consent to be loved by Him, though worthless in yourself. It is better to be loved by Him than to love, and it is the only way to learn to love Him. When the light of the sun falls upon the moon, it finds the moon dark and unlovely; but the moon reflects the light, and casts it back again. So let the love of God shine into your breast, and you will cast it back again. The love of Christ constraineth us. “We love Him, because He first loved us.” The only cure for a cold heart is to look at the heart of Jesus.

Some of you have no love to God because you love an idol. You may be sure you have never come into his love—that curse rests upon you: “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema maranatha.”

(2.) We love our brother also.—If you love an absent person, you will love their picture. What is that the sailor’s wife keeps so closely wrapped in a napkin, laid up in her best drawer among sweet-smelling flowers? She takes it out morning and evening, and gazes at it through her tears. It is the picture of her absent husband. She loves it because it is like him. It has many imperfections, but still it is like him. Believers are the pictures of God in this world. The Spirit of Christ dwells in them. They walk as He walked. True, they are full of imperfections; still they are true copies. If you love Him, you will love them; you will make them your bosom friends.

Are there none of you that dislike real Christians? You do not like their look, their ways, their speech, their prayers. You call them hypocrites, and keep away from them. Do you know the reason? You hate the copy, because you hate the original; you hate Christ, and are none of his.

St Peter’s, 1840.

FB Meyer (1847-1929): Heeding God’s Word – Reconciliation


Heeding God’s Word

 

Reconciliation – Matthew 5:23-26

Mat 5:23 – 26[MHC, JGC]: If therefore thou art offering thy gift at the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee, 24 leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way, first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. 25 Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art with him in the way; lest haply the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. 26 Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou have paid the last farthing.

The below is believed to be in the public domain:

FIRST, RECONCILIATION (F.B. Meyer)

“If thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift, go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.” Mathew 5:23-24.

THERE IS a marked difference between memory and recollection.

Memory resembles a great box or chest into which a man casts his letters, accounts, and manuscripts; recollection is the readiness, be it less or more, with which he can lay his hand on what he requires. We know that it is somewhere in our possession, we remember to have seen and turned it over, but search as we may we cannot find or recall it.

But there is a moment of quickened recollection when we stand before God: “When thou bringest thy gift to the altar and rememberest.” As the Divine searchlight plays upon our past life it reveals many things which had passed from our mind. Conscience is a keen quickener of our powers of recollection.

What has your brother against you? This–that you flamed out against him in passion, with bitter, angry words, in hatred and contempt; or this–that you have been sullen and sulky, scarcely answering his advances, meeting his salutations with grudging courtesy. Perhaps you have done him a positive wrong, and have taken from him his only covering, or have forborne to help him when he stood in sore need (Exodus 22:26-27; Exodus 23:4-9).

We are bidden to get right with man, as the first step to acceptance with God–” first be reconciled to thy brother.” Humility is necessary in every approach to God, and nothing so humbles our pride as to confess our faults to our brethren. Truth is necessary to all right dealings with God, and nothing will so promote truth in our inward parts as to be transparent and simple in our dealings with our fellows. Sincerity in confession of sin is an essential beginning of peace with God, but how can we be sure that our confession is sincere unless it costs us something more than words. “‘First, be reconciled with thy brother”–not only with the brother of human flesh–but with our great Brother in the Glory (Genesis 1:17-21; Hebrews 2:11). Then come offer thyself, as thy gift; He will accept thee, and thy gifts.

 

PRAYER

Give unto us, O Lord, we beseech Thee, broken and contrite hearts. Help us to do all that ought to be done to make amends, and grant unto our brother the willingness to meet us with forgiveness and peace. So shall we have peace with Thee, our Elder Brother, against whom we have grievously sinned. AMEN.