The New Life
Words of God for Young Disciples of Christ
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CHAPTERS 32-52 of page 3 (this page)
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Table of Contents
|LIGHT AND JOYFULNESS|
|THE PRAYER MEETING|
|THE FEAR OF THE LORD|
|ASSURANCE OF FAITH|
|CONFORMITY TO JESUS|
|CONFORMITY TO THE WORLD|
|THE LORD'S DAY|
|THE LORD'S SUPPER|
|THE WILL OF GOD|
|THE FREEDOM OF THE CHRISTIAN|
|SEARCHING THE SCRIPTURES|
|THE LORD THE PERFECTER|
A father will always be eager to see his children joyful. He does all that he can to make them happy. Hence God also desires that His children should walk before Him in gladness of heart. He has promised them gladness: He will give it. (Ps. 89:16,17; Isa. 30:29; John 16:22; 1 Pet. 1:8)
He has commanded it: we must take it and walk in it at all times. (Ps. 32:1; Isa. 12:5,6; 1 Thess. 5:16; Phil. 4:4)
The reason of this is not difficult to find. Gladness is always the token that something really satisfies me and has great value for me. More than anything else is gladness for what I possess a recommendation of it to others. And gladness in God is the strongest proof that I have in God what satisfies and satiates me, that I do not serve Him with dread, or to be kept, but because He is my salvation. Gladness is the token of the truth and the worth of obedience, showing whether I have pleasure in the will of God. (Deut. 28:47; Ps. 40:9; 119:11)
It is for this reason that joy in God is so acceptable to Him, so strengthening to believers themselves, and to all who are around the most eloquent testimony of what we think of God. (Neh. 8:11; Ps. 68:4; Prov. 4:18)
In the Scriptures light and gladness are frequently connected with each other. (Esth. 8:16; Prov. 13:9; 15:30; Isa. 60:20)
It is so in nature. The joyful light of the morning awakens the birds to their song and gladdens the watchers who in the darkness have longed for the day. It is the light of God's countenance that gives the Christian his gladness: in fellowship with his Lord, he can, and always will, be happy: the love of the Father shines like the sun upon His children. (Ex. 10:23; 2 Sam. 23:4; Ps. 36:10; Isa. 60:1,20; 1 John 1:5; 4:16)
When darkness comes over the soul, it is always through one of two things, through
sin or through unbelief. Sin is darkness, and makes dark. And unbelief also makes
dark, for it turns us from Him, who alone is the light.
The question is sometimes put, Can the Christian walk always in the light? The answer of our Lord is clear, 'He that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness.' It is sin, the turning from behind Jesus to our own way, that makes dark. But at the moment we confess sin, and have it cleansed in the blood, we are again in the light. (Josh. 7:13; Isa. 58:10; 59:1,2,9; Matt. 15:14,15; 2 Cor. 6:14; Eph. 5:8,14; 1 Thess. 5:5; 1 John 2:10)
Or it is unbelief that makes dark. We look to ourselves and our strength; we would seek comfort in our own feeling, or our own works, and all becomes dark. As soon as we look to Jesus, to the fulness, to the perfect provision for our needs that is in Him, all is light. He says, 'I am the Light: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.' So long as I believe, I have light and gladness. (John 12:36; 11:40; Rom. 15:13; 1 Pet. 1:8)
Christians, who would walk according to the will of the Lord, hear what His word says: 'Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. Rejoice in the Lord always: again, I will say, Rejoice.' (Phil. 3:1; 4:3)
In the Lord Jesus there is joy unspeakable, and full of glory: believing in Him, rejoice in this. Live the life of faith: that life is salvation and glorious joy. A heart that gives itself undividedly to follow Jesus, that lives by faith in Him and His love, shall have light and gladness. Therefore, soul, only believe. Do not seek gladness; in that case you will not find it, because you are seeking feeling. But seek Jesus, follow Jesus, believe in Jesus, and gladness shall be added to you. 'Not seeing, but believing, rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.'
Lord Jesus, Thou are the Light of the world, the Effulgence of the unapproachable light, in whom we see the light of God. From Thy countenance radiates upon us the illumination of the knowledge of the love and glory of God. And thou art ours, our light and our salvation. O teach us to believe more firmly that with Thee we can never walk in the darkness. Let gladness in Thee be the proof that Thou art all to us, and our strength to do all that Thou wouldst have us do. Amen.
1. The gladness that I have in anything is the measure of its worth in my eyes: the gladness in a person, the measure of my pleasure in him: the gladness in a work the measure of my pleasure in it. Gladness in God and His service is one of the surest tokens of healthy spiritual life.
2. Gladness is hindered by ignorance, when we do not rightly understand God and His love and the blessedness of His service: by unbelief, when we still seek something in our own strength or feeling: by double-heartedness, when we are not willing to give up and lay aside everything for Jesus.
3. Understand this saying: 'He that seeks gladness shall not find it; he that seeks the Lord and His will, shall find gladness unsought.' Think over this. He that seeks gladness as a thing of feeling, seeks himself: he would fain be happy: he will not find it. He that forgets himself to live in the Lord and His will, shall be taught of himself to rejoice in the Lord. It is God, God Himself, who is the God of the gladness of our rejoicing: seek God, and you have gladness. You have then simply to take and enjoy it by faith.
4. To thank much for what God is and does, to believe much in what God says and will do, is the way to abiding gladness.
5. 'The light of the eyes gladdens the heart.' God has not intended that His children should walk in the darkness. Satan is the prince of the darkness: God is light: Christ is the Light of the world: we are children of the light: let us walk in the light. Let us believe in the promise, 'The Lord shall be to thee an everlasting light. Thy sun shall no more go down, for the Lord shall be to thee an everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended.
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'Blessed is the man whom Thou chastenest, O Lord, and teachest out of Thy law; that Thou mayest give him rest from the days of adversity.' -- Ps. 94:12
'Before I was afflicted, I went astray; but now I observe Thy word. It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn Thy statutes.' -- Ps. 119:67,71
'He chastens us for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness.' -- Heb. 12:10
'Count it all joy, my brethren, when ye fall into manifold temptations; knowing that the proof of your faith worketh patience.' -- Jas. 1:2,3
Every child of God must at one time or another enter the school of trial. What the Scriptures teach us is confirmed by experience. And the Scriptures teach us further, that we are to count it a joy when God takes us into this school. It is a part of our heavenly blessedness to be educated and sanctified by the Father through chastisement. Not that trial in itself brings a blessing. (Isa. 5:3; Hos. 7:14,15; 2 Cor. 7:10)
Just as there is no profit in the ground's being made wet by rain or broken up
by the plough, when no seed is cast into it, so there are children of God that enter
into trial and have little blessing from it. The heart is softened for a time, but
they know not how to obtain an abiding blessing from it. They know not what the Father
has in view with them in the school of trial.
In a good school there are four things necessary -- a definite aim, a good text-book, a capable teacher, a willing pupil.
1. Let the aim of trial be clear to you. Holiness is the highest glory of the Father, and also of the child. He 'chastens us for our profit that we may be partakers of His Holiness.' (Isa. 27:8,9; 1 Cor. 11:32; Heb. 2:10; 12:11)
In trial the Christian would often have only comfort. Or he seeks to be quiet
and contented under the special chastisement. This is indeed the beginning; but the
Father desires something else, something higher. He would make him holy, holy, for
his whole life. When Job said, 'Blessed be the name of the Lord,' this was still
but the beginning of his school-time: the Lord had still more to teach him. God would
unite our will with His holy will, not only on the one point in which He is trying
us, but in everything: God would fill us with His holy Spirit, with His holiness.
This is the aim of God; this also must be your aim in the school of trial.
2. Let the word of God at this time be your reading book. See in our trials how in affliction God would teach us out of His law. The word will reveal to you why the Father chastens you, how deeply He loves you in the midst of it, and how rich are the promises of His consolation. Trial will give new glory to the promises of the Father. In chastisement have recourse to the word. (Ps. 119:49,50,92,143; Isa. 40:1; 43:2; 1 Thess. 4:8)
3. Let Jesus be your teacher. He Himself was sanctified by suffering: it was in suffering that He learned full obedience. He has a wonderfully sympathetic heart. Have much intercourse with Him. Seek not your comfort from much speaking on the part of men or with men. Give Jesus the opportunity of teaching you. Have much converse with Him in solitude. (Isa. 26:16; 61:1,2; Heb. 2:10,17,18; 5:9)
The Father has given you the word, the Spirit, the Lord Jesus your sanctification, in order to sanctify you: affliction and chastisement are meant to bring you to the word, to Jesus Himself, in order that He may make you partaker of His holiness. It is in fellowship with Jesus that consolation comes as of itself (2 Cor. 1:3,4; Heb. 13:5,6)
4. Be a willing pupil. Acknowledge your ignorance. Think not that you understand the will of God. Ask and expect that the Lord would teach you the lesson that you are to learn in affliction. To the meek there is the promise of teaching and wisdom. Seek to have the ear open, the heart very quiet, and turned towards God. Know that it is the Father that has placed you in the school of trial: yield yourself with all willingness to hear you taught. He will bless you greatly in this. (Ps. 25:9;39:2,10; Isa. 50:4,5)
'Happy is the man whom Thou chastenest, and teachest out of Thy law.' 'Count it all joy when ye fall into manifold temptations,' 'that ye may be perfect, lacking in nothing.' Regard the time of trial as a time of blessing, as a time of close converse with the Father, of being made partaker of His holiness, and you shall also rejoicingly say: 'It is good for me that I have been afflicted.'
Father, what thanks shall I express to Thee for the glorious light that Thy word casts upon the dark trials of this life. Thou wilt by this means teach me, and make me partaker of Thy holiness. Hast Thou considered the suffering and the death of Thy beloved Son not too much to bring holiness near to me, and shall I not be willing to endure Thy chastisement to be partaker of it? No: Father, thanks be unto Thee for Thy precious work: only fulfil Thy counsel in me. Amen.
1. In chastisement it is first of all necessary that we should be possessed by the thought: This is the will of God. Although the trial comes through our own folly or the perversity of men, we must acknowledge that it is the will of God that we should be in that suffering by means of that folly or perversity. We see this clearly in Joseph and the Lord Jesus. Nothing will give us rest but the willing acknowledgment: this is the will of God.
2. The second thought is: God wills not only the trial, but also the consolation, the power, and the blessing in it. He who acknowledges the will of God in the chastisement itself is on the way to see and experience the accompaniments also as the will of God.
3. The will of God is as perfect as He Himself: let us not be afraid to surrender ourselves to it: no one suffers loss by deeming the will of God unconditionally good.
4. This is holiness: to know and to adore the will of God, to unite one's self wholly with it.
5. Pray, seek not comfort in trial in connection with men. Do not mingle too much with them: see to it rather that you deal with God and His word. The object of trial is just to draw you away from what is earthly, in order that you may turn to God and give Him time to unite your will with His perfect will.
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'Thou, when thou prayest, enter into thine inner chamber, and having shut the door, pray to thy Father which is in secret, and thy Father which seeth in secret shall recompense thee.' -- Matt. 6:6
The spiritual life with its growth depends in great measure on prayer. According
as I pray much or little, pray with pleasure or as a duty, pray according to the
word of God or my own inclination, will my life flourish or decay. In the word of
Jesus quoted above, we have the leading ideas of true prayer.
Alone with God: that is the first thought. The door must be shut, with the world and man outside, because I am to have converse with God undisturbed. When God met with His servants in the olden time, He took them alone. (Gen. 28:22; 22:5; 32:24; Ex. 33:11)
Let the first thought in your prayer be: here are God and I in the chamber with
each other. According to your conviction of the nearness of God will be the power
of your prayer.
In the presence of your Father: this is the second thought. You come to the inner chamber, because your Father with His love awaits you there. Although you are cold, dark, sinful; although it is doubtful whether you can pray at all; come, because the Father is there, and there looks upon you. Set yourself beneath the light of his eye. Believe in His tender fatherly love, and out of this faith prayer will be born. (Matt. 6:8; 7:11)
Count certainly upon an answer: that is the third point in the word of Jesus. 'Your Father will recompense you openly.' There is nothing about which the Lord Jesus has spoken so positively as the certainty of an answer to prayer. Pray, review the promises. (Matt 6:7,8; 11:24; Luke 8:8; John 14:13,14; 15:7,16; 16:23,24)
Observe how constantly in the Psalms, that prayer-book of God's saints, God is called upon as the God who hears prayer and gives answers. (Ps. 3:5; 4:4; 6:10; 10:17; 27:6; 20:2,7; 34:5,7,18; 38:16; 40:2; 65:3; 66:19)
It may be that there is much in you that prevents the answer. Delay in the answer is a very blessed discipline. It leads to self-searching as to whether we are praying amiss, and whether our life is truly in harmony with our prayer. It rouses to a purer exercise of faith. (Josh. 7:12; 1 Sam. 8:18; 14:37,38; 28:6,15; Prov. 21:13; Isa. 1:15; Mic. 3:4; Hag. 1:9; Jas. 1:6; 4:3; 5:16)
It conducts to a closer and more persistent converse with God. The sure confidence of an answer is the secret of powerful praying. Let this always be with us the chief thing in prayer. When you pray, stop in the midst of your prayer to ask, Do I believe that I am receiving what I pray for? Let your faith receive and hold fast the answer as given: it shall turn out according to your faith. (Ps. 145:9; Isa. 30:19; Jer. 33:3; Mal. 3:10; Matt. 9:29; 15:28; 1 John 3:22; 5:14,15)
Beloved young Christians, if there is one thing about which you must be conscientious, it is this: secret converse with God. Your life is hid with Christ in God. Every day must you in prayer ask from above, and by faith receive in prayer what you need for that day. Every day must personal intercourse with the Father and the Lord Jesus be renewed and strengthened. God is our salvation and our strength: Christ is our life and our holiness: only in personal fellowship with the living God is our blessedness found. Christian, pray much, pray continually, pray without ceasing. When you have no desire to pray, go just then to the inner chamber. Go as one who has nothing to bring to the Father, to set yourself before Him in faith in His love. That coming to the Father, and abiding before Him, is already a prayer that He understands. Be assured that to appear before God, however passively, always brings a blessing. The Father not only hears: He sees in secret, and He will recompense it openly.
O my Father, who hast so certainly promised in Thy word to hear the prayer of faith, give to me the Spirit of prayer, that I may know how to offer that prayer. Graciously reveal to me Thy wonderful Fatherly love, the complete blotting out of my sins in Christ, by which every hindrance in this direction is taken away, and the intercession of the Spirit in me, by which my ignorance or weakness cannot deprive me of the blessing. Teach me with faith in Thee, the Three-One, to pray in fellowship with Thee. And confirm me in the strong living certitude that I receive what I believingly ask. Amen.
1. In prayer the principal thing is faith. The whole of salvation, the whole of the new life is by faith, therefore also by prayer. There is all too much prayer that brings nothing, because there is little faith in it. Before I pray, and while I pray, and after I have prayed, I must ask: Do I pray in faith? I must say: I believe with my whole heart.
2. To arrive at this faith we must take time in prayer: time to set ourselves silently and trustfully before God, and to become awake to His presence: time to have our soul sanctified in fellowship with God: time for the Holy Spirit to teach us to hold fast and use trustfully the word of promise. No earthly knowledge, no earthly possessions, no earthly food, no intercourse with friends, can we have without time, sufficient time. Let us not think to learn how to pray, how to enjoy the power and the blessedness of prayer, if we do not take time with God.
3. And then there must be not only time every day, but perseverance from day to day. Time is required to grow in the certitude that we are acceptable to the Father, and that our prayer has power, in the confidence which knows that our prayer is according to His will and is heard. We must not suppose that we know well enough how to pray, and can but ask, and then it is over. No: prayer is converse and fellowship with God, in which God has time and opportunity to work in us, in which our souls die to their own will and power, and become bound up and united with God.
4. For encouragement in persistent prayer, the following instance may be of service. In an address delivered at Calcutta, George Muller recently said that in 1844 five persons were laid upon his heart, and that he began to pray for their conversion. Eighteen months passed by before the first was converted. He prayed five years more, when the second was converted. After twelve years and a half, yet another was converted. And now he also already prayed forty years for the other two, without letting slip a single day; and still they are not converted. He was, nevertheless, full of courage in the sure confidence that these two also would be given him in answer to his prayer.
XXXV. THE PRAYER MEETING
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'Again I say unto you, that if two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of My Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them.' -- Matt. 28:19,20
The Lord Jesus has told us to go into the inner chamber and hold our personal converse with God by prayer in secret, and not to be seen of men. The very same voice tells us that we are also to pray in fellowship with one another. (Matt. 6:6; Luke 9:18,28)
And when He went to heaven, the birth of the Christian Church took place in a prayer meeting which one hundred and twenty men and women held for ten days. (Acts. 1:14)
The Day of Pentecost was the fruit of unanimous persevering prayer. Let every one who would please the Lord Jesus, who desires the gift of the Spirit with power for his congregation or Church, who would have the blessing of fellowship with the children of God, attached himself to a prayer meeting, and prove the Lord whether He will make good His word and bestow upon it a special blessing. (2 Chron. 20:4,17; Neh. 9:2,3; Joel 2:16,17; Acts. 12:5)
And let him give help in it, so that the prayer meeting may be such as the Lord
presented it to us.
For a blessed prayer-meeting, there must be, first of all, agreement concerning the thing which we desire. There must be something that we really desire to have from God; and concerning this we are to be in harmony. There must be inner love and unity amongst the suppliants, -- all that is strife, envy, wrath, lovelessness, makes prayer powerless, (Ps. 133:1,3; Jer. 32:39; Matt. 5:23,24; Mark. 11:25)
-- and then agreement on the definite object that is desired. (Jer. 32:39; Acts. 4:24)
For this end it is entirely proper that what people are to pray for should be
stated in the prayer meeting. Whether it be that one of the members would have his
particular needs brought forward, or whether others would bring more general needs
to the Lord, such as the conversion of the unconverted, the revival of God's children,
the anointing of the teacher, the extension of the kingdom, let the objects be announced
beforehand. And let no one then suppose that there is unanimity whenever one is content
to join in prayer for these objects. No: we are to take them into our heart and life,
bring them continually before the Lord, be inwardly eager that the Lord should give
them: then we are on the way to the prayer that has power.
The second feature that characterizes a right prayer meeting is the coming together in the name of Jesus and the consciousness of His presence. The Scripture says, 'The name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.' (Prov. 18:10) *
The name is the expression of the person. When they come together, believers are to enter into the name of Jesus, to betake themselves within this name as their fortress and abode. In this name they mingle with one another before the Father, and out of this name they pray: this name makes them also truly one with each other. And when they are thus in this name, the living Lord Himself is in their midst: and He says that this is the reason why the Father certainly hears them. (John 14:13,14; 15:7,16; 16:23,24)
They are in Him, and He is in them, and out of Him they pray, and their prayer
comes before the Father in His power. O let the name of Jesus be really the point
of union, the meeting place, in our prayer meetings, and we shall be conscious that
He is in our midst.
Then there is the third feature of united prayer of which the Lord has told us: our request shall certainly be done of the Heavenly Father. The prayer shall certainly be answered. O we may well cry out in these days, 'Where is the God of Elijah?' for He was a God that answered. 'The God that shall answer, He shall be God,' said Elijah to the people. And he said to God, 'Answer me, Lord; answer me; that this people may acknowledge that Thou, O Lord, art God.' (2 Kings 2:14; 1 Kings 18:36; 1 Chron. 17:26; Acts 4:24; Jas. 5:16)
When we are content with much praying, with continuous praying, without answer, then there will be little answer given. But when we understand that the answer as the token of God's pleasure in our prayer is the principal thing, and are not willing to be content without it, we shall discover what is lacking in our prayer, and shall set ourselves so to pray that an answer may come. And this surely we may firmly believe: the Lord takes delight in answering. It is a joy to Him when His people so enter into the name of Jesus, and pray out of it, that He can give what they desire. (Acts. 12:5; 2 Cor. 1:11; Jas. 4:8; 5:16,17)
Children of God, however young and weak you may still be, here is one of the institutions prepared for you by the Lord Jesus Himself to supply you with help in prayer. Let every one make use of the prayer meeting. Let every one go in a praying and believing frame of mind, seeking the name and the presence of the Lord. Let every one seek to live and pray with his brethren and sisters. And let every one expect surely to see glorious answers to prayer.
Blessed Lord Jesus, who hast given us commandment to pray, as well in the solitary inner chamber as in public fellowship with one another, let the one habit always make the other more precious as complement and confirmation. Let the inner chamber prepare us, and awaken the need for union with Thy people in prayer. Let Thy presence there be our blessedness. And let fellowship with Thy people strengthen us surely to expect and receive answers. Amen.
1. There are many places of our country where prayer meetings might be a great blessing. A pious man or woman who should once a week or on Sabbath at mid-day gather together the inhabitants on a farm-place or the neighbours of two or three places that are not far from one another, might be able to obtain great blessing. Let every believing reader of this portion inquire if there does not exist in his neighbourhood some such need, and let him make a beginning in the name of the Lord. Let me therefore earnestly put the question to every reader: Is there a prayer-meeting in your district? Do you faithfully take part in it? Do you know what it is to come together with the children of God in the name of Jesus, to experience His presence and His hearing of prayer?
2. There is a book, 'The Hour of Prayer,' with suitable portions for reading out in such gatherings. Or let this book, 'The New Life,' be taken, a portion read, and some of the texts reviewed and spoken upon: this will give material for prayer.
3. 'Will the prayer meeting do no harm to the inner chamber?' is a question sometimes asked. My experience is just the reverse of this result. The prayer meeting is a school of prayer. The weak learn from more advanced petitioners. Material for prayer is given: opportunity for self-searching; encouragement to more prayer.
4. Would that it were more general in prayer meetings for people to speak of definite objects for which to pray; things in which one can definitely and trustfully look out for an answer, and concerning which one can know when an answer comes. Such announcements would greatly further unanimity and believing expectations.
* The Dutch version has -- 'and is set in a high room.' -- Translator
XXXVI. THE FEAR OF THE LORD
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'Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord. He shall not be afraid of evil tidings. His heart is established, he shall not be afraid.' -- Ps. 112:1,7,8
'So the Church, walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, was multiplied.' -- Acts 9:31
The Scriptures use the word 'fear' in a twofold way. In some places it speaks of 'fear' as something wrong and sinful, and in the strongest terms it forbids us to 'fear.' (Gen. 15:1; Isa. 8:13; Jer. 32:40; Rom. 8:15; 1 Pet. 3:14; 1 John 4:18)
In well-nigh one hundred places occurs the word: 'Fear not.' In many other places, on the contrary, fear is praised as one of the surest tokens of true godliness, acceptable to the Lord, and fruitful of blessing to us. (Ps. 22:24,26; 33:18; 112:1; 115:13; Prov. 28:14)
The people of God bear the name: those that fear the Lord. The distinction betwixt these two lies in this simple fact: the one is unbelieving fear, the other is believing. Where fear is found connected with lack of trust in God, there it is sinful and very hurtful. (Matt. 8:26; Rev. 21:9)
The fear, on the other hand, that is coupled with trust and hope in God, is for the spiritual life entirely indispensable. The fear that has man and what is temporal for its object, is condemned. The fear that with childlike confidence and love honours the Father, is commanded. (Ps. 33:18; 147:11; Luke 12:4,7)
It is the believing, not slavish, but filial, fear of the Lord that is presented by the Scriptures as a source of blessing and power. He that fears the Lord will fear nothing else. The fear of the Lord will be the beginning of all wisdom. The fear of the Lord is the sure way to the enjoyment of God's favour and protection. (Ps. 56:5,12; Prov. 1:7; 9:10; 10:27; 19:23; Acts. 9:31; 2 Cor. 7:1)
There are some Christians who by their upbringing are led into the fear of the Lord, even before they come to faith. This is a very great blessing: parents can give a child no greater blessing than to bring him up in the fear of the Lord. When those who are thus brought up are brought to faith, they have a great advantage: they are, as it were, prepared to walk in the joy of the Lord. When, on the contrary, others that have not this preparation, come to conversion, they have need of special teaching and vigilance, in order to pray for and awaken this holy fear. The elements of which this fear is composed are many and glorious. The principal are the following: --
There are holy reverence and awe before the glorious majesty of God and before the All Holy. These guard against the superficiality that forgets who God is, and that takes no pains to honour Him as God. (Job 42:6; Ps. 5:8; Isa. 6:2,5; Hab. 2:20; Zech. 2:3)
There is deep humility that is afraid of itself, and couples deep confidence in God with an entire distrust in itself. Conscious weakness that knows the subtlety of its own heart always dreads doing anything contrary to the will or honour of God. But just because he fears God, such an one firmly reckons on Him for protection. And this same humility inspires him in all his intercourse with his fellow-men. (Luke 18:2,4; Rom. 11:20; 1 Pet. 3:5)
There is circumspectness or vigilance. With holy forethought, it seeks to know the right path, to watch against the enemy, and to be guarded against all lightness or hastiness in speech, resolve, and conduct. (Prov. 2:5,11; 8:12,13; 13:16; 16:6; Luke 1:74)
And there are also in it holy zeal and courage in watching and striving. The fear of displeasing the Lord by not conducting one's self in everything as His servant, incites to being faithful in that which is least. The fear of the Lord takes all other fear away, and gives inconceivable courage in the certitude of victory. (Deut. 6:2; Isa. 12:2)
And out of this fear is then born joy. 'Rejoice with trembling:' the fear of the Lord gives joy its depth and stability. Fear is the root, joy the fruit: the deeper the fear, the higher the joy. On this account it is said: 'Ye that fear the Lord praise Him;' 'Ye that fear the Lord, bless the Lord.' (Ps. 22:24; 135:20)
Young disciples of Christ, hear the voice of your Father, 'Fear the Lord, ye His saints.' Let deep fear of the Lord and dread of all that might displease or grieve Him, fill you. Then shall you never have any evil to fear. He that fears the Lord and seeks to do all that pleases Him, for him shall God also do all that he desires. The childlike believing fear of God will lead you into the love and joy of God, while slavish, unbelieving, cowardly fear is utterly cast out.
O my God, unite my heart for the fear of Thy name. May I always be amongst those that fear the Lord, that hope in His mercy. Amen.
1. What are some of the blessings of the fear of God? (Ps. 31:20; 115:13; 127:1; 145:19; Prov. 1, 7,8,13,14,27; Acts 10:35)
2. What are the reasons why we are to fear God? (Deut. 10:17,20,21; Josh. 4:24; 1 Sam. 12:24; Jer. 5:22; 10:6,7; Matt. 10:28; Rev. 15:4)
3. It is especially the knowledge of God in His greatness, power, and glory that will fill the soul with fear. But for this end, we must set ourselves silent before Him, and take time for our soul to come under the impression of His majesty.
4. 'He delivered me from all my fears.' Does this apply to every different sort of fear by which you are hindered? There is the fear of man (Isa. 41:12,13; Heb 13:16);
the fear of heavy trial (Isa. 40:1,2);
the fear of our own weakness (Isa. 41:10);
fear for the work of God (1 Chron. 28:20);
the fear of death (Ps. 23:4).
5. Do you now understand the word: 'Blessed is the man that fears
the Lord. His heart is established, he shall not be afraid'?
XXXVII. UNDIVIDED CONSECRATION
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'And Ittai answered, As the Lord liveth, surely in what place my lord the king shall be, whether for death or for life, even there also will thy servant be.' -- 2 Sam. 15:21
'Whosoever he be of you that renounceth not all that he hath, he cannot be My disciple.' -- Luke 14:33
'Come ye out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be to you a Father.' -- 2 Cor. 6:17,18
'Yea verily, and I count all things to be loss for Christ Jesus my Lord.' -- Phil. 3:8
We have already said that surrender to the Lord is something that for the Christian always obtains newer and deeper significance. When this takes place, he comes to understand how this surrender involves nothing less than a complete and undivided consecration to live only, always, wholly for Jesus. as entirely as the temple was dedicated to the service of God alone, so that every one knew that it existed only for that purpose; as entirely as the offering on the altar could be used only according to the command of God, and no one had a right to dispose of one portion of it otherwise than God had said: so entirely do you belong to your Lord, and so undivided must your consecration to Him be. God continually reminded Israel that He had redeemed them to be His possession. (Ex. 19:4,5; Lev. 1:8,9; Deut. 7:6; Rom. 12:1; 1 Cor. 3:16,17)
Let us see what this implies.
There is personal attachment to Jesus, and intercourse with Him in secret. He will be, He must be, the beloved, the desire, the joy of our souls. It is not, in the first instance, to the service of God, but to Jesus as our Friend and King, our Redeemer and God, that we are to be consecrated. (John 14:21; 15:14,15; 21:17; Gal. 2:10)
It is only the spiritual impulse of a personal cordial love that can set us in a condition for a life of complete consecration. Continually did Jesus use the words: 'For My sake,' 'Follow Me,' 'My disciple'; He Himself must be the central point. (Matt. 10:32,33,37,38,40: Luke 14:26,27,33; 18:22)
He gave Himself: to desire to have Him, to love, to depend on Him, is the characteristic
of a disciple.
Then there is public confession. What has been given to any one, that he will have acknowledged by all as his property. His possessions are his glory. When the Lord Jesus manifests His great grace to a soul in redeeming it, He desires that the world should see and know it: He would be known and honoured as its proprietor. He desires that every one that belongs to Him should confess Him, and that it should come out that Jesus is King. (Ex. 33:16; Josh. 24:15; John 13:35)
Apart from this public confession, the surrender is but a half-hearted one. As a part of this public confession, it is also required that we should join His people and acknowledge them as our people. The one new commandment that the Lord gave, the sure token by which all should recognize that we are His disciples, is brotherly love. Although the children of God in a locality are few, or despised, or full of imperfection, yet do you join them. Love them: hold intercourse with them. Attach yourself to them in prayer meetings and otherwise. Love them fervently: brotherly love has wonderful power to open the heart for the love and the indwelling of God. (Ruth 1:16; John 15:12; Rom. 7:5; 1 Cor. 12:20,21; Eph. 4:14,16; 1 Pet. 1:22)
To complete consecration, there also belongs separation from sin and the world. Touch not the unclean thing. Know that the world is under the power of the Evil One. Ask not how much of it you can retain without being lost. Ask not always what is sin and what is lawful. Even of that which is lawful, the Christian must oftentimes make a willing renunciation, in order to be able to live wholly for his God. (1 Cor. 8:13; 9:25,27; 10:23; 2 Cor. 6:16,17; 2 Tim. 2:4)
Abstinence even from lawful things is often indispensable for the full imitation of the Lord Jesus. Live as one who is really separated for God and His holiness. He who renounces everything, who counts everything loss for Jesus' sake, shall even in this life receive an hundredfold. (Gen. 22:16,17; 2 Chron. 25:9; Luke 18:29; John 12:24,25; Phil. 3:8)
And what I separate from everything, I will use. Entire consecration has its eye upon making us useful and fit for God and His service. Let there not be with you the least doubt as to whether God has need of you, and will make you a great blessing. Only give yourself unreservedly into His hands. Present yourself to Him, that He may fill you with His blessing, His love, His Spirit: you shall be a blessing. (2 Tim. 2:21)
Let no one fear that this demand for a complete consecration is too high for him. You are not under the law which demands, but gives no power. You are under grace, which itself works what it requires. (2 Cor. 9:8; 2 Thess. 1:11,12)
Like the first surrender, so is every fresh dedication yielded to this Jesus, whom the Father has given to do all things for you. Consecration is a deed of faith, a part of the glorious life of faith. It is on this account that you have to say: It is not I, but the grace of God in me, that will do it. I live only by faith in Him who works in me as well the willing as the performance. (1 Cor. 15:10; Gal. 2:20; Phil. 2:13)
Blessed Lord, open the eyes of my heart that I may see how completely Thou wouldst have me for Thyself. Be Thou in the hidden depths of my heart the one power that keeps me occupied, and holds me in possession. Let all know of me that Thou art my King, that I ask only for Thy will. In my separation from the world, in my surrender to Thy people and to Thy will, let it be manifest that I am wholly, yea, wholly, the Lord's. Amen.
1. There is well-nigh no point of the Christian life in connection with which I should more desire to urge you to pray to God that He may enlighten your eyes, than this of the entire consecration that God desires. In myself and others, I discover that with our own thoughts we can form no conception how completely God Himself would take possession of our will and live in us. The Holy Spirit must reveal this in us. Only then indeed does a conviction arise of how little we understand this. We are not to think: I see truly how entirely I must live for God, but I cannot accomplish this: no, we are to say: I am still blind, I have still no view of what is the glory of a life in which God is all: if I should once see that, I would strongly desire and believe that, not I, but God, should work it in me.
2. Let there not be in your mind the least doubt as to whether you have given yourself to God, to live wholly and only as His. Express this conviction often before Him. Acknowledge that you do not yet see or understand what it means, but abide by this, that you desire it to be so. Reckon on the Holy Spirit to seal you, to stamp you as God's entire possession. Even if you stumble and discover self-will, hold fast your integrity, and trustfully aver that the deep, firm choice of your heart is in all things, in all things, to live to God.
3. Keep always before your eyes that the power to give all to the Lord, and to be all for the Lord, arises from the fact that He has given all for you, that He is all for you. Faith in what He did for you is the power of what you do for Him.
XXXVIII. ASSURANCE OF FAITH
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'Looking unto the promise of God, Abraham wavered not through unbelief, but waxed strong through faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that, what He had promised, He was able also to perform.' -- Rom. 4:20,21
'My little children, let us not love in word, neither with the tongue; but in deed and truth. Hereby shall we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our heart before Him.' -- 1 John 3:18,19 'And hereby we know that He abideth in us, by the Spirit which He gave us.' -- 1 John 3:24
Every child of God has need of the assurance of faith: the full certitude of faith that the Lord has received him and made him His child. The Holy Scripture always speaks to Christians as those that know that they are redeemed, that they are now children of God, and that they have received eternal life. (Deut. 26:17,18; Isa. 44:5; Gal. 4:7; 1 John 5:12)
How, pray, can a child love or serve his father, while he is uncertain whether
his father will really acknowledge him as a child? We have already spoken on this
point in a previous chapter; but oftentimes by ignorance or distrust a Christian
again comes into darkness: for this reason we will now deal with it once again of
Scripture names three things by which we have our certitude: first, faith in the word; after that, works; and then, in and with both of these, the Holy Spirit.
First, faith in the word. Abraham is to us the great exemplar of faith, and also of the assurance of faith. And what then says the Scripture about the certitude that he had? He was fully assured that what God had promised He was able also to perform. His expectation was only from God, and what God had promised. He relied upon God to do what He had said: the promise of God was for him his only but sufficient assurance of faith. (John 3:33, 5:24; Acts. 27:25; Rom. 4:21,22; 1 John 5:10,11)
There are many young Christians who think that faith in the word is not sufficient to give full certitude: they would fain have something more. They imagine that assurance, a sure inward feeling or conviction, is what is given above or outside of faith This is wrong. As I have need of nothing more than the word of a trustworthy man to give me complete certitude, so must the word of God be my certitude. People err because they seek something in themselves and in their feeling. No: the whole of salvation comes from God: the soul must not be occupied with itself or its work, but with God: he that forgets himself to hear what God says, and to rely upon His promise as something worthy of credit, has in this fact the fullest assurance of faith. (Num. 23:19; Ps. 89:35)
He does not doubt the promises, but is strong in faith, giving God the glory,
and being fully assured that what was promised God is also able to perform.
Then the Scripture names also works: by unfeigned love we shall assure our hearts. (1 John 3:18,19)
Here carefully observe this: assurance by faith in the promise, without works, comes first. The godless man who receives grace knows this only from the word. But then, later on, assurance is to follow from works. 'By works was faith made perfect.' (John 15:10,14: Gal. 5:6; Jas. 2:22; 1 John 3:14)
The tree is planted in faith; without fruits. But when the time of fruit arrives,
and no fruit appears, then I may doubt. The more clearly I at the outset hold the
assurance of faith, without works, on the word alone, the more certainly shall works
And both -- assurance by faith and by works -- come by the Spirit. Not by the word alone, and not by works as something that I myself do, but by the word as the instrument of the Spirit, and by works as the fruit of the Spirit, has a child of God the heavenly certification that he is the Lord's. (John 4:13; Rom. 8:13,14; 1 John 3:24)
O let us believe in Jesus as our life, and abide in Him, and assurance of faith shall never be lacking to us. (WStS Note: Emboldened emphasis is ours.)
O my Father, teach me to find my assurance of faith in a life with Thee, in cordial reliance upon Thy promises, and in cordial obedience to Thy commands. Let Thy Holy Spirit also witness with my spirit that I am a child of God. Amen.
1. The importance of the assurance of faith lies in the fact, that I cannot possibly love or serve as a child a God of whom I do not know whether He loves and acknowledges me as His child.
2. The whole Bible is one great proof for the assurance of faith. Just because it thus speaks of itself, it is not always named. Abraham and Moses knew well that God had received them: otherwise they could not serve or trust Him. Israel knew that God had redeemed them: for this reason they had to serve God. How much more must this be the case in the greater redemption of the New Testament? All the Epistles are written to men of whom it is presupposed that they know and confess that they are redeemed, holy children of God.
3. Faith and obedience are inseparable, as root and fruit. First, there must be the root, and the root must have time without fruits; then later on come surely the fruits: first assurance without fruits by living faith in the word; then, further assurance from fruits. It is in a life with Jesus that assurance of faith is exalted firmly above all doubt.
4. Assurance of faith is much helped by confession. What I express becomes from me more evident; I am bound and confirmed by it.
5. It is at the feet of Jesus, looking up into His friendly countenance, listening to His loving promises, it is in intercourse with Jesus Himself in prayer, that all doubtfulness of mind falls away. Go thither for the full assurance of faith.
XXXIX. CONFORMITY TO JESUS
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'Foreordained to be conformed to the image of His Son.' -- Rom. 8:29 'I have given you an example, that ye also should do as I have done to you.' -- John 13:15
The Bible speaks of a twofold conformity, a twofold likeness that we bear. We may be conformed to the world or to Jesus. The one excludes and drives out the other. Conformity to Jesus, where it is sought, will be secretly prevented by conformity to the world more than anything else. And conformity to the world can be overcome by nothing but conformity to Jesus. Young Christian, the new life of which you have become partaker is the life of God in heaven. In Christ that life is revealed and made visible. What the workings and fruits of eternal life were in Jesus, they shall also be in you: in His life you get to see what eternal life will work in you. It cannot be otherwise: if for this end you surrender yourself unreservedly to Jesus and the dominion of eternal life, it will bring forth in you a walk of wonderful conformity to that of Jesus. (Matt. 20:27,28; Luke 6:40; John 6:57; 1 John 2:6; 4:17)
To the true imitation of Jesus in His example and growth in inward conformity to Him, two things especially are necessary. These are a clear insight that I am really called to this, and a firm trust that it is possible for me.
One of the greatest hindrances in the spiritual life is that we do not know, that we do not see, what God desires that we should be. (Matt. 22:19; Luke 24:16; 1 Cor. 3:1,2; Heb. 5:11,12)
Our understanding is still so little enlightened, we have still so many of our own human thoughts and imaginations about the true service of God, we know so little of waiting for the Spirit who alone can teach us. We do not acknowledge that even the clearest words of God do not have for us the meaning and power that God desires. And so long as we do not spiritually discern what likeness to Jesus is, and how utterly we are called to live like Him, there can be but little said of true conformity. Would that we could only conceive our need of a special heavenly instruction on this point. (1 Cor. 2:12,13; Eph. 1:17,18)
Let us for this end earnestly examine the Scriptures in order to know what God says and desires about our conformity to Christ. (John 13:15; 15:10,12; 27:18; Eph. 5:2; Phil. 2:5; Col. 3:18)
Let us unceasingly ponder such words of Scripture, and keep our heart in contact with them. Let it remain fixed with us that we have given ourselves wholly to the Lord, to be all that He desires. And let us trustfully pray that the Holy Spirit would inwardly enlighten us and bring us to a full view of the life of Jesus so far as that can be seen in a believer. (1 Cor. 11:1; 2 Cor. 3:18)
The Spirit will convince us that we, no less than Jesus, are absolutely called to live only for the will and glory of the Father: to be in the world even as He is. The other thing that we have need of is the belief that it is really possible for us with some measure of exactness to bear the image of our Lord. Unbelief is the cause of impotence. We put this matter otherwise. Because we are powerless, we think we dare not believe that we can be conformed to our Lord. This thought is in conflict with the word of God. We do not have it in our own power to carry ourselves after the image of Jesus. No: He is our head and our life. He dwells in us, and will have His life work from within, outwards, with divine power, through the Holy Spirit. (John 14:23; 2 Cor. 13:3; Eph. 3:17,18)
Yet this cannot be apart from our faith. Faith is the consent of the heart, the surrender to Him to work, the reception of His working. 'Be it unto you according to your faith,' is one of the fundamental laws of the kingdom of God. (Zech. 8:6; Matt 8:29; Luke 1:37,45; 18:27; Gal. 2:20)
It is something incredible what a power unbelief has to hinder the working and the blessing of the Almighty God. The Christian who would be partaker of conformity to Christ must specially cherish the firm trust that this blessing is within his reach, is entirely within the range of possibility. He must learn to look to Jesus as Him to whom he by the grace of God Almighty can, in his measure, be really conformable. He must believe that the same Spirit that was in Jesus is also in him; that the same Father that led and strengthened Jesus also watches over him; that the same Jesus that lived on earth now lives in him. He must cherish the strong assurance that this Three-One God is at work in changing him into the image of the Son. (John 14:19; 17:19; Rom. 8:2; 2 Cor. 3:18; Eph. 1:19,10)
He that believes this shall receive it. It will not be without much prayer: it will require especially converse, ceaseless intercourse with God and Jesus. Yet he that desires it and is willing to give time and sacrifice to it, certainly receives it.
Son of God, Effulgence of the glory of God, the very image of His substance, I must be changed into Thine image. In Thee I see the image and the likeness of God in which we are created, in which we are by Thee created anew. Lord Jesus, let conformity to Thee be the one desire, the one hope of my soul. Amen.
1. Conformity to Jesus: we think that we understand the word: but how little do we comprehend that God really expects we should live even as Jesus. It requires much time with Him, in prayer and pondering of His example, at all rightly to conceive it. The writer of these precepts has written a book on this theme, has often spoken of it, and yet he sometimes feels as if he must cry out: Is it really true? Has God indeed called us to live even as Jesus?
2. 'Like Jesus: Thoughts on the image of the Son of God and our conformity to Him,' is the title of a book in which the various features of the image of Jesus and the sure way of receiving them are set forth.
3. Conformity to the world is strengthened especially by intercourse with it: It is in intercourse with Jesus that we shall adopt His mode of thinking, His disposition, His manners.
4. The chief feature of the life of Jesus is this: He surrendered Himself wholly to the Father in behalf of men. This is the chief feature of conformity to Him: the offering up of ourselves to God for the redemption and blessing of the lost.
5. The chief feature His inner disposition was -- childlikeness: absolute dependence on the Father, great willingness to be taught, cheerful preparedness to do the will of the Father. Be specially like Him in this.
XL. CONFORMITY TO THE WORLD
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'I beseech you, brethren, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God. And be not fashioned according to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.' -- Rom. 12:1,2
Be not conformed to this world. But what is conformity to the world? The opposite of conformity to Jesus: for Jesus and the world stand directly opposed to each other. The world crucified Him. He and His disciples are not of the world. The spirit of this world cannot receive the Spirit of God, for it sees Him not and knows Him not. (John 14:17; 17:14,16; 1 Cor. 2:6,8)
And what is the spirit of this world? The spirit of this world is the disposition that animates mankind in their natural condition, where the Spirit of God has not yet renewed them. The spirit of this world comes from the Evil One, who is the prince of this world, and has dominion over all that are not renewed by the Spirit of God. (John 14:30; 16:11; 1 Cor. 2:12)
And in what does the spirit of this world, or conformity to it, manifest itself? The word of God gives the answer: 'All that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the vainglory of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.' The craving for pleasure or the desire to enjoy the world; the craving for property, or the desire to possess the world; the craving for glory, or the desire to be honoured in the world: these are the three chief forms of the spirit of the world. (1 John 2:15,16)
And these three are one in root and essence. The spirit of this world is, that man makes himself his own end: he makes himself the central point of the world: all creation, so far as he has power over it, must serve him; he seeks his life in the visible. This is the spirit of the world: to seek one's self and the visible. (John 5:44)
And the Spirit of Jesus: to live not for one's self and not for the visible, but for God and the things that are invisible. (2 Cor. 4:18; 5:7,15)
It is a very terrible and serious thought that once can carry on a busy fashionable life, free from manifest sin or unrighteousness, and yet remain in the friendship of the world, and thereby in enmity against God. (Jas. 4:4)
Where the care for the earthly, for what we eat and what we should drink, for what we possess or may still get into possession, for what we can have brought forth in the earth and made to increase, is the chief element in our life, there we are conformed to this world. It is a terrible and a very serious thought that one can maintain to all appearance a Christian life and think that one is trusting in Christ, while yet one is living with the world for self and the visible. (Matt. 6:32,33)
For this reason the command comes to all Christians with great emphasis: Be conformed,
not to this world, but to Jesus.
And how can I, for this end, come to be not conformed to the world? Read our text over again with consideration: we read there two things. Observe what goes before. It is those that have presented their bodies to God as a sacrifice on the altar that have it said to them: Be not conformed to the world. Offer yourself to God -- that is conformity to Jesus; live every day as one that is offered up to God, crucified in Christ to the world: then you shall not be conformed to the world. (Gal. 6:14)
Observe also what follows: Be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is the perfect will of God. There must be a continuous growing renewal of our mind. This takes place by the Holy Spirit, when we let ourselves be led by Him. Then we learn to judge spiritually of what is according to the will of God and what is according to the spirit of the world. A Christian who strives after the progressive renewal of his whole mind shall not be conformed to the world: the Spirit of God makes him conformed to Jesus. (2 Cor. 6:14,16; Eph. 5:17; Heb. 5:14)
Christians, pray, do believe that Jesus has obtained for you the power to overcome the world, with its deep hidden seductions to living for ourselves. Believe this: believe in Him as Victor: and you also have the victory. (John 16:33; 1 John 5:4,5)
Precious Lord, we have presented ourselves to Thee as living sacrifices. We have offered up ourselves to God. We are not of the world, even as Thou art not of the world. Lord, let our mind be enlightened by the renewing of the Holy Ghost, that we may rightly see what the spirit of this world is. And let it be seen in us that we are not of this world, but are conformed to Jesus. Amen.
1. Worldly pleasures. Is dancing sin? What harm is there in playing billiards? Why may a Christian not go to the play? One has sometimes wished that there were in the Scriptures a distinct law to forbid such things. God has intentionally not given this. If there were such a law, it would make men only externally pious. God would put each one upon trial whether his inner disposition is worldly or heavenly. Pray, learn Rom. 12:1,2 by heart, and ask the Spirit of God to make it living in you. The Christian who offers himself up to God, and becomes transformed by the renewing of the mind to prove the perfect will of God, will speedily learn whether he may dance or play billiards. The Christian who is afraid only of hell, but not of conformity to the world, cannot see what the Spirit of God gives His children to see.
2. It is remarkable that the trinity of the god of this world, in John's Epistle, is seen as well in the temptation in Paradise as in that of the Lord Jesus.
The lust of the flesh:
The woman saw that the tree was good for food. Command that those stones become bread.
The lust of the eyes:
And that it was a delight to the eyes.
The devil showeth Him all the kingdoms of the world. And the vainglory of life.
And that the tree was to be desired to make one wise. Cast Thyself down.
3. Consider what I say to you: It is only conformity to Jesus that will keep out conformity to the world. Let conformity to Jesus be the study, the endeavour of your soul.
XLI. THE LORD'S DAY
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'And God blessed the seventh day, and hallowed it: because that in it He rested from all His work which God had created.' -- Gen. 2:3 'On that day, the first day of the week, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.' -- John 20:19 'I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day.' -- Rev. 1:10
Man abides under the law of time. He must have time for what he would do or obtain. In a wonderful way God gives him time for intercourse with Himself. One day in seven God separated for fellowship with Himself. The great object of God's gift of this day is said to be, that it may serve as a token that God desires to sanctify man. (Ex. 31:13,17; Ezek. 20:12,20)
Endeavour, pray, to understand well that word 'holy:' it is one of the most important words in the Bible. God is the Holy One: that alone is holy to which God communicates His holiness by revealing Himself thereby. We know that the temple was holy, because God dwelt there. God had taken possession of it. He gave Himself to dwell there. So would God also sanctify man, take possession of him, fill him with Himself, with His own life, His disposition, His holiness. For this end, God took possession of the seventh day, appropriating it to Himself: He sanctified it. And He calls man also to sanctify it, and to acknowledge it as the Lord's day, the day of the Lord's presence and special working. He that does this, that sanctifies this day, shall, as God has promised, be sanctified by Him. (Read with attention Ex. 31:12-17, especially verse 13.)
God blessed the seventh day by sanctifying it. The blessing of God is the power of life, lodged by Him in anything, whereby it has a result full of blessing. Grass, and cattle, and man He blessed with power to multiply. (Gen. 1:22,28; 22:17)
And so He lodged in the seventh day a power to bless: the promise that every one that sanctifies this day shall be sanctified and blessed by it. We must accustom ourselves always to think of the Sabbath as a blessed day, that certainly brings blessing. The blessing bound up with it is very great. (Isa. 46:4,7; 48:13,14)
There is still a third word that is used of the institution of the Sabbath: 'God rested on the seventh day,' and, as it stands in Exodus, 'was refreshed' or gladdened. God would sanctify and bless us, by introducing us into His rest. He would bring us to see that we are not to burden ourselves with our cares and weakness: we are to rest in Him, in His finished work, in His rest, which He takes because all is in order. This rest is not the outward cessation of employments; no: it is the rest of faith, by which we cease from our works as God did from His, because all is finished. Into this rest we enter by faith in the finished work of Jesus, in surrender to be sanctified by God. (Heb. 4:3,10)
Because Jesus finished the second creation in His resurrection, and we, by the power of His resurrection, enter into life and rest, the seventh day is changed to the first day of the week. There is no specific statement on this point: under the New Testament, the Spirit takes the place of the law. The Spirit of the Lord led His disciples to the celebration of this day. It was the day, not only on which the Lord was raised, but also on which, in all likelihood, the Spirit was poured out: not only on which the Lord manifested Himself during the forty days, but on which the Spirit also specially worked (John 20:1,19,26; Acts. 1:8; 20:7: 1 Cor. 16:2; Rev. 1:10)
The chief lessons that we have to learn about this day are the following: --
The principal aim of the Sabbath is to make you holy, as God is holy. God would have you holy: this is glory, this is blessedness: this is His blessing, this His rest. God would have you holy, filled with Himself and His holiness. (Ex. 29:43,45; Ezek. 37:27,28; 1 Pet. 1:15,16)
In order to sanctify you, God must have you with Him, in His presence and fellowship. You are to come away from all your struggling and working to rest with Him: to rest quietly, without exertion or anxiety, in the certitude that the Son has finished everything, that the Father cares for you in everything, that the Spirit will work everything in you. In the holy rest of a soul that is converted to God, that is silent towards God, that remains silent before His presence to hear what God speaks in him, that reckons upon God to achieve all, God can reveal Himself. (Ps. 52:2,6; Hab. 2:20; Zech. 2:13; John 19:30)
It is thus that He sanctifies us.
We sanctify the day of rest, first by withdrawal from all external business and distraction; but then especially by employing it as God's day, belonging to the Lord, for what He destined it, fellowship with Himself. Take heed, on the other hand, that you do not use the day of rest only as a day for the public observance of divine worship. It is especially in private personal intercourse that God can bless and sanctify you. In the church, the understanding is kept active, and you have the ordinances of preaching, united prayer and praise, to keep you occupied. But we do not there always know whether the heart is really dealing with God, is taking delight in Him. This takes place in solitude. O, accustom yourself, then, to be alone with the Lord your God. Not only speak to Him: let Him speak to you: let your heart be the temple in whose holy silence His voice is heard. Rest in God: then will God say of your heart: This is my rest, here will I dwell. (Ps. 132:14)
Young Christian, set great store by the holy, the blessed day of rest. Long for it. Thank God for it. Keep it very holy. And, above all, let it be a day of inner fellowship with your God, of a living converse with His love.
Holy God, I thank Thee for the holy day which Thou givest me as a token that Thou wilt sanctify me. Lord God, it is Thou who didst sanctify the day by taking it for Thyself: sanctify me in like manner by taking me for Thyself. Teach me so to enter into Thy rest, so to find my rest in Thy love, that my whole soul shall be silent before Thee, in order that Thou mayest make Thyself and Thy love known in me. And let every Sabbath be to me a foretaste of the eternal rest with Thee. Amen.
1. The Sabbath was the first of all the means of grace, instituted even before the Fall. You cannot see too high a value upon it.
2. Observe how specially the Three-One God has revealed Himself upon the day of rest. The Father rested on this day. The Son rose from the dead upon it. The Spirit sanctified this day by His special workings. You may on this day expect the fellowship and the powerful workings of the Three-One.
3. What is meant by the word 'holy'? Of what is the day of rest a token, according to Ex. 31:13? How did God sanctify the day of rest? How does He sanctify us?
4. There are in this country peculiar difficulties in the way of the quiet celebration of the day of rest in a village, where the church is often very full. Yet one can lay aside that which is unnecessary and receive the influx of company. We can fix an hour in which there shall be reading and singing.
5. It is a matter of great importance to bring up children aright, for the sanctification of the Sabbath day, by avoiding worldly society and conversation, by accustoming them to read something that may be useful for them. For the younger children, there should be in every place a Sabbath school. For the older children, it would be well to come together in connection with such a book as this, every one with a Bible, and to review texts.
6. There is no better day than the Lord's day for doing good to body and soul. Let the works of Satan on this day come to an end, and work for the heathen and the ignorant be carried forward.
7. The principal point is this: the day of rest is the day of God's rest, of rest in and with God, and of intercourse with Him. It is God that will sanctify us. He does this by taking possession of us.
XLII. HOLY BAPTISM
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'Go ye therefore, and make disciples * of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you.' -- Matt. 28:19
'He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.' -- Mark. 26:16
In these words of the institution of baptism, we find its meaning comprehended as in a summary. The word 'teach' means: 'make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them.' The believing disciple, as he is baptized in the water, is also to be baptized or introduced into the name of the Three-One God. By the name of the Father, the new birth and life as a child in the love of the Father are secured to him: (Gal. 3:26,27; 4:6,7)
by the name of the Son, participation in the forgiveness of sins and the life that is in Christ: (Col. 2:12)
by the name of the Holy Spirit, the indwelling and progressive renewal of the Spirit. (Tit. 2:5,6)
And every baptized believer must always look upon baptism as his entrance into
a covenant with the Three-One God, and as a pledge that the Father, the Son, and
the Spirit will in course of time do for him all that they have promised. It requires
a life-long study to know and enjoy all the blessing that is presented in baptism.
In other passages of Scripture the thrice two-fold blessing is again set forth separately: thus we find bound up with it the new birth required to make a child of God. 'Except a man be born of water and the Sprit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.' The baptized disciple has in God a Father, and he has to live as a child in the love of this Father. (John 3:3,5)
Then, again, baptism is brought more directly into connection with the redemption that is in Christ. Consequently, the first and simplest representation of it is the forgiveness or washing away of sins. Forgiveness is always the gateway or entrance into all blessing: hence baptism is also the sacrament of the beginning of the Christian life; but of a beginning that is maintained through the whole life. It is on this account that in Rom. 6 baptism is represented as the secret of the whole of sanctification, the entrance into a life in union with Jesus. 'Or are ye ignorant that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?' And then follows in verse 4-11, the more precise explanation of what it is to be baptized into the death of Jesus, and to arise out of this with Him for a new life in Him. This is elsewhere very powerfully comprehended in this one word: 'As many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ.' This alone is the right life of a baptized disciple: he has put on Christ. (Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:27; Col. 2:12)
As one is plunged into water and passes under it, so is the believing confessor baptized into the death of Christ, in order then to live and walk clothed with the new life of Christ. And there are other passages where again there is connected with baptism the promise of the Spirit, not only as the Spirit of regeneration, but as the gift bestowed from heaven upon believers for indwelling and sealing, for progressive renewal. 'He saved us through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost, which He poured out upon us richly.' Renewal is here the activity of the Spirit, whereby the new life that is planted in the new birth penetrates our whole being, so that all our thinking and doing is sanctified by Him. (Rom. 12:2; Eph. 4:23; Tit. 2:5,6)
And all this rich blessing which lies in baptism is received by faith. 'He that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved.' Baptism was not only a confession on man's part of the faith that he who would be a disciple already had, but equally on God's part a seal for the confirmation of faith, a covenant token in which the whole treasury of grace lay open, to be enjoyed throughout life. As often as a baptized believer sees a baptism administered, or reflects upon it, it is to be to him an encouragement to press by an over-growing faith into the full life of salvation that the Three-One desires to work in him. The Holy Spirit is given to appropriate within us all the love of the Father and all the grace of the Son. The believing candidate for baptism is baptized into the death of Christ, has put on Christ: the Holy Spirit is in him to give him all this as his daily experience. (Eph. 4:14,15; Col 2:16)
Lord God, make Thy holy baptism always operative in my soul as the experience that I am baptized into the death of Christ. And let Thy people everywhere understand by Thy Spirit what rich blessing lies thrown open in the baptism of their children. Amen.
And what are we now to think of Infant Baptism? With the assurance that those who cleave only to God's word, namely, the Baptists, will say to us: You cannot adduce a single passage in Scripture where the baptism of little children is spoken of.
Our answer is that this is thoroughly taught us in Scripture, not indeed by separate texts, but by its whole tenor. The reason why the Lord Jesus did not name children specially, was that this was altogether unnecessary. From the time of Abraham onwards God had engrained it in His people, that in His covenant He always reckoned parents and children together. He deals, not with separate individuals alone, but with households: the faith of a father held good for the child, so long as the child did not violate the covenant.
a. In Abraham, Isaac obtained part; in every father amongst the people of Israel his child obtained part in the covenant between Me and thee, and thy seed after thee, to be a God unto thee, and thy seed after thee.' (Gen. 17:7.)
b. Even so in connection with the Passover, it was ordained that, when a stranger would join the people, all his males should be circumcised. (Ex. 12:48)
_ Up to the time of Christ it was unquestionably the case that,
when any one belonged to the people of God or desired to become attached to them,
his little children were received along with him. If the Lord had desired to change
this, a very express injunction was needed for the purpose.
c. How expressly did the Lord Jesus declare of children: 'Of such is the kingdom of God.' And under the kingdom should he not have as a Christian the privilege that he had as a Jew? Yes: the covenant of Abraham is still confirmed from child to child.
d. The answer of Paul to the goal-keeper confirms the continuance of what God had instituted: 'Believe in the Lord Jesus and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.' Although there were no children in that house, this promise confirms the principle that God deals, not merely with individuals, but with households.
e. 'Therefore are your children holy.' Since the child itself is holy, it has of itself a right to the holy token of the covenant.
* The Dutch version, like our Authorized, has 'teach' here.
XLIII. THE LORD'S SUPPER
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'The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a communion of the body of Christ?' -- 1 Cor. 10:16
'He that eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood abideth in Me, and I in him. He that eateth Me, he also shall live because of Me.' -- John 6:56,57
All life has need of food: it is sustained by nourishment which it takes in from without. The heavenly life must have heavenly food; nothing less than Jesus Himself is the bread of life: 'He that eateth Me shall live by Me.' (Ps. 42:3; Matt. 4:4; John 6:51)
This heavenly food, Jesus, is brought near to us in two of the means of grace, the word and the Lord's Supper. The word comes to present Jesus to us from the side of the intellectual life, by our thoughts. The Lord's Supper comes in like manner to present Jesus to us from the side of the emotional life, by the physical senses. Man has a double nature: he has spirit and body. Redemption begins with the spirit, but it would also penetrate to the body, (Rom. 8:23; 1 Cor. 6:13, 15,19,20; Phil. 3:21)
Redemption is not complete until this mortal body also shall share in glory. The Supper is the pledge that the Lord will also change our body of humiliation and make it like His own glorified body by the working whereby He subdues all things to Himself. It is not simply because all that is corporeal is more clear and intelligible for us, that the Lord gives Himself in the bread of the Supper. No: by the body, Scripture often understands the whole man. In the Supper, Christ would take possession of the whole man, body and soul, to renew and sanctify it by the power of His holy body and blood. Even His body shares in His glory: even His body is communicated by the Holy Spirit. Even our body is fed with His holy body, and renewed by the working of the Holy Spirit. (Matt. 26:26; John 6:54,55; Rom. 8:11,13)
This feeding with the body of Christ takes place, on the side of the Lord by the Spirit, on our side by faith. On the side of the Lord by the Spirit: for the Spirit communicates to us the power of the glorified body, whereby even our bodies, according to Scripture, become members of His body. (1 Cor. 6:15,17; 12:13; Eph. 5:23,30)
The Spirit gives us to drink of the life-power of His blood, so that that blood
becomes the life and the joy of our soul. The bread is a participation in the body:
the cup is a participation in the blood.
And this takes place on our side by faith: a faith that, above what can be seen or understood, reckons on the wonder-working power of the Holy Spirit to unite us really, alike in soul and body, with our Lord, by communicating Him inwardly to us. (Luke 1:37; 1 Cor. 2:9,12)
This is what the Heidelberg Catechism intends in Question and Answer 76.
'What is it to eat the glorified body of Christ and to drink His shed blood?'
'It is not only to receive with a believing heart the whole suffering and dying of Christ, and thereby to obtain forgiveness of sins and eternal life, but also therewith, by the Holy Spirit, who dwells alike in Christ and in us, to be so united more and more with His blessed body, that we, although He is in heaven and we are upon earth, are nevertheless flesh of His flesh and bone of His bone, and so live and are governed eternally by one Spirit, as the members of our body by a soul.' * This deeply inward union with Jesus, even with His body and blood, is the great aim of the Lord's Supper. All that it teaches and gives us of the forgiveness of sins, of the remembrance of Jesus, of the confirmation of the divine covenant, of union with one another, of the announcement of the Lord's death till He comes, must lead to this: complete oneness with Jesus through the Spirit. (Matt. 26:28; Luke 22:19; John 6:54-56; 1 Cor. 10:17; 11:25; Rev. 3:20)
'He that eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood abideth in Me, and I in him. He that eateth Me, he shall live by Me.' It is readily understood that the blessing of the Supper depends very much on preparation within the inner chamber, on the hunger and thirst with which one longs for the living God. (Job. 11:13; Isa. 45:1,3; Matt. 5:6; Luke 1:53; 1 Cor. 11:8)
Do not imagine, however, that the Supper is nothing but an emblematic token of what we already have by faith in the word. No: it is a spiritual actual communication from the exalted Lord in heaven of the powers of His life: yet this, only according to the measure of desire and faith. Prepare for the Lord's Supper, therefore, with very earnest separation and prayer. And then expect that the Lord will, with His heavenly power, in a way to you incomprehensible, yet sure, renew your life.
Blessed Lord, who didst institute the Supper in order to communicate Thyself to Thy redeemed as their food and their power of life, O teach us to use the Supper. Teach us at every opportunity to eat and to drink with great hunger and thirst for Thyself and for full union with Thee, believing that the Holy Spirit feeds us with Thy body and gives us to drink of Thy blood. Amen.
1. In connection with the Supper let us be especially on our guard against the idea of a mere divine service of the congregation or transitory emotion. Preaching and addresses may make an edifying impression, while there is little power or blessing.
2. For a meal, the first requisite is hunger. A strong hunger and thirst for God is indispensable.
3. In the Supper, Jesus desires to give Himself to us, and would have us give ourselves to Him. These are great and holy things.
4. The lessons of the Supper are many. It is a feast of remembrance; a feast of reconciliation; a covenant feast; a love feast; a feast of hope. But all these separate thoughts are only subordinate parts of the principal element: the living Jesus would give Himself to us in the most inward union. The Son of God would descend into our inmost parts; He would come in to celebrate the Supper with us. 'He that eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood, let him abide in Me, and I in him.'
5. And then union with Jesus is union with His people in love and sympathy.
6. The preparatory address is not itself the preparation: it is only a help to the private preparation which one must have in intercourse with Jesus.
7. To hold festival with God at His table is something of unspeakable importance. Pray, do not suppose that, because you are a Christian, it is easy for you to go and sit down. No: betake yourself to solitude with Jesus, that He may speak to you and say how you are to prepare you heart to eat with Him, yea, with Himself.
It is very useful to take the whole week before the Supper for preparation and the whole week after for reflection.
* 'Der Heidelbergische Catechismus,' 28, 5:76.
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'Now therefore, if ye will obey My voice indeed, ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto Me from among all peoples.' -- Ex. 19:5 'The Lord will surely bless thee, if thou only diligently hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God.' -- Deut. 25:4,5 'By faith Abraham obeyed. -- Heb. 11:8
'He learned obedience by the things which He suffered; and having been made perfect, He became unto all them that obey Him the author of eternal salvation.' -- Heb. 5:8,9
Obedience is one of the most important words in the Bible and in the life of the Christian. It was in the way of disobedience that man lost the favour and the life of God: it is only in the way of obedience that that favour and that life can again be enjoyed. (Rom. 5:19; 6:16; 1 Pet. 1:2,14,22)
God cannot possibly take pleasure in those who are not obedient, or bestow His
blessing upon them. 'If ye will obey My voice indeed, ye shall be a peculiar treasure
unto Me;' 'The Lord will surely bless thee, if thou only diligently hearken unto
the voice of the Lord thy God.' These are the eternal principles according to which
alone man can enjoy God's favour and blessing.
We see this in the Lord Jesus. He says: 'If ye keep My commandments, ye shall abide in My love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in His love.' He was in the love of the Father, but could not abide there otherwise than by obedience. And He says that this is equally for us the one way to abide in His love: we must keep His commandments. He came to open for us the way back to God: this way was the way of obedience: only he that through faith in Jesus walks in this way shall come to God. (Gen. 22:17,18; 26:4,5; 1 Sam. 25:22; John 15:10)
How gloriously is this connection betwixt the obedience of Jesus and our own expressed in Heb. 5: 'He learned obedience, and became unto all them that obey Him the author of eternal salvation.' This is the bond of unity between Jesus and His people, the point of conformity and inward unanimity. He was obedient to the Father: they, on the other hand, are obedient to Him. He and they are both obedient. His obedience not only atones for, but drives out their disobedience. He and they bear one token: obedience to God. (Rom. 6:17; 2 Cor. 10:5; Phil. 2:8)
This obedience is a characteristic of the life of faith. It is called the obedience of faith. (Acts. 6:7; Rom. 1:5; 16:26)
There is nothing in earthly things that so spurs on men to work as faith: the belief that there is advantage or joy to be found is the secret of all work. 'By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed:' according to what I believe shall my works be. The faith that Jesus made me free from the power of sin for obedience and sets me in a suitable condition for it, has a mighty power to make me obedient. Faith in the overflowing blessing which the Father gives to it, faith in the promises of the love and indwelling of God, of the fulness of the Spirit which comes by this channel, strengthens for obedience. (Deut. 28:1; Isa. 63:5; John 14:15,11,23; Acts. 5:32)
The power of this faith, again, as also of obedience lies especially in intercourse with the living God Himself. There is but one Hebrew word for 'obeying voice' and 'hearing voice:' to hear aright prepares to obey. It is when I learn the will of God, not in the words of a man or a book, but from God Himself, when I hear the voice of God, that I shall surely believe what is promised and do what is commanded. The Holy Spirit is the voice of God: when we hear the living voice speak, obedience becomes easy. (Gen. 12:1,4; 31:13,16; Matt. 14:28; Luke 5:5; John 10:4,27)
O let us then wait in silence upon God, and set our soul open before Him, that He may speak by His Spirit. When in our Bible-reading and praying we learn to wait more upon God, so that we can say: My God has spoken this to me, has given me this promise, has commanded this, then shall we also obey. 'To listen to the voice' earnestly, diligently, is the sure way to obedience. With a servant, a warrior, a child, a subject, obedience is indispensable, the first token of integrity. And shall God, the living, glorious God, find no obedience with us? (Mal. 1:6; Matt. 7:21)
No: let cheerful, punctual, precise obedience from the beginning be the token of the genuineness of our fellowship with the Son whose obedience is our life.
O Father, who makest us Thy children in Christ, Thou makest us in Him obedient children, as He was obedient. Let the Holy Spirit make the obedience of Jesus so glorious and powerful in us, that obedience shall be the highest joy of our life. Teach us in everything only to seek to know what Thou desirest and then to do it. Amen.
For a life of obedience these things are required: --
1. Decisive surrender. I must no longer have to ask in every single case: Shall I or shall I not, must I, can I, be obedient? No: it must be such an unquestionable thing, that I shall know of nothing else than to be obedient. He that cherishes such a disposition and thinks of obedience as a thing that stands firm, shall find it easy, yea, shall literally taste in it great joy.
2. The knowledge of God's will through the Spirit. Pray, do not imagine that, because you know the Bible in some sort, you know the will of God. The knowledge of God's will is something spiritual: let the Holy Spirit make known to you the knowledge of God's will.
3. The doing of all that we know to be right. All doing teaches men: all doing of what is right teaches men obedience. All that the word, or conscience, or the Spirit tells you is right, actually do it. It helps to form doing into a holy habit, and is an exercise leading to more power and more knowledge. Do what is right, Christian, out of obedience to God, and you shall be blessed.
4. Faith in the power of Christ. You have the power to obey: be sure of this. Although you do not feel it, you have it in Christ your Lord by faith.
5. The glad assurance of the blessing of obedience. It unites us with our God, it wins His good pleasure and love, it strengthens our life, it brings the blessedness of heaven into our heart.
XLV. THE WILL OF GOD
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'Thy will be done, as in heaven so on earth.' -- Matt. 6:10
The glory of heaven, where the Father dwells, is that His will is done there. He who would taste the blessedness of heaven must know the Father who is there, and do His will, as it is done in heaven. (Dan. 4:35)
'Heaven is an unending holy kingdom, of which the throne of God is the central point. Around this throne there are innumerable multitudes of pure, free beings, all ordered under powers and dominions. An indescribably rich and many-sided activity fills their life. All the highest and noblest that keeps man occupied is but a faint shadow of what finds place in this invisible world. All these beings possess each their free personal will. The will, however, has in self-conscious freedom, by its own choice, become one with the holy will of the holy Father, so that, in the midst of a diversity that flashes out in a million forms, only one will is accomplished -- the will of God. All the rich, blessed movement of the inhabitants of heaven has its origin and its aim in the will of God.' And why is it then that His children on earth do not regard this will as their highest joy? Wherefore is it that the petition, 'Thy will be done as in heaven,' is for the most part coupled with thoughts of the severe, the trying elements in the will of God, of the impossibility of our always rejoicing in God's will? The cause is this: we do not take pains to know the will of God in its glory and beauty, as the emanation of love, as the source of power and joy, as the expression of the perfection of God. We think of God's will only in the law that He gave and that we cannot keep, or in the trials in which this will appears in conflict with our own. O let us no longer do this, but take pains to understand that in the will of God all His love and blessedness are comprehended and can be apprehended by us. (Gal. 1:4; Eph. 1:5,9,11; Heb. 10:10)
Hear what the word says about the will of God: and the glorious things that are destined for us in this will.
'This is the will of my Father, that every one that beholdeth the Son and believeth on Him should have eternal life.' The will of God is the rescue of sinners by faith in Christ. He that surrenders himself to this glorious will to seek souls shall have the assurance that God will bless his work to others; for he carries out God's will, even as Jesus did it. (John 4:35; 5:30; 6:38,40)
'It is not the will of your Father which is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.' The will of God is the maintenance, the strengthening, the keeping of the weakest of His children. What courage shall he have who unites himself cordially with this will. (Matt. 28:14)
'This is the will of God, even your sanctification.' With His whole heart, with all the power of His will, is God willing to make us holy. If we but open our heart to believe that it is not the law, but the will of God, something that He certainly gives and does where we permit Him, then shall we rejoice over our sanctification a stable and sure. (1 Thess. 4:3; 5:23)
'In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus to you-ward.' A joyful, thankful life is what God has destined for us, is what He will work in us: what He desires, that He certainly does in those who do not withstand Him, but receive and suffer His will to work in them. (1 Thess. 5:18)
What we require then is to surrender our spirit to be filled with the thought, that what God would have He will certainly bring to pass when we do not resist Him. And if we further consider how glorious, and good, and perfect the will of God is, shall we not then yield ourselves with the whole heart, that this will may bring itself to accomplishment in us? (Rom. 12:2)
To this end, let us believe that the will of God is His love. Let us see what blessings in the word are connected with the doing of this will. (Matt. 7:21; 12:50 John 7:17; 9:31; Eph. 5:17; 6:6; 1 John 2:17)
Let us think of the glory of heaven as consisting in the doing of God's will, and make the choice that that our life on earth shall be. And let us with prayer and meditation suffer ourselves to be led of the Spirit to know this will aright. (Rom. 12:2; Col. 1:9; 4:12; Heb. 10:36; 13:21)
When we have thus learned to know the will of God on its glorious heavenly side in the word, and have done it, it will not be difficult for us also to bear this will where it appears to be contrary to our nature. We shall be so filled with the adoration of God and His will, that we shall resolve to see, and approve, and love this will in everything. And it will be the most glorious thought of our life that there is to be nothing, nothing, in which the will of God must not be known and honoured. (Ps. 42:9; Matt. 26:39; Heb. 10:7,9)
O my Father, this was the glory of the Lord Jesus, that He did not His own will, but the will of His Father. This His glory I desire to have as mine. Father, open mine eyes and my heart to know the perfection, the glory of Thy will, and the glory of a life in this will. Teach me to understand Thy will aright, then willingly and cheerfully to execute it; and where I have to hear it, to do this also with filial adoration. Amen.
1. To do the will of God from the heart in prosperity is the only way to bear this will from the heart in suffering.
2. To do the will of God, I must know it spiritually. The light and the power of the Spirit go together: what He teaches to see as God's will, He certainly teaches all to do. Meditate much on Rom. 12:2, and pray earnestly to see God's will aright.
3. Learn always to adore the will of God in the least and the worst thing that man does to you. It is not the will of God that His child should be proved thereby. Say then always in the least as well as the greatest trials: It is the will of God that I am in this difficulty. This brings the soul to rest and silence, and teaches it to honour God in the trial. On this point read the chapter, 'Is God in everything?' In the excellent little book, 'The Christians Secret of Salvation.' *
4. When God gave a will to man, He gave him a power whereby he could accept or reject the will of God. Child of God, pray, open your will to receive the will of God with its full power, and to be filled with it. This is heavenly glory and blessedness, to be conscious every day: my will is in harmony with God's will; God's will lives in me. It is the will of God to work this in you.
* [The Christian's Secret of a Happy Life, by H .W. S. F. E. Longely, chap. 8 p. 83. -- Translator]
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'Then said Jesus unto His disciples, If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.' -- Matt. 16:24
Self-denial was an exercise of which the Lord Jesus often spoke. He mentioned it several times as an indispensable token of every true disciple. He connects it with cross-bearing and losing life. (Matt. 10:38,39; Luke 9:23; 14:27; John 12:24,25)
Our old life is so sinful, and remains to the end so sinful, that it is never in a condition for anything good. It must therefore be denied and mortified, in order that the new life, the life of God, may have free dominion over us. (Rom. 6:6; 8:13; Gal. 2:20; 5:24; 6:14; Col. 3:5)
Let the young Christian resolve from the very beginning to deny himself wholly,
in accordance with the injunction of his Lord. At the outset, it seems severe: he
will find that it is the source of inconceivable blessing.
Let self-denial reach our carnal understanding. It was when Peter had spoken according to the thought of the natural understanding, that the Lord had to say to him: 'Thou mindest not the things of God, but the things of men.' You must deny yourselves and your own thoughts. We must be careful that the activity of our understanding with the word and prayer, in endeavouring to reach the knowledge of what is God's will, does not deceive us with a service of God that is not in spirit and in truth. Deny your carnal understanding; bring it to silence; in holy silence give place to the Holy Spirit; let the voice of God be heard in your heart. (Matt. 26:21; 1 Cor. 1:17,27; 2:6; Col. 2:18)
Deny also your own will, with all its lusts and desires. Let it be once for all unquestionable that the will of God in everything is your choice, and that therefore every desire that does not fall in with this will, must be mortified. Pray, believe that in the will of God there is heavenly blessedness, and that therefore self-denial appears severe only at the outset, but, when you exercise yourself heartily in it, becomes a great joy. Let the body with all its life abide under the law of self-denial. (Matt. 26:39; Rom. 6:13; 1 Cor. 9:25,27)
Deny also your own honour. Seek not it, but the honour of God. This brings such a rest into the soul. 'How can ye believe,' says Jesus, 'which receive glory one of another?' Although your honour be hurt or reviled, commit it to God to watch over it. Be content to be little, to be nothing. 'Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom.' (John 5:44; 7:18; 8:50; 1 Thess. 2:6)
Deny, in like manner, your own power. Cherish the deep conviction that it is those who are weak, those who are nothing, that God can use. Be very much afraid of your own endeavours in the service of God, however sincere they may be. Although you feel as if you had power, say before God that you have it not, that your power is nothing: continuous denial of your own power is the way to enjoy the power of God. It is in the heart that dies to its own power, that the Holy Spirit decides to dwell and bring the power of God. (2 Cor. 3:5; 12:9)
Deny especially your own interests. Live not to please yourself, but your neighbour. He that seeks his own life shall lose it; he that would live for himself shall not find life. But he that would really imitate Jesus, to share in His joy, let him give his life as He did, let him sacrifice his own interests. (Rom. 15:1,3; 1 Cor. 10:23,24; Eph. 2:4)
Beloved Christian, at conversion you had to make a choice betwixt your own self
and Christ, which you should obey. You then said: 'Not I, but Christ' Now you are
to confirm this choice every day. The more you do so, the more joyful and blessed
will it be for you to renounce the sinful self, to cast aside unholy self-working,
and suffer Jesus to be all. The way of self-denial is a way of deep heavenly blessedness.
There are very many Christians that observe nothing of this way. They would have
Jesus to make them free from punishment, but not to liberate them from themselves,
from their own will. But the invitation to discipleship still always rings: 'If any
man would come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.'
The reason as well as the power for self-denial, we find in the little word Me. 'If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself, and follow Me.' The old life is in ourselves: the new life is in Jesus: the new life cannot rule without driving out the old. Where one's own self had everything to say, it must be nothing. This it would fain not be: on this account there must be all the day denial of one's self, imitation of Jesus. He, with His teaching, His will, His honour, His interests, must fill the heart. But he that has and knows Him, willingly denies himself: Christ is so precious to him, that he sacrifices everything, even himself, to win Him. (Gal. 2:20; Phil. 3:7,8)
This is the true life of faith. Not according to what nature sees or thinks to be acceptable, do I live, but according to what Jesus says and would have. Every day and every hour I confirm the wonderful bargain: 'Not I, but Christ:' I nothing, Christ everything. 'Ye died,' and no longer have power, or will, or honour; 'your life is hid with Christ in God:' Christ's power and will alone prevail. O soul, cheerfully deny that sinful wretched self, in order that the glorious Christ may dwell in you.
Precious Saviour, teach me what self-denial is. Teach me so to distrust my heart that in nothing shall I yield to its fancy. Teach me so to know Thee that it shall be impossible for me to do anything else than to offer up myself to possess Thee and Thy life. Amen.
1. Of the denial of the natural understanding Tersteegen says: 'God and His truth are never known aright, save by such an one as, by the dying of his carnal nature, his inclinations, passions, and will, is made very earnest and silent; and by the abandonment of the manifold deliberations of the understanding, has become very simple and childlike. We must give our heart and our will entirely to God, forsaking our own will in all things, releasing ourselves especially from the manifold imaginations and activities of the understanding, even in spiritual things, that it may collect itself silently in the heart, and dwell as in the heart with God. Not in the head, but in the heart is found the living truth itself, the anointing that teaches us all things. In the heart is found the living fountain of light. Any one that lives in a heart entertained with God, will often with a glance of the eye discern more truth than another with the greatest exertion.'
2. Read the above passage with care: you will find in it the reason why we have several times said, that when you read or pray you must at every opportunity keep quiet for a little and set yourself in entire silence before God. This is necessary, to bring the activity of the natural understanding to silence and to set the heart open before God, that He may speak there. In the heart is the temple where worship in spirit and truth takes place. Distrust, deny your understanding in spiritual things. The natural understanding is in the head: the spiritual understanding is in the heart, the temple of God. O preserve in the temple of God a holy silence before His countenance: then He will speak.
3. 'The peculiar mark of Christian self-denial is inward cheerfulness and joy in the midst of privation. The word of God makes unceasing joy a duty. This gladsome disposition, which, hailing from eternity, has all change and vicissitude under foot, will hold its ground, not only in times of severe suffering, but also in the self-denial of every day and hour that is inseparable from the Christian life.'
4. What all am I to deny? Deny yourself. How shall I know where and when to deny myself? Do so always and in everything. And if you do not rightly understand that answer, know that no one can give you the right explanation of it but Jesus Himself. To imitate Him, to be taught of Him, is the only way to self-denial. Only when Jesus comes in, does self go out.
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'For wisdom shall enter into thine heart, and knowledge shall be pleasant unto thy soul; discretion shall watch over thee, understanding shall keep thee.' -- Prov. 2:10,11
'My son, keep sound wisdom and discretion: so shall they be life unto thy soul.' -- Prov. 3:21,22
'Ye ought to be quiet, and to do nothing rash.' -- Acts. 19:36
Indiscretion is not merely the sin of the unconverted: amongst the people of God, it is often the cause of much evil and misery. We read of Moses: 'They angered him also at the waters of Meribah, so that it went ill with Moses for their sakes: because they were rebellious against his spirit, and he spake unadvisedly with his lips.' So of Uzzah's touching the ark: 'And God smote him there for his error' (margin, rashness). (2 Sam. 6:7; Ps. 106:38; Prov. 12:18)
What discretion is, and why it is so necessary, may be easily explained. When an army marches into the province of an enemy, its safety depends on the guards which are set, which are to be always on the watch, to know and to give warning when the enemy approaches. Advance guards are sent out that the territory and power of the enemy may be known. This prudence, which looks out beforehand and looks round, is indispensable. The Christian lives in the province of the enemy. All that surrounds him may become a snare or an occasion of sin. Therefore his whole walk is to be carried out in a holy reserve and watchfulness, in order that he may do nothing indiscreet. He watches and prays that he may not enter into temptation. (Matt. 26:41: Luke 1:36; Eph. 6:18; 1 Pet. 4:7; 5:8) Prudence keeps guard over him. (1 Sam. 18:14; Matt. 10:16; Luke 1:17; 16:8; Eph. 5:15; Tit. 2:4)
Discretion keeps watch over the lips. O what loss many a child of God suffers by the thought that if he only speaks nothing wrong, he may speak what he will. He knows not how, through much speaking, the soul becomes ensnared in the distractions of the world, because in the multitude of words there is not wanting transgression. Discretion endeavours not to speak, save for the glory of God and blessing to neighbours. (Ps. 39:2; 141:3; Prov. 10:19; Eccles. 5:1,2)
Over the ear also discretion keeps guard. Through the gate of the ear comes to me all the news of the world, all the indiscreet speech of others, to infect me. Very hurtful for the soul is eagerness for news. One can afterwards no more look into one's self: one lives wholly in the world round about. Corinth was much more godless than Athens; but in this last place, where they 'spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing,' very few were converted. Take heed, says Jesus, what ye hear. (Prov. 2:2; 18:15; Mark 4:24; Acts. 17:21)
On this account, discretion keeps watch over the society in which the Christian mingles. 'He that separateth himself seeketh his own desire.' The child of God has no the freedom to yield himself to the society of the world so much and so long as he would: he must know the will of his Father. (Ps. 1:1; Prov. 28:1; 2 Cor. 6:14; 2 Thess. 3:14; 2 John 10,11)
Discretion keeps watch over all lawful occupations and possessions. It knows how gradually and stealthily the love of money, worldly-mindedness, the secret power of the flesh, obtains the upper hand, and that it can never reckon itself free from this temptation. (Matt. 13:22; Luke 21:34; 1 Tim. 6:9,17)
And, above all, it keeps watch over the heart, because there are the issues of life, there is the fountain out of which everything springs. Remembering the word, 'he that trusteth in his own heart is a fool,' it walks in deep humility, and it works out salvation with fear and trembling. (Prov. 3:21,23; 4:23; 28:16; Jer. 31:33)
And whence has the soul the power to be with a never-resting watchfulness on its guard against the thousand dangers that surround it on all sides? Is it not fatiguing, exhausting, harassing, to have thus to watch always and never to be at rest in the certainty that there is no danger? No: absolutely not. Discretion brings just the highest restfulness. It has its security and strength in its heavenly Keeper, who slumbers not nor sleeps. In confidence in Him, under the inspiration of His Spirit, discretion does its work: the Christian walks as one that is wise; the dignity of a holy prudence adorns him in all his actions. The rest of faith, the faith that Jesus watches and guards, binds to Him in love, and holy discretion springs as of its own accord from a love that would not grieve or abandon Him, from a faith that has its strength for everything in Him.
O Lord my God, guard me, that I may not be of the indiscreet in heart. Let the prudence of the righteous always characterize me, in order that in everything I may be kept from giving offense. Amen.
1. To one who bestowed great care on having his horse and cart in thoroughly good order, it was once said: Come, it is not necessary to be always taking so much pains with this. His answer was: I have always found my prudence paid. How many a Christian has need of this lesson. How many a young Christian may well pray for this -- that his conversion may be, according to God's word, 'to the prudence of the righteous.'
2. Discretion has its root in self-knowledge. The deeper my knowledge of my impotence and the sinfulness of my flesh is, the greater is the need of watchfulness. It is thus our element of true self-denial.
3. Discretion has its power in faith: the Lord is our Keeper, and He does His keeping through the Spirit keeping us in mind. It is from Him that our discretion comes.
4. Its activity is not limited to ourselves: it reaches out especially to our neighbour, in the way of giving him no offense, and in laying no stumbling-block in his way. (Rom. 14:13; 1 Cor. 8:9; 10:32; Phil. 1:10)
5. It finds great delight in silence, so as to commit its way to the Lord with composure and deliberation. It esteems highly the word of the town-clerk of Ephesus: 'Ye ought to be quiet, and to do nothing rash.'
6. In great generals and their victories, we see that discretion is not timidity: it is consistent with the highest courage and the most joyful certitude of victory. Discretion watches against rashness, but enhances the courage of faith.
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'Money answereth all things.' -- Eccles. 10:19 'I verily dedicate the silver unto the Lord from my hand.' -- Judg. 17:3
'Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the bankers, and at my coming I should have received back mine own with interest.' -- Matt. 25:27
It is in his dealing with the world and its possessions, that the Christian finds one of the opportunities in which he is to manifest his self-denial and the spirit of discretion. (John 17:15,16; 1 Cor. 7:31)
Since it is in money that all value or property on earth will finds its expression,
so it is especially in his dealing with money that he can show whether he is free
from worldliness to deny himself and to serve his God. In order rightly to comprehend
this, we must consider for a little what falls to be said about money.
What is money the token of? It is the token of the work by which a man earns it: of his industry, and zeal, and ability in that work: of his success and the blessing of God upon the work. It is also the token of all that I can do with money: the token of the work that others would do for me, of the power that I thereby have to accomplish what I desire, of the influence which I exercise on those that are dependent upon me for my money: a token of all the possessions or enjoyments that are to be obtained by money: a token of all upon earth that can make life desirable: yea, a token of life itself, which without the purchase of indispensable food cannot be supported.
Money is thus, indeed, of earthly things, one of the most desirable and fruitful. No wonder that it is thus esteemed by all. What is the danger of money? What is the sin that is done with it, that the Bible and experience should so warn us to be prudent in dealing with it? There is the anxiousness that knows not if there will be sufficient money. (Matt. 6:31)
There is the coveteousness that longs too much for it. (1 John 2:16)
There is the dishonesty that, without gross deception or theft, does not give to a neighbour what belongs to him. (Jas. 5:4)
There is the lovelessness that would draw everything to one's self and does not keep another. (Luke 16:21)
There is love of money, which seeks after riches and lands in avarice. (1 Tim. 6:9,10,17)
There is robbery of God and the poor in withholding the share that belongs to them. (Prov. 7:24,26; Ma 3:8)
What is the blessing of money? If the danger of sin is so great, would it not be better if there were no money? Is it not better to be without money? No: even for the spiritual life money may be a great blessing: as an exercise in industry and activity, (Prov. 13:4; 18:19)
in care and economy: as a token of God's blessing upon our work: (Prov. 10:4,22)
as an opportunity for showing that we can possess and lay it out for God, without withholding it or cleaving to it; that by means of it we can manifest our generosity to the poor and our overflowing love for God's cause: (Isa. 47:7,8,10,11; 2 Cor. 8:14,15)
as a means of glorifying God by our beneficence, and of spreading among men the gold of heavenly blessing: (2 Cor. 9:12,13)
as a thing that, according to the assurance of Jesus, we can exchange for a treasure in heaven. (Matt. 19:21; Luke 12:33)
And what is now the way to be freed from the danger and to be led into the right
blessing of money?
Let God be Lord over your money. Receive all your money with thanksgiving, as coming from God in answer to the prayer: 'Give us this day our daily bread.' (1 Chron. 29:14)
Lay it all down before God as belonging to Him. Say with the woman: 'I verily dedicate the silver unto the Lord.' (1 Tim. 4:4,5)
Let your dealing with your money be a part of your spiritual life. Receive, and possess, and give out your money as one who has been bought at a high price, redeemed, not with silver and gold, but with the precious blood. (Luke 19:8)
Make what the word of God says of money, of earthly good, a special study. The word of the Father alone teaches how the child of the Father is to use blessing.
Reflect much on the fact that it is not given to you for yourself alone, but for you and your brethren together. The blessing of money is to do good to others, and make them rejoice. Remember especially that it can be given up to the Father and the service of His kingdom for the upbuilding of His spiritual temple, for the extension of His sway. Every time of spiritual blessing mentioned in Scripture was a time of cheerful giving for God's cause. Even the outpouring of the Holy Spirit make itself known in the giving of money for the Lord. (Ex. 36:5; 1 Chron. 29:6,9; Acts. 2:15; 4:34)
Christian, understand it: all the deepest deliberations of the heart and its most spiritual activities can manifest themselves in the way in which we deal with our money. Love to God, love to our neighbour, victory over the world by faith, the hope of everlasting treasure, faithfulness as steward, joy in God's service, cheerful self-denial, holy discretion, the glorious freedom of the children of God, can all be seen in the use of money. Money can be the means of the most glorious fellowship with God, and the full enjoyment of the blessedness of being able to honour and serve Him.
Lord God, make me rightly discern in what close connection my money stands with my spiritual life. Let the Holy Spirit lead and sanctify me, so that all my earning and receiving, my keeping and dispensing of money may always be well-pleasing to Thee and a blessing to my soul. Amen.
1. John Wesley always said that there were three rules about the use of money which he gave to men in business, and by which he was sure that they would experience benefit.
Make as much money as you can. Be industrious and diligent.
Save as much money as you can. Be no spendthrift, live frugally and prudently.
Give away as much money as you can. That is the divine destination of money; that makes it an everlasting blessing for yourselves and others.
[Read John Wesley's "The Use of Money" ---New Window]
[Bold emphasis by WStS]
2. Acquaint yourself with the magnificent prayer of David in 1 Chron. 29. Receive it into your soul; it teaches us the blessedness and the glorification of God that spring from cheerful giving.
XLIX. THE FREEDOM OF THE CHRISTIAN
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'Being made free from sin, ye became bond-servants of righteousness. Being made free from sin, ye have your fruit unto sanctification.' -- Rom. 6:18,22
'But now we have been discharged from the law.' -- Rom. 7:6 'The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin and of death.' -- Rom. 8:2
Freedom is counted in Scripture as one of the greatest privileges of the child
of God. There is nothing in history for which nations have made great sacrifices
except freedom. Slavery is the lowest condition into which man can sink, for in it
he can no longer dispose of himself. Freedom is the deepest need of his nature.
To be free, then, is the condition in which anything can develop itself according to the law of its nature, that is, according to its disposition. Without freedom nothing can attain its destiny or become what it ought to be. This is true alike of the animal and man, of the corporeal and the spiritual. It was for this cause that God in Israel chose the redemption out of the slavery of Egypt into the glorious liberty of God's people, as the everlasting type of redemption out of the slavery of sin into the liberty of the children of God. (Ex. 1:14; 4:23; 6:5; 20:2; Deut. 24:8)
On this account, Jesus said on earth: 'If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.' And the Holy Scriptures teach us to stand fast in the freedom with which Christ made us free. A right insight into this freedom opens up to us one of the greatest glories of the life that the grace of God has prepared for us. (John 8:32,36; Gal. 4:21,31; 5:1)
In the three passages, from the Epistle to the Romans, in which sanctification is dealt with, a threefold freedom is spoken of. There is freedom from sin in the sixth chapter, freedom from the law in the seventh, freedom from the law of sin in the eighth.
There is freedom from sin (Rom. 6:7,18,22).
Sin is represented as a power that rules over man, under which he is brought and taken captive, and that urges him as a slave to evil. (John 8:34; Rom. 7:14,23; 2 Pet. 2:19)
By the death of Christ and in Christ of the believer, who is one with Him, he is made entirely free from the dominion of sin: it has no more power over him. If, then, he still does sin, it is because he, not knowing his freedom by faith, permits sin still to rule over him. But it by faith he fully accepts what the word of God thus confirms, then sin has no power over him: he overcomes it by the faith that he is made free from it. (Rom. 5:21; 6:12,14)
Then there is freedom from the law. This leads us deeper into the life of grace than freedom from sin. According to Scripture, law and sin always go together. 'The strength of sin is the law:' The law does nothing but make the offense greater. (Rom. 4:15; 5:13,20; 7:13; 1 Cor. 15:56)
The law is the token of our sinfulness, cannot help us against sin, but with its demand for perfect obedience gives us over hopeless to the power of sin. The Christian who does not discern that he is made free from the law will still always abide under sin. (Rom. 6:15; 7:5)
Christ and the law cannot rule over us together: in every endeavour to fulfil the law as believers, we are taken captive by sin. (Rom. 7:5,23)
The Christian must know that he is entirely free from the law, from the you must
that stands without us and over us: then for the first time shall he know what it
is to be free from sin.
Then there is also freedom from the law of sin, actual liberation from the power of sin in our members. What we have in Christ, freedom from sin and from the law, is inwardly appropriated for us by the Spirit of God. 'The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin and of death.' The Holy Spirit in us takes the place of the law over us. 'If ye are led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.' Freeing from the law is not anything external, but takes place according to the measure the Spirit obtains dominion in us and leads us. 'Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.' According as the law of the Spirit rules in us, we are made free from the law, from the law of sin. We are then free to do what we, as God's children, would fain do, free to serve God. (2 Cor. 3:17; Gal. 5:18)
Free expresses a condition in which nothing hinders me from being what I would be and ought to be. In other words, free is to be able to do what I would. The power of sin over us, the power of the law against us, the power of the law of sin in us, hinder us. But he that stands in the freedom of the Holy Spirit, he that is then truly free, nothing can prevent or hinder him from being what he would be and ought to be. As it is the nature of a tree to grow upwards, and it also grows as it is free from all hindrances, so a child of God then grows to what he ought to be and shall be. And according as the Holy Spirit leads him into this freedom, there springs up the joyful consciousness of his strength for the life of faith. He joyfully shouts: 'I can do all things in Him that strengtheneth me.' 'Thanks be unto God which always leadeth us in triumph in Christ.'
Son of God, anointed with the Spirit to announce freedom to the captives, make me also truly free. Let the Spirit of life in Thee, my Lord, make me free from the law of sin and of death. I am Thy ransomed one. O let me live as Thy freed one, who is hindered by nothing from serving Thee. Amen.
1. The freedom of the Christian extends over his whole life. He is free in relation to the institutions and teachings of men. 'Ye were bought with a price: become not bond-servants of men.' ( 1 Cor. 7:23; Col. 2:20)
He is free in relation to the world, and in the use of what God gives: he has power to possess it or to dispense with it, to enjoy it or to sacrifice it. (1 Cor. 8:8; 9:4,5)
2. This freedom is no lawlessness. We are free from sin and the law to serve God in the Spirit. We are not under the law, but give ourselves, with free choice and in love, to Him who loved. us. (Rom. 6:18; Gal. 5:13; 1 Pet. 2:16)
Not under the law, also not without law; but in the law; a new, a higher law, 'The law of the Spirit of life,' 'the law of liberty,' the law written in our hearts, is our rule and measure. (1 Cor. 9:21; Jas. 1:15; 2:12)
In this last passage the translation ought to be: 'bound by a law
3. This freedom has its subsistence from the word and also in it: the more the word abides in me, and the truth lives in me, the freer I become. (John 8:31,32,36)
4. Freedom manifests itself in love. I am free from the law, and from men, and from institutions, to be able now like Christ to surrender myself for others. (Rom. 14:13,21; Ga. 5:13; 6:1)
5. This glorious liberty to serve God and our neighbour in love is a spiritual thing. We cannot by any means seize it and draw it to us. It becomes known only by a life in the Holy Spirit. 'Where the Spirit of the Lord is there liberty.' 'If ye are led by the Spirit, ye are not under the law.' It is the Holy Spirit that makes free. Let us suffer ourselves to be introduced by Him into the effectual glorious liberty of the children of God. 'The Spirit of life in Christ Jesus freed me from the law of sin and of death.'
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'So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed upon the earth; and should sleep and rise night and day, and the seed should spring up and grow, he knoweth not how. The earth beareth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear.' -- Mark 4:26-28 'The Head, from whom the whole body increaseth with the increase of God' -- Col. 2:19
'That we may grow into Him which is the Head, even Christ, from whom the whole body maketh the increase.' -- Eph. 4:15,16
Death is always a standing still: life is always movement, progressiveness. Increase or growth is the law of all created life; consequently, the new life in man is destined to increase, and always by becoming stronger. As there are in the seed and in the earth a life and power of growth by which the plant is impelled to have its full height and fruit; so is there in the seed of the eternal life an impelling force by which also that life always increases and grows with a divine growth, until we come to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ. (Eph. 4:12; 2 Thess. 1:4)
In this parable of the seed that springs up of itself, and becomes great and bears fruit, the Lord teaches us two of the most important lessons on the increase of the spiritual life. The one is that of its self-sufficiency, the other that of its gradualness.
The first lesson is for those that ask what they are to do in order to grow and advance more in grace. As the Lord said of the body: 'Which of you by being anxious can add one cubit unto his stature? consider the lilies of the field how they grow;' so He says to us here that we can do nothing, and need to do nothing, to make the spiritual life grow. (Matt. 6:25,27,28)
Do you not see how, while man slept, the seed sprang up and became high, he knew not how, and how the earth brought forth fruit of itself? When man has once sowed, he must reckon that God cares for the growth: he has not to care: he must trust and rest. And must man then do nothing? He can do nothing: it is from within that the power of life must come: from the life, from the Spirit implanted in him. To the growth itself he can contribute nothing: it shall be given him to grow. (Ps. 92:14; Gal. 2:20; Col. 3:3)
All that he can do is to let the life grow. All that can hinder the life, he must take away and keep away. If there are thorns and thistles that take away place and power in the soil which the plant should have, he can take them away. (Jer. 4:13; Matt. 13:22,23)
The plant must have its place in the earth alone and undivided. For this the husbandman can care: then it grows further of itself. So must the Christian take away what can hinder the growth of the new life: to surrender the heart entire and undivided for the new life, to hold it alone in possession and to fill it, so that it may grow free and unhindered. (Son. 2:15; Heb. 12;1)
The husbandman can also bring forward what the plant requires in the way of food or drink: he can manure or moisten the soil as it may be needful. So must the believer see to it that for the new life there is brought forward nourishment out of the word, the living water of the Spirit, by prayer. It is in Christ that the new life is planted: from Him it increases with divine increase: abide rooted in Him by the exercise of faith: the life will grow of itself. (John 15:4,5; Col. 2:6,7)
Give it what it must have: take away what can hinder it: the life will grow and
increase of itself.
Then comes in the second lesson of the parable: the gradualness of the growth: 'first the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear.' Do not expect everything at once. Give God time. By faith and endurance we inherit the promises: the faith that knows that it has everything in Christ: the endurance that expects everything in its time according to the rule and the order of the divine government. Give God time. Give the new life time. It is by continued abiding in the earth that the plant grows: it is by continuous standing in grace, in Christ Himself, in whom God has planted us, that the new life grows. (Heb. 3:13; 6:12,15; Jas. 5:7)
Yes: give the new life only sufficient time: time in prayer: time in intercourse with God: time in continuous exercise of faith: time in persistent separation from the world. Give it time: slow but sure, hidden but real, in apparent weakness but with heavenly power, is the divine growth with which the life of God in the soul grows up to the perfect man in Christ.
Lord God, graciously strengthen the faith of Thy children, that their growth and progress are in Thy hands. Enable them to see what a precious, powerful life was implanted in them by Thyself, a life that increases with a divine increase. Enable them by faith and patience to inherit the promises. And teach them in that faith to take away all that can hinder the new life, to bring forward all that can further it, so that Thou mayest make Thy work in them glorious. Amen.
1. For a plant, the principal thing is the son in which it stands and out of which it draws its strength. For the Christian, this also is the principal thing: he is in Christ. Christ is all: he must grow up in Him, for out of Him the body obtains its increase. To abide in Christ by faith -- that is the main thing.
2. Remember that faith must set itself towards a silent restfulness, that growth is just like that of the lilies on God's hands, and that He will see to it that we increase and grow strong.
3. By this firm and joyful faith, we become 'Strengthened with all power according to the might of His glory, unto all patience and long-suffering with joy.' (Col. 1:11)
4. This faith, that God cares for our growth, takes away all anxiety, and gives courage for doing the two things that we have to do: the taking away of what may be obstructive to the new life, the bringing forward of what may be serviceable to it.
5. Observe well the distinction betwixt planting and growing. Planting is the work of a moment: in a moment the earth receives the seed: after that comes the slow growth. Without delay -- immediately must the sinner receive the word: before conversion there is no delay. Then with time follows the growth of the seed.
6. The main thing is Christ: from Him and in Him is our growth. He is the soil that of itself brings forth fruit, we know not how. Hold daily intercourse with Him.
There is a book 'Abide in Christ' (Nisbet & Co.), with meditations for a month on the blessed life of continued fellowship with Him.
LI. SEARCHING THE SCRIPTURES
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'O how love I Thy law: it is my meditation all the day.' -- Ps. 119:97
'Ye search (or search ye) the Scriptures: and these are they which bear witness of Me.' -- John 5:39
'The word did not profit them, because they were not united by faith with them that heard.' -- Heb. 4:2
At the beginning of this book there is more than one passage upon the use of God's word in the life of grace. Ere I take leave of my readers, I would fain once again come back to this all-important point. I cannot too earnestly and urgently address this call to my beloved young brothers and sisters: Upon your use of the word of God your spiritual life in great measure depends. Man lives by the word that proceedeth from the mouth of God. Therefore seek with your whole heart to learn how to use God's word aright. To this end, receive the following hints. Read the word more with the heart than with the understanding: with the understanding I would know and comprehend; with the heart I desire, and love, and hold fast. Let the understanding be the servant of the heart. Be much afraid of the understanding of the carnal nature, that cannot receive spiritual things. (1 Cor. 1:12,27; 2:6,12; Col. 2:18)
Deny your understanding, and wait in humility on the Spirit of God. On every occasion, still keep silent amidst your reading of the word, and say to yourselves: this word I now receive in my heart, to love and to let it live in me. (Ps. 119:10,11,47; Rom. 10:8; Jas. 1:21)
Read the word always in fellowship with the living God. The power of a word depends on my conviction regarding the man from whom it comes.
First set yourself in loving fellowship with the living God under the impression of His nearness and love: deal with the word under the full conviction that He, the eternal God, is speaking with you; and let the heart be silent to listen to God, to God Himself. (Gen. 17:3; 1 Sam. 3:9,10; Isa. 50:4; 52:6; Jer. 1:2)
Then the word certainly becomes to you a great blessing. Read the word, as a living word in which the Spirit of God dwells, and that certainly works in those that believe. The word is seed. Seed has life, and grows and yields fruit of itself. The word has life, and of itself grows and yields fruit. (Mark 4:27,28; John 6:63; 1 Thess. 2:13; 1 Pet. 1:23)
If you do not wholly understand it, if you do not feel its power, carry it in your heart; ponder it and meditate upon it: it will of itself begin to yield a working and growth in you. (Ps. 119:15,40,48,69; 2 Tim. 3:16,17)
The Spirit of God is with and in the word.
Read it with the resolve to be, not only a hearer, but a doer of the word. Let the great question be: What would God now have of me with this word? If the answer is: He would have me believe it and reckon upon Him to fulfil it: do this immediately from the heart. If the word is a command of what you are to do, yield yourself immediately to do it. (Matt. 5:19,20; 7:21,24; Luke 11:28; Jas. 1:21,25)
O there is an unspeakable blessedness in the doing of God's word, and in the surrender
of myself to be and to act just as the word says and would have it. Be not hearers,
but doers of the word.
Read the word with time. I see more and more that one obtains nothing on earth without time. Give the word time. (WStS Note: Emboldened emphasis is ours.) Give the word time, at every occasion on which you sit down to read it, to come into your heart. Give it time, in the persistence with which you cleave to it, from day to day, and month after month. (Deut. 6:5; Ps. 1:2; 119:97; Jer. 15:16)
By perseverance you become exercised and more accustomed to the word: the word
begins to work. Pray, be not dispirited when you do not understand the word. Hold
on: take courage: give the word time: later on the word will explain itself. David
had to meditate day and night to understand it.
Read the word with a searching of the Scriptures. The best explanation of the Bible is the Bible itself. Take three or four texts upon a point: set them close to one another and compare them. See wherein they agree and wherein they differ; where they say the same thing or again something else. Let the word of God at one time be cleared up and confirmed by what He said at another time on the same subject: this is the safest and the best explanation. Even the sacred writers use this method of instruction with the Scriptures: 'and again.' (Isa. 34:16; John 19:37; Acts. 17:11; Heb. 2:13)
Do not complain that this method takes too much time and pains: it is worthy of the pains: your pains will be rewarded. On earth you have nothing without pains. (Prov. 2:4,5; 3:13,18; Matt. 13:44)
Even the bread of life we have to eat in the sweat of our face. He that would
go to heaven never goes without taking pains. Search the Scriptures: it will be richly
recompensed to you.
Young Christian, let one of my last and most earnest words to you be this: on your dealing with the word of God depend your growth, your power, your life. Love God's word then; esteem it sweeter than honey: better than thousands of gold or silver. In the word, God can and will reveal His heart to you. In the word, Jesus will communicate Himself and all His grace. In the word, the Holy Spirit will come in to you, to renew your heart and all your thoughts, according to the mind and will of God. O, then, read not simply enough of the word to keep you from declension, but reckon it one of your chief occupations on earth to yield yourself that God may fill you with His word, that He may fulfil His word in you.
Lord God, what grace it is that Thou speakest to us in Thy word, that we in Thy word have access to Thy heart, to Thy will, to Thy love. O forgive us our sins against Thy precious word. And, Lord, let the new life become so strong by the Spirit in us, that all its desire shall be to abide in Thy word. Amen.
Psalm 119. In the middle of the Bible stands this psalm, in which the praise and the love of God's word are so strikingly expressed. It is not enough for us to read through the divisions of this psalm successively: we must take its principal points, and one with another seek what is said in different passages upon each of these. Let us, for example, take the following points, observing the indications of the answers, and seek in this way to come under the full impression of what is taught us of the glory of God's word:--
1. The blessing that the word gives. Verses, 1,2,6,9,11,14,24,45,46,47, and so on.
2. The appellations that in this psalm are given to God's word.
3. How we have to handle the word. (Observe -- walk -- keep -- mark -- and so on.)
4. Prayer for divine teaching. Verses 5,10,12,18,19,26.
5. Surrender to obedience to the word. Verses 93,105,106,112,128,133.
6. God's word the basis of our prayer. Verses 41,49,58,76,107,116,170.
7. Observance as the ground of confidence in prayer. Verses 77,159,176.
8. Observance as promised upon the hearing of prayer. Verses 8,17,33,32,44.
9. The power to observe the word. Verses 32,36,41,42,117,135,146.
10. The praise of God's word. Verses 54,72,97,129,130,144.
11. The confident confession of obedience. Verses 102,110,121,168.
12. Personal intercourse with God, seen in the use of Thou and I, Thine and Mine.
I have merely mentioned a few points and a few verses. Seek out more and mark them, until your mind is filled with the thoughts about the word, which the Spirit of God desires to give you. Read with great thoughtfulness the words of that man of faith, George Mueller. He says: 'The power of our spiritual life will be according to the measure of the room that the word of God takes up in our life and in our thoughts.' After an experience of fifty-four years, I can solemnly declare this. For three years after my conversion I used the word little. Since that time I searched it with diligence, and the blessing was wonderful. From that time, I have read the Bible through a hundred times in order, and at every time with increasing joy. Whenever I start a fresh with it, it appears to me as a new book. I cannot express how great the blessing is of faithful, daily, regular searching of the Bible. The day is lost for me, on which I have used no rounded time for enjoying the word of God. 'Friends sometimes say: I have so much to do, that I can find no time for regular Bible study. I believe that there are few that have to work harder than I have. Yet it remains a rule with me never to begin my work until I have had real sweet fellowship with God. After that I give myself heartily to the business of the day, that is, to God's work, with only intervals of some minutes of prayer.'
LII. THE LORD THE PERFECTER
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'I will cry unto God most High; unto God that performeth all things for me.' -- Ps. 57:2
'The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me.' -- Ps. 138:8 'Being confident of this very thing, that He which began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ.' -- Phil. 1:6 'For of Him, and through Him, and unto Him are all things. To Him be the glory for ever and ever.' -- Rom. 11:36
We read that David was once dispirited by unbelief, and said: 'I shall one day
perish by the hand of Saul.' So even the Christian may indeed fear that he shall
one day perish. This is because he looks upon himself and what is in him, and does
not set his trust wholly upon God. It is because he does not yet know God as the
Perfecter. He does not yet know what is meant by His name being: 'I am the Alpha
and the Omega: the Beginning and the End: the First and the Last.' If I really believe
in God as the beginning out of whom all is, then must I also trust Him as the continuation
by whom, as also the End to whom, all is.
God is the beginning: 'He who began a good work in you:' 'Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you.' It is God's free choice, from before the foundation of the world, that we have to thank that we became believers, and have the new life. (John 15:16; Rom. 8:29,30; Eph. 1:4,11)
Those that are still unconverted have nothing to do with this election: for them there is the offer of grace and the summons to surrender. Outside, over the door of the Father, stands the superscription: 'Him that cometh unto Me, I will in no wise cast out.' This every one can see and understand. No sooner are they inside the door than they see and understand the other superscription: 'All that the Father giveth Me shall come to me.' (John 6:37)
Then they can discern how all things are of God: first obedience to the command
of God, then insight into the counsel of God.
But then it is of great moment to hold fast this truth: He has begun the good work. Then shall every thought of God strengthen the confidence that He will also perfect it. His faithfulness, His love, His power, are all pledged that He will perfect the good work that He began. Pray, read how God has taken more than one oath regarding His unchangeable faithfulness: your soul will rest in this and find courage. (Gen. 28:15; Ps. 89:29,34,35,36; Isa. 54:9,10; Jer. 33:25,26)
And how shall He finish His work? What has its origin from Him is sustained by Him, and shall one day be brought to Him and His glory. There is nothing in your life, temporal or spiritual, for which the Father will not care, because it has influence upon you for eternity. (Matt. 6:25,34; 1 Pet. 5:7)
There is no moment of day or night in which the silent growth of your soul is not to go forward: the Father will take care of this, if you believe. There is no part of your destiny as a child of God, perhaps in things of which you have as yet not the least thought, but the Father will continue and complete His work in it. (Isa. 27:2,3; 51:12,13)
Yet upon one condition. You must trust Him for this. You must in faith suffer Him to work. You must trustfully say: The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me. You must trustfully pray: I will cry unto God that performeth all things for me. Christian, pray, let your soul become full of the thought: The whole care, for the continuation and the perfecting of God's work in me, is in His hands. (Heb. 10:35; 13:5,6,20,21; 1 Pet 5:10)
And how glorious shall the perfecting not be. In our spiritual life, God is prepared
to exhibit His power in making us partakers of His holiness and the image of His
Son. He will make us fit, and set us in a condition for all the blessed work in His
kingdom that He would have from us. Our body He will make like to the glorious body
of His Son. We may wait for the coming of the Son Himself from heaven to take His
own to Him. He will unite us in one body with all His chosen, and will receive and
make us dwell for ever in His glory. O how can we think that God will not perfect
His work? He will surely do it, He will gloriously do it, for every one that trusts
Him for it.
Child of God, pray, say in deep assurance of faith: The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me. In every need say continually with great boldness: I will call on God, that performeth all things for me. And let the song of your life be the joyful doxology: 'From Him, and through Him and to Him are all things: to Him be the glory for ever. Amen.
Lord God, who shalt perfect that which concerneth me, teach me to know Thee and to trust Thee. And let every thought of the new life go hand in hand with the joyful assurance: He who began a work in me will perfect it. Amen.
1. 'He that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved.' It brings but little profit to begin well; we must hold the beginning of our hope firm unto the end. (Matt. 10:27; 24:13; Heb. 3:14,16; 11:12)
2. The perseverance of the saints -- in holiness -- is one of the characteristic articles of doctrine of the Reformed Church. The grace of regeneration is inadmissible.
3. How do we explain the falling away of some believers? They were only temporary believers: they were partakers only of the workings of the Spirit. (Heb. 6:4)
4. How do I know whether I am partaker of the true new birth? 'As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God' (Rom. 8:14).
The faith that God has received me is matured, is confirmed, by
works, by a walk under the leading of the Spirit.
5. How can any one know for certain that he will persevere unto the end? By faith in God the Perfecter. We may take the Almighty God as our keeper. He that gives himself in sincerity to Him, and trusts wholly in Him to perfect His work, obtains a divine certitude that the Lord has Him, and will hold him fast unto the end.
Child of God, live in fellowship with your Father: live the life of faith in your Jesus with an undivided heart, and all fear of falling away shall be taken away from you. The living sealing of the Holy Spirit shall be your assurance of perseverance unto the end. (WStS Note: Emboldened emphasis is ours.)
Introduction ---New Window
CHAPTERS 1-15 of page 1 ---New Window
CHAPTERS 16-31 of page 2 ---New Window
CHAPTERS 32-52 of page 3 (this page)
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