Four Cautions On Holding the Truth in Perilous Days

Introduction

As we face an increasingly altering culture, we must hold fast to the truth. But this has caused us ask what is the truth! I am reminded of the times when the Church had to decide what books were really part of the  canon, as the fierce winds of persecution called them to give up their religious books! What would they give up? What was truly God’s Word? In a similar way, we are being sifted. What is truly God’s Word? How shall we truly live in a post-Christian era?  What is worthy of our holding?

The Danger of Holding the Fence and Not the Truth

At times, we have come to the sad realization that some of our ‘truths’ are nothing but old traditions received. Some where good applications of Scriptural truth, but the reason for their practice has long been forgotten, and they are not seen as truth itself. We have placed fences around the truth, and now the fences are seen as the the truth itself.  For example, the application of not going to a movie theatre becomes the truth, rather than we are not to set wicked things before our eyes and endorse ungodliness.

This was often the practice of the Pharisee. They deplored the inroads of the Hellenistic way of life into Judaism. They wanted to live godly lives in the midst of corrupting influences from the pagan world. Since the Pharisees were passionate in their desire to obey God’s law, they had developed over time an oral tradition, “the tradition of the elders,” that put a “hedge” or fence around the Biblical commandments. The idea was that obedience to the tradition of the elders formed a barrier that would prevent a pious Jew from breaking a Biblical commandment itself.  Speaking on this, the Jewish Encyclopedia comments,

On the whole, however, they added new restrictions to the Biblical law in order to keep the people at a safe distance from forbidden ground; as they termed it, “they made a fence around the Law” (Ab. i. 1; Ab. R. N. i.-xi.), interpreting the words “Ye shall watch my watch” (Lev. xviii. 30, Hebr.) to mean “Ye shall place a guard around my guard” (Yeb. 21a). Thus they forbade the people to drink wine or eat with the heathen, in order to prevent associations which might lead either to intermarriage or to idolatry (Shab. 17b). To the forbidden marriages of the Mosaic law relating to incest (Lev. xviii.-xx.) they added a number of others (Yeb. ii. 4). After they had determined the kinds of work prohibited on the Sabbath they forbade the use of many things on the Sabbath on the ground that their use might lead to some prohibited labor. It was here that the foundation was laid of that system of rabbinic law which piled statute upon statute until often the real purpose of the Law was lost sight of. But such restrictions are not confined to ritual laws. Also in regard to moral laws there are such additional prohibitions, as, for instance, the prohibition against what is called “the dust of slanderous speech” (Yer. Peah i. 16a) or “the dust of usury” (B. M. 61b), or against unfair dealings, such as gambling, or keeping animals that feed on property of the neighbors (Tosef., B. Ḳ. vii. 8; Tosef., Sanh. v. 2, 5; Sanh. 25b, 26b).

 We know how this turned out!  They erected man-made standards of spirituality. They overturned the very Law of God and substituted the divine revelation with their applications of the truth. In their desire for holiness and purity, they failed to see the greater objective in reaching the world. They failed to see the need of justice and mercy.  Often the conservative groups fall into this same trap of holding forth the truth. Care must be taken here.

The Danger of Holding Ancient Error and Not the Truth

At other times, while thinking that we are holding the truth, we are just holding wrong views with a long history. We had forgotten Cyprian’s insight: “custom which had crept in among some ought not to prevent the truth from prevailing and conquering; for custom without truth is the antiquity of error.” I know many who believe that if a church does not have an altar call, then they are in spiritual decline. Not only does such a view have a false standard of spirituality, but they are enshrining a grievous error of the past.

Holding the Doctrines of Value and Not the Whole Truth

But there is another wrong way in which we are facing these altering times and the importance of holding truth. We see many adopting the view that suggests an evolutionary concept of knowledge. This is sometimes called the natural selection theory of knowledge and holds that ideas have ‘survival value’ and that knowledge evolves through a process of variation, selection and retention. They have adaptive value and are probably as close as our species can come to being objective and understanding reality.

Applying this principle to doctrine, we see that some believe there are certain doctrines that are important to hold, while permitting other doctrines to go into oblivion. Some so-called Baptists, mostly liberals, have seen that the doctrine of Baptism is the key, while rejecting the fundamental doctrines of the faith. This took place in the Downgrade Controversy and the Baptist Union in Spurgeon’s life.

Today, we are facing the same thing when alliances are downplaying core doctrines, such as creation, and raising up social activism and man-made ideas of justice to places of prominence. They have come to believe that in our contemporary crisis their ideas of justice have greater value than these other doctrines, suggesting almost an evolutionary view of knowledge.  

However, God have given us a stewardship of all his words, even to the keeping of sounds words about that doctrine. This has a real practical point, which Luther asserts in his normal way, “The Holy Ghost (who speaks in all words of Scripture) does not permit Himself to be parted or divided, that He should permit one point to be taught or believed as true, and the other as false.” To this might be added another pertinent saying of Luther (19, 1132): “You must not say, I purpose to err as a Christian. Christian erring occurs only from ignorance.” (Cp. 9, 642 ff.).

Let me expand upon this biblical truth.  Although the unity of Holy Scripture does not demand that all its statements be considered of equal importance for faith and life, this attribute of the Word of God will not permit any feat of subtraction. What the Lord said to the children of Israel by the mouth of Moses: “Ye shall not add unto the Word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it,” Deut. 4:2, applies to Holy Writ in general. Cp. Rev. 22:18. It was one of the assertions of Paul: “We are not as many, which corrupt the Word of God.” 2 Cor. 2:17. To the great missionary apostle the smallest admixture of error to the Word of Truth was equivalent to a perversion of the entire body of doctrine. Gal. 5:9.

Nor did he confine his denunciation to the corruption of fundamental doctrines. When he writes that “in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils,” he enumerates among such doctrines also the prohibition of marriage and of certain foods, 1 Tim. 4:1-3. And again, when he writes: “If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing,” 1 Tim. 6:3-4, the context shows that he at least includes questions which come under the Table of Duties.

It is well-known, also, that the second part of Paul’s Second Letter to the Thessalonians is practical, pertaining in a large measure to questions of Christian conduct, and yet, chap. 3:14 says: “If any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.” While he was still to be admonished in a fraternal way, brotherly fellowship was to be suspended until the offender had passed through a change of heart. 

Holding to the Past and Refusing All Progress of the Truth

This is one of the most difficult aspects of holding to the truth: what is legitimate progress of that truth? As we face new technology and new forms of problems, we must know how to apply the truth of God in valid ways. We may error here in two ways; we open ourselves to all error by refusing to bring all to the Word of God, or we may close ourselves to the important duty of applying the Word of God in our day. Calvin speaks of this:

As to this, there is a twofold error that is wont to be fallen into, for there are some who, from having either been deceived by a false pretext of the name of God, or from their knowing that many are commonly deceived in this way, reject every kind of doctrine indiscriminately, while there are others that by a foolish credulity embrace, without distinction, everything that is presented to them in the name of God. Both of these ways are faulty, for the former class, saturated with a presumptuous prejudice of that nature, close up the way against their making progress, while the other class rashly expose themselves to all winds of errors. (Eph_4:14.) Paul admonishes the Thessalonians to keep the middle path between these two extremes, while he prohibits them from condemning anything without first examining it; and, on the other hand, he admonishes them to exercise judgment, before receiving, what may be brought forward, as undoubted truth. And unquestionably, this respect, at least, ought to be shewn to the name of God — that we do not despise prophecy, which is declared to have proceeded from him. As, however, examination or discrimination ought to precede rejection, so it must, also, precede the reception of true and sound doctrine.

We are being told, “Cultures are mixed, and each has valuable elements and demonic elements.” And there is certain truth within this statement. However, by itself, this is a half truth. Not all cultures are equally biblical, even as those overtly based upon Christian axioms are not entirely consistent

Yet, the same people who made this claim also assert, “There is no such thing as a universal, a-historical expression of Christianity.” In many ways, this sounds extremely like moral relativism, which “is the view that moral judgments are true or false only relative to some particular standpoint (for instance, that of a culture or a historical period) and that no standpoint is uniquely privileged over all others.”

But the Bible calls us to have one mind; it summons us to come into the unity of faith. Paul would demand that all the churches of the 1st century, which age was far less monolithic than ours and filled with varying cultural distinctions, to believe and practice the same things (See 1 Cor. 7:17; 11:16; 14:33, 34; 16:1). And Christianity itself seeks to resemble the great reality in heaven.

Those who have made these claims argue that those cultures that are primarily Christian cannot be assessed as more pure or less pure in true conformity to the Christian Faith, seeing that all have valuable elements and demonic elements.  This is preposterous. and it tends toward worldliness. It rids the Christian the ability to discern. After all, as one will certainly claim, it is all cultural.

But, while these assertions sound great and sound in this period wherein men and woman have been programmed to believe them, they are proving to be a floodgate of ungodliness. Actions, which were over large periods of time seen to be godless, are now flaunted as new found freedoms. Old paths are being left as these gurus of godless antinomianism lead scores on broad highways to cultural liberalism. Social experimentation is dangerous enough, but religious experimentation may be fatal.

Does this mean that there is legitimate means of progress? No, there is; but it is organic growth from the Word. It cannot grow up to be something that does not share the life that comes from the Word. It must spring from it and tend toward its aims and goals. In all of this, we are to prove all things, which means both our own sentiments as well as the sentiments of others. The extent to which the course of conduct is to be carried is to “all things,” including things taken for granted to be right, things assumed to be and are wrong, and even things doubtful. It is to be done by an appeal to the word of God as supreme, authoritative, infallible, inerrant and the final arbitrator in all judgments.  We must do this sincerely, thoroughly, prayerfully, and with the desire to submit to the will of God.

Conclusion

One of the great reasons why we are prone to the dangers outlined above is because of the hindrances we face in acting responsibly in our duty as stewards. We may well look to the need to discern all things, and we immediately come to dislike the trouble it may cause and fear the possible consequences.  It is easier just to hold to the old paths, even though they are not personally examined by us, or we can simply throw all off and do what seems best to us or our favorite teacher. But let us not forget the blessings. We will possess a clear conscience, a greater confidence in our actions, and a larger acquaintance with the Word of God. 

 

 

 

Fencing the Lord’s Table: Three Layers by Clarence Bouwman

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Ought the table of the Lord to be open to all and sundry who have the whim to attend? The answer is obviously negative. The sacrament is given to the church for the strengthening of faith. It follows that those who attend must possess faith – else their faith cannot be strengthened.
Yet faith is not a static something that sits on a shelf so that I can point to it and say, ‘See, I have faith, there it is.’ Rather, faith is action (see Article 22 [of Belgic Confession), is dynamic; it manifests itself in deeds (James 2:14-26). Deeds give opportunity for self-examination, as well as for others to evaluate what makes you tick. As we speak about the question of who may attend the table of the Lord, we need –in line with Scripture- to consider three layers of responsibility. The first is the individual, the second is the communal, and the third is the pastoral.

FIRST LAYER – SELF-EXAMINATION

Paul’s instruction to the Christians of Corinth was clear: “let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup” (1Cor. 11:28). That the apostle placed primary emphasis on the individual is nothing new. In the Old Testament the Lord God gave responsibility first of all to the individual in Israel. If a person in Israel became unclean (through bodily discharge, touching a dead body, etc), it was primarily the responsibility of the unclean individual to stay away from the tabernacle, wash oneself, and make the necessary sacrifices before God (see, for example, Lev. 12:1-8). The same emphasis on personal responsibility pervades the New Testament.

The Corinthian Christians had the practice of eating a meal together. This congregational meal was common in the early church, and appears to have flowed into a Lord’s Supper celebration (see Acts 2:42). In Corinth, though, the rich of the congregation ate luxuriously while the poor looked on, and when the rich had eaten sufficiently (and the poor were still hungry), the Lord’s Supper was celebrated (see 1 Cor. 11:21, 33-34). Since the brotherly love that must characterize the Lord’s Table was so sadly lacking in this conduct, Paul admonished the Corinthians for selfishness and greed, and instructed them to have their meals at home (1 Cor. 11:22, 34).

In this context Paul drew attention to Christ’s example. “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you [when I first preached the gospel to you]: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me’” (1 Cor. 11:23-25). If in this Supper Jesus Christ gave evidence of His selfless obedience to God and His trust in God by denying Himself and going to the cross to benefit another, how proper it is for His people also to deny self in obedience to the Lord. Action gives evidence of faith!

For that reason each Christian of Corinth was instructed to “examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup” (1 Cor. 11:28). If the bread and cup of the Lord’s supper point up what Christ did for me in having His body broken on the cross and His blood shed for my salvation, it will not do for me to act selfishly and cold-heartedly to my poorer brothers and sisters. So Paul says: “whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner” –and that’s to say, without the spirit of self-emptying Christ displayed- “will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Cor. 11:27). So: “let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of that cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body” (1Cor. 11:28-29). The well-to-do in the Corinthian congregation were by their selfishness in fact eating and drinking the Lord’s supper “in an unworthy manner” and the result was that “many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep” (1 Cor. 11:30). In other words: their selfish attitude at the Lord’s Table prompted God to bring sickness and death within their congregation. Hence the desperate need for fencing the table in relation to oneself.

What does self-examination involve? The “Form for the Celebration of the Lord’s Supper” (Book of Praise, page 595) elaborates on this notion of self-examination. The “Form” mentions the following three parts:
“Let everyone consider his sins and accursedness so that he, detesting himself, may humble himself before God.” The point of self-examination is not to discover whether or not one has sinned. The Form takes one’s “sins and accursedness” for granted, and asks us to “consider” these “sins and accursedness”, to evaluate what we think of our sins. Considering our sins rightly makes one humble before God. ‘Humble’ is the key word here. (See also the first part of the Catechism, which deals with our Sin and Misery, Lord’s Days 2-4).

In second place, each is to “search his heart whether he also believes the sure promise of God that all his sins are forgiven him only for the sake of the suffering and death of Jesus Christ….” The significant word here is ‘believe’. The point is, then, whether one’s eyes are fixed on Christ’s sacrifice, whether one is convinced that Christ’s sacrifice covers one’s sins. It is not that hard to determine whether or not one’s focus is on Christ such that he finds in Christ all he needs for his salvation. (See the second part of the Catechism, which deals with Our Deliverance in Lord’s Days 5-31).

The third aspect of self-examination revolves around the cause of your conduct. “Let everyone examine his conscience whether it is his sincere desire to show true thankfulness to God with his entire life….” What makes you tick? Are the things you do prompted by gratitude for what God has done in Christ, or are they prompted by fear of God, or perhaps by confidence in oneself? Gratitude to God for what He did for us in Christ of necessity prompts love for the neighbor – for we reflect what God has done for us. (See the third part of the Catechism, which deals with Our Thankfulness, Lord’s Days 32-52).

As I examine myself, will I confess that I am a lost sinner? Do I believe that Christ has paid for all my sins? Do I, in thankfulness to God, seek to live a life of obedience to God and love to my neighbor? Where the answer to such questions is Yes, God commands me (sinner that I am) to sit down at His table. For He wants to impress upon me what He has done for me in Christ. Therefore He tells me to eat the bread and to drink the wine. And He tells me that as surely as I taste these, so certainly has He given Christ for me. How encouraging His word of promise!

On the other hand, what am I to do if I actually quite enjoy my sins, or see my faith in Christ as little more than an insurance for the day of death? In such a situation, the responsibility to stay away from the table of the Lord is first of all my own! The Lord of the table is a holy God, and all my actions –and the motivations behind them- are well known to this God. I dare not defy the holiness of this God and His table, and so eat and drink judgment upon myself. Fencing is first of all my personal responsibility!

SECOND LAYER – COMMUNAL CARE

As the Lord God loved undeserving sinners (and so sent His Son to earth to redeem them), so the Lord would also have people love people – irrespective of whether the other is friendly or abhorrent. The Lord God instructed His Old Testament people to be the brother’s keeper: “You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him” (Lev. 19:17). The Lord Jesus Christ said that the second great commandment of the law was to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:39). If in Corinth the consequence of unholy attendance at the Lord’s table was that “many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep” (as the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to explain 1Co_11:30), then care for the brotherhood means that the congregation discourage from attending a brother or sister they know is erring – lest they allow God’s judgment to fall upon them (1Cor. 11:31). So Paul instructed the congregation (see 1Cor. 1:2) to “deliver … to Satan for the destruction of the flesh” the man who “has his father’s wife” (1Cor. 5:5).
There is a distinct parallel here with the task God gave to the Old Testament. “When a man has on the skin of his body a swelling, a scab, or a bright spot…, then he shall be brought to Aaron the priest” (Lev. 13:2). The priest in turn pronounced the man leprous and therefore unclean for long periods of time, even cutting him off from the communion of the people and forbidding his coming to the tabernacle for the long term. One can understand that one would not readily volunteer to go to the priest for fear of such consequences. Hence the passive formulation in the text is striking. In care for the holiness of the tabernacle and the people of God, one might need to instruct the neighbor to go to the priest, or even bring him there. The passage, then, indicates that responsibility for one’s going to the Lord in the tabernacle went beyond the individual to include also the community as a whole. This communal responsibility, we realize, is also behind the instruction to admonish a brother when he sins (see Matt. 18:15; Gal. 6:1; see also Article 32).

THIRD LAYER – THE ELDERS

Only after one has understood personal and communal responsibility in maintaining the holiness of the Lord’s table can one rightly speak of the pastoral role of the elders. They need to “shepherd the flock of God” (1 Pet. 5:2), and shepherding can mean that one forbids a member from attending the table of the Lord – lest he eat and drink judgment on himself and God’s wrath be provoked against the congregation (see 1 Cor. 11:12-32). As the priest of the Old Testament could forbid an Israelite from entering the tabernacle of the Lord due to leprosy (Lev. 13:1-59), so the elders of the New Testament can forbid a child of God from attending the table of the Lord due to unresolved sin.

To carry out their task of guarding the table of the Lord, elders speak with those in the congregation who wish to attend the Lord’s table. Before such a member makes profession of faith, the elders visit, speak, listen, and attempt to gauge what lives in the heart of this (young) brother or sister. Elders will respect the prior responsibility of the congregation and let the congregation know that a particular person desires to attend the table – and so give the congregation opportunity to register its dissent before public profession of faith. Further, elders remain in constant touch with congregation members, officially through an annual home visit and unofficially through regular contact in the ebb and flow of daily living. They also keep their ear open to reports they receive from congregation members about a brother’s refusal to accept admonition (Matt. 18:17). On the basis of their knowledge about a member’s spiritual health, the elders may deny a given member access to the table of the Lord. Fencing the table is also their responsibility.

Source: Clarence Bouwman, The Overflowing Riches of my God: Revisiting the Belgic Confession.

Finished Redemption by Christmas Evans

FINISHED REDEMPTION

“It is finished.”—John 19:30.

This exclamation derives all its importance from the magnitude of the work alluded to, and the glorious character of the agent. The work is the redemption of the world; the agent is God manifest in the flesh. He who finished the creation of the heavens and the earth in six days, is laying the foundation of a new creation on Calvary. Four thousand years he has been giving notice of his intention to mankind; more than thirty years he has been personally upon earth, preparing the material; and now he lays the chief corner stone in Zion, exclaiming—” It is finished.”

We will first consider the special import of the exclamation, and then offer a few remarks of a more general character.

I. “It is finished.” This saying of the Son of God is a very striking one; and, uttered, as it was, while he hung in dying agonies upon the cross, cannot fail to make a strong impression upon the mind. It is natural for us to inquire—” What does it mean? To what does the glorious victim refer?” A complete answer to the question would develope the whole scheme of redemption. We can only glance at a few leading ideas.

The sufferings of Christ are ended. Never again shall be be persecuted from city to city, as an impostor and servant of Satan. Never again shall he say—” My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death.” Never again shall he agonize in Gethsemane, and sweat great drops of blood. Never again shall he be derided by the rabble, and insulted by men in power. Never aga’n shall he be crowned with thorns, lacerated by the scourge, and nailed to the accursed tree. Never again shall he cry out, in the anguish of his soul, and the baptism of blood—”My God! my God! why hast thou forsaken me!”

The predictions of his death are fulfilled. The prophets had spoken of his crucifixion many hundred years before his birth. They foresaw the Governor who was to come forth from Bethlehem. They knew the babe in the manger, as he whose goings forth are of old, even from everlasting. They drew an accurate chart of his travels, from the manger to the cross, and from the cross to the throne. All these things must be fulfilled. Jesus knew the necessity, and seemed anxious that every jot and tittle should receive an exact accomplishment. His whole life was a fulfilment of prophecy. On every path he walked, on every house he entered, on every city he visited, and especially on the mysterious phenomena which accompanied his crucifixion, it was written—”that the Scriptures might be fulfilled.”

The great sacrifice for sin is accomplished. For this purpose Christ came into the world. He is our appointed high-priest, the elect of the Father, and the desire of nations. He alone who was in the bosom of the Father, could offer a sacrifice of sufficient merit to atone for human transgression. But it was necessary also that he should have somewhat to offer. Therefore a body was prepared for him. He assumed the seed of Abraham, and suffered in the flesh. This was a sacrifice of infinite value, being sanctifiea by the altar of Divinity on which it was offered. All the cere monial sacrifices could not obtain the bond from the hand of the creditor. They were only acknowledgments of the debt. But Jesus, by one offering, paid the whole, took up the bond—the handwriting that was against us, and nailed it to his cross; and when driving the last nail, he cried—” It is finished!”

The satisfaction of Divine justice is completed. The violated law must be vindicated; the deserved penalty must be endured; if not by the sinner himself, yet by the sinner’s substitute. This was the great undertaking of the Son of God. He “bore our sins”—that is, the punishment of our sins—” in his own body on the tree.” He was ” made a curse for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” There was no other way by which the honor of God and the dignity of his law could be sustained, and therefore ” the Lord laid upon him the iniquities of us all.” He ” died unto sin once ;” not merely for sin, enduring its punishment in our stead; but also “unto sin,” abolishing its power, and putting it away. Therefore it is said, he “made an end of sin”—destroyed its condemning and tormenting power on behalf of all them that believe. His sufferings were equal to the claims of justice; and his dying cry was the voice of Justice himself proclaiming the satisfaction. Here, then, may the dying thief, and the persecutor of the holy, lay down their load of guilt and wo at the foot of the cross.

The new and living way to God is consecrated. A vail has hitherto concealed the holy of holies. None but the high-priest has seen the ark of the covenant, and the glory of God resting upon Jie mercy-seat between the cherubim. He alone might enter, and he but once a year, and then with fear and trembling, and the sprinkling of atoning blood, after the most careful purification, and sacrifice for himself and the people. But our great High-priest has made an end of sacrifice by the one offering of himself. He has filled his hands with his own blood, and entered into heaven itself, there to appear in the presence of God for us. The sweet incense which he offers fills the temple, and the merit of his sacrifice remains the same through all time, superseding all other offering for ever. Therefore we are exhorted to come boldly to the throne of grace. The tunnel under the Thames could not be completed on account of an accident which greatly damaged the work, without a new subscription for raising money; but Jesus found infinite riches in himself, sufficient for the completion of a new way to the Father—a living way through the valley of the shadow of death to “the city of the Great King.”

The conquest of the powers of darkness is achieved. When their hour was come, the Prince and his hosts were on the alert to accomplish the destruction of the Son of God. They assailed him with peculiar temptations, and leveled against him their heaviest artillery. They instigated one disciple to betray him and another to deny him. They fired the rage of the multitude against him, so that the same tongues that lately sung—” Hosanna to the Son of David!” now shouted—”Crucify him! Crucify him!” They filled the priests and scribes with envy, that they might accuse him without a cause; and inspired Pilate with an accursed ambition, that he might condemn him without a fault. They seared the conscience of the false witnesses, that they might charge the- Just One with the most flagrant crimes; and cauterized the hearts of the Roman soldiers, that they might mock him in his sufferings, and nail him to the cross. Having succeeded so far in their hellish plot, they doubtless deemed their victory certain. I see them crowding around the cross, waiting impatiently to witness his last breath, ready to shout with infernal triumph to the depths of hell, till the brazen walls should send back their echoes to the gates of the heavenly city. But hark! the dying Saviour exclaims—” It is finished!” and the great dragon and his host retreat, howling, from the cross. The Prince of our salvation turned back all then artillery upon themselves, and their own stratagems become their ruin. The old serpent seized Messiah’s heel, but Messiah stamped upon the serpent’s head. The dying cry of Jesus shook the dominions of death, so that the bodies of many that slept arose; and rang through all the depths of hell, the knell of its departed power. Thus the Prince of this world was foiled in his schemes, and disappointed in his hopes; like the men of Gaza, when they locked up Samson at night, thinking to kill him in the morning; but awoke to find that he was gone, with the gates of the city upon his shoulders. When the Philistines caught Samson, and brought him to their temple, to make sport for them, they never dreamed of the disaster in which it would result—never dreamed that their triumph over the poor blind captive would be the occasion of their destruction. Suffer me, said he, to lean on the two pillars. Then he bowed himself, and died with his enemies. So Christ on Calvary, while the powers of darkness exulted over their victim, seized the main pillars of sin and death, and brought down the temple of Satan upon its occupants; but on the morning of the third day, he left them all in the ruins, where they shall remain for ever, and commenced his journey home to his Father’s house.

II. So much concerning the import of our Saviour’s exclamation. Such was the work which he finished upon the cross. We add a few remarks of a more general character.

The sufferings of Christ were vicarious. He died, not for his own sins, but for ours. He humbled himself, that we might be exalted. He became poor, that we might be made rich. He was wounded, that we might be healed. He drained the cup of wrath, that we might drink the waters of salvation. He died the shameful and excruciating death oi the cross, that we might live and reign with him for ever.

“Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to have entered into his glory?” This “ought” is the ought of mercy and of covenant engagement. He must discharge the obligation which he had voluntarily assumed. He must finish the work which he had graciously begun. There was no other Saviour—no other being in the universe willing to undertake the work; or, if any willing to undertake, none able to accomplish it. The salvation of one human soul would have been too mighty an achievement for Gabriel—for all the angels in heaven. Had not “the Only Begotten of the Father” become our surety, we must have lain for ever under the wrath of God, amid “weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth.” None but the Lion of the tribe of Judah could break the seals of that mysterious book. None but “God manifest in the flesh” could deliver us from the second death.

The dying cry of Jesus indicates the dignity of his nature, and the power of life that was in him to the last. All men die of weakness—of inability to resist death—die because they can live no longer. But this was not the case with the Son of God. He speaks of laying down his life as his own voluntary act;—”No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.” He “poured out his soul unto death”—did not wait for it to be torn from him— did not hang languishing upon the cross, till life “ebbed out by slow degrees;” but poured it out freely, suddenly, and unexpectedly. As soon as the work was done for which he came into the world, he cried—” It is finished!” “bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.” Then the sun was darkened, the earth quaked, the rocks rent, the graves opened, and the centurion said—” Truly, this man was the Son of God!” He cried with a loud voice, to show that he was still unconquered by pain, mighty even upon the cross. He bowed his head that death might seize him. He was naturally m far above the reach of death, his Divine nature being self-existent and eternal, and his human nature entitled to immortality by its immaculate holiness; yet “he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross”—” He bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.”

We may regard his last exclamation, also, as an expression of his joy, at having accomplished the great “travail of his soul,” in the work of our redemption. It was the work which the Father had given him, and which he had covenanted to do. It lay heavy upon his heart; and O, how was he straitened till it was accomplished’ His “soul was exceeding sorrowful, even unto death;” “and his sweat as it were great drops of blood, falling down to the ground.” But upon the cross, he saw of the travail of his soul, and was satisfied. He saw that his sacrifice was accepted, and the object of his agony secured—that death would not be able to detain him in the grave, nor hell to defeat the purposes of his grace—that the gates of the eternal city would soon open to receive him as a conqueror, and myriads of exultant angels shout him to his throne; whither ht would be followed by his redeemed, with songs of everlasting joy. He saw, and he was satisfied; and, not waiting for the morning ot the third day, but already confident of victory, he uttered this note of triumph, and died.

And if we may suppose them to have understood its import, what a source of consolation must it have been to his sorrowing disciples! The sword had pierced through Mary’s heart, according lo the prediction of old Simeon over the infant Jesus. Her affections had bled at the agony of her supernatural Son, and her wounded faith had wellnigh perished at his cross. And how must all his followers have felt, standing afar off, and beholding their supposed Redeemer suffering as a malefactor! How must all their hopes have died within them, as they gazed on the accursed tree! The tragedy was mysterious, and they deemed their enemies victorious. Jesus is treading the winepress in Bozrah, and the earth is shaking, and the rocks are rending, and the luminaries of heaven are expiring, and all the powers of nature are fainting, in sympathy with his mighty agony. Now he is lost in the fire and smoke of battle, and the dread artillery of justice is heard thundering through the thick darkness, and shouts of victory rise from the troops of hell, and who shall foretell the issue of the combat, or the fate of the Champion? But lo! he cometh forth from the cloud of battle, with blood upon his garments! He is wounded, but he hath the tread and the aspect of a conqueror. He waves his crimsoned sword, and cries —” It is finished!” Courage, ye weepers at the cross! Courage, ye tremblers standing afar off! The Prince of your salvation is victor, and this bulletin of the war shall cheer myriads of believers in the house of their pilgrimage, and the achievement which it announces shall constitute an everlasting theme of praise!

“It is finished!” The word smote on the walls of the celestial city, and thrilled the hosts of heaven with ecstasy unspeakable. How must “the spirits of just men made perfect” have leaped with joy, to hear that the Captain of their salvation was victorious over all his enemies, and that the work he had engaged to do for them and their brethren was completed! and with what wonder and delight must the holy angels have witnessed the triumph of him, whom they were commanded to worship, over the powers of darkness! It was the commencement of a new era in heaven, and never before had its happy denizens seen so much of God.

“It is finished!” Go, ye heralds of salvation, into all the world, and proclaim the joyful tidings! Cry aloud, and spare not; lift up your voice like a trumpet, and publish to all men, that the work of the cross is finished—that the great Mediator, “made perfect through sufferings,” has become “the author of eternal salvation to all them that obey him”—” is of God made unto us, wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption!” Go, teach the degraded Pagan, the deluded Mohammedan, and the superstitious Papist, that the finished work of Jesus is the only way of acceptance with God! Go, tell the polished scholar, the profound philosopher, and the vaunting moralist, that the doctrine of Christ crucified is the only knowledge that can save the soul! Go, say to the proud skeptic, the bold blasphemer, and the polluted libertine, “Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world!” Preach it to the gasping sinner upon his death-bed, and the sullen murderer in his cell! Let it ring in every human ear, and thrill in every human heart, till the gladness of earth shall be the counterpart of heaven’

Christmas Evans’ Escape from Sandemanianism and Sabellianism

[Note: Sandemanianism is the doctrine of Robert Sandeman and John Glas. It taught that faith is a mere intellectual assent to the gospel. This intellectualism was connected to strong views of God's sovereignty, and it practically stifled all evangelistic efforts; it also repudiated the idea repentance as part of the conversion process. It has it counterpart in the teachings of Zane Hodges and Grace Evangelical Society. Sabellianism is a form of modalism, wherein the One God has merely manifested Himself as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, rather than being three distinct person in the Godhead.]

About this time (late 18th century) arose among the Baptists of North Wales a bitter and distracting controversy, concerning Sandemanianism and Sabellianism, which had been introduced by the Rev. Mr. Jones, a man of considerable learning and influence in the denomination. Mr. Evans was at first inclined to fall in with these doctrines, and participated largely in the strife of tongues. He says:—

“The Sandemanian system affected me so far as to quench the spirit of prayer for the conversion of sinners, and it induced in my mind a greater regard for the smaller things of the kingdom of heaven than for the greater. I lost the strength which clothed my mind with zeal, confidence, and earnestness in the pulpit for the conversion of souls to Christ. My heart retrograded, in a manner, and I could not realize the testimony of a good conscience. Sabbath nights, after having been in the day exposing and vilifying with all bitterness the errors that prevailed, my conscience felt as if displeased, and reproached me that I had lost nearness to, and walking with God. It would intimate that something exceedingly precious was now wanting in me; I would reply, that I was acting in obedience to the word; but it continued to accuse me of the want of some precious article. I had been robbed, to a great degree, of the spirit of prayer and of the spirit of preaching.”

Mr. Evans thus describes the effect of this controversy upon his people:

“The Sandemanian spirit began to manifest itself in the counties of Merioneth, Caernarvon, Anglesea, and Denbigh, and the first visible effect was the subversion of the hearers, for which the system was peculiarly adapted; intimating, as it did, that to Babylon the crowd of hearers always belonged. We lost, in Anglesea, nearly all those who were accustomed to attend with us; some of them joined other congregations; and, in this way, it pulled down nearly all that had been built up in twelve or fifteen years, and made us appear once again a mean and despicable party in the view of the country. The same effects followed it in a greater or lesser degree in the other counties noticed; but its principal station appears to have been in Merionethshire; this county seems to have been particularly prepared for its reception, and here it achieved by some means a sort of supremacy.”

TIME OF REFRESHING

Mr. Evans had been a long time in this controversy, destitute of all religious enjoyment, or, to use his own expressive phrase, “as dry as Gilboa,” when he experienced a remarkable refreshing from the presence of the Lord. The following account is extracted from his journal:—

“I was weary of a cold heart towards Christ, and his sacrifice, and the work of his Spirit—of a cold heart in the pulpit, in secret prayer, and in the study. For fifteen years previously, I had felt my heart burning within, as if going to Emmaus with Jesus. On a day ever to be remembered by me, as I was going from Dolgelley to Machynlleth, and climbing up towards Cadair Idris, I considered it to be incumbent upon me to pray, however hard I felt my heart, and however worldly the frame of my spirit was. Having begun in the name of Jesus, I soon felt as it were the fetters loosening, and the old hardness of heart softening, and, as I thought, mountains of frost and snow dissolving and melting within me. This engendered confidence in my soul in the promise of the Holy Ghost. I felt my whole mind relieved from some great bondage: tears flowed copiously, and I was constrained to cry out for the gracious visits of God, by restoring to my soul the joy of his salvation;—and that he would visit the churches in Anglesea, that were under my care. I embraced in my supplications all the churches of the saints, and nearly all the ministers in the principality by their names. This struggle lasted for three hours: it rose again and again, like one wave after another, or a high flowing tide, driven by a strong wind, until my nature became faint by weeping and crying. Thus I resigned myself to Christ, body and soul, gifts and labors—all my life—every day and every hour that remained for me;—and all mv cares I committed to Christ.—The road was mountainous and lonely, and I was wholly alone, and suffered no interruption in my wrestlings with God.

“From this time, I was made to expect the goodness of God to churches and to myself. Thus the Lord delivered me and the people of Anglesea from being carried away by the flood of Sandemanianism. In the first religious meetings after this, I felt as if I had been removed from the cold and sterile regions of spiritual frost, into the verdant fields of the divine promises. The former striving with God in prayer, and the longing anxiety for the conversion of sinners, which I had experienced at Leyn, was now restored. I had a hold of the promises of God. The result was, when I returned home, the first thing that arrested my attention was, that the Spirit was working also in the brethren in Anglesea, inducing in them a spirit of prayer, especially in two of the deacons, who were particularly importunate that God would visit us in mercy, and render the word of his grace effectual amongst us for the conversion of sinners.”

COVENANT WITH GOD.

Mr. Evans now entered into a solemn covenant with God, made, as he says, “under a deep sense of the evil of his heart, and in dependence upon the infinite grace and merit of the Redeemer.” This interesting article is preserved among his papers. We give it entire, as a specimen of his spirit and his faith :—

I. “I give my soul and body unto thee, Jesus, the true God, and everlasting life—deliver me from sin, and from eternal death, and bring me into life everlasting. Amen.—C. E.

II. “I call the day, the sun, the earth, the trees, the stones, the bed, the table, and the books, to witness that I come unto thee, Redeemer of sinners, that I may obtain rest for my soul from the thunders of guilt and the dread of eternity. Amen.—C. E.

III. “I do, through confidence in thy power, earnestly entreat thee to take the work into thine own hand, and give me a circumcised i eart, that I may love thee, and create in me a right spirit, that I may seek thy glory. Grant me that principle which thou wilt own in the day of judgment, that I may not then assume paie facedness, and find myself a hypocrite. Grant me this, for the sake of thy most precious blood. Amen.—C. E.

IV. “I entreat thee, Jesus, the Son of God, in power, grant me, for the sake of thy agonizing death, a covenant-interest in thy blood, which cleanseth; in thy righteousness, which justifieth; and in thy redemption, which delivereth. I entreat an interest in thy blood, for thy blood’s sake, and a part in thee, for thy name’s sake, which thou hast given among men. Amen.—C. E.

V. “O Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, take, for the sake of thy cruel death, my time, and strength, and the gifts and talents I possess; which, with a full purpose of heart, I consecrate to thy glory in the building up of thy church in the world, for thou art worthy of the hearts and talents of all men. Amen.—C. E.

VI. “I desire thee, my great High Priest, to confirm, by thy power, from thy High Court, my usefulness as a preacher, and my piety as a Christian, as two gardens nigh to each other; that sin may not have place in my heart, to becloud my confidence in thy righteousness, and that I may not be left to any foolish act that may occasion my gifts to wither, and rendered useless before my life ends. Keep thy gracious eye upon me, and watch over me, O my Lord, and my God for ever! Amen.—C. E.

VII. “I give myself in a particular manner to thee, O Jesus Christ, the Saviour, to be preserved from the falls into which many stumble, that thy name (in thy cause) may not be blasphemed or wounded, that my peace may not be injured, that thy people may not be grieved, and that thine enemies may not be hardened. Amen.—C. E.

VIII. “I come unto thee, beseeching thee to be in covenant with me in my ministry. As thoudidst prosper Bunyan, Vavasor Powell, Howell Harris, Rowlands, and Whitefield, O do thou prosper me. Whatsoever things are opposed to my prosperity, remove them out of the way. Work in me every thing approved of God, for the attainment of this. Give me a heart ‘sick of love’ to thyself, and to the souls of men. Grant that I may experience the power of thy word before I deliver it, as Moses felt the power of his own rod, before he saw it on the land and waters of Egypt. Grant this, for the sake of thine infinitely precious blood, O Jesus, my hope, pnd my all in all! Amen.—C. E.

IX. “Search me now, and lead me in plain paths of judgment. Let me discover in this life what I am before thee, that I may not find myself of another character, when I am shown in the light of the immortal world, and open my eyes in all the brightness of eternity. Wash me in thy redeeming blood. Amen.—C. E.

X. “Grant me strength to depend upon thee for food and raiment, and to make known my requests. O let thy care be over me as a covenant-privilege betwixt thee and myself, and not like a general care to feed the ravens that perish, and clothe the lily that is cast into the oven; but let thy care be over me as one of thy family, as one of thine unworthy brethren. Amen.—C. E.

XI. “Grant, O Jesus! and take upon thyself the preparing of me for death, for thou art God; there is no need, but for thee to speak the word. If possible, tby will be done; leave me not long in affliction, nor to die suddenly, without bidding adieu to my brethren, and let me die in their sight, after a short illness. Let all things be ordered against the day of removing from one world to another, that there be no confusion nor disorder, but a quiet discharge in peace. O grant me this, for the sake of thine agony in the garden! Amen.—C. E.

XII. “Grant, O blessed Lord! that nothing may grow and be matured in me, to occasion thee to cast me off from the service of the sanctuary, like the sons of Eli; and for the sake of thine unbounded merit, let not my days be longer than my usefulness. O let me not be like lumber in a house in the end of my days,—in the way of others to work. Amen.—C. E.

XIII. “I beseech thee, O Redeemer! to present these my supplications before the Father: and O! inscribe them in thy book with thine own immortal pen, while I am writing them with my mortal hand, in my book on earth. According to the depths of thy merit, thine undiminished grace, and thy compassion, and thy manner unto thy people, O! attach thy name, in thine upper court, to these unworthy petitions; and set thine amen to them, as I do en my part of the covenant. Amen.—Christmas Evans, Llangevni, Anglesea, April 10, 18—.”

Mr. Evans, in speaking of this solemn transaction and its influence upon his spirit, subsequently observes: “I felt a sweet peace ana tranquillity of soul, like unto a poor man that had been brought Under the protection of the royal family, and bad an annual settlement for life made upon him; from whose dwelling the painfui dread of poverty and want had been for ever banished away.”

Thus “strengthened with might in the inner man,” he labored with renewed energy and zeal, and showers of blessings descended upon his labors. In two years, his ten preaching places in Anglesea were increased to twenty, and six hundred converts were added to the church under his care. “The wilderness and solitary place were glad for them, and the desert rejoiced and blossomed as the rose.”

A Christian Family in Heaven by John A. James

1. The enjoyments and occupations of heaven are uniformly represented as social: but where is the charm of society without mutual knowledge?

2. Heaven is uniformly represented as perfecting all our faculties; is it then probable that it will diminish memory, one of the most important of them? And if memory be still retained in full vigor, and it be perpetually employed, as it inevitably must be, on the past scenes of our earthly existence, is it likely that the friends and companions of that existence, inhabiting then the same celestial world with us, will be unknown to us?

3. The chief grace that will be increased in the regions of the blest, next to love to God, will be love to our companions in glory. But will not one of the most pure, elevated, and delightful exercises of this holy passion be wanting, if we are ignorant of our glorified relatives?

4. In the general judgment, which is appointed to vindicate the ways of God to man, it is nearly certain that individuals will be known to each other; and if this be the case, is it likely that their mutual knowledge will be immediately obliterated?

5. Is it likely that individuals whose names and labors bear such a close and extensive connection with the redemption and history of the church, as those of the prophets and apostles will be unknown? And if they are known, may it not be inferred that others will be?

6. During our Savior’s abode upon earth, he afforded to the three favored disciples a glimpse of the heavenly glory: he himself was transfigured, and Moses and Elias descended in celestial brilliancy. These two eminent servants of God were known by the astonished apostles; and if known on Mount Tabor, is it not likely they will be known in the New Jerusalem?

7. Our Savior, in one of the most impressive of his parables, represents the rich man in torments, as knowing Lazarus and Abraham in glory: now, though it be a parable, and though the whole scenery of a parable is not to be considered as conveying some moral sentiment, yet certainly nothing materially and obviously at variance with the truth is ever taught by even the appendages of the chief parabolic idea.

8. We find the apostle Paul very frequently consoling himself under the sufferings and persecutions which he had to endure, by the prospect of meeting in heaven those who had been converted by his ministry on earth. His address to the believing Thessalonians is especially in point. “What is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ, at his coming?” I do not see how these Christians could be Paul’s crown of rejoicing in that day, if they were not known to him.

These are some of the reasons which lead me to suppose that in heaven the saints will know each other.

Assuming then the fact, that saints will know each other in the celestial state, let us imagine, my dear children, if indeed the imagination is equal to the effort, what must be the joy attendant on the final meeting of a pious family in heaven. One of the most exquisite delights which we ever experience on earth, is the enjoyment which springs from the first interview with a friend from whom we have been separated; and this delight is in proportion to the length of time, and greatness of distance, and magnitude of danger, which have intervened between the separation and the meeting. What language can describe the thrill of transport, the almost agony of rapture, which the wife experiences in that moment when she receives a husband back again to her arms, who has been away from home for months, who has been separated from her by half the circumference of the globe, and threatened to be torn from her forever, by the dangers of shipwreck or of battle! Or who shall set forth that scene of domestic bliss which is exhibited when the sailor-boy, after having been absent for years, returns from the dangers of the seas, and the horrors of captivity, to the bosom of his family, and exchanges extatic greetings with his parents, and his sisters, and his brothers, till all seem ready to dissolve with excess of joy? What then must be the meeting of these same relatives in heaven, after having been separated by worlds and ages: that meeting when a mother receives her children to the skies from this degenerate earth, and the father hails his offspring from the world of death to the region of life and immortality! Here imagination confesses its weakness. It is a scene we have never witnessed ourselves ; nor have we ever conversed with one who has. My heart, while I write, seems to beat quicker at the thought; and the very anticipation, my dear children, raises a commotion of pleasurable feelings in my bosom, which no words could enable me to express.

In this state, amidst all this glory, honor, and felicity, it is my sincere desire, my ardent prayer, my constant endeavor, my supreme pursuit, that your journey, my dear children, and my own, should terminate. Every thing else appears, in comparison of this, as nothing. In the view of this, thrones lose their elevation, crowns their splendor, riches their value, and fame its glory; before the effulgence and magnitude of celestial objects, their grandeur dwindles to an invisible point, and their brightness is but as the shadow of death. Did we not know the depravity of our nature, and that the natural man knoweth not these things, because they are spiritually discerned, we must indeed wonder, and inquire what bewildering influence it is, that is exerted upon the human mind, by which its attention is so fatally diverted from things unseen and eternal, to the shadowy and evanescent form of things seen and temporal. It is only on this ground that we can account for the folly, the madness of neglecting the great salvation, and seeking any thing in preference to eternal glory. Dreadful madness! which, though it indulges in the miscalculations of insanity, has none of its excuses. What but this moral insanity could lead men for any object upon earth, to neglect the pursuit, and resign the hope of eternal life!

My children! my children! whom I love with an affection which can be equalled only by that solicitude for your welfare to which it has given rise, aid which never sleeps nor rests, receive my admonition, and make eternal happiness the end of your existence. Look at that heaven, which, though but partially revealed, is revealed with such pure brightness on the page of eternal truth, “on the description of which, so to speak, the Holy Ghost employs and exhausts the whole force and splendor of inspiration;” look at it, that state of inconceivable, infinite eternal honor and bliss, and is there aught on earth, aught of pleasure or of gain, for which you will deliberately resign that crown of unfading glory?

May it be granted me to see you choosing the way of wisdom and piety, and remembering your Creator in the days of your youth: giving to all your virtues that stability and beauty which can be derived only from religion; first receiving by faith, and then adorning by holiness, the doctrine of God your Savior. Then will my highest ambition, as a parent, be gratified, my most painful solicitude relieved. I shall watch your progress amidst the vicissitudes of life, with a calm and tranquil mind, assured that your piety will be your protector amidst the dangers of prosperity; or your comforter amidst the ills of adversity. If called to follow your bier, and weep upon your sepulchre, I shall only consider you as sent forward on the road to await my arrival at your Father’s house; or if called, according to the order of nature, to go down first into the dark valley of the shadow of death, I shall find the agonies of separation assuaged, and the gloom of the dying chamber irradiated by those bright visions of glory, which connect themselves with the prospect of the meeting of a pious family in the heavenly world.

 

James was a Congregationalist of the early 19th century. 

The Scriptures Superior To All Spiritual Manifestations by Benjamin Keach

THE SCRIPTURES SUPERIOR TO ALL SPIRITUAL MANIFESTATIONS.

“And he said, If they will not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead.”—Luke 16:31.

I shall endeavor to prove from these words that the Holy Scriptures, in the ministration thereof, have far more efficacy to bring men to believe and repent than immediate revelation, or apparition from the dead.

I. For the proof of this truth I shall first show the uncertainty of the evidence of all other pretended ways.

1. Suppose a man pretends to immediate inspiration or revelation, by which he says he knows the truth, or the only way to be eaved, and how to worship God. How can we be assured that what he says is a true and infallible revelation? For perhaps twenty men may all teach contrary doctrine one to the other, yet all pretend to immediate revelation, or inspiration of God: how then shall any inquiring person be assured which of these are truly inspired? One may say, I witness it in myself and know it is of God. Well, and so all: how then is the doubting person left at an utter uncertainty.

For unless one or another of this sort who pretends to immediate inspiration can do such things to confirm his mission which no imposter can, he is not in the least to be regarded. What must he do? He must work real miracles, as raise the dead, or open the eyes of one that was born blind, by that Spirit of which he pretends to be led. And if he can not do such things, he can do no more than any deceiver can pretend to.

Consider that Almighty God Himself, who is a free Agent, and under no obligation to His creatures, never gave forth but two religions, or two sorts of public worship, laws and ordinances—the first was the Jewish religion, and the second the Christian—neither of these He imposed on His people without confirming them by signs and wonders.

The first was given forth by Moses. And what amazing miracles and wonders did he work in Egypt before Pharaoh, and at the Bed Sea, to prove his mission, or that he was sent from God! None could do the like. Though Jannes and Jambres withstood him, and strove to do the like, yet at last they were forced to cry out it was “the finger of God.”

Moreover, when the time of the Jewish worship and their Church-state was expiring, and our Lord was sent from heaven to give forth the doctrine of the New Testament, what wonderful miracles did He work to prove He was sent from heaven! He also said, “If I do not the works that no other man can do, believe Me not. The works that I do, they bear witness of Me.” They proved that the Father sent Him, and that His doctrine was of God. “Or else believe Me for My works’ sake.”.

2. Suppose a man should say he is come from the dead, either from heaven or hell, who will believe liim? He may be an imposter, a liar. lie is not to be regarded unless he works miracles. To confirm what he says, he must raise the dead and open the eyes of such as were born blind, or such like wonderful works which no deceiver can do. For the devils and all lying spirits can work no rml miracles; they are all “lying signs and wonders.” Were not this so, the world were left in a woeful condition. Besides, then the miracles that our Lord wrought could be no infallible evidence that He was the Son of God, and sent by Him, and His doctrine was from heaven.

8. Suppose one should really come from the dead, and preach to sinners, and tell them what they should do to be saved, yet his testimony could be only the testimony of a mere human creature. But the sacred Scriptures are the Word of Ood. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God.” Nay, the doctrine of the Gospel, or word of the New Testament, was spoken by Christ Himself, the Son of God from heaven. He, in His own person and with His own mouth, gave it forth as He received it from the Father, and confirmed it by wonderful miracles. Which should we soonest believe, or is of the greatest authority, what the Son of God Himself spake, or what a human spirit should declare?

II. But the grand argument is, thai that way or that means which God hath ordained or appointed, as the ordinary and most effectual way or means for the conversion of sinners, hath a Divine power and efficacy in it above all or any other way or means whatsoever to effect that great end. But God hath ordained thevsacred Scriptures as read, especially as preached by His faithful ministers, as the ordinary way and most effectual means for the conversion of sinners: therefore the Scriptures, as so read and preached, have a real and Divine power and efficacy above all or any other means whatever to effect that great end. Will God leave His own ordinance, and own an ordinance of man’s devising, or cause that to succeed, to answer to the end proposed by Himself in His own institution? No. The rich man in hell magnifies the apparition of a spirit, concluding that what one that riseth from the dead might declare could have more effect on his brethren than the written Word. But certainly that way or means God hath ordained to such or such an end, He will bless, and own for the effecting of His own gracious design, above any way or means beside.

For the confirmation of this, see what the Apostle John saith: “Manv other signs truly did Jesus, in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that, believing, ye might have life through His name.” The reason why the doctrines and miracles of our blessed Saviour are written in the book of the New Testament, is that we might believe. “How shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? and how shall the}r hear without a preacher? and how shall they preach except they be sent?” 1. Faith comes by hearing the Gospel preached, as the ordinary way God hath ordained. 2. They must be such that preach it whom God hath ordained and sent. Now, either He hath ordained His angols or mortal men to preach it; or else the spirits of them who are dead. But God hath not ordained His angels to preach it, nor the spirits of men that are dead; wherefore He hath ordained and sent mortal men, whom He hath gifted to that end, to be the preachers thereof. First, He chose the twelve disciples, and sent them forth to preach it; afterward He sent out the seventy. He said to them, “Behold, I send you the promise of my Father: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem until ye be endued with power from on high.” Also it is said, “When He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men”—not to angels, nor to the spirits of the dead. “And He-gave some apostles, and some prophets and evangelists, and some pastors and teachers.” The first had an extraordinary mission and call; such offices as apostles and extraordinar}’ prophets and evangelists none can pretend to have since the extraordinary gifts ceased; but pastors and teachers remain in the Church to the end of the world, and they preach by virtue of those gifts Christ received and gave when He ascended’ up on high.

III. That “word’ of God is more sure than “the voice which came from Hie excellent glory” in Hie holy mount, must be of the greatest authority and most powerful efficacy to believe and repent. But the Holy Scripture is “a more sure word,” and hence is of the greatest authority, and hath more power and efficacy in it to bring men to believe and repent. “For wc have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eye-witnesses of His majesty. For He received from God the Father honor and glory, when there came to Him such a voice from the excellent glory, This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice, which came from heaven, all heard, when we were with Him in the holy mount. We have also a more sure word of prophecy, wberennto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn and the day-star arise in your hearts.” Well, and what is that more sure word? See the next verse: “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation. For prophecy came of old time, not by the will of man, but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost,”

Know this then first, namely, the rule of your faith and practice; first and principally, above all things, as the great .article of your faith, that the Holy Scripture is of divine authority; and is to be preferred above that glorious voice heard in the mount; and hence far above all pretended-visions, new inspirations, spirits, or any other means whatsoever that any can pretend unto.

And this doctrine, contained herein and as a sure rule, remains until Christ, the morning star, comes in His glory, when our hearts shall be perfectly illuminated. No one place of the Scriptures is to be interpreted by men’s own- spirits, or is of any private interpretation, contrary to what is confirmed by other Scriptures. God being the Author of it, all agrees and sweetly harmonizes, though from the ignorance of men and the delusions of Satan, some understand them not, and others wrest them to their own destruction. But not that we are to conceive no man is to interpret the Scriptures unless he hath received extraordinary gifts of the Spirit, or the knowledge of the tongues; for the Scripture may be underflood of the ignorant, by comparing one Scripture with another, and the Scripture itself is the best interpreter of Scripture.

IV. If we read of many thousands that have been converted by preaching tie Gospel, or by the unerring word of God, and not one converted by the spirit of any of the dead, or by any spirit whatsoever teaching directly contrary to those sacred oracles, or by pretended immediate inspiration, not referring to them; then the Scripture, or the preaching of God’s written word, hath the only authority or efficacy in it, through the Spirit of Christ, which always teaches according to it. But we read of thousands this way converted ; and not of any converted by the spirit of any that came from the dead; nor hy immediate inspiration; or by a spirit that teacheth directly contrary to those sacred oracles.

Such as pretend that they were converted by any spirit, light, or inspiration, of or by any spirit that speaks not according to this word, it is a lying spirit. No light is there; but they are deluded and deceived by the devil.

V. If the Holy Scriptures he not the certain way and means of faith and practice, or of faith and repentance, then God hath left us no certain rule or means. And be sure that can not stand consistent with the wisdom, goodness, mercy, honor and faithfulness of the holy God. If any say God hath left a certain rule for our faith he sides the Scriptures, let them prove it by such evidences as are infallibly certain; that no man led thereby can be deceived. I deny not that God may convert men by afflictions, etc.; yet He makes use Btill of the written word in the light and promises thereof.

If no man or spirit is to be regarded, unless they speak according to the written word of God, then the Holy Scripture is the only rule and ordinary means answering the great end pleaded for. But that this«is so, see Isaiah, “And when they-shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep and mutter; should not people seek unto their God? To the law and to the testimony. If they speak not according to this .word, it is because there is no light in them.”

If the Holy Scriptures are every way sufficient in respect of faith, practice and salvation, then the Holy Scriptures have the only efficacy in them for this great end. That this is so, see what the Apostle says to Timothy, “From a child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished with all good works.”

I might add that the personal ministry of our Saviour, could it be enjoyed again, would be ineffectual to then on whom the written word hath none effect. He Himself says: “Had you believed Moses, you would have believed Me, for he wrote of Me; but if you believe not his writings, how shall you believe My words?” O how doth our Lord magnify the written word! There is the same reason why Christ’s word should not be believed by such as believed not Moses’s writings, who confirmed his mission by miracles, as our Saviour did His. You, therefore, that despise the written word of God, should Christ come again and preach to you in such a state and condition as He appeared when on earth, you would not believe on Him.

Let us then highly prize the word of God, and beware of Satan’s designs in laboring to render it of little worth, by stirring up some to magnify natural religion above that holy religion revealed in the blessed Gospel of our dearest Lord; and in stirring up others to cry up the light in all men, as the only rule of faith and practice, and their foolish and erroneous books above the blessed Bible. “God hath magnified His word above all His name.” Though perhaps the incarnate word may be chiefly meant thereby, yet what way of revelation of God to His creatures hath God magnified as He hath His written word, as above all manifesting God’s name, by which He is made known? For all other ways by which He is made known to us fall short of that revelation we have of Him in His word.

Let us all learn from hence to bless God that He hath afforded us the best and most effectual means to believe in Him, and to turn our souls from our evil ways that so we might be eternally saved. And let none once think in their hearts that if God would raise one from the dead to preach unto them, that they should be persuaded to leave their sinful ways and receive Jesus Christ, or that that would be a more effectual means to awaken them, and work upon their hearts and consciences. “For if they will not believe Moses and the prophets (or Christ’s written word) neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead.”

Introduction to Benjamin Keach 

This old divine, rendered famous by his sufferings for the truth’s lake, and his ” Scripture Metaphors,” “Travels of True Godliness,” etc., was born in Stakehaman, Buckinghamshire, February 29th, 1640. He died in London, July, 1704; where he had held the pastoral office, as Baptist minister for thirty-six years. There were published of his writings, before his death, forty-seven different works; three in folio, six in quarto, and many in octavo and smaller forms; all of which are now exceedingly rare.

Keach was a bold and zealous preacher during the reign of Charles the Second, and his influence was so great that he incurred the most bitter persecution. Frequently was he seized and committed to prison; and, on one occasion he came near being put to death by means of the trampling under foot of dragoons of horsemen. In 1684 ho was sentenced to the pillory for publishing a work called “The Child’s Instructor, or a New and Easy Primer.” While in the pillory, he said, “The way to the crown is by the cross.” “This is one yoke of Christ’s, which I experience is easy to me, and a burden which He doth make light.” lie added, “I do account this the greatest honor that ever the Lord was pleased to confer on me.” Keach was a strong writer, exceedingly rich in Scriptural illustration, and in the clear and forcible presentation of the Gospel doctrines. The sermon which follows, besides its intrinsic merit, has an additional value at the present time, when pretended revelations are foisted upon society, to gainsay or supersede the word of of the living God. Some preliminary and inferential matter is here omitted.

The New Creature: What Is New? by William Jay

 

 How far does this change extend? The reason of this question is obvious; it is to keep persons from resting in things, which, though good in themselves, come short of it. A man may be baptised and not regenerated. A new creed, or a new denomination, does not make a man a new creature. It is pleasing to see a man reformed externally; but he may abandon a course of profligacy, and live soberly and righteously, and yet not live godly in the present world. The new creature is not a change from vicious to virtuous only; but from natural to spiritual, from earthly to heavenly, from walking by sight to walking by faith. To go still farther: a man may be convinced and not converted; he may be alarmed and not have the fear of God in his heart; he may receive the word with joy and be a stranger to the comforts of the Holy Ghost. Let us hear Paul. “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”

His conceptions are new. His views of himself are changed. He discovers that he is a guilty creature, and deserves to perish; that he is a depraved creature, and that his heart is infinitely worse than his life; wherefore he abhors himself, and repents in dust and ashes;” nor does he ever again recover those lofty thoughts of himself he once had. His views of the Savior are changed. He once neglected or despised him: but now he cries, How great is his goodness, and how great is his heauty! and deems only .those happy, who enjoy and serve him.

His desires are new. He no longer asks, “Who will show us any good?” but he hungers and thirsts after righteousness. “Yea, doubtless,” says he, “and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord. That I may win Christ and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.” These are the desires of the new creature.

His pleasures are new.  The pleasures of sin he abhors. The dissipation of the world he despises; but it is his meat to do the will of his heavenly Father. He calls the Sabbath a delight. He is glad, when they say unto him, Let us go into the house of the Lord. He finds his word and eats it, and it is unto him the joy and rejoicing of his heart.

His pains are new. He once felt the sorrow of the world that worketh death; but he now understands that godly sorrow, which worketh repentance unto life. He is not insensible under the afflictions of life; but says he, What is every other loss, to the loss of the soul? O this evil heart of unbelief! O this ingratitude towards the God of my mercy! O this unprofitableness under the means of grace! O this insensibility under the corrections of his Providence ?” O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death!” These are the groans of the new creature.

His life is new. Simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, he now has his conversation in the world. How shall he that is dead to sin, live any longer therein? If he was not vicious before, he now abhors, from disposition, what he once only shunned from selfish motives; if moral before, his morality is now evangelized; and whatsoever he does “in word or deed, he does all in the name of the Lord Jesus.”—After all this is only a specimen: the proposition is universal in its reference: “old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new!”