THE UNIQUENESS OF THE BIBLE by John Charles Ryle

 

THE UNIQUENESS OF THE BIBLE
John Charles Ryle, D.D.

This is a question of supreme importance today. Ignorance or want of clear views about the subject is a worm at the root of much religion at the present time. Myriads of professing Christians are like men whose feet are on a quicksand, and whose heads are in a fog. They do not know what they believe about inspiration.

Inspiration rests on a collection of facts which no intelligent, educated and honest minded man can pretend for a moment to disprove.

(i) It is a fact that there is an extraordinary depth, fullness and richness in the contents of the Bible which is supernatural and above man. There is a complete gulf between it and any other book that ever was written. It throws more light on a vast number of most important subjects than all the other books in the world put together. It boldly handles matters which are beyond the reach of man when left to himself. It treats of things which are mysterious and invisible – the soul, the world to come, and eternity, depths which man has no line to fathom.

All who have tried to write of these things, without Bible light, have done little but show their own ignorance. They grope like the blind, they speculate, they guess, they generally make the darkness more visible, and land us in a region of uncertainty and doubt. The Bible alone gives a reasonable account of the beginning and end of the globe on which we live, a true picture of man, and just views of God. The Bible alone shows us-a reasonable and satisfactory remedy for the spiritual wants and necessities of dying men, and meets the universal cravings of conscience by revealing a Saviour. The Bible alone explains the state of things which we see in the world around us. There are many things on earth which a natural man cannot explain. But the Bible makes it all clear. The Bible can tell him that the whole world lieth in wickedness; that the prince of this world, the devil, is active; and that it is vain to look for perfection in the present order of things. The Bible will tell him that neither laws nor education can ever change men’s hearts. The Bible will tell him that there is “a good time” certainly coming, a time of perfect knowledge, perfect justice, perfect happiness, and perfect peace; but the Bible will tell him this time shall not be brought in by any power but that of Christ coming again, and for that second advent of Christ the Bible will tell him to prepare. Now all these are things which men could find nowhere except in the Scriptures. We have probably not the least idea how little we should know about these things if we had not the Bible. We hardly know the value of the air we breathe, and the sun which shines on us, because we have never known what it is to be without them. We do not value the truths on which I have been just now dwelling because we do not realise the darkness of men to whom these truths have not been revealed.

(ii) It is another fact that there is an extraordinary unity and harmony in the contents of the Bible which is supernatural and above man. We all know how difficult it is to get a story told by any three persons, not living together, in which there are not some contradictions and discrepancies. But it is not so with the Bible. Here is a long book written by not fewer than thirty persons. The writers were men of every rank and class in society. One was a lawgiver, one a warlike king, one a peaceful king. One had been brought up as a publican, another as a physician, another as a learned Pharisee, two as fishermen, several as priests. They lived at different periods, over a space of fifteen centuries, and the greater part of them never saw each other face to face. And yet there is a perfect harmony among all these writers. They all write as if they were under one dictation. They all tell the same story. They all give one account of man, one account of God, one account of the way of salvation, one account of the human heart. You see truth unfolding and developing as you go through the volume of their writings, but you never detect any real contradiction or contrariety of view.

(iii) It is another fact that there is an extraordinary wisdom, sublimity and majesty in the style of the Bible which is above man. Strange and unlikely though it be, the writers of Scripture have produced a book which even at this day is utterly unrivalled. With all our boasted attainments in science and art and learning, we can produce nothing in literature that can be compared with the Bible. There is a strain and a style and a tone of thought about it which separate it from all other writings. There are no weak points, and motes, and flaws, and blemishes. There is no mixture of infirmity and feebleness such as you will find in the works of even the best Christians. “Holy, holy, holy”, seems written on every page.

To talk of comparing the Bible with other “sacred books”, so-called, such as the Koran, the Vedas, or the book of Mormon, is positively absurd. You might as well compare the sun with a rushlight, or St. Paul’s with a shanty. God seems to have allowed the existence of pretended revelations in order to prove the immeasurable superiority of His own Word. To talk of the inspiration of the Bible as only differing in degree from that of such writings as the works of Homer, Plato, Shakespeare, Dante and Milton, is simply foolish. Every well-educated, honest and unprejudiced reader must see that there is a gulf between the Bible and any other book which no man can fathom. You feel at turning from the Scriptures to other works that you have entered a new atmosphere. You are like one who has exchanged gold for base metal, and heaven for earth.

(iv) It is another fact that there is an extraordinary accuracy in the facts and statements of the Bible which is supernatural and above man. Here is a book which has been finished and before the world for eighteen centuries, and those the busiest and most changeful centuries the world has ever seen. During this period the greatest discoveries have been made in science, the greatest alterations in the ways and customs of society, the greatest improvements in the habits and usages of life. Hundreds of things might be named that satisfied and pleased our ancestors which we have laid aside long ago as obsolete, useless, and old-fashioned. The laws, the books, the houses, etc., of each succeeding century that went before. There is hardly a thing in which faults and weak points have not been discovered. But all this time men have never discovered a weak point or a defect in the Bible. Infidels have assailed it in vain. There it stands, perfect, and fresh and complete, as it did eighteen centuries ago. The march of intellect never overtakes it. The wisdom of wise men never gets beyond it. The science of philosophers never proves it wrong. The discoveries of travellers never convict it of mistakes. Are the distant isles of the Pacific laid open? Nothing is found that in the slightest degree contradicts the Bible account of man’s heart. Are the ruins of Nineveh and Egypt ransacked and explored? Nothing is found that overturns one jot or tittle of the Bible’s historical statements. How shall we account for these facts? Who could have thought it possible that so large a book, handling such a vast variety of subjects, should at the end of eighteen centuries be found so free from erroneous statements? There is only one account to be given of the fact: the Bible was written by inspiration of God.

(v) It is another fact that there is in the Bible an extraordinary suitability to the spiritual wants of all mankind. It exactly meets the heart of man in every rank or class, in every country and climate, in every age and period of life. It is the only book in existence which is never out of place and out of date. Other books after a time become obsolete and old-fashioned. The Bible never does. Other books suit one country or people and not another. The Bible suits all. It is the book of the poor and unlearned no less than of the rich and the philosopher. It feeds the mind of the labourer in his cottage, and it satisfies the gigantic intellects of Newton, Chalmers, Brewster and Faraday.

It is the only book, moreover, which seems always fresh, and evergreen, and new. For eighteen centuries it has been studied and prayed over by millions of private Christians, and expounded, and explained, and preached upon by thousands of ministers. It is a well never dry and a field which is never barren. It is still the first book which fits the child’s mind when he begins to learn religion, and the last to which the old man clings as he leaves the world. In fine, it suits all ages, ranks, climates, minds, conditions. It is the one book which suits the world.

(vi) Last, but not least, it is a great fact that the Bible has had a most extraordinary effect on the condition of those nations in which it has been known, taught and read. I invite my honest-minded reader to look at a map of the world, and see what a story that map tells. Which are the countries on the face of the globe at this moment where there is the greatest amount of idolatry, or cruelty, or tyranny, or impurity, or misgovernment, or disregard of life and liberty and truth? Precisely those countries where the Bible is not known. Which are the Christian countries, so-called, where the greatest quantity of ignorance, superstition and corruption is to be found at this very moment? The countries in which the Bible is a forbidden or neglected book. Which are the countries where liberty and public and private morality have attained the highest pitch? The countries where the Bible is free to all. Yes, when you know how a nation deals with the Bible you may generally know what a nation is. But this is not all. Let us look nearer home. Which are the cities on earth where the fewest soldiers and police are required to keep order? Cities where Bibles abound. Which are the churches and religious bodies on earth which are producing the greatest results by spreading light and dispelling darkness? Those which make much of the Bible and teach and preach it as God’s Word.

Take, then, these six facts together, treat them fairly, and look at them honestly. Upon any other principle than that of supernatural and divine inspiration, these six facts appear to me inexplicable and unaccountable. Of course, deists, agnostics, and infidels may see nothing in them. Such unhappy persons always appear blind to the enormous difficulties of their own position. We have a just right to ask them how they can possibly explain the origin and nature of the Bible, if they will not allow that it is of divine authority. We have a right to say: “Here is a book which not only courts enquiry, but demands investigation. We challenge you to tell us how that book was written if you deny its inspiration”. How can they account for this book standing so entirely alone, and for nothing having ever been written equal to it, like it, near it, or fit to be compared with it for a minute? To tell us that man’s unassisted mind could have written the Bible is worse than ridiculous; it is the height of credulity. In short, the difficulties of unbelief are far greater than the difficulties of faith. No doubt there are things “hard to be understood” if we receive the Scriptures as God’s word; but after all, they are nothing compared to the hard things which rise up in our way and demand solution if we once deny inspiration. There is no alternative. Men must either believe things which are grossly improbable, or else they must accept the great general truth that the Bible is the inspired Word of God.

THE FUNDAMENTALS OF THE FAITH By C. H. Spurgeon

 

 

 

I will mention a few of these foundation things which we know cannot be removed, but we will ask the question, if they should be removed, what then?

First we will take the foundation-book. This Word of God, this revelation of himself which he has made to us by prophets and by seers, by apostles and by evangelists, and by his own dear Son, – this book we believe to be true even in its jots and tittles. Whatever form of thought we may adopt as to the method of inspiration, we believe this book to be inspired throughout, and we accept all its utterances as the teaching of the Most High. From the first word of it to the last we give our “unfeigned assent and consent” to it, as being nothing less and nothing more than the word of Jehovah, the Lord our God, to us. But if it should not be so, what can the righteous do then? If after all, the attacks of modern sceptics should have some force in them; if they can dislodge part of the Word of God from its sure resting place; if first one stone shall topple from the summit of the battlements, and then another shall be loosened from the parapet, and by-and-by its enemies should come to work with their great bars upon the very lowest and most valuable stones in the wall, – what then? What if the Book should be a delusion; what if it should be false? Ah! then, my brethren, what can the righteous do? Oh! better had it been for us that we had never been born, than that the Bible should not be true, for here is the only balm that heals the wounds that sin has made, here is the only bread that satisfies the hungering of our spirits. If that be not true, O God, why didist thou create us and wherefore didst thou suffer such a book as that to come across our path to mock us, supplying as it does all that hope can desire, and all that our deepest interests can crave after? Oh, cruel God, to permit so sweet a dream to charm us even for a while, if it be not true! But oh, beloved, we come back with a sacred recoil to this – it is true; it must be true, and if for no other reason, because it so suits the craving of our inward consciousness, because it so uplifts us out of the natural beggary and meanness of our condition, puts us on such a heavenly footing, makes us commune with the Most High, and fills us with such rapt and heavenly thoughts! It must be true, or else what could we do? Cling, then, to the divine authority of the Scriptures with a death grip! Let those give up the inspiration of the Bible who can afford to do so, but you and I cannot. Let those cast away the sure promise of God who have got something else to comfort them, who can go to their philosophy or turn to their self-conceit. But as for you and for me, it is a desperate matter for us if this Book be not true, and therefore let us be ready to defend it at all hazards, and if need be to die for it, for oh! brethren, it were better to die, that Book being true, than to live, that Book being false. It were better for us that all the miseries of this life should fall upon us, that Book being an unmoved foundation, than for all the joys of life to be ours if that Book be once taken away. Clasp it to your heart; enfold it in your bosoms; hold it as the very core of your life’s comfort, and the very strength of your existence, remembering that if that be removed there is nothing for the righteous to do but despair and die. I hope we shall ever sing,

“Should all the forms which men devise
Assault my soul with treacherous art,
I’ll call them vanity and lies,
And bind this Bible to my heart”.

But now we turn from the foundation-Book to the foundation-doctrine. What is the foundation-doctrine? I shall not shock any one of you if I say that it is admitted by all evangelical Christians that the standing or failing in the church is that of justification by faith. The church which holds that doctrine is in the body; the church which is tampering with that doctrine is not in the body. I will not merely say the church that is not holding it, but the church that is not holding it in the most distinct form is not to be acknowledged as a part of the body of Christ; for this is such a truth that it must not be hidden, and to obscure those words, legible in their own light – “Believe and live” – is to commit high treason against the majesty of God, and to make one’s self an outlaw from God and from mercy.

The great standing or failing doctrine, then, is this – “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God”; “Therefore we are justified by faith, and not by the works of the law”. We hold that it is of faith that it might be of grace through Christ Jesus. Holding this truth, that every soul who believes in Christ is thereby made a partaker of the merit of his passion and is saved, what joy and peace are opened up to! Some of us live in a sense of pardon. Oh! brethren, this is a river to swim in, when we can sing -

“Now freed from sin I walk at large,
My Saviour’s blood my full discharge;
At his dear feet my soul I lay,
A sinner saved, and homage pay”

Oh! the blessedness – as Ainsworth translates it,- “The heaped-up blessedness of the man whose iniquity is forgiven, and whose sin is covered”. Oh! the blessedness of being justified by faith, and of possessing peace with God! But if that be removed, what can the righteous do? My brethren, the righteous can do nothing; they can do nothing, but they must at once give up their peace, give up their joy, give up their hopes, and then give up existence altogether. This one thing I know; though I have preached my Master’s gospel with perpetual industry, and have sought to honour him, yet I have no more hope of heaven apart from the merits of Christ than the greatest criminal that is banished from his country for his crimes; and that poor wretch who was till lately under sentence of death for many murders, would have as good a hope of entering into eternal life as the best among you were it not for this precious doctrine that is to say, she would have no hope, and you would have no hope either, for we are all alike shut up under condemnation; good or bad, righteous or unrighteous, we are all alike condemned under the law of God, and there would be no more hope for one than for another if this doctrine of salvation by faith in Christ were not true. We are all in this one boat together – I mean as many of us as have believed; the weakest cannot sink unless the ship goes down, and the strongest cannot float unless the ship should bear them. If this foundation were removed, I will ask you grey-haired saint, hoary with many years of service, what could you do? You bow your head and say, “Alas! my master, what could I do but die in despair”? I would ask the bravest of Christ’s apostles, the most earnest and indefatigable of the servants of the living God, what could they do if salvation be not the result of faith in Christ, and they would reply unanimously, “We were of all men the most miserable, if our only hope were gone”! But oh, brethren, we will come back to this, that it is by faith in the blood of Jesus that we are saved. For this doctrine let us be prepared to bear any reproach, and for the spread of this [14] doctrine let us make any exertions. Let us publish it to every wind; let us invoke the help of every wave to bear it abroad! My brethren and sisters, help those of us who are engaged in telling out this precious truth of salvation by faith, and then proclaim it far and wide yourselves. Distribute it in a printed form; speak of it with your warm and loving lips! Tell it, tell it the wide world over, that there is a foundation already laid in Zion, a corner-stone elect and precious, and that “other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, Jesus Christ the righteous”, and “whoever believeth in him is not condemned”.

We will now go a step further. We have had the foundation-Book and the foundation-doctrine, and now we come to the foundation-fact. The fact upon which our faith rests is this, that “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them”. The great fact on which genuine faith rests is this, that “the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us”, and that having taken upon himself the form of a servant, and being made in the likeness of man, he became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross, for us. The great truth which makes the gospel worth proclaiming, is the truth that “Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners”, that Christ also hath suffered for sin, “the just for the unjust that he might bring us to God”; Who himself bare our sins in his own body on the tree”; “For the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and by his stripes we are healed”. In one word, the great fact on which the Christian’s hope rests is substitution. The vicarious sacrifice of Christ for the sinner, Christ suffering for the sinner, Christ’s being made sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in him, Christ offering up a true and proper expiatory and substitutionary sacrifice in the room, place, and stead of as many as the Father gave him, who are recognised by their trusting in him, this is the cardinal fact of the gospel. Now, if this be true, what will we not do? Do? Why, we will sing of Christ in time, and sing of him in eternity. We will sit at the foot of his cross and

“View the flowing
Of the Saviour’s precious blood;
With divine assurance knowing
He has made our peace with God”.

We will praise him when we get to heaven, and sing, “Unto him that loved us and washed us from our sins in his blood”. But – oh! horrible “but”! – if this be not true, if God was never incarnate, if God never did in the person of his Son Jesus bleed and die, if no atonement was ever made for human guilt; then howl because thereof! Let each man put his hands upon his loins as a woman in travail, and let sorrow pierce the heart of every child of Adam, for sin must be punished, and if it was never punished in Christ it must be punished upon each one of us. Wrath, and a certain terrible looking for of judgment and of fiery indignation – these are all that await us. “As when a man wipeth a dish and turneth it saith the prophet, even so will it be with us, wiped out and turned upside down, if it were not true that Christ died. As when the potter with a rod of iron breaks the vessel into shivers, so should we too be broken into shivers, but each particle to be full of pain and covered with grief, if it were not that Jesus died. Oh! if this foundation were removed what could we do? But it cannot be removed! We know it – we rest on it; we trust in it; and our joy is to hold it, to understand and to study it, to be actuated and moved by it in every part of our life and conversation, but if it were removed what could the righteous do? There is just now, and there has been for many years, a direct attack made upon the doctrine of the atonement. Men cannot bear substitution. They gnash their teeth at the thought of the Lamb of God bearing the sin of man. Ah! but we will proclaim it in defiance of them, and hurl it in their teeth; we will neither dilute it, nor change it, nor fritter it away in [15] any shape or fashion. It shall still be Christ a positive substitute, bearing human guilt, and suffering in the stead of men, for if this be not so what could we do? We cannot, dare not give it up, for it is our life.

I have thus given you three matters, and now just a word upon another point, namely, – the foundation-work. The blood of Jesus, brethren must be applied by the Spirit of divine grace, and the foundation of our inward confidence must be in the work of grace in our own souls. Now, the foundation in us was laid in repentance, and in faith in Christ, and we have gone on to build thereon, much I am afraid, of wood, hay, and stubble, but still, something of gold, and silver, and precious stones. Now, if the grace of God could cease work, if the eternal love of Jehovah could be removed, and if the effectual might of the Holy Spirit’s arm could be withdrawn, what could you and I do? Would it not be as hard to get to heaven by the gospel as by the law if it were not for the work of grace in us? Brethren, Calvary is no nearer to heaven than Sinai, if the Spirit of grace work not in us. If Christ be not crucified in us, his being crucified for us will be of no avail; we must have Christ formed in us the hope of glory. Now, what say you, brethren? Suppose this foundation-work were all removed, what could you do? Do? Why, the brightest of you would become as smoking flax without light; you who are pure as crystal now in your daily life, would become like a polluted stream; you who now are the delight and joy of the church of God, would be as reprobate silver cast out, or as salt that has lost its savour, and is fit neither for the land nor for the dunghill.

We must ever keep in mind that we are only channels for grace, we are not even pools and reservoirs, we must have a continual supply of Divine gifts. We must have an abiding union with the fountain of all good, or we should soon run dry, and only as fresh streams flow into us are we kept from becoming mere dry beds of sand and mire, but we know that he will never fail us. This spring is high up in heaven near the eternal throne, and it ripples down through the means of grace from the God of all grace, and we receive daily of his fulness grace for grace. Joyful truth for us, that because he lives we must live also. Till Jesus bows his head in death, we, the living members of his mystic body, can never droop or fail. His might is our strength, his resources our never-failing supply. And we, through his Spirit, are daily tended and sustained.

“Oh! to grace, how great a debtor,
Daily I’m constrained to be”!

Were that grace once gone what should I do? Hold fast, then, to that which ye have received, that no man take your crown. Cling to the doctrine of the work of the Spirit with a death-grip! Never give it up. Having begun in the Spirit, do not seek to be made perfect in the flesh. Do not look to excitement; do not let your faith stand in the wisdom or the speech of man, but in the power of God, and in the invincible might and majesty of the Holy Ghost; for if you go anywhere else, the foundation will be removed, and then what can you do? O God! thou hast begun the good work, and thou wilt carry it on, and perfect it unto the day of Christ. This foundation shall not be removed.

Once more, there is also a foundation-hope. Something which we may, I think, call a foundation, since our joy and our peace very much depend upon it. You and I possess tonight, dear friends, a hope which is sometimes called “a blessed hope”, and at another time “a good hope”. It is a hope partly that Christ may come, a hope that when he cometh, “we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is”. It is a hope that whether he cometh in our life-time or not, yet, if we fall asleep, we shall sleep in Jesus. We have a hope that sometimes bursts out into a song, and then we tune in in warbling such as this: 

“On Jordan’s stormy banks I stand,
And cast a wishful eye
To Canaan’s fair and happy land,
Where my possessions lie”.

Or sometimes it is -

“Jerusalem! my happy home!
Name ever dear to me;
When shall my labours have an end,
In joy, and peace, and thee”?

Or, perhaps it is -

“Jerusalem the golden,
With milk and honey blest;
Beneath thy contemplation
Sink heart and soul opprest;
We know not, oh! we know not,
What joys await us there;
What radiancy of glory,
What bliss beyond compare”.

At any rate, whatever notes we may use to warble out the hope, the hope is still the same.

“It is the hope, the blissful hope,
Which Jesu’s grace has given;
The hope when days and years are past,
We shall meet in heaven”.

Now, if that were removed, what could we do?

“What is there here that I should wait?
My hope’s alone in thee;
When wilt thou open glory’s gate,
And take me up to thee”?

“Whom have I in heaven but thee? there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee”. Take heaven away, and the world to come, and what a desert drear, what blackness and darkness, what a gulf of mad despair it would speedily become! But, oh! brethren, that foundation cannot be removed! Because he lives, we shall live also. “Father, I will that they also whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory”. That hope abideth sure and steadfast; let us think of it more than we do. Let us plume our wings of flight every now and then. Come, ye birds of heaven, ye eaglets of God; how is it that ye keep below upon the earth, as though ye had no wings? Come, plume your callow pinions and begin to fly. The clouds are your atmosphere; beyond there is the blue empyrean, where all is fair and clear. Up with you! Up, nearer to God, nearer to eternity, nearer to your home, nearer to your everlasting mansion. Remember, that you

“Nightly pitch your moving tent
A day’s march nearer home”,

and let the thought that you shall soon be

“For ever with the Lord”.

come over your hearts, and sweep like the touch of some master-harper’s hand, as he sweeps the ten-stringed instrument, and wakes it up to thunders of sacred melody. Be glad in the Lord, ye righteous, and shout for joy, ye upright in heart; for this foundation cannot be removed, and ye need not fear. 

Summary of Protestant Reformers’ Stand by William Cunningham

Luther95Thesis

The fundamental position maintained by the Reformers was this, that the views which they had been led to form, as to what should be the doctrine, worship, and government of the Church of Christ, were right, and that the views of the Church of Rome upon these, points, as opposed to theirs, were wrong. This was the grand position they occupied, and they based their whole procedure upon the ground of the paramount claims of divine truth, its right, as coming from God and being invested with His authority, to be listened to, to be obeyed, and to be propagated: When the Papists opposed them in the maintenance of this position, and appealed on their own behalf to tradition, to ecclesiastical authority, to the decisions of popes and councils, the Reformers in reply pushed all this aside, by asserting the supremacy of the written word as the only standard of faith and practice, by denying the legitimacy of submitting to mere human authority in religious matters, and by maintaining that men are entitled and bound to judge for themselves, upon their own responsibility, as to what God in His word has required them to believe and to do. They asserted these positions more or less fully as circumstances required, but still they regarded them as in some sense subsidiary and subordinate. The primary question with them always was, What is the truth as to the way in which God ought to be worshipped, in which a sinner is saved, and in which the ordinances and arrangements of the Church of Christ ought to be regulated? They were bent upon answering, and answering aright, this important question, and they brushed aside everything that stood in their way and obstructed their progress.

There can be no doubt that the only satisfactory explanation of the conduct of the Reformers is, that they regarded themselves as fighting for the cause of God.

The Words and Behaviour of the Lady Jane upon the Scaffold by John Fox


The next victim was the amiable lady Jane Gray, who, by her acceptance of the crown at the earnest solicitations of her friends, incurred the implacable resentment of the bloody Mary. When she first mounted the scaffold, she spake to the spectators in this manner: Good people, I am come hither to die, and by a law I am condemned to the same. The fact against the queen’s highness was unlawful, and the consenting thereunto by me: but, touching the procurement and desire thereof by me, or on my behalf, I do wash my hands thereof in innocency before God, and the face of you, good christian people, this day: and therewith she wrung her hands, wherein she had her book. Then said she, I pray you all, good christian people, to bear me witness, that I die a good christian woman, and that I do look to be saved by no other mean, but only by the mercy of God in the blood of his only Son Jesus Christ: and I confess, that when I did know the word of God, I neglected the same, loved myself and the world, and therefore this plague and punishment is happily and worthily happened unto me for my sins; and yet I thank God, that of his goodness he hath thus given me a time and a respite to repent and now, good people, while I am alive, I pray you assist me with your prayers. And then, kneeling down, she turned to Feckenham, saying, Shall I say this psalm? and he said, Yea. Then she said the psalm of Miserere mei Deus, in English, in a most devout manner throughout to the end; and then she stood up, and gave her maid, Mrs. Ellen, her gloves and handkerchief, and her book to Mr. Bruges; and then she untied her gown, and the executioner pressed upon her to help her off with it: but she, desiring him to let her alone, turned towards her two gentlewomen, who helped her off therewith, and also with her frowes, paaft, and neckerchief, giving to her a fair handkerchief to put about her eyes.

Then the executioner kneeled down, and asked her forgiveness whom she forgave most willingly. Then he desired her to stand upon the straw, which doing, she saw the block. Then she said, I pray you despatch me quickly. Then she kneeled down, saying, Will you take it off before I lay me down? And the executioner said, No madam. Then she tied a handkerchief about her eyes, and feeling for the block, she said, What shall I do? Where is it? Where is it? One of the standers-by guiding her thereunto, she laid her head upon the block, and then stretched forth her body, and said, Lord, into thy hands I commend my spirit; and so finished her life, in the year of our Lord 1554, the 12th day of February, about the 17th year of her age.

Thus died the Lady Jane; and on the same day the lord Guilford, her husband, one of the duke of Northumberland’s sons, was likewise beheaded, two innocents in comparison of them that sat upon them. For they were both very young, and ignorantly accepted that which others had contrived, and by open proclamation consented to take from others, and give to them.

Touching the condemnation of this pious lady, it is to be noted, that Judge Morgan, who gave sentence against her, soon after he had condemned her, fell mad, and in his raving cried out continually, to have the lady Jane taken away from him, and so he ended his life.

On the 21st day of the same month, Henry, duke of Suffolk, was beheaded on Tower-hill, the fourth day after his condemnation: about which time many gentlemen and yeomen were condemned, whereof some were executed at London, and some in the country. In the number of whom was the lord Thomas Gray, brother to the said duke, being apprehended not long after in North-Wales, and executed for the same. Sir Nicholas Throgmorton, also, very narrowly escaped.

The Great Word ‘Salvation’ by Charles Haddon Spurgeon

What a great word that word “salvation” is! It includes the cleansing of our conscience from all past guilt and the delivery of our soul from all those propensities to evil which now so strongly predominate in us. It takes in, in fact, the undoing of all that Adam did. Salvation is the total restoration of man from his fallen estate. And yet it is something more than that—for God’s salvation fixes our standing more secure than it was before we fell. It finds us broken in pieces by the sin of our first parent— defiled, stained, accursed. It first heals our wounds, it removes our diseases, it takes away our curse, it puts our feet upon the rock Christ Jesus and having thus done, at last it lifts our heads far above all principalities and powers, to be crowned forever with Jesus Christ, the King of Heaven.

Some people, when they use the word “salvation,” understand nothing more by it than deliverance from Hell and admittance into Heaven. Now that is not salvation—those two things are the effects of salvation. We are redeemed from Hell because we are saved and we enter Heaven because we have been saved beforehand. Our everlasting state is the effect of salvation in this life. Salvation, it is true, includes all that because salvation is the mother of it and carries it within its heart. But still it were wrong for us to imagine that that is all the meaning of the word.

Salvation begins with us as wandering sheep. It follows us through all our mazy wanderings. It puts us on the shoulders of the Shepherd. It carries us into the fold. It calls together the friends and the neighbors. It rejoices over us. It preserves us in that fold through life. And then at last it brings us to the green pastures of Heaven—beside the still waters of bliss—where we lie down forever in the presence of the Chief Shepherd, never more to be disturbed.

Salvation to the Uttermost: Christ Intercessory Work in Saving the Saved

Heb 7:25  Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.

 

Introduction

The OT is inferior to the NT. The NT is based upon better promises, better sacrifice, and a better hope. And all of this based upon the Surety of the better covenant. One way in which the Surety makes the new covenant better is that He is a High Priest that is better than the Aaronic priests of the OT. The word “therefore” points back to this truth, which verse 24 asserts.

But how is He better? The writer give a number of reasons. Verses 24 and 25 give us the fourth reason for the superiority of Christ’s priesthood; it is found in the fact that, while the priests under the law were continually removed by death, Christ is undying and therefore has an unchanging, unbreakable office. This argument has been touched upon before (7:8; 7:16) in different connections. Here it is the personal contrast of the many who changed with the one who abides.

As men in a frail and dying state are constituted priests, the consequence is, that the priesthood is liable to continual change, and must necessarily pass from the hands of one to another, in a short time. Will this next priest be as compassionate as the last? Will he seek to execute his office faithfully, or will he use his power for his own gain? What uncertainty! What anxiety! But not so in the case of Christ, who, being exalted above the heavens, and constituted High Priest in the temple not made with hands, has an immutable priesthood, subject to no succession. Christ’s endless life involves the continuity of His office, and this involves His ability to save His saved ones to the uttermost. Consider, therefore, with me,

Christ’s Continuous Work of Saving the Saved

Scripture does not speak of a man’s salvation as a thing completed at a given time, or in any single act. Salvation is Divine process in the souls which has a beginning, but is of no value unless it is continued. Regeneration and Justification are immediate acts. But sanctification is a process. Scripture speaks of “full salvation,” of salvation in advance, “ready to be revealed.” The term “saving” covers all that God does in the spiritual recovery of men. It is true that we are saved. It is truer that we are being saved, that we are put into Christ’s power for saving, and that He is now doing that saving work.  Speaking on this, Charles Spurgeon said:

What a great word that word “salvation” is! It includes the cleansing of our conscience from all past guilt and the delivery of our soul from all those propensities to evil which now so strongly predominate in us. It takes in, in fact, the undoing of all that Adam did. Salvation is the total restoration of man from his fallen estate. And yet it is something more than that—for God’s salvation fixes our standing more secure than it was before we fell. It finds us broken in pieces by the sin of our first parent— defiled, stained, accursed. It first heals our wounds, it removes our diseases, it takes away our curse, it puts our feet upon the rock Christ Jesus and having thus done, at last it lifts our heads far above all principalities and powers, to be crowned forever with Jesus Christ, the King of Heaven.

 

Some people, when they use the word “salvation,” understand nothing more by it than deliverance from Hell and admittance into Heaven. Now that is not salvation—those two things are the effects of salvation. We are redeemed from Hell because we are saved and we enter Heaven because we have been saved beforehand. Our everlasting state is the effect of salvation in this life. Salvation, it is true, includes all that because salvation is the mother of it and carries it within its heart. But still it were wrong for us to imagine that that is all the meaning of the word.

Salvation begins with us as wandering sheep. It follows us through all our mazy wanderings. It puts us on the shoulders of the Shepherd. It carries us into the fold. It calls together the friends and the neighbors. It rejoices over us. It preserves us in that fold through life. And then at last it brings us to the green pastures of Heaven—beside the still waters of bliss—where we lie down forever in the presence of the Chief Shepherd, never more to be disturbed.

When is a man saved? When the whole work of grace entrusted to the ministry of the great High Priest is fully wrought out in him. Then, and not till then. It is the hope of our life, it is the inspiration of all high endeavor, that we saved ones are being saved. And does not this way of stating truth come close home to us? Is not this just what we feel can alone satisfy us? We cannot be satisfied with that salvation which began our relations with Christ. In our best moments we want to know this—Is He following up His saving work? Francis Havergal put it like this:

Suppose I were drowning, and you drew me out of the deepest water, just in time to save my life, but then left me wet and shivering and exhausted on the bank, to run the more than risk of wretched after-effects of cold and rheumatism, from which I might never entirely recover! That would not be saving “to the uttermost” in this sense of the word. But if you did the thing completely,–carrying me home, and doing everything necessary to restore me and avert evil effects, and that effectually; never relaxing in care and effort, nor letting me go, till you had me safe and well, however long and difficult it might be, then you would have saved me “to the uttermost,” in the true meaning of it. This is what Jesus is able to do for you. Having saved you from destruction, His very name is the guarantee that He will not leave you to struggle helplessly with your sins, much less to “continue” in them, but that He shall save you from them. You will find it a daily continual salvation, by which He will keep you by the power of God through faith, unto the consummated salvation of body and soul, “ready to be revealed in the last time.

We are told by Paul that he was confident of this fact. He states in Phil. 1:6: “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.”  William Burkitt notes, “As the good work of grace in the heart is God’s work, and he is the author of it, so he will maintain it, and carry it on to perfection, and be both the increaser and perfecter of it; God never doth his work by halves.” Calvin makes this comment on this verse in Philippians:

Let, therefore, believers exercise themselves in constant meditation upon the favors which God confers, that they may encourage and confirm hope as to the time to come, and always ponder in their mind this syllogism: God does not forsake the work which his own hands have begun, as the Prophet bears witness, (Psalm 138:8; Isa. 64:8;) we are the work of his hands; therefore he will complete what he has begun in us.

This is one of the most comforting verses in the Bible for Christians. Our getting to heaven safely does not depend on us, on our ability to hold on and to persevere faithfully to the end of our lives. The Lord will see to it that we reach heaven safely in spite of our failures and shortcomings. Salvation is God’s work, not man’s (Jonah 2:9). As surely as He has already delivered us from the penalty of sin (Rom. 5:1), He will one day deliver us from the presence of sin (cf. Rom. 8:31-39).

Here is confidence indeed. Our salvation can no more be forfeited than the Father can break his pledged word to glorify his Son. No wonder, then, that Paul uses the language of a man who has no doubts: I am sure (Motyer).

Having touched on Christ’s ability, let us also note,

The Assumption in Christ’s Saving the Saved

In the text, we have an assumption being made. What is that assumption? Well, if we are to expect that we will be saved to the uttermost, we must be those who have come to God through Christ. We must have a specific relationship to Christ. Let us me put it like this. The comprehensive word “save” is put into one particular relation, but it is the all-inclusive relation. We must have a relationship to God through Christ.

Well, what does it mean that we come to God through Him? This implies at least two important things. First, it implies our distance from God. And in coming to God we must be sensible of it, feel it, deplore it, and grieve over our departure from God. Second, it implies that there is a movement of the heart toward God in faith to receive God’s favor through Jesus Christ. Speaking on this, Charles Simeon preached:

What is meant by coming to God through him? the answer is plain: Look unto the Aaronic priests and their ministrations, and there you shall find a perfect representation of what is experienced by the people of God in all ages. When the high-priest entered within the vail, there was but one sentiment pervading all the worshippers in every part of the temple: all considered him as their mediator and intercessor with God. They knew that of themselves they were incapable of drawing nigh to God: but regarding the high-priest as their head and representative, they considered themselves as approaching God in and through him. They had no hope whatever but in the blood of the sacrifice which he carried within the vail, and in the incense which he offered there. Amongst all the people of the Jews there would not be any diversity of sentiment on this head.

 

Thus it is that we also come unto God by Christ: we see him as going into heaven with his own blood which he has offered for us; and as presenting also the incense of his own prevailing intercession: and in him as so occupied is all our hope. Nor is this a mere theoretical sentiment in the Christian’s mind, but a living and an abiding principle, by which he is actuated in all his approaches to the throne of grace: nor has he any hope whatever of finding acceptance with God, but by coming to him in this way.

The entire focus of the NT is that salvation is in Christ and Him alone. All depends upon our coming to God through Christ alone. Salvation in Christ. W. E. Boardman captures this thought well, when he said:

Our salvation is in Christ and with Him, but not apart from Him. When a bank note or a gold coin is put into my hands, my money is in that, not apart from it. When a deed is signed, sealed, recorded, and delivered to me, my title is in my deed, and not apart from it. My bank note or gold coin will pay my debt and pay my journeying expenses. My deed will ensure me my farm. Even so in Christ I have my debt cancelled, my journeying support, and my heavenly inheritance all secure.

Let me put still in another way. Christ is saving us by helping us to “come to God,” to “draw near to God,” to keep in right and close relations with God, and to bring all our ever-varying and ever-multiplied needs and wants to Him. All the saving work will go on, if only we keep constantly “coming boldly to the throne of the heavenly grace.” Our Priest keeps up the relations, is our constant medium; and so we go on towards the “full salvation.”

Next, let us consider,

The Ground of Christ’s Ability to Save the Saved

It rests upon this, “He ever liveth.” He has the power which belongs to an endless and indissoluble life. He is a priest forever. There can be no question of His power to carry through what He has undertaken. Man’s work never can be guaranteed as complete. Death comes to men at all times, and stops their work; and whenever he comes, he compels a man to cry out and say, “My purposes are broken off.”

But this is not so with Christ. Christ’s work can be absolutely guaranteed as complete, for death can never arrest Him, can never pluck His priesthood away, and give it to another. It continues to the very uttermost of human need. It is unchangeable, since it keeps ever in the same all-wise, all-loving, and all-sympathetic hands.

In the light of the argument presented here, we may say that what we need more especially to see is the blessed truth that “He ever liveth.” If death cannot touch Him, then we know that nothing else can. If death cannot put limits on His priesthood, nothing else can. The ability is unchangeable. He will never be other to us than we have proved Him to be, and He can save us to our “uttermost.”

But let us not stop here, but let us also note,

The Method of Christ’s Work in Saving the Saved

We are told that His method of saving us is “to make intercession for them.” Intercession is a law term borrowed from courts of law, and it signifies the action of an attorney, either maintaining the rights of his client or answering the accusations brought against him by the plaintiff. This Christ does for believers.  It is not merely that He intervenes, but he also secures all that we need.  Albert Barnes comments,

The general meaning is, that he undertakes their cause, and assists them in overcoming their foes and in their endeavors to live a holy life. . . .  He does in heaven whatever is necessary to obtain for us grace and strength; secures the aid which we need against our foes; and is the pledge or security for us that the law shall be honored, and the justice and truth of God maintained, though we are saved. It is reasonable to presume that this is somehow by the presentation of the merits of his great sacrifice, and that that is the ground on which all this grace is obtained. As that is infinite, we need not fear that it will ever be exhausted.

Christ secures the supply of all the needs which the saved may ever have. No matter when or where, or for what, the saved one wants to draw near to God, to come to the throne of the heavenly grace, there is his High Priest, ready to take his prayer, to present it perfumed with the ever-acceptable incense of His own merit, and to guarantee him answers of blessing and of peace. “He ever liveth to make intercession for us”; and by that method of helping us He is ever carrying out His work of saving the saved. Our relations with God are never broken; our communications with God, our communications from God, are never stopped, and we are sure they never will be stopped, for our High Priest, our Intercessor, is there, and always will be there.

A friend of one of the Imperial Caesars came to him with sad face and murmuring voice on account of the many troubles that oppressed him, but the Emperor replied, “Do not complain of thy misfortune so long as thou hast Caesar for thy friend.” Though most of us know what it is to suffer pain and grief, and often are overwhelmed by seas of trouble, yet we do not complain so long as we have the great King of kings for our friend. His kindly eye beholds every movement of our daily lives, and His sympathizing mind numbers the very hairs of our head; His strong arm holds us in the narrow path of righteousness, and when we are weary His loving heart seeks to draw us to the pillow of His breast. Having God for our Friend, none need despair.

Let us finally consider,

The Measure of Christ’s Work in Saving the Saved

“Unto the uttermost.” The Greek term includes two things: to save fully, and to save evermore–both are included. The AV translators put “to save to the uttermost,” but they put into the margin, very properly, the other term, evermore; and both are included. Kenneth Wuest notes,

The word “uttermost” is the translation of panteles which is made up of pas “all,” and telos “end, termination.” Thus, we have a two-dimensional salvation spoken of here. By reason of Messiah’s eternal ministry as High Priest, He is able to save the believer in his totality of being, body, soul, and spirit, and do all that to the point of termination, an unending state of salvation in eternity.

The Lord Jesus saves to the uttermost from all the power of sin. He will give you power to conquer every evil–the yoke of iniquity will be removed–the chain by nature takes away, snapped asunder–and your souls enter into liberty through the blood of the covenant. He is able to save to the uttermost from all past guilt. He is able to save to the uttermost from all pollution. To cleanse the polluted heart–to destroy everything contrary to the Divine nature–to raise the soul to bear the stamp divine of the lovely image of our Lord.

The marginal reading (evermore) is also to be included. “He is able to save evermore.” Oh, how common is the fear with many that if they were to enter into the heavenly way, and that if they were to connect themselves with the people of God, that they should very soon fall from grace, and make shipwreck of faith and of a good conscience. Cannot Jesus keep you? Will not His grace prove sufficient for you? Will He not save you in your dying hour? Is He not an almighty Saviour? We may often reflect on that subject when you and I stand on the verge of eternity. But whom will Jesus save? “All them that come unto God by Him.” We can only come to God through His atoning blood; there is no other way.

Conclusion

This leads us to admire the loving-kindness of Christ to lost sinners! He lives forever to make intercession for them. His affection to His people is clearly displayed in this. Now, I want to underscore something here that is precious.  What is Christ doing in heaven? Is He sitting up there and holding forth is majestic power with a disinterest to us? Not at all! What does His life consist of there? Well, one of the main things is that He lives to make intercession for us! Speaking on the preciousness of this, Calvin notes:

What sort of pledge and how great is this of love towards us! Christ liveth for us, not for himself! That he was received into a blessed immortality to reign in heaven, this has taken place, as the Apostle declares, for our sake. Then the life, and the kingdom, and the glory of Christ are all destined for our salvation as to their object; nor has Christ any thing, which may not be applied to our benefit; for he has been given to us by the Father once for all on this condition, that all his should be ours. He at the same time teaches us by what Christ is doing, that he is performing his office as a priest; for it belongs to a priest to intercede for the people, that they may obtain favor with God. This is what Christ is ever doing, for it was for this purpose that he rose again from the dead. Then of right, for his continual intercession, he claims for himself the office of the priesthood.

This teaches us to live for Christ. Shall He live eternally for us; and will not we live once, live a little while for Him? But how? Why, after His example and method He shows us.  Spuregeon, speaking on this text, said, “Christ has done so much for you: what have you ever done for Him? Oh t there are some of you that will loathe yourselves when you know Christ because you did not treat Him better.” David Clarkson notes,

His living for us in the text succeeded His dying for us; He was made a sacrifice before He lived to intercede for us. There is something we must die to before we can live for Him. We must sacrifice our worldly, carnal, and selfish interest; carnal and earthly designs, and affections, and inclinations, and actings, must be crucified. And then positively, to live for Him is to make it the chief end and constant design of our lives, to please Him and be serviceable to Him; to conform in all to His will, and employ all for His honour and interest.

Let us consider the doctrine of our Saviour’s intercession with reference to the believer’s prayers. We are to pray at all times in Christ’s name–relying entirely upon Him and His work for the acceptance of our services, and the answering our petitions. But His intercession implies something more than this; it implies that our prayers are heard and answered only in so far as Christ takes them and presents them in His own name, and on the ground of His own merit, before the throne of His Father. Speaking on this Thomas Watson said:

“A child,” saith Ambrose, “that is willing to present his father with a posy goes into the garden, and there gathers some flowers and some weeds together; but coming to his mother, she picks out the weeds, and binds the flowers, and so it is presented to the father.” Thus, when we have put up our prayers, Christ comes and picks away the weeds, the sin of our prayers, and presents nothing but flowers to His Father, which are a sweet-smelling savour.

Here is great encouragement to faith and hope. Firm ground to believe and expect salvation to the uttermost, for those that come unto God by Christ. Such may have strong consolation from the intercession of Christ (Heb. 6:18-20). All that we shall need shall be secured for us by our Lord.

 Sir E. Bayley once said, ‘I was once reading to a blind and aged Christian the verse in chap. 7.: “Wherefore He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them,” and he stopped me with the remark: “I like that word uttermost it seems to me to have in it everything that a poor sinner can want”.’  R. M. McCheyne said, “I ought to study Christ as an Intercessor. He prayed most for Peter who was to be most tempted. I am on His breastplate. If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million of enemies. Yet the distance makes no difference; He is praying for me.” William Cunningham wrote,

The very object of Christ’s intercession for His people, then, is that He may thereby secure their final deliverance from sin and all its consequences–their restoration to God’s image–and their admission to dwell for ever in His presence. All this it is admirably adapted to effect; and all this, therefore, it will assuredly accomplish. To have Christ interceding for us at God’s right hand is all that we can need, and all that we should desire, as appertaining to life or to godliness. It secures deliverance, full and final, from every real evil–the possession, complete and eternal, of every genuine source of happiness.

From these points, we can see that the knowledge of Christ as the Mediator is essential to the spiritual life. Someone has said, “There is no truth within the range of the Christian system of richer interest and of higher worth. Like the orb of day, it is the source of the light, life, and joy of religion.” It is the one foundation on which rest man’s acceptance with the Judge, and his dearest hopes of the future. It is a treasure of mercy to the guilty, and of consolation to the believer. Do you know this doctrine in your heart? Do you feast upon it?

 

Cottage Lectures on Pilgrim’s Progress. Lecture 4: The Backslider Restored by Charles Overton

Image

LECTURE IV.

THE BACKSLIDER RESTORED.

Through all my fainting heart

His secret vigour spread;

To me his strength he did impart,

And raised my drooping head.

Now will I raise my voice,

In loud and cheerful song ;

With all the saints will I rejoice,

Who to his courts belong.

With them the path I’ll trace,

Which leads to his abode ;

With them I’ll sing redeeming grace,

Along the joyful road.

 

I MARVEL THAT YE ARE SO SOON REMOVED FROM IIIM THAT CALLED YOU INTO THE GRACE OF CHRIST UNTO ANOTHER GOSPEL: ‘WHICH IS NOT ANOTHER; BUT THERE BE SOME THAT TROUBLE YOU, AND WOULD PERVERT THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST. Galatians 1:6, 7.

We left our Pilgrim quaking with fear at the mount that burned with fire. He had been seduced from the right way by the artful representations of Worldly-Wisdom. This man had persuaded him to seek rest and deliverance from his burden by going round to Mount Sinai. We have seen how woefully he was disappointed in his expectation. Instead of finding rest and ease, he found nothing but blackness and darkness, and fire, and storm, and tempest, in the way he went. How was he delivered from this perilous situation? It was by the arrival, and plain and faithful dealing, of his true friend, Evangelist. We remember the manner in which the apostle Paul acted to the Galatians, after they had been seduced by false teachers from the gospel which he had taught them. Thus did Evangelist act to our erring Pilgrim. He addressed him in the very words which we have selected as the groundwork of the present discourse: “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.”

The instructive interview between Evangelist and Christian will form the entire subject of this lecture. And here there are several particulars that demand our attention. How seasonable was the arrival of Evangelist at such a time ; how skilfully did he probe the backslider ; how tenderly did he comfort him when ready to faint; how wisely he admonished him; how strongly he confirmed his words; and how happily he succeeded in restoring him into the right way! May the consideration of these particulars prove to us a word in season.

(1.) How seasonable was the arrival of Evangelist at such a time. In the midst of his difficulties, when Christian was on the very verge of despair, trembling and astonished, not knowing what to do, or where to turn, he beheld a man advancing towards him, and recognised soon the features of his friend Evangelist. This sight caused the poor backslider to blush for shame. He recollected his disobedience to the plain direction which would have saved him from all his present terror and distress. He is speechless when Evangehst stands before him, and inquires, with a severe countenance; “What doest thou here?” Alas, he feels that he has nothing to do here, and that he is now out of the way. The further questions of Evangelist are very pointed. “Art not thou,” he said, ” the man that I found crying without the walls of the city of Destruction? Did I not direct thee to the Wicket-Gate? How is it that thou hast so quickly started and turned aside from the path which I pointed out to thee? Thou art no longer now in the road to the Celestial City.” In reply to these questions, the seduced Pilgrim manifests the sincerity of a penitent, by a frank avowal of his sin, and a simple declaration of the steps by which he had been drawn into it. He recounts his meeting with Worldly-Wisdom, repeats the advice and the counsel which that man had given, and concludes by saying, ” so, I believed him, and turned out of that way into this, if haply I might be eased of my burden. But when I came to this place, and beheld things as ihey are, I stopped for fear of danger; and at this moment I know not what to do.”

There is much, dear brethren, for our instruction and encouragement in this seasonable meeting. In this way the Lord often graciously interposes on behalf of such as are in distress and perplexity about their souls. He seasonably raises up for them, and providentially brings near to them, pastors according to his own heart, ministers skilful in the word of righteousness, and able to do the work of an evangelist. By the ministry of his own word, in the mouth of such as these, he speaks to the troubled soul a word in season, and shows him the way wherein he should go. The poor wanderer often finds his deepest distress to be the dawn of deliverance; and in the mount the Lord is seen. But true comfort frequently comes in a very uncomfortable form. Those who are really in earnest about salvation, sometimes look with fear and suspicion, or even with prejudice, upon those who, in the providence of God, are the appointed instruments for guiding their feet into the way of peace, and establishing them in the true faith of Christ. Think of the disciples, when, in the midst of their distress, they saw Jesus walking towards them on the sea. At the first they supposed it had been a spirit, and they cried out with fear. But how sweetly did comfort dawn upon their sorrowful hearts, as soon as they had received him into the ship ; and immediately there was a great calm. Thus it is with the convinced sinner, when he meets with the ambassador of Christ, whose admonitions he has disobeyed. But if there be true sincerity, as there is in every genuine penitent, the interview that opened with fear and shame, shall end with comfort and satisfaction. Remember, however, that this sincerity must be shown by a free confession of our sin; and whoever may have been our seducers, or however peculiar may have been our circumstances, we must take the full share of blame upon ourselves, and not endeavour to throw it upon others. We must not hide our transgression like Adam. ” He that covereth his sins shall not prosper, but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.”

(3.) Consider next, how skilfully did Evangelist probe the wounds of the erring Pilgrim. He referred to his book. All the instructions of Evangelist were taken from the book. By two suitable passages from it, he showed the sin and the danger of drawing back, after a man has once set his face towards the Celestial City. He reminded the transgressor of the impossibility of escaping, if we refuse him who speaketh to us from heaven. At the same time, he described, in its true colours, the aggravated sin of apostasy. This sin he charged home directly upon the conscience ^f the Pilgrim. “Thou,” he said, “art the man who art running into all this misery. Thou hast begun to reject the counsel of the Most High. Thou art turned aside quick out of the way which he commanded thee by my mouth, to the hazardin of thy perdition.”

This language, dear brethren, sounds severe, but the occasion called for it. No part of a minister’s duty is more difficult, and yet none is more important, than skilfully to probe the wounds of those with whom he has to deal. On the one hand, he fears lest he should drive the trembling sinner to absolute desperation, by a full exposition of his conduct, with all its aggravated circumstances ; on the other, he dreads lest the person he is addressing should mistake a flashing pang of natural conviction, for the deep, abiding, humiliating work of the Holj’- Spirit upon the heart. He fears lest by an unwise and unsuitable application of gospel promises to those who are not prepared to receive them, he should be guilty of healing their hurt slightly, and saying peace, when there is no peace. It is generally found that persons with only a very slight sense of their sins, are soon comforted, and readily conclude that all is well, though they show neither the humility nor the consistency of a pardoned penitent. But he that believeth shall not make haste. Genuine penitents, for the most part, have far more difficulty in applying the promises of the gospel to their own case. They perceive, indeed, that a cold heart and a warm promise may be brought near to each other by the word; but they know, they feel that they cannot unite, and the cheerful blaze of hope and love be experienced within, until faith is given from above, and the promise is apphed by a hand Divine. The true evangelist knows well who it is that alone can effectually either heal or wound. And knowing that the Lord’s general method is, first to wound and then to bind up, he labours thoroughly to humble, before he attempts to comfort. This process, however, although necessary to a tender-hearted minister, is a painful necessity. He would much rather be otherwise employed. Oh, how much pleasanter does he find it to pour out the precious balm of the gospel to the truly contrite, than to probe the consciences of those of whom he stands in doubt, with the two-edged sword of the Lord, and to terrify and arouse them with the mighty thunderings of Sinai ! But it is the profit and salvation of others, not his own pleasure and inclination, that he seeks. Faithful, he remembers, are the wounds of a friend; and he that rebuketh a man shall afterwards find more favour than he who flattereth with his lips.

(3.) Observe now how tenderly did Evangelist encourage the wanderer when he perceived that he was ready to faint. The wise reprover is now satisfied that his words have sunk deep into the heart of him whom he is addressing. No sooner has his turning aside been represented to him in its true light by Evangelist, than Christian fell down at his feet as one dead, and cried, Woe is me, for I am undone! But Evangelist, like his Master, wounds only that he may heal. He therefore caught, immediately, the hand of the fallen Pilgrim, and said, with a distinct voice and solemn tone, “All manner of sins and blasphemies shall be forgiven to the children of men.” To this he added the earnest exhortation,” Be not faithless, but believing.” Then did the fallen one a little revive, and got up, and stood trembling as at the first.

Let us receive, dear brethren, instruction from the behaviour of Evangelist. Our conduct often appears to us in an entirely different light when it is plainly set before us by another, from what it did when we viewed it through the false medium of self-love and self-deception. When the righteous have smitten us, and we see our sin set before us, in all its deformity and all its malignity, where can we turn for comfort, or how can we avoid the blackness and darkness of despair? Nothing but the unfettered promises of free forgiveness, abounding, through the adorable Saviour, to the very chiefest of sinners, can then meet our case. Is there any poor backslider here, now filled with his own way, and tasting the bitterness of his doings? Are you ashamed, yea, even confounded, at the sight and sense of all your sins ? And because your back-shd-ings are increased, is your heart ready to faint within you ? Oh ! look to the only Saviour of sinners. Through him is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins ; and by him, all that believe are justified from all things. Through him all manner of sins are forgiven to every one that believeth. With him there is plenteous redemption, and abundant pardon, for sinners of every description.

Pardon for crimes of deepest dye;

A pardon sealed with Jesus’ blood.

Be not faithless, but believing; humbly put your trust in him, and you shall be delivered from the dark gulf of despair, and receive the gracious answer, ” I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely.”

(4.) We proceed to notice further how wisely did Evangelist admonish the Pilgrim for his future direction. If his rebukes are salutary, and his encouragements reviving, no less are his admonitions profitable. Evangelist represents, in the most forcible manner possible, what an enemy Worldly-Wisdom must ever prove to all who go on pilgrimage to the Celestial City. He savours only the doctrine of the world, a doctrine which he can profess without any cross ; but he cannot endure the doctrine propounded by Evangelist and his fellows. Thus he will not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord. There were three things especially which Christian was admonished utterly to abhor in the counsels of Worldly-Wisdom. His turning him out of the right way; his device to render the cross odious; and his setting him in a way that would only lead to the ministration of death.

These admonitions, dear brethren, are very important to every one of us. We should not be ignorant of the devices of Worldly-Wisdom; and when we understand what he is aiming at, and what is his drift, we shall abhor both the man and his communications. This enemy would not have us to make for the Strait-Gate. Has not the Lord, who is the way, and the truth, and the life, expressly told us, that the gate is strait, and the way narrow, that leadeth unto hfe; and that it is absolutely necessary for us to strive, if ever we mean to enter in ? Whoever, therefore, may tell us that the gate is not straight, that the way is 7iot narrow, and that so much striving is not necessary, we may be confident that this is an adversary ; one that would trouble us, and who is only trying to turn our feet from the narrow way of hfe to the broad road of destruction.

Worldly-Wisdom, again, would make the cross odious to us. By the cross I mean any reproach, or loss, or suffering which we are clearly required to endure for the sake of Christ, or out of attachment to him. True disciples ever account this most precious. Like Moses, they esteem the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt. But a religion of this kind, which may lead to such serious consequences. Worldly-Wisdom can never endure; and he accounts it little better than madness and folly. But oh! let us remember who has said, ” He that cometh after me, and hateth not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” His love to them must never interfere with what he owes to his Saviour. He must be willing to leave them, to give them all up, and act as if he hated them, sooner than allow them to sever the ties that bind him to Christ. He must be ready to deny himself, to take up his cross, and prove that he is a follower of Him who was crucified. Surely, then, that is not the religion of Christ, whoever may recommend it to us, that costs us nothing,—that is fashionable with the world, and which we can always profess without any cross or any self-denial. .

Worldly-Wisdom would send us for justijication to the works of the law. Oh I be convinced, this advice will certainly prove the ruin of all those who persist in following it. None can follow it without being involved, as Christian was, in all the blackness and darkness of terror and dismay. Ever since our guilty first parents were expelled from Paradise, the way to life and happiness, by our own works and obedience, has been bolted and barred, and closed up for ever. All who attempt to climb up to heaven by this way are thieves and robbers, and the porter will not open to them. Nay, the avenging justice of God Almighty stands with his drawn sword, which turns every way, to cut them off, and to exclude them from the tree of life. But another way has graciously been revealed, through the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. No man ever did or ever can find true rest to his soul, or obtain the favour of God, except by faith in the only Saviour of offending men. All, therefore, who would send a burdened sinner to the works of the law for peace of conscience, and who have no better advice to give than to recommend the practice of moral virtues, and civil duties, or outward services, are clearly physicians of no value. Nay, they are worse than that—they are perverters of the gospel. To every poor sinner we may say, Legality is not able to set thee free from thy burden. No man as yet was ever rid of his burden by him, no, nor ever is like to be. You cannot be justified by the works of the law, for by the deeds of the law no niu,:^ living can be justified. Therefore, Worldly-Wisdom is an alien; Legality is a cheat; and his son Civility is but an hypocrite, who cannot help thee. Believe me, there is nothing else in all that you have heard from this man, but a design to beguile you of your salvation, by turning you from the only right way, in which you are directed to seek rest to your soul and peace to your conscience.

We cannot fail to remark how well it became Evangelist, in giving these admonitions, thus fully to dwell on the essential difference between the law and the gospel. No one can do the work oi’ an evangelist—that is, he cannot be a true minister of the gospel—who does not perceive and understand this important distinction. And none of you, dear brethren, can know the liberty wherewith Christ makes his people free, neither can you offer any obedience to the law that wiil be acceptable to God, until you come by faith to be justified freely as a helpless sinner, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. It is not scholarship, but the teaching of the Holy Spirit, that alone can make you feel and know this precious truth. The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. Oh ! seek to know, and to feel, that you can be saved, not by any thing which you can do yourself, but by what Christ has done and suffered in your stead. Then, while you look unto him as the only ground of your justification before God, by receiving the law in all its extent, as the perfect rule of your conduct, and daily endeavouring to rule your heart and life by it, you will prove yourself to be a justified person before the eyes of all men.

(5.) The manner in which Evangelist confirmed his doctrine is the next point for our consideration. He called with a loud voice for a confirmation of the solemn truths which he had delivered. Neither did he call in vain; for lo! fire again was seen to flash from the mountain, and a voice of words was distinctly heard, which proclaimed aloud and said,

“As many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, Cursed is everyone that continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them.”

Christian felt the full import of these words. His own heart condemned him. The hair of his flesh stood up ; he looked for nothing but instant death; and bitterly did he bewail his sin and folly, in declining from the right way, merely upon the representations of Worldly-Wisdom, and to avoid his allotted cross in the way to Zion.

Oh, how full of important meaning is all this! They, dear brethren, who preach the true doctrine—that is, death and despair by our own works and deservings, and hfe and salvation by faith in Christ, are able to give the most undoubted sanctions for the truth of what they proclaim. They can appeal to the awakened conscience of every man born into the world, and say, Are not you condemned by this holy law ? If you have to live for ever, or to suffer the bitter pains of eternal death, according to your keeping or breaking this law, is not all hope of your salvation done away, and that for ever? Have you, from the earliest dawn of reason to the present moment, paid an ‘unsinning’ obedience to these commandments? What! have you loved the Lord your God with all your heart, and mind, and soul, and strength; and your neighbour as yourself ? Have you never once in your life, by thought, word, or deed, by look, intention, or desire, violated any one of the ten commandments? You dare not say so. Your own heart condemns you. You stand convicted as a transgressor of this holy law. Notwithstanding your morality, and your boasted obedience, there is one that condemneth you, even Moses, in whom you trust. You see, as it were, the fire flashing from the mount. You hear the voice of words which tell you that you are exposed to the curse of a broken law. The testimony of God is confirmed in you. You feel, when we tell you these things, that these are the true sayings of God. And to cut off your vain expectation, that partial obedience will be accepted instead of perfect obedience, listen again to the mighty thunderings, that roll so fearfully in heaven above, and echo so mournfully from earth beneath, ” All things that are written in the book of the law to do them !” Listen again to the voice of words, so impossible for any child of Adam to endure, “Whosoever shall keep the whole law and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” Oh, what could any of us look for, but curses and death, and burning vengeance, and everlasting destruction from the Almighty, if we had no better foundation upon which to rest our hope than our own works and deservings!

(6.) But we have to notice finally, how happily Evangelist succeeded in restoring our pilgrim into the right way. The good effect of the interview, and of the wise and judicious treatment of Evangelist, now began to appear. Christian was exceedingly alarmed by the things which he heard and saw. But though greatly cast down, he is not quite in despair. He inquires first, if there be any hope for him; if he may retrace his steps ; and if he will not be rejected at the Gate, for what he has done? More fully and distinctly than ever, and with the most unfeigned humility and sincerity, he confesses his error. “I am heartily sorry,” he said, ” that I listened to the seducer’s voice, and followed his advice; but may I be forgiven?” Evangelist, in reply, did not excuse the wanderer’s transgression, but having spoken of it as being most grievous, he declared, to the unspeakable comforJ of the poor backsHder, ” Yet for all this the man at the Gate will not reject thee, for he has good-will for men; only take heed that thou turn not aside again, lest thou perish from the way, when his wrath is kindJed but a little.” This is good news, indeed, to the humbled and the burdened pilgrim. Having received an encouraging smile from his faithful friend, with the utmost care and diligence he addressed himself to retrace his wandering footsteps. He went like one that was all the while treading on forbidden ground, and could by no means think himself safe, till again he got into the way which he had forsaken to follow the counsel of Worldly-Wisdom. So in process of time he got up to the Gate.

Are there any here who have been seduced into some false way ? Have you, either by following the devices and desires of your own hearts, or by listening to the evil communications of others, made for yourselves crooked paths; and have you learned, by bitter experience, that they who walk therein shall know no peace ? Oh, ponder the path of your feet, that all your ways may be established ! Search and try your ways, and turn again unto the Lord. Cry earnestly unto him to restore your soul, and to lead you in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. And however multiplied may have been your sins, and however grievous your provocations ; however painfully you may have pierced yourselves through with many sorrows, never say, there is no hope. Hope, indeed, there is none, if

you are determined to keep your sms, to persist in rejecting the gospel of Christ, and so to pursue the ways of death. But what is the gracious message, which the Lord himself addresses to you, in his own most holy word ? ” Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings. O Israel, return unto the Lord thy God, for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity.” Take with you words, and turn unto the Lord. Say unto him, take away all our iniquity, and receive us graciously. If you are heartily sorry for your past transgressions, and truly willing to renounce the counsel of Worldy-Wisdom; and if, looking unto Jesus as a poor helpless sinner, you are determined to press forward in the narrow way, in due time you will come to the Gate, the gate of mercy ; and if you knock, it will be opened to you.

THE HYMN.

Just as I am, without one plea, Save that thy blood was shed for me, And that thou bidst me come to thee, O Lamb of God, I come.

 

Just as I am, and waiting not To rid my soul of one dark, blot, To thee, whose blood can cleanse each spot, O Lamb of God, I come.

 

Just as I am, though tossed about With many a conflict, many a doubt, Fightings within, and fears without, O Lamb of God, I come.

Just as I am, poor, helpless, blind;— Sight, wisdom, healing of the mind, Yea, all I need, in thee to find, O Lamb of God, I come.

 

Just as I am, thou wilt receive, Wilt pardon, welcome, bless, relieve, Because thy promise I believe: O Lamb of God, I come.

 

Just as I am, thy love unknown Has broken every barrier down ; Now to be thine, yea, thine alone, O Lamb of God, 1 come.

THE PRAYER.

O Lord, who showest to them that be in error the light of thy truth, to the intent that they may return into the way of righteousness, receive our humble petitions, and hearken to the prayer that we make before thee. We have erred and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep. We have broken thy law, we have neglected thy gospel, we have fallen by our own iniquity, we have destroyed ourselves, and we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves. But turn thou us, and so shall we be turned, for thou art the Lord our God. Hast thou not said. Return, ye backsliding children? Lord, we come to thee. Take away all our iniquity, receive us graciously, heal our backslidings, love us freely, and let thine anger be turned away from us. Grant that we may come to thee, just as we are, to partake of the full, the free, and the finished salvation of thy Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. May it please thee, through the ministry of thy holy word, to impart to us sufficient light for our guidance in the way everlasting. Probe our wounds, and set our sins before us in such a light, that we may abhor ourselves in our own sight. But oh, do thou comfort us again with the hope of mercy, as we look to the great sacrifice of the cross. Make us heartily ashamed of our readiness to start and turn aside from thee, for our proneness to shrink from our allotted cross, and for the remaining pride and self-righteousness that is within us. Confirm thy word unto thy servants; and though it be by terrible things in righteousness, convince us that we can only find peace and rest in Christ. Restore our souls, and lead us in paths of righteousness, for thy name’s sake. And mercifully grant that all our lamented sins, negligences, and ignorances, may be overruled to our spiritual good ; making us more humble, more watchful, more steadfast in maintaining the truth of thy gospel. These things we humbly beg, in the name and mediation of Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen.