Westminster Confession of Faith: Chapter XVI—Of Good Works

1. Good works are only such as God hath commanded in His holy Word, (Micah 6:8, Rom. 12:2, Heb. 13:21) and not such as, without the warrant thereof, are devised by men, out of blind zeal, or upon any pretence of good intention. (Matt. 15:9, Isa. 29:13, 1 Pet. 1:18, Rom. 10:2, John 16:2, 1 Sam. 15:21–23)

2. These good works, done in obedience to God’s commandments, are the fruits and evidences of a true and lively faith: (James 2:18, 22) and by them believers manifest their thankfulness, (Ps. 116:12–13, 1 Pet. 2:9) strengthen their assurance, (1 John 2:3, 5, 2 Pet. 1:5–10) edify their brethren, (2 Cor. 9:2, Matt. 5:16) adorn the profession of the gospel, (Tit. 2:5, 9–12, 1 Tim. 6:1) stop the mouths of the adversaries, (1 Pet. 2:15) and glorify God, (1 Pet. 2:12, Phil. 1:11, John 15:8) whose workmanship they are, created in Christ Jesus thereunto, (Eph. 2:10) that, having their fruit unto holiness, they may have the end, eternal life. (Rom. 6:22)

3. Their ability to do good works is not at all of themselves, but wholly from the Spirit of Christ. (John 15:4–6, Ezek. 36:26–27) And that they may be enabled thereunto, beside the graces they have already received, there is required an actual influence of the same Holy Spirit to work in them to will, and to do, of His good pleasure: (Phil. 2:13, Phil. 4:13, 2 Cor. 3:5) yet are they not hereupon to grow negligent, as if they were not bound to perform any duty unless upon a special motion of the Spirit; but they ought to be diligent in stirring up the grace of God that is in them. (Phil. 2:12, Heb. 6:11–12, 2 Pet. 1:3, 5, 10–11, Isa. 64:7, 2 Tim. 1:6, Acts 26:6–7, Jude 20–21)

4. They who, in their obedience, attain to the greatest height which is possible in this life, are so far from being able to supererogate, and to do more than God requires, as that they fall short of much which in duty they are bound to do. (Luke 17:10, Neh. 13:22, Job 9:2–3, Gal. 5:17)

5. We cannot by our best works merit pardon of sin, or eternal life at the hand of God, by reason of the great disproportion that is between them and the glory to come; and the infinite distance that is between us and God, whom, by them, we can neither profit, nor satisfy for the debt of our former sins, (Rom. 3:20, Rom. 4:2, 4, 6, Eph. 2:8–9, Tit. 3:5–7, Rom. 8:18, Ps. 16:2, Job 22:2–3, Job 35:7–8) but when we have done all we can, we have done but our duty, and are unprofitable servants: (Luke 17:10) and because, as they are good, they proceed from His Spirit; (Gal. 5:22–23) and as they are wrought by us, they are defiled, and mixed with so much weakness and imperfection, that they cannot endure the severity of God’s judgment. (Isa. 64:6, Gal. 5:17, Rom. 7:15, 18, Ps. 143:2, Ps. 130:3)

6. Notwithstanding, the persons of believers being accepted through Christ, their good works also are accepted in Him; (Eph. 1:6, 1 Pet. 2:5, Exod. 28:38, Gen. 4:4, Heb. 11:4) not as though they were in this life wholly unblameable and unreproveable in God’s sight; (Job 9:20, Ps. 143:2) but that He, looking upon them in His Son, is pleased to accept and reward that which is sincere, although accompanied with many weaknesses and imperfections. (Heb. 13:20–21, 2 Cor. 8:12, Heb. 6:10. Matt. 25:21, 23)

7. Works done by unregenerate men, although for the matter of them they may be things which God commands; and of good use both to themselves and others: (2 Kings 10:30–31, 1 Kings 21:27, 29, Phil. 1:15–16, 18) yet, because they proceed not from an heart purified by faith; (Gen. 4:5, Heb. 11:4, 6) nor are done in a right manner,according to the Word; (1 Cor. 13:3, Isa. 1:12) nor to a right end, the glory of God, (Matt. 6:2, 5, 16) they are therefore sinful, and cannot please God, or make a man meet to receive grace from God: (Hag. 2:14, Tit. 1:15, Amos 5:21–22, Hosea 1:4, Rom. 9:16, Tit. 3:5) and yet, their neglect of them is more sinful and displeasing unto God. (Ps. 14:4, Ps. 36:3, Job 21:14–15, Matt. 25:41–43, 45, Matt. 23:23)

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Westminster Confession of Faith: CHAPTER XIII—Of Sanctification

1. They, who are once effectually called, and regenerated, having a new heart, and a new spirit created in them, are further sanctified, really and personally, through the virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection, (1 Cor. 6:11, Acts 20:32, Phil. 3:10, Rom. 6:5–6) by His Word and Spirit dwelling in them, (John 17:17, Eph. 5:26, 2 Thess. 2:13) the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed, (Rom. 6:6,14) and the several lusts thereof are more and more weakened and mortified; (Gal. 5:24, Rom. 8:13) and they more and more quickened and strengthened in all saving graces, (Col. 1:11, Eph. 3:16–19) to the practice of true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord. (2 Cor. 7:1, Heb. 12:14)

2. This sanctification is throughout, in the whole man; (1 Thess. 5:23) yet imperfect in this life, there abiding still some remnants of corruption in every part; (1 John 1:10, Rom. 7:18, 23, Phil. 3:12) whence ariseth a continual and irreconcilable war, the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh. (Gal. 5:17, 1 Pet. 2:11)

3. In which war, although the remaining corruption, for a time, may much prevail; (Rom. 7:23) yet, through the continual supply of strength from the sanctifying Spirit of Christ, the regenerate part doth overcome; (Rom. 6:14, 1 John 5:4, Eph. 4:15–16) and so, the saints grow in grace, (2 Pet. 3:18, 2 Cor. 3:18) perfecting holiness in the fear of God. (2 Cor. 7:1)

In Christ Jesus

by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

“But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace  in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.”—Ephesians 2:4-7

There is a sense in which we can say quite rightly and truly that we have here one of the profoundest statements with respect to the condition and the position of the Christian that can be found anywhere in Scripture…Now there are obviously a number of preliminary remarks that one must make about a statement like this. The first that I feel constrained to make is that this is true Christianity, that it is the very essence of Christianity and nothing less than that. What is described in these words is the very nerve of this whole matter! It is what God has done to us and for us, and not primarily anything that we have done. Christianity, in other words, does not just mean that you and I have [made] a decision…People can decide to stop doing certain things and to start doing other things: that is not Christianity. People can believe that God forgives them their sins, but that is not Christianity in and of itself. The essence of Christianity is the truth we have here: this is the real thing, and nothing less than this is the real thing.

I would emphasize, also, that this is true of every Christian…Here we come face to face with the wonderful teaching and doctrine about the union of the Christian with the Lord Jesus Christ…This is what makes us Christians; apart from this, we are not in the Christian position at all.

It is important therefore that we should understand at once that we are really dealing here with something that is basic, fundamental, and primary. At the same time, of course, the doctrine is so glorious and great that it includes the whole of the Christian life. The Christian life is a whole; and you, as it were, have the whole at once and then proceed to appropriate it in its various parts and to understand it increasingly. This is Christianity: “When we were dead in sins, [God] hath quickened us together with Christ…And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”

What happens, I wonder, when we examine ourselves in the light of such a declaration? Can we say that we always think of ourselves as Christians in these terms? Is this my way of thinking of myself as a Christian? Or do I still tend to think of myself as a Christian in terms of what I am attempting and striving to do, and what I am trying to make myself or to make of myself? Now this is obviously quite basic because the Apostle’s whole emphasis here is that the primary thing, the first thing, is this that God does to us, not primarily what you and I do ourselves.

There are two ways of looking at this great statement. There are some people who take a purely objective view of it. They think of it exclusively in terms of our position, or our standing, in the presence of God. What I mean is that they think of it as being something that, in a sense, is already true of us in Christ, but is not true of us in practice. They regard this as a statement of the fact that beyond death we shall be resurrected and shall share the life of glory that is awaiting all who are in Christ Jesus. They hold that the truth is that the Lord Jesus Christ has already been raised from the dead; He was quickened when He was dead in the grave, He was raised, He appeared to certain witnesses, He ascended into heaven, He is in the glory in the heavenly places. “Now,” they say, “that has happened to Him; and if we believe in Him, it will happen to us.” They say that it is true of us by faith now, but actually only by faith. It is not real in us now: it is entirely in Him. But it will be made real in us in the future. Now that is what I call the purely objective view of this statement. And of course as a statement, it is perfectly true, except that it does not go far enough. All that is true of us. There is a time coming when all of us who are Christians shall be resurrected unless our Lord returns before we die. Our bodies will be changed and will be glorified; and we shall live, and we shall reign with Him and enter into and share His glory with Him. That is perfectly true.

But it seems to me that to interpret this statement solely in that way is very seriously to misinterpret it. And that I can prove. There are two arguments that make it quite inadequate as an interpretation. The first is that the whole context here is experimental. The Apostle is not so much concerned to remind these Ephesians of something that is going to happen to them: his great concern here is to remind them of what has already happened to them and of their present position. It is important that we should always carry the context with us. What the Apostle is concerned about in this whole statement is that we may know “the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead” (Eph 1:19-20). He is praying, in other words, that these Ephesians may have the eyes of their understanding so enlightened that they may know what God is doing for them now, at that very time, not something that He is going to do in the future…He is concerned that they should appreciate now in the midst of all their difficulties what is actually true of them.

But there is still stronger proof, it seems to me, in the fifth verse. The Apostle says, “Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ,” and then in a parenthesis “(by grace ye are saved).” In other words, he says, “What I am talking about is your salvation at this moment.” “By grace ye are saved” means “by grace you have been saved.” That is the tense: “You have been saved.” Clearly, that is something that is experimental. This is something subjective, not something purely objective. The tragedy is that people so often put these things up as opposites, whereas in reality the Scripture shows always that the two things must go together. There is an objective side to my salvation; but thank God, there is a subjective side also…That is the thing the Apostle is so anxious for us to understand. In other words, this must be interpreted spiritually and subjectively. It must be understood experimentally. “What God has done to us spiritually,” says the Apostle, “is comparable to that which He did to the Lord Jesus Christ in a physical sense when He raised Him from the dead and took Him to Himself to be seated in the heavenly places.”

We must go back to the end of the first chapter. The power that is working toward us and in us who believe is the same power that God “wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places” (Eph 1:20). “Now,” says Paul, “I want you to know that the self-same power that did that is working in you spiritually.” That, then, enables us to say that all that has happened to us, if we are Christians, has happened by this self-same power of God. All the tenses the Apostle uses here in these very words that we are studying are all in the past. He does not say that God is going to raise us, is going to quicken us, is going to put us to be seated in the heavenly places; he says that He has done so already—that when we were dead, He quickened us…We must say of ourselves as Christian people that we have been quickened, we have been raised, we are seated in the heavenly places.

Or, perhaps, we can put it best like this—and surely this is the thing that the Apostle had in his mind—the position of the Christian is the exact opposite of the man who is not a Christian. The man who is not a Christian is a man who is dead in trespasses and sins. He is being led about according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience. His conversation is in the lusts of the flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; he is under the wrath of God by nature. That is the non-Christian.

What is the Christian? He is the exact opposite of that—quickened, alive, raised, seated in the heavenlies, entirely different, the complete contrast. The “but” brings out everywhere this aspect of contrast. Obviously, we cannot truly understand our position as Christians unless we realize that it is a complete contrast to what we once were. You see how important it is in interpreting the Scripture to take everything in its context. We must be clear about our state in sin because, if we are not, we shall never be clear about our state in grace and in salvation.

If that is the truth about us as Christians now, two main matters must occupy our attention. The first is, “How has all this happened to us? How has this come to be true of me as a Christian?” The Apostle answers the question: it is “together with Christ.”

Do you notice his constantly repeated emphasis? “When we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” Here we are undoubtedly face-to-face with one of the greatest and most marvelous of all the Christian doctrines, one of the most glorious beyond any question at all. It is the whole teaching of the Scripture with regard to our union with Christ. It is a teaching that you find in many places. I would refer you to the fifth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, which is in many ways the most extended statement of the doctrine to be found anywhere. But it is to be found in exactly the same way in the sixth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans. It is likewise found in 1 Corinthians 15, the great chapter that is read so often at funeral services; but it is seen equally clearly in 2 Corinthians, chapter 5. Similarly it is the teaching found in those beautiful words at the end of the second chapter of the Epistle to the Galatians: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20). This is the most wonderful and the most amazing thing of all, and to me it is always a matter of great surprise that this blessed doctrine should receive so little attention! For some reason or other, Christian people seem to be afraid of it…[Yet] according to this teaching in Ephesians 2 and elsewhere, you are not Christians at all unless you are joined to Christ and “in Him”…

What is meant by our being joined to Christ? It is used in two senses. The first is in what may be called a federal sense, or, in other words, a covenant sense. That is the teaching of the fifth chapter of Romans, verses 12–21. Adam was constituted and regarded by God as the head and the representative of the human race. He was the federal head, the federal representative, the covenant head. God made a covenant with Adam, made an agreement with him, made certain statements to him as to what He would do, and so on. Now that is the first sense in which this doctrine of union is taught. And what is said, therefore, about the Lord Jesus Christ is that He is our Federal Head, He is our Representative. Adam, our representative, rebelled against God: he sinned, he was punished, and certain consequences followed. But because Adam was our representative and our head, what happened to Adam also therefore happened to all his posterity and to us.

Now that is one aspect of the matter and a very important one. We know something about this in ordinary life and living. The ambassador of this country in a foreign court represents the whole country, and he engages in actions in which we are all involved whether we want to be or not. As citizens of this country, we all suffer the consequences of actions that were taken before we were ever born…What the leader or the official representative of a nation does is binding upon all the citizens of that nation. Now that was true of Adam. It is also true of the Lord Jesus Christ. Adam was the first man; Jesus Christ is the Second Man. You have the first Adam; you have the Last Adam. Now Jesus Christ, according to this teaching, is the Representative of this new humanity. Therefore, what He did and what He suffered is something that applies to the whole of this new race that has come into being in Him. So that the union of the believer with Christ must be thought of in that federal sense.

But it does not stop at that. There is another aspect of the union that we may call mystical or vital. This is something that was taught by our Lord Himself in the famous words in the fifteenth chapter of the Gospel according to John, where He says, “I am the vine, ye are the branches” (Joh 15:5). The union between the branches and the vine is not mechanical: it is vital and organic. They are bound together: the same sap, the same life is in the stock as in the branches. But that is not the only illustration used. At the end of the first chapter of Ephesians, Paul says that the union between a Christian and the Lord Jesus Christ is comparable to the union of the various parts of the body with the whole body, and especially with the head. Now, any one of my fingers is a vital part of my body. It is not simply tied on: there is a living, organic, vital union. The blood that flows through my head flows through my fingers. That indicates a kind of internal, essential unity and not merely a federal, legal, or covenant union.

All these blessings that we enjoy become ours because we are joined to Christ in this double manner: in the forensic, federal, covenant manner, but also in this vital and living manner. We can therefore claim that what has happened to Christ has happened to us. This is the marvel and mystery of our salvation, and it is the most glorious thing we can ever contemplate! The Son of God, the Second Person in the eternal Godhead, came down from heaven to earth; He took unto Him human nature, He joined human nature unto Himself, He shared human nature; and as the result of His work we human beings share His life and are in Him, and are participators in all the benefits that come from Him. Now I reminded you at the beginning, and I must repeat it: that, and nothing less than that, is Christianity. If we do not realize this, I wonder what our Christianity is? This is not something you arrive at; this is something with which you begin…What the Apostle is primarily concerned to emphasize is, that whereas we were dead, we are now alive.

The question arises at once, “How can this happen?” Something must happen before we who are dead and under the wrath of God can ever be made alive. I can derive no benefit whatsoever until something has been done to satisfy the wrath of God, for I am not only dead and a creature of lusts and controlled by the god of this world, I am under the wrath of God—we were “by nature the children of wrath, even as others” (2:3). And, thank God, that something has happened. Christ has taken upon Him our nature, He has taken upon Him our sins, He has gone to the place of punishment; the wrath of God has been poured out upon Him. That is the whole meaning of His death upon the cross: it is sin being punished; it is God’s wrath against sin manifesting itself. And if we do not see that in the cross of Calvary, we are looking at that cross without New Testament eyes. There is that terrible aspect to the cross, and we must never forget it. We must never forget the cry of dereliction, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Mat 27:46). That was because He was experiencing the wrath of God against sin, nothing less. But the Apostle, here, is much more concerned to emphasize the positive aspect. Christ not only died and was buried; He rose again. God “raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named” (Eph 1:20-21). All that involved a quickening, a raising, and an exaltation. And the same thing, says the Apostle, is true of us because we are in Christ—“hath quickened us together with him.” This has happened to everybody who is a Christian. It is God’s action. Surely, this does not need any demonstration. That man who is dead in sins and under the wrath of God, what can he do? He can do nothing. God does it to him; He quickens him. As He quickened the dead body of His Son in the grave, He quickens us spiritually.

What does “to quicken” mean? It means “to make alive,” it means “to impart life.” The first thing then that is true of the Christian is that he has come to the end of his death—we were dead in trespasses and sins, we were not born spiritually. There is no divine spark in anybody born into this world. All born into this world, because they are children of Adam, are born dead—born dead spiritually. This whole idea of a divine spark remaining in man is a contradiction not only of this Scripture, but also of the whole of Scripture. The position of every person born into this world is that he is dead. The comparison used to illustrate this is the dead body of the Lord Jesus Christ buried in a grave with a stone rolled over the mouth. This then is the first positive truth: I have come to an end of my death. I am no longer dead in trespasses and sins, I am no longer dead spiritually. Why? Because I have died with Christ. I have died with Christ to the Law of God and to the wrath of God.

Now a Christian is a man who must assert this truth. The beginning of Christianity is to say, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1). The Christian is not a man who is hoping to be forgiven; the Christian is not a man who hopes that ultimately he will be able to satisfy the demands of the Law and to stand before God. If he is a Christian who understands Christianity, he says, “I am already there, I have ceased to be dead, I am alive, I have been quickened, I have been made alive!” The first important aspect of that statement is the negative one, which says that I am no longer dead. I have finished dying; I am dead to sin, I am dead to the Law, I am dead to the wrath of God. “There is therefore now no condemnation.” Can you say that? It is the statement that every Christian should be able to make…The Scriptures make this definite assertion: I am not a Christian; I cannot be a Christian at all without being in Christ. It follows that if I am in Christ, what is true of Him is also true of me. He has died unto sin once, and I have died unto sin once, in Him. When the Lord Jesus Christ died on that cross on Calvary’s hill I was dying with Him…when Christ died on that cross and endured the wrath of God against sin, I was participating in it. I was in Him, I was dying with Him. I am dead to the Law, I am dead to the wrath of God…But, more, He has quickened us, He has made us alive…Are you dead spiritually or are you alive spiritually?

But look at the case more positively. It means that God has put a new Spirit of life into me. “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death” (Rom 8:2). “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ” is in the Christian. This is the opposite of death and deadness. Before this new Spirit of life in Christ Jesus came into us, we were dead in trespasses and sins and subject to a very different spirit—“the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience” (Eph 2:2). But that is no longer true. There is a new Spirit of life.

What is “quickening”? Quickening is regeneration and nothing else. When the Apostle says here, “You hath he quickened,” he means, “You He has regenerated.” He has given you new life, you have been born again, you have been created anew, you have become partakers of the divine nature. What is regeneration? I cannot think of a better definition than this: regeneration is an act of God by which a principle of new life is implanted in man and the governing disposition of the soul is made holy. That is regeneration. It means that God by His mighty action puts a new disposition into my soul. Notice I say “disposition,” not faculties. What man in sin needs is not new faculties: what he needs is a new disposition. What is the difference, you ask, between faculties and disposition? It is something like this: the disposition is that which determines the bent and the use of the faculties. The disposition is that which governs and organizes the use of the faculties, which makes one man a musician and another a poet and another something else. So the difference between the sinner and the Christian, the unbeliever and the believer, is not that the believer, the Christian, has certain faculties that the other man lacks. No, what happens is that this new disposition given to the Christian directs his faculties in an entirely different way…What is new is a new bent, a new disposition. He has turned in a different direction; there is a new power working in him and guiding his faculties.

That is the thing that makes a man a Christian. There is this principle of life in him; there is this new disposition. And it affects the whole man: it affects his mind, it affects his heart, it affects his will…

Are you alive? Has God put this principle of life into you? Just as you are at this moment, do you know that this has happened to you, that there is this essential difference between you and the man of the world?…Quickened! We were dead, lifeless, could not move ourselves spiritually, had no appetite spiritually, no apprehension or understanding spiritually. But if we are Christians that is no longer true. We have been quickened together with Christ, the life principle has come in, we have been regenerated. There is no Christianity apart from that…Because we are joined to Christ, something of His life is in us as the result of this vital, indissoluble union, this intimate, mystical connection…Have you life? Have you been quickened? It is the beginning of Christianity. There is no Christianity apart from this…Are you aware of a principle that is working within you, as it were, in spite of yourself, influencing you, molding you, guiding you, convicting you, leading you on? Are you aware of being possessed?—if I may so put it, at the risk of being misunderstood. The Christian is a possessed man; this principle of life has come in, this new disposition possesses him. And he is aware of a working within him…God has begun a good work in me, and I know it. He has put this new life in me—in me! I am born again and in union with Christ.

May God by His Spirit enlighten the eyes of our understanding so that we may begin to comprehend this mighty working of God’s power in us.

 

From God’s Way of Reconciliation: An Exposition of Ephesians 2, 70-81

Antinomianism: Reformed Theology’s Unwelcome Guest?

 

ARTICLE BY DAVID B. GARNER  FEBRUARY 2014
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“You Just Might Be an Antinomian” 
 
A review of Mark Jones’ Antinomianism: Reformed Theology’s Unwelcome Guest? Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2013, 176pp, $15.00/£11.00
 
It’s refreshing to read a book whose author has done his homework. Antinomianism is such a book, characterized both by theological discernment and incisive clarity. There are no wasted sentences, no feel-good fluff only to amuse but freely to ignore. Though a small work, it is a full work. Though a short read, it is a savory read. Having studied broadly and thought deeply, Mark Jones packs a punch in every paragraph. Skillfully navigating historic, Reformed theology concerning core gospel themes, Jones implicitly and explicitly – yet always effectively – weds historic debates to the contemporary scene. 
 
In some ways, this book is a plea. It’s a cry in the wilderness. It begs us who live in an age of cheap grace sound bites and Reformed Twitter tweets to think biblically, carefully, and self-critically. It implores us to abandon slothful, would-be versions of the gospel. And because Jones rehearses and summarizes mainstream Reformed thought chiefly from the seventeenth century, the book’s illumining freshness to our theological reflection is itself a rebuke to contemporary theological laziness. The gap between Rutherford17 and Reformation21 stretches well beyond the temporal.
 
Antinomian is an ugly word. No one would willingly own it. Any uninformed postmodernist would reject it outrightly: “Anti- what? I’m not anti-anything!” The more informed might deflect antinomian culpability with ready theological indignation: “Hey, I believe in sanctification. I believe in the third use of the law. I believe in God’s call to holiness. It’s patently clear: I’m no antinomian!” 
 
Antinomianism may (convincingly!) persuade you otherwise. With his comprehensive analysis and nuanced reflections, Jones calls the reader to beware the “golden white devil” of antinomianism by revisiting core questions in the theologically sophisticated ways of our forefathers. The goal, of course, is not merely an historical survey of past corrections to passé theological aberrations. Rather, the purpose is to expose and correct antinomian errors of past ages that have again reared their stubborn heads. Those heads, as Jones infers, may well rest on our own shoulders (p.xv).
 
Jones does not conceal his concern for current perpetrators, though he only names one advocate of contemporary antinomian theology – Tullian Tchividjian (pp.90-91, 116, 128). His restraint is commendable: “The charge of antinomianism should only be made carefully, and for that reason I have refrained from implicating certain individuals who have leanings in that direction.” (p.128) Rather than providing a checklist of felons, Jones simply lays out the data and pleads, if the shoe fits, wear it. Yet he does it with the gravitas of expert historical analysis combined with the grace of marked deference. Criticisms land deftly yet never unkindly. He argues as a pastor, rather than an armchair polemicist, whose criticisms flail wildly but rarely make contact with reality. Some might wish Jones had taken more contemporary theologians to task, but it is arguably the case that limiting referents more effectively forces the pressing question: “Is it I, Lord?” Further naming could prevent an unlisted culprit from honestly confronting his antinomianism.
 
Antinomianism isn’t new. It’s not even just old. It’s original, Adamic, and pandemic – it was the first sin and its spirit characterizes all sin. It was Adam’s sin and it is our sin. Sin is opposition to the will of God attitudinally and practically, intentionally and deceptively, overtly and subtly, and always guiltily. Without nuance or caveat, the Apostle John calls sin, “lawlessness.” Short. Bitter. Damning. Sin is violation of the law of God. Sin opposes God’s law and therefore the God of the law. Sin is antinomianism.
 
Indeed the corollary is Jones’ concern. In all its pressing forms, antinomianism is sin. There exists no legitimate, defensible form of antinomianism. Whether I am antinomian in motive, intent or act, whether expressly or blindly, or whether I frame my antinomianism in the garb of shallow grace, all forms of lawlessness operate antithetically to the Spirit of Christ. 
Antinomianism is slippery. It is a con artist, a shyster, a double agent. It deceptively dons the Ritz of a slick version of grace, persuades of its authenticity, and lassos the unwitting soul to embrace a less-than-chaste gospel as the pure gospel.
 
“Don’t you know? You are free. The gospel is free. Do you feel obligated, responsible, duty-bound? That’s not grace. Don’t you know any sense of obligation, desire for reward, or fear of disappointing God is evidence that legalism still holds you captive? Let go and let God. Celebrate your justification and reject the compulsion!” 
 
And so it goes. Purest grace, the antinomian insists, is evidenced by purest gratitude. Purest gratitude is evidenced by purest passivity. Purest passivity is evidenced by an abandonment of any sense of compulsion. The sanctification process, so configured, elevates moral indifference. Celebrate justification by faith, and voilà! Good stuff (aka sanctification) may well just happen. We mustn’t believe for a moment that sanctification is a must! Any such must is a stubborn carry over from the law.
 
Such thinking, some continue to allege – and popularly so, is gospel grace. Such thinking, Jones asserts, demonstrates, and defends is actually antinomianism
 
Drawing from key themes addressed in Jones’ book, we delineate certain antinomian signposts in Jeff Foxworthy fashion: 
 
• If you believe that sanctification is getting used to your justification or reveling more fully in your reliance upon Jesus’ righteousness, you just might be an antinomian.
• If you believe that sanctification grows only from gratitude for your justification,you just might be an antinomian.
• If you believe that God loves you and that your ongoing sin or your incremental obedience does not in any way affect God’s love for you, you just might be an antinomian.
• If you think that assurance of your Christian faith comes without consideration of personal holiness, you just might be an antinomian.
• If you believe works are not necessary for salvation, you just might be an antinomian.
• If you believe that the gospel brings no obligation and that any sense of obligation is antithetical to the gospel, you just might be an antinomian.
• If you believe that preaching must avoid imperatives and only celebrate the indicative of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection and/or the declarative of Jesus’ forgiveness, you just might be an antinomian.
 
Engaging complex questions of the hermeneutical and theological relationship between law and gospel, Jones explores their sweet complicity (cf. WCF 19.7), nimbly avoids neonomian error, and cogently explains the indicative/imperative relationship: “… the gospel is an indicative that has imperatives embedded in it.” (p.54) He distinguishes the “broad sense” of the gospel from the narrow, where the narrow is the indicative (what Christ has done), and the broader sense involves the imperative for obedience implanted in the indicative of Christ’s work (p.57). 
 
The gospel delivers gracious provision, gracious obligation, and gracious enablement. Jones summarizes Puritan Thomas Shepard, “the gospel requires believers to be holy and perfect… The law and the gospel each require as much perfection as the other in the matter of holiness.” (p.51) The difference is the way in which the law and the gospel get to the imperative. One demands. The other demands and provides. 
 
At the heart of it all, contends Jones, is Jesus Christ.  “Antinomianism is fundamentally a Christological problem.” (p.18) In response, Jones rightly delivers a substantive Christo-centricity for holiness, and builds out the inextricability of believers’ holiness from the covenantal holiness of Jesus Christ: “the one who is perfect was made perfect.” (p.19) Jesus relied on the Holy Spirit (p.24), he truly advanced in his human nature (p.22), and he lived by faith, not by sight (p.23). All of these matters of Jesus’ holiness are necessary for redemption accomplished — by Christ, and redemption applied — by Spirit-wrought union with Christ. 
 
To divorce the believer’s faith walk from the actual benefits accrued by Jesus Christ is to generate theological abstraction. By stark contrast, Jones shows how holiness of believers depends on the actual holiness of Christ Jesus worked out in us. Faith is a gift of God in Christ, but the Spirit of Christ does not believe for us. Obedience is a Spirit-given grace, but the Spirit does not obey for us.
 
The Spirit infuses grace within us, whereby he motivates and empowers the believer unto Christ-like faith and obedience.  (Cf. p. 26) Yes, complementing the grace of imputation, infused grace for necessary good works is a biblical and Reformeddoctrine! “Good works are not only the believer’s way of giving thanks to God, but also his duty on the way to salvation.” (p.66) We must do good works. That too is the gospel of grace.
 
In other words, “reformed theologians during the post-Reformation era were clear that good works (i.e., evangelical obedience) were not only the way of life, but also the wayto life.” (p.67, my emphasis) Understood properly in their covenantal context, good works are consequentially necessary, and because of the real power of the Holy Spirit are actually good. Noting the classic text in Isaiah concerning the works of men as “filthy rags” (Is 64:6), Jones follows historic Reformed exegesis in noting that these worthless works are those of the unregenerate. 
 
To be sure, our works contribute nothing to our justification, but the presence of the Holy Spirit is real and his enabling, compelling power is real. Good works of believers are really good – not because of the inherent goodness of man, but because of the power of the God. Grace is astounding not just because God forgives our sin, but because he enables us to do good works which he ordained (Eph 2:10). “It is actually an affront to God to suggest that Spirit-wrought works in believers are ‘filthy rags.'” (p.71)
 
Thus, our union with Christ does not free us from obligation to the law, but from its curse. This union does not free us from the weight of the imperatives, but by the power of the indicative (Christ’s life, death, resurrection) frees us for the imperatives. Gospel freedom is holy freedom, and the Spirit of Christ is the Holy Spirit. It is no wonder that Calvin viewed the third use of the law as primary. Union with Christ, the Great Law-Keeper, could make it no less. “To eradicate the moral law from the conscience of the Christian is to attempt to eradicate Christ himself. Christ was a walking transcript of the law while on earth; therefore, failing to love the law of God is failing to love Christ himself.” (p.115)
 
Jones bemoans the troublesome irony of antinomian versions of great and pure grace; they are neither great nor pure. Preserving the beauty of forgiveness is not accomplished by denying the power of the Spirit to bring about obedience. Grace in forgiveness does not suffer by the celebration of the grace of God in good works. Put otherwise, celebrating Jesus’ obedience for imputed righteousness will never be advanced by denying, marginalizing, or neglecting the efficacy of Jesus’ work for our sanctification. Justification is not better appreciated because we eclipse sanctification.
 
The opposite is, in fact, true. By failing to appreciate the real sanctifying power of God in the heart of the believer, antinomians reduce the efficacy of Jesus’ work and, though unintentionally so, deplete the meaning and power of his life, death, and resurrection. Antinomian theology, as Jones properly asserts, not only misses faithful soteriology, but does so because it corrupts faithful Christology. When the forensic (justification) exhausts our doctrine of salvation, Jesus gets buried beneath a version of grace that is impotent to transform, a so-called grace that surely is not that which he himself proffers. Jesus’ salvation is frankly more than justification.
 
To boot, antinomianism makes justification do what it cannot do. “Justification, as an applied benefit, does not cause sanctification.” (p.58). Surely justification motivates obedience, but obedience is not just a human-driven response to God. It is a God-enabled response to God in Christ, by the power of the Spirit in us. “God justifies the wicked. That is good news.” (p.59) Yes, and God sanctifies the wicked. That too is good news. Distinct features of union with Christ, legal and transformative benefits are inseparable because they come from the one Mediator. “Union with Christ is the ground of both justification and sanctification, and Christ is the meritorious cause of both.” (p.101) Jones makes this point sing: the Christological heart of soteriology is not an attitude or an ethos, but the substance and source of a faithful soteriology. With precision, Jones successfully expresses this vital tethering of historia salutis andordo salutis, of the life experience of Jesus and the life experience of his disciples. 
 
However, to qualify as an acceptable review, I must complain about something. So here it goes. My primary criticism, if I would offer one about this well-written book, is organizational. Jones rightly insists on faithful Christology as the center of all soteriology and the key to addressing the antinomian errors: “Reformed understanding of Christ’s person and work–not necessarily more imperatives, though they belong in our preaching–is the true solution to the problem of antinomianism.” (p.vxi) To be sure, from the very beginning the insistence on the Christological principle permeates. But after its paradigmatic expression in chapter 2, its reappearance at the end of particular chapters seems backwards. Instead, starting each chapter’s subject with the Christological core and developing from that core explicitly would make the theological argument and the structural flow cohere more effectively.
 
By way of analogy, I point to an oft-expressed criticism of John Murray’s classicRedemption Accomplished and Applied. Murray does not arrive at his treatment of union with Christ until late in the work, yet he argues that such union is the source of all redemptive benefit. Murray’s faithful theological argumentation is weakened by the organization of the material. Similarly, while Jones constantly brings us back to Jesus Christ and properly so, I would have found the book more helpful if the Christological primacy would have received priority in the flow of each chapter’s argument. I would prefer moving from Christ to the antinomian correction rather than from the antinomian correction to Christ. Enough said.
 
Antinomianism will make you think. It may change you. It surely won’t let you consider holiness, sin, sanctification, God’s love and evangelical assurance casually. Jones does not pad us with indulgent theological cushions, but instead prods us to relish the full counsel of God concerning the full gospel of Jesus Christ. He avoids a Salem-like trial of antinomians while vividly painting a portrait of full-orbed biblical grace. With precise strokes, he illustrates careful theological honesty in the face of antinomian lures. 
 
As sons of Adam, the sway of antinomianism is never more than the slightest consideration away. Slippery, evasive, and downright stubborn, antinomianism is the “golden white devil.” It is “truly difficult to pinpoint an antinomian–difficult, but not impossible.” (p.115) Taking the challenge on himself, Jones has led us a long way toward countering this difficulty. And yes, you too just might be an antinomian. ReadAntinomianism and find out.
 
David B. Garner is Associate Professor of Systematic Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary.

Regeneration by Thomas Boston

Being born again, not of corruptible seed—but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which lives and abides forever.” 1 Peter 1:23

We proceed now to the state of grace, the state of begun recovery of human nature, into which all who shall partake of eternal happiness are translated, sooner or later, while in this world. It is the result of a gracious change made upon those who shall inherit eternal life: which change may be taken up in these two particulars:

1. In opposition to their natural real state, the state of corruption, there is a change made upon them in regeneration; whereby their nature is changed.

2. In opposition to their natural relative state, the state of wrath, there is a change made upon them in their union with the Lord Jesus Christ; by which they are placed beyond the reach of condemnation.

These, therefore, regeneration and union with Christ, I desire to treat on as the great and comprehensive changes on a sinner, bringing him into the state of grace.

The first of these we have in the text; together with the outward and ordinary means by which it is brought about. The apostle here, to excite the saints to the study of holiness, and particularly of brotherly love, puts them in mind of their spiritual original. He tells them that they were born again; and that of incorruptible seed, the word of God. This shows them to be brethren, partakers of the same new nature: which is the root from which holiness, and particularly brotherly love, springs. We have been once born sinners: we must be born again, that we may be saints. The simple word signifies “to be begotten;” and so it may be read, Matt. 11:11; “to be conceived,” Matt. 1:20; and “to be born,” Matt. 2:1. Accordingly, the compound word, used in the text, may be taken in its full latitude, the last idea presupposing the two former: so regeneration is a supernatural real change on the whole man, fitly compared to the natural birth, as will afterwards appear. The ordinary means of regeneration, called the “seed,” whereof the new creature is formed, is not corruptible seed. Of such, indeed, our bodies are generated: but the spiritual seed of which the new creature is generated, is incorruptible; namely, “the word of God, which lives and abides forever.” The sound of the word of God passes, even as other sounds do; but the word lasts, lives, and abides, in respect of its everlasting effects, on all upon whom it operates. This “word, which by the gospel is preached unto you,” ver. 25, impregnated by the Spirit of God, is the means of regeneration: and by it dead sinners are raised to life.

Doctrine. All men in the state of grace, are born again. All gracious people, namely, such as are in a state of favor with God, and endowed with gracious qualities and dispositions, are regenerate people. In discoursing on this subject, I shall show,

  • What regeneration is.
  • Why it is so called.
  • Apply the doctrine.

I. The Nature of Regeneration.

For the better understanding of the nature of regeneration, take this along with you, that as there are false conceptions in nature, so there are also in grace: by these many are deluded, mistaking some partial changes made upon them, for this great and thorough change. To remove such mistakes, let these few things be considered:

(1.) Many call the church their mother, whom God will not own to be his children, Cant. 1:6, “My mother’s children,” that is, false brethren, “were angry with me.” All that are baptized, are not born again. Simon was baptized—yet still “in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity,” Acts 8:13, 23. Where Christianity is the religion of the country, many are called by the name of Christ, who have no more of him than the name: and no wonder, for the devil had his goats among Christ’s sheep, in those places where but few professed the Christian religion, 1 John 2:19, “They went out from us—but they were not of us.”

(2.) Good education is not regeneration. Education may chain up men’s lusts—but cannot change their hearts. A wolf is still a ravenous beast, though it be in chains. Joash was very devout during the life of his good tutor Jehoiada; but afterwards he quickly showed what spirit he was of, by his sudden apostasy, 2 Chron. 24:2-18. Good example is of mighty influence to change the outward man: but that change often goes off, when a man changes his company; of which the world affords many sad instances.

(3.) A turning from open profanity, to civility and sobriety, falls short of this saving change. Some are, for a while, very loose, especially in their younger years; but at length they reform, and leave their profane courses. Here is a change—yet only such as may be found in men utterly void of the grace of God, and whose righteousness is so far from exceeding, that it does not come up to the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees.

(4.) One may engage in all the outward duties of religion, and yet not be born again. Though lead be cast into various shapes, it remains still but a base metal. Men may escape the pollutions of the world, and yet be but dogs and swine, 2 Pet. 2:20-22. All the external acts of religion are within the compass of natural abilities. Yes, hypocrites may have the counterfeit of all the graces of the Spirit: for we read of “true holiness,” Eph. 4:24, and “sincere faith,” 1 Tim. 1:5; which shows us that there is counterfeit holiness, and a feigned faith.

(5.) Men may advance to a great deal of strictness in their own way of religion, and yet be strangers to the new birth, Acts 26:5, “After the most straitest sect of our religion, I lived a Pharisee.” Nature has its own unsanctified strictness in religion. The Pharisees had so much of it, that they looked on Christ as little better than a mere libertine. A man whose conscience has been awakened, and who lives under the felt influence of the covenant of works, what will he not do that is within the compass of natural abilities? It is a truth, though it came out of a hellish mouth, that “skin for skin, yes all that a man has will he give for his life,” Job 2:4.

(6.) A person may have sharp soul-exercises and pangs, and yet die in the birth. Many “have been in pain,” that have but, “as it were, brought forth wind.” There may be sore pangs of conscience, which turn to nothing at last. Pharaoh and Simon Magus had such convictions, as made them to desire the prayers of others for them. Judas repented: and, under terrors of conscience, gave back his ill-gotten pieces of silver. All is not gold that glitters. Trees may blossom fairly in the spring, on which no fruit is to be found in the harvest: and some have sharp soul-exercises, which are nothing but foretastes of hell.

The new birth, however in appearance hopefully begun, may be marred two ways.

(1.) Some have sharp convictions for a while: but these go off, and they become as careless about their salvation, and as profane as ever, and usually worse than ever; “their last state is worse than their first,” Matt. 12:45. They get awakening grace—but not converting grace; and that goes off by degrees, as the light of the declining day, until it issues in midnight darkness.

Others come forth too soon; they are born, like Ishmael, before the time of the promise, Gen. 16:2; compare Gal. 4:22, etc. They take up with a mere law work, and stay not until the time of the promise of the gospel. They snatch at consolation, not waiting until it be given them; and foolishly draw their comfort from the law which wounded them. They apply the healing plaster to themselves, before their wound is sufficiently searched. The law, that rigorous husband, severely beats them, and throws in curses and vengeance upon their souls; then they fall to reforming, praying, mourning, promising, and vowing; which done, they fall asleep again in the arms of the law: but they are never shaken out of themselves and their own righteousness, nor brought forward to Jesus Christ.

(2.) There may be a wonderful moving of the affections in souls that are not at all touched with regenerating grace. When there is no grace, there may, notwithstanding, be a flood of tears, as in Esau, who “found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears,” Heb. 12:17. There may be great flashes of joy; as in the hearers of the word, represented in the parable of the stony ground, who “with joy receive it,” Matt. 13:20. There may be also great desires after good things, and great delight in them too; as in those hypocrites described in Isa. 58:2, “Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways – they take delight in approaching to God.” See how high they may sometimes stand—who yet fall away, Heb. 6:4-6. They may be “enlightened, taste of the heavenly gift,” “be partakers of the Holy Spirit, taste the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come.” Common operations of the divine Spirit, like a land-flood, make a strange turning of things upside down: but when they are over, all runs again in the ordinary channel. All these things may be, where the sanctifying Spirit of Christ never rests upon the soul—but the stony heart still remains; and in that case these affections cannot but wither, because they have no root.

But regeneration is a real, thorough change, whereby the man is made a new creature, 2 Cor. 5:17. The Lord God makes the creature a new creature, as the goldsmith melts down a vessel of dishonor, and makes it a vessel of honor. Man is, in respect of his spiritual state, altogether disjointed by the fall; every faculty of the soul is, as it were, dislocated. In regeneration, the Lord loosens every joint, and sets it right again. Now this change made in regeneration, is,

1. A change of qualities or DISPOSITIONS. It is not a change of the substance—but of the qualities of the soul. Vicious qualities are removed, and the contrary dispositions are brought in, in their place. “The old man is put off,” Eph. 4:22; “the new man is put on,” ver. 24. Man lost none of the rational faculties of his soul by sin. He had an understanding still—but it was darkened; he had still a will—but it was contrary to the will of God. So in regeneration, there is not a new substance created—but new qualities or dispositions are infused; light instead of darkness, righteousness instead of unrighteousness.

2. It is a SUPERNATURAL change. He who is born again, is born of the Spirit, John 3:5. Great changes may be made by the power of nature, especially when assisted by external revelation. Nature may be so elevated by the common influences of the Spirit, that a person may thereby be turned into another man, as Saul was, 1 Sam. 10:6, who yet never becomes a new man. But in regeneration, nature itself is changed, and we become partakers of the divine nature; and this must needs be a supernatural change. How can we, who are dead in trespasses and sins, renew ourselves, any more than a dead man can raise himself out of his grave? Who but the sanctifying Spirit of Christ can form Christ in a soul, changing it into his same image? Who but the Spirit of sanctification can give the new heart? Well may we say, when we see a man thus changed, “This is the finger of God!”

3. It is a change into the LIKENESS OF GOD. 2 Cor. 3:18, “We beholding, as in a mirror, the glory of the Lord—are changed into the same image.” Everything generates its like: the child bears the image of the parent; and they who are born of God, bear God’s image. Man aspiring to be as God, made himself like the devil. In his natural state he resembles the devil, as a child does his father, John 8:44, “You are of your father the devil.” But when this happy change comes, that image of Satan is defaced, and the image of God is restored. Christ himself, who is the brightness of his Father’s glory, is the pattern after which the new creature is made, Rom. 8:29, “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son.” Hence Christ is said to be formed in the regenerate, Gal. 4:19.

4. It is a UNIVERSAL change. “All things become new,” 2 Cor. 5:17. It is a blessed leaven—which leavens the whole lump—the whole spirit, and soul, and body. Original sin infects the whole man; and regenerating grace, which is the cure, goes as far as the disease. This fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness; goodness of the mind, goodness of the will, goodness of the affections, goodness of the whole man. He gets not only a new head, to know and understand true religion; or a new tongue, to talk of it; but a new heart, to love and embrace it, in the whole of his life. When the Lord opens the sluice of grace, on the soul’s new-birth day, the waters run through the whole man, to purify and make him fruitful. In those natural changes spoken of before, there are, as it were, pieces of new cloth put into an old garment; new life to an old heart: but the gracious change is a thorough change; a change both of heart and life.

5. Yet, though every part of the man is renewed, there is no part of him which is perfectly renewed. As an infant has all the parts of a man—but none of them come to a perfect growth; so regeneration brings a perfection of parts, to be brought forward in the gradual advances of sanctification, 1 Pet. 2:2, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that you may grow thereby.” Although, in regeneration, there is heavenly light let into the mind; yet there is still some darkness there. Though the will is renewed, it is not perfectly renewed; there is still some of the old inclination to sin remaining: and thus it will be, until that which is in part is done away, and the light of glory come. Adam was created at his full stature; but those who are born, must have their time to grow up; so those who are born again, come forth into the new world of grace as new-born babes: Adam being created upright, was at the same time perfectly righteous, without the least mixture of sinful imperfection.

6. Nevertheless, it is a LASTING change, which never entirely dies off. The seed is incorruptible, says the text; and so is the creature who is formed of it. The life given in regeneration, whatever decays it may fall under, can never be utterly lost. “His seed remains in him” who “is born of God,” 1 John 3:9. Though the branches should be cut down, the root abides in the earth; and being watered with the dew of heaven, shall spout again: for “the root of the righteous shall not be moved,” Prov. 12:3.

But to come to particulars.

1. In regeneration the MIND is savingly enlightened. There is a light let into the understanding; so that those who were “once darkness, are now light in the Lord,” Eph. 5:8. The beams of the light of life make their way into the dark dungeon of the heart: then the night is over, and the morning light is come, which will shine more and more unto the perfect day.

(1.) Now the man is illuminated, in the knowledge of GOD. He has far other thoughts of God, than ever he had before, Hos. 2:20, “I will even betrothe you unto me in faithfulness, and you shall know the Lord.” The Spirit of the Lord brings him back to this question, “What is God?” and catechises him anew upon that grand point, so that he is made to say, “I have heard of you by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees you,” Job 42:5. The spotless purity of God, his exact justice, his all-sufficiency, and other glorious perfections revealed in his word, are by this new light discovered to the soul, with a plainness and certainty, which as far exceed the knowledge it had of these things before, as ocular viewing exceeds common report. For now he sees, what he only heard of before.

(2.) He is enlightened in the knowledge of SIN. He has different thoughts of it than he used to have. Formerly his sight could not pierce through the cover Satan laid over it: but now the Spirit of God removes it, wipes off the paint and varnish: and so he sees it in its natural colors, as the worst of evils, exceedingly sinful, Rom. 7:13. O, what deformed monsters—do formerly beloved lusts appear! Were they right eyes, he would pluck them out; were they right hands, he would consent to their being cut off. He sees how offensive sin is to God, how destructive it is to the soul; and calls himself a fool, for fighting so long against the Lord, and harboring that destroyer as a bosom friend!

(3.) He is instructed in the knowledge of HIMSELF. Regenerating grace brings the prodigal to himself, Luke 15:17, and makes men full of eyes within, knowing the plague of his own heart. The mind being savingly enlightened, the man sees how desperately corrupt his nature is; what enmity against God, and his holy law, has long lodged there: so that his soul loathes itself. No open sepulcher so vile and loathsome, in his eyes—as himself, Ezek. 36:31, “Then shall you remember your own evil ways, and your doings that were not good, and shall loathe yourselves in your own sight.” He is no worse than he was before—but the sun is now shining; and so those pollutions are seen, which he could not discern before—when there was no dawning in him, as the word is, Isa. 8:20, while as yet there was no breaking of the day of grace with him.

(4.) He is enlightened in the knowledge of JESUS CHRIST. 1 Cor. 1: 23, 24, “But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling-block, and unto the Greeks foolishness: but unto those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” The truth is, unregenerate men, though capable of preaching Christ, have not, properly speaking, the knowledge of him—but only an opinion, a good opinion, of him; as one has of many controverted points of doctrine, wherein he is far from certainty. As when you meet with a stranger on the road, who behaves himself discretely, you conceive a good opinion of him, and therefore willingly converse with him: but yet you will not commit your money to him; because, though you have a good opinion of the man, he is a stranger to you, you do not know him. So may they think well of Christ; but they will never commit themselves to him, seeing they know him not.

But saving illumination carries the soul beyond opinion, to the certain knowledge of Christ and his excellency, 1 Thess. 1:5, “For our Gospel came not unto you in word only—but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit, and in much assurance.” The light of grace thus discovers the suitableness of the mystery of Christ to the divine perfections, and to the sinner’s case. Hence the regenerate admire the glorious plan of salvation, through Christ crucified; rest their whole dependence upon it, heartily acquiesce therein; for whatever he is to others, he is to them, “Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” But unrenewed men, not seeing this, are offended in him: they will not venture their souls in that vessel—but betake themselves to the broken boards of their own righteousness.

The same light convincingly discovers a superlative worth, a transcendent glory and excellence in Christ, which darkens all created excellencies—as the rising sun makes the stars hide their heads. It engages the “merchantman to sell all that he has, to buy the one pearl of great price,” Matt. 12:45, 46; makes the soul heartily content to take Christ for all, and instead of all. An unskillful merchant, to whom one offers a pearl of great price, for all his petty wares, dares not venture on the bargain; for though he thinks that one pearl may be worth more than all he has—yet he is not sure of it: but when a jeweler comes to him and assures him it is worth double all his wares, he then eagerly makes the bargain, and cheerfully parts with all he has, for that pearl.

Finally, this illumination in the knowledge of Christ, convincingly discovers to men a fullness in him, sufficient for the supply of all their needs, enough to satisfy the boundless desires of an immortal soul. And they are persuaded that such fullness is in him, and that in order to be communicated: they depend upon it as a certain truth; and therefore, their souls take up their eternal rest in him.

(5.) The man is instructed in the knowledge of the vanity of the WORLD. Psalm 119:96, “I have seen an end of all perfection.” Regenerating grace elevates the soul, translates it into the spiritual world, from whence this earth cannot but appear a little, yes, a very little thing; even as heaven appeared before, while the soul was groveling in the earth. Grace brings a man into a new world: where this earthly world is reputed but a stage of vanity, a howling wilderness, a valley of tears.

God has hung the sign of vanity at the door of all created enjoyments: yet how do men throng into the house, calling and looking for something that is satisfying; even after it has been a thousand times told them, that there is no such thing in it, it is not to be found there, Isa. 57:10, “You are wearied in the greatness of your way: yet said you not, There is no hope.” Why are men so foolish? The truth of the matter lies here—they do not see by the light of grace, they do not spiritually discern that sign of vanity. They have often, indeed, made a rational discovery of it: but can that truly wean the heart from the world? Nay, no more than painted fire can burn off the prisoner’s bands. But the light of grace, is the light of life, powerful and efficacious.

(6.) To sum up all. In regeneration, the mind is enlightened in the knowledge of spiritual things. 1 John 2:20, “You have an unction from the Holy One,” that is, from Jesus Christ, Rev. 3:18. It is an allusion to the sanctuary, whence the holy oil was brought to anoint the priest, “and you know all things” necessary to salvation. Though men be not book-learned, if they are born again, they are Spirit-learned; for all such are taught of God, John 6:45. The Spirit of regeneration teaches them what they did not know before. And what they knew by the ear only, he teaches them over again as by the eye.

The light of grace is an overcoming light, determining men to assent to divine truths on the mere testimony of God. It is no easy thing for the mind of man to acquiesce in divine revelation. Many pretend great respect to the Scriptures; whom, nevertheless, the clear Scripture testimony will not divorce from their preconceived opinions. But this illumination will make men’s minds run, as willing captives, after Christ’s chariot wheels, which they are ready to allow to drive over, and “cast down” their “imaginations, and every high thing which exalts itself against the knowledge of God,” 2 Cor. 10:5. It will bring them to “receive the kingdom of God as a little child,” Mark 10:15, who thinks he has sufficient ground to believe anything—if his father do but say it is so.

2. The WILL is renewed. The Lord takes away the stony heart, and gives a heart of flesh, Ezek. 36:26, and so from stones—he raises up children to Abraham. Regenerating grace is powerful and efficacious, and gives the will a new turn. It does not indeed force it—but sweetly, yet powerfully draws it, so that his people are willing in the day of his power, Psalm 110:3. There is heavenly oratory in the Mediators lips to persuade sinners, Psalm 45:2, “Grace is poured into your liPsalm” There are cords of a man, and bands of love in his hands, to draw them after him, Hos. 11:4. Love makes a net for elect souls, which will infallibly catch them, and bring them to land. The cords of Christ’s love are strong cords: and they need to be so, for every sinner is heavier than a mountain of brass; and Satan, together with the heart itself, draws the contrary way. But love is strong as death; and the Lord’s love to the soul he died for, is the strongest love; which acts so powerfully, that it must come off victorious.

(1.) The will is cured of its utter inability to will what is good. While the opening of the prison to those who are bound, is proclaimed in the gospel, the Spirit of God comes and opens the prison door, goes to the prisoner, and, by the power of his grace, makes his chains fall off; breaks the bonds of iniquity, with which he was held in sin, so as he could neither will nor do anything truly good; and brings him forth into a large place, “working in him both to will and to do of his good pleasure,” Phil. 2:13. Then it is that the soul, that was fixed to the earth, can move heavenward; the withered hand is restored, and can be stretched out.

(2.) There is wrought in the will a fixed aversion to evil. In regeneration, a man gets a new spirit put within him, Ezek. 36:26; and that spirit strives against the flesh, Gal. 5:17. The sweet morsel of sin, so greedily swallowed down—he now loathes, and would sincerely be rid of it, even as willingly as one who had drunk a cup of poison would vomit it up again. When the spring is stopped, the mud lies in the well unmoved; but when once the spring is cleared, the waters, springing up, will work the mud away by degrees. Even so, while a man continues in an unregenerate state, sin lies at ease in the heart; but as soon as the Lord strikes the rocky heart with the rod of his strength, in the day of conversion, grace is “in him a well of water, springing up into everlasting life,” John 4:14, working away natural corruption, and gradually purifying the heart, Acts 15:9. The renewed will rises up against sin, strikes at the root thereof, and the branches too. Lusts are now grievous, and the soul endeavors to starve them; the corrupt nature is the source of all evil, and therefore the soul will be often laying it before the great Physician. O, what sorrow, shame, and self-loathing fill the heart, in the day that grace makes its triumphant entrance into it! For now the madman has come to himself, and the remembrance of his follies cannot but cut him to the heart.

(3.) The will is endowed with an inclination, bent, and propensity to good. In its depraved state, it lay quite another way, being prone and bent to evil only: but now, by the operation of the omnipotent, all-conquering arm, it is drawn from evil to good, and gets another turn. As the former was natural, so this is natural too, in regard to the new nature given in regeneration, which has its holy strivings, as well as the corrupt nature has its sinful lustings, Gal. 5:17. The will, as renewed, points towards God and godliness.

When God made man, his will, in respect of its intention, was directed towards God, as his chief end. In respect of its choice, it pointed towards that which God willed.

When man unmade himself, his will was framed to the very reverse hereof: he made himself his chief end, and his own will his law.

But when man is new made, in regeneration, grace rectifies this disorder in some measure, though not perfectly. because we are but renewed in part, while in this world. It brings back the sinner out of himself, to God, as his chief end, Psalm 73:25, “Whom have I in heaven but you? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides you.” Phil. 1:21, “For me to live is Christ.” It makes him to deny himself, and whatever way he turns, to point habitually towards God, who is the center of the gracious soul, its home, its “dwelling place in all generations,” Psalm 90:1.

By regenerating grace, the will is brought into a conformity to the will of God. It is conformed to his preceptive will, being endowed with holy inclinations, agreeable to every one of his commands. The whole law is impressed on the gracious soul: every part of it is written on the renewed heart. Although remaining corruption makes such blots in the writing, that oft-times the man himself cannot read it—yet he who wrote it can read it at all times; it is never quite blotted out, nor can be. What he has written, he has written; and it shall stand: “For this is the covenant – I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts,” Heb. 8:10. It is a covenant of salt, a perpetual covenant.

By regenerating grace, the will is also conformed to his providential will; so that the man would no more be master of his own direction, nor carve out his lot for himself. He learns to say, from his heart, “The will of the Lord be done.” “He shall choose our inheritance for us,” Psalm 47:4. Thus the will is disposed to fall in with those things which, in its depraved state, it could never be reconciled to. Particularly,

[1.] The soul is reconciled to the covenant of peace. The Lord God proposes a covenant of peace to sinners, a covenant which he himself has framed, and registered in the Bible: but they are not pleased with it. Nay, unregenerate hearts cannot be pleased with it. Were it put into their hands to frame it according to their minds, they would blot many things out of it which God has put in, and put in many things which God has kept out. But the renewed heart is entirely satisfied with the covenant, 2 Sam. 23:5, “He has made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure; this is all my salvation, and all my desire.” Though the covenant could not be brought down to their depraved will, their will is, by grace, brought up to the covenant: they are well pleased with it; there is nothing in it which they would have out, nor is anything left out of it which they would have in.

[2.] The will is disposed to receive Christ Jesus the Lord. The soul is content to submit to him. Regenerating grace undermines, and brings down the towering imaginations of the heart, raised up against its rightful Lord; it breaks the iron sinew, which kept the sinner from bowing to him; and disposes him to be no more stiff-necked—but to yield. He is willing to have on the yoke of Christ’s commands, to take up the cross, and to follow him. He is content to take Christ on any terms, Psalm 110:3, “Your people shall be willing in the day of your power.”

The mind being savingly enlightened, and the will renewed, the sinner is thereby determined and enabled to answer the gospel call. So the chief work in regeneration is done; the fort of the heart is taken; there is room made for the Lord Jesus Christ in the inmost parts of the soul; the inner door of the will being now opened to him, as well as the outer door of the understanding.

In one word, Christ is passively received into the heart; he is come into the soul, by his quickening Spirit, whereby spiritual life is given to the man, who in himself was dead in sin. His first vital act we may conceive to be an active receiving of Jesus Christ, discerned in his glorious excellencies; that is a believing on him, a closing with him, as discerned, offered and exhibited in the word of his grace, the glorious Gospel: the immediate effect of which is union with him, John 1:12, 13, “To as many as received him to them gave he power,” or privilege, “to become the sons of God, even to those who believe on his name: which were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man—but of God.” Eph. 3:17, “That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith.”

Christ having taken the heart by storm, and triumphantly entered into it, in regeneration, the soul by faith yields itself to him, as it is expressed, 2 Chron. 30:8. Thus, this glorious King who came into the heart, by his Spirit, dwells in it by faith. The soul, being drawn, runs; and being effectually called, comes.

3. In regeneration there is a happy change made on the AFFECTIONS; they are both rectified and regulated.

(1.) Regeneration rectifies the affections, placing them on suitable objects. 2 Thess. 3:5, “The Lord direct your hearts into the love of God.” The regenerate man’s desires are rectified; they are set on God himself, and the things above. He, who before cried with the world, “Who will show us any good?” has changed his note, and says, “Lord, lift up the light of your countenance upon us,” Psalm 4:6. Before, he saw no beauty in Christ, for which he was to be desired; but now Christ is all he desires, he is altogether lovely, Cant. 5:16. The main stream of his desires is turned to run towards God; for there is the one thing he desires, Psalm 27:4.

He desires to be holy as well as happy; and rather to be gracious than great.

His hopes, which before were low, and fastened down to things on earth—are now raised, and set on the glory which is to be revealed. He entertains the hope of eternal life, grounded on the word of promise, Tit. 1:2. Which hope he has, as an anchor of the soul, fixing the heart under trials, Heb 6:19. It puts him upon purifying himself, even as God is pure, 1 John 3:3. For he is begotten again unto a lively hope, 1 Pet. 1:3.

His love is raised, and set on God himself, Psalm 18:1; on his holy law, Psalm 119:97. Though it strikes against his most beloved lust, he says, “The law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good,” Rom. 7:12. He loves the ordinances of God,” Psalm 84:1, “How amiable are your tabernacles, O Lord Almighty!” Being passed from death unto life, he loves the brethren, 1 John 3:14, the people of God, as they are called, 1 Pet. 2:10. He loves God for himself; and what is God’s, for his sake. Yes, as being a child of God, he loves his own enemies. His heavenly Father is compassionate and benevolent; “He makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good; and sends rain on the just and on the unjust:” therefore, he is in like manner disposed, Matt. 5:44, 45.

His hatred is turned against sin—both in himself and others, Psalm 101:3, “I hate the work of those who turn aside, it shall not cleave to me.” He groans under the body of it, and longs for deliverance, Rom. 7:24, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”

His joys and delights are in God the Lord, in the light of his countenance, in his law, and in his people, because they are like him.

Sin is what he chiefly fears: it is a fountain of sorrow to him now, though formerly a spring of pleasure.

(2.) Regeneration regulates the affections, which are placed on SUITABLE objects. Our affections, when placed on the creature, are naturally exorbitant. When we joy in it, we are apt to overjoy; and when we sorrow, we are ready to sorrow overmuch: but grace bridles these affections, clips their wings, and keeps them within bounds, that they don’t overflow all their banks. It makes a man “hate his father, and mother, and wife, and children; yes, and his own life also,” comparatively; that is, to love them less than he loves God, Luke 14:26.

Grace also rectifies LAWFUL affections; bringing them forth from right principles, and directing them to right ends. There may be unholy desires after Christ and his grace; as when men desire Christ, not from any love to him—but merely out of love to themselves. “Give us of your oil,” said the foolish virgins, “for our lamps are gone out,” Matt. 25:8. There may be an unsanctified sorrow for sin; as when one sorrows for it, not because it is displeasing to God—but only because of the wrath annexed to it, as did Pharaoh, Judas, and others. So a man may love his father and mother from mere natural principles, without any respect to the command of God binding him thereto. But grace sanctifies the affections, in such cases, making them to run in a new channel of love to God, respect to his commands, and regard to his glory.

Again, grace raises the affections where they are too low. It gives the chief seat in them to God, and pulls down all other rivals, whether people or things, making them lie at his feet. Psalm 73:25, “Whom have I in heaven but you? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides you.” He is loved for himself, and other people or things for his sake. What is lovely in them, to the renewed heart, is some ray of the divine goodness appearing in them: for unto gracious souls they shine only by borrowed light. This accounts for the saints loving all men; and yet hating those who hate God, and despising the wicked as vile people. They hate and despise them for their wickedness; there is nothing of God in that, and therefore nothing lovely nor honorable in it: but they love them for their commendable qualities or perfections, whether natural or moral; because, in whomever these things are, they are from God, and can be traced to him as their fountain.

Finally, regenerating grace sets the affections so firmly on God, that the man is disposed, at God’s command, to leave his hold of everything else, in order to keep his hold of Christ; to hate father and mother, in comparison with Christ, Luke 14:26. It makes even lawful enjoyments, like Joseph’s mantle to hang loose about a man, that he may leave them, when he is in danger of being ensnared by holding them.

If the stream of our affections has never been turned, we are, doubtless, going down the stream into the pit. If “the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life,” have the throne in our hearts, which should be possessed by the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; if we never had so much love to God, as to ourselves; if sin has been somewhat bitter to us—but never so bitter as suffering, never so bitter as the pain of being weaned from it: truly we are strangers to this saving change of regeneration. For grace turns the affections upside down, whenever it comes into the heart.

4. The CONSCIENCE is renewed. As a new light is set up in the soul, in regeneration, conscience is enlightened, instructed and informed. That candle of the Lord, Prov. 20:27, is now snuffed and brightened; so that it shines, and sends forth its light into the most retired corners of the heart: discovering sins which the soul was not aware of before; and, in a special manner, discovering the corruption or depravity of nature—that seed and spawn whence all actual sins proceed. This produces the new complaint, Rom. 7:24, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”

Conscience, which lay sleeping in the man’s bosom before, is now awakened, and makes its voice to be heard through the whole soul; therefore, there is no more rest for him in the sluggard’s bed; he must get up and be doing, arise, “haste, and escape for his life.” It powerfully incites to obedience, even in the most spiritual acts, which lie not within the view of the natural conscience; and powerfully restrains from sin, even from those sins which do not lie open to the observation of the world. It urges the sovereign authority of God, to which the heart is now reconciled, and which it willingly acknowledges. And so it engages the man to his duty, whatever be the hazard from the world; for it fills the heart so with the fear of God—that the force of the fear of man is broken. This has engaged many to put their life in their hand, and follow the cause of Christ, which they once despised, and resolutely walk in the path they formerly abhorred, Gal. 1:23, “He who persecuted us in times past, now preaches the faith which once he destroyed.”

Guilt now makes the conscience smart. It has bitter remorse for sins past—which fills the soul with anxiety, sorrow, and self-loathing. And every new reflection on these sins is apt to affect, and make its wounds bleed afresh with regret. It is made tender, in point of sin and duty, for the time to come: being once burnt, it dreads the fire, and fears to break the hedge where it was formerly bitten by the serpent.

Finally, the renewed conscience drives the sinner to Jesus Christ, as the only Physician who can draw out the sting of guilt; and whose blood alone can purge the conscience from dead works, Heb. 9:14, refusing all ease offered to it from any other hand. This is an evidence that the conscience is not only awakened—as it may be in an unregenerate state; but oiled also, with regenerating grace.

5. As the MEMORY lacked not its share of depravity, it is also bettered by regenerating grace. The memory is weakened, with respect to those things that are not worth their room therein; and men are taught to forget injuries, and drop their resentments, Matt. 5:44, 45, “Do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who despitefully use you – that you may be,” that is, appear to be, “the children of your Father who is in heaven.”

It is strengthened for spiritual things. We have Solomon’s receipt for an ill memory, Prov. 3:1, “My son,” says he, “forget not my law.” But how shall it be kept in mind? “Let your heart keep my commandments.” Grace makes a heart-memory, even where there is no good head-memory, Psalm 119:11, “Your word have I hid in my heart.” The heart, truly touched with the powerful sweetness of truth, will help the memory to retain what is so relished. If divine truths made deeper impressions on our hearts, they would impress themselves with more force on our memories, Psalm 119:93, “I will never forget your precepts, for with them you have quickened me.”

Grace sanctifies the memory. Many have large—but unsanctified memories, which serve only to gather knowledge, whereby to aggravate their condemnation: but the renewed memory serves to “remember his commandments—to do them,” Psalm 103:18. It is a sacred storehouse, from whence a Christian is furnished in his way to Zion; for faith and hope are often supplied out of it, in a dark hour. It is the storehouse of former experiences; and these are the believer’s way-marks, by noticing of which he comes to know where he is, even in a dark time. Psalm 42:6, “O my God, my soul is cast down within me: therefore will I remember you from the land of Jordan,” etc. It also helps the soul to godly sorrow and self-loathing, presenting old guilt anew before the conscience, and making it bleed afresh, though the sin be already pardoned; Psalm 25:7, “Remember not the sins of my youth.” Where unpardoned guilt is lying on the sleeping conscience, it is often employed to bring in a word, which in a moment sets the whole soul on the stir; as when “Peter remembered the words of Jesus – he went out and wept bitterly,” Matt. 26:75. The word of God laid up in a sanctified memory, serves a man to resist temptations, puts the sword in his hand against his spiritual enemies, and is a light to direct his steps in the way of true religion and righteousness.

6. There is a change made on the BODY, and the members thereof, in respect of their use; they are consecrated to the Lord. Even “the body is – for the Lord,” 1 Cor. 6:13. It is “the temple of the Holy Spirit,” ver. 19. The members thereof, which were formerly “instruments of unrighteousness unto sin,” become “instruments of righteousness unto God,” Rom. 6:13, “servants to righteousness unto holiness,” ver. 19. The eye, that conveyed sinful imaginations into the heart, is under a covenant, Job 31:1, to do so no more; but to serve the soul, in viewing the works of God, and reading the word of God. The ear, that had often been death’s porter, to let in sin, is turned to be the gate of life, by which the word of life enters the soul. The tongue, that set on fire the whole course of nature, is restored to the office it was designed for by the Creator; namely, to be an instrument of glorifying him, and setting forth his praise. In a word, the whole man is for God, in soul and body, which by this blessed change are made his.

7. This gracious change shines forth in the LIFE. Even the outward man is renewed. A new heart makes newness of life. When “the king’s daughter is all glorious within, her clothing is of wrought gold,” Psalm 45:13. “The single eye” makes “the whole body full of light,” Matt. 6:22. This change will appear in every part of a man’s life; particularly in the following things.

(1.) In the change of his COMPANY. Formerly, he despised the company of the saints—but now they are “the excellent, in whom is all his delight,” Psalm 16:3. “I am a companion of all who fear you,” says the royal psalmist, Psalm 119:63. A renewed man joins himself with the saints; for he and they are like-minded, in that which is their main work and business; they have all one new nature: they are all traveling to Immanuel’s land, and converse together in the language of Canaan. In vain do men pretend to true religion, while ungodly company is their choice; for “a companion of fools shall be destroyed,” Prov. 13:20. Religion will make a man shy of throwing himself into an ungodly family, or any unnecessary familiarity with wicked men; as one who is healthy will beware of going into an infected house.

(2.) In his RELATIVE capacity, he will be a new man. Grace makes men gracious in their several relations, and naturally leads them to the conscientious performance of relative duties. It does not only make good men and good women—but makes good subjects, good husbands, good wives, children, servants, and, in a word, good relatives in the church, commonwealth, and family. It is a just exception made against the religion of many, namely, that they are bad relatives, they are bad husbands, wives, masters, servants, etc. How can we prove ourselves to be new creatures, if we be just such as we were before, in our different relations? 2 Cor. 5:17, “Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”

Real godliness will gain a testimony to a man, from the consciences of his nearest relations; though they know more of his sinful infirmities than others do, as we see in the case, 2 Kings 4:1, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he did fear the Lord.”

(3.) In the way of his following his worldly BUSINESS, there is a great change. It appears to be no more his all, as it was before. Though saints apply themselves to worldly business, as well as others—yet their hearts are not swallowed up in it. It is evident that they are carrying on a trade with heaven, as well as a trade with earth, Phil. 3:20, “For our conversation is in heaven.” They go about their employment in the world, as a duty laid upon them by the Lord of all, doing their lawful business as the will of God, Eph. 6:7, working, because he has said, “You shall not steal.”

(4.) Such have a special concern for the advancement of the kingdom of Christ in the world: they espouse the interests of religion, and “prefer Jerusalem above their chief joy,” Psalm 137:6. However privately they live, grace gives them a public spirit, will concern itself in the ark and work of God, in the Gospel of God, and in the people of God, even in those of them whom they never saw. As children of God, they naturally care for these things. They have a new concern for the spiritual good of others: no sooner do they taste of the power of grace themselves—but they are inclined to set up to be agents for Christ and holiness in the world; as appears in the case of the woman of Samaria, who when Christ had manifested himself to her, “went her way into the city, and said unto the men, Come, see a man which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?” John 4:28, 29.

They have seen and felt the evil of sin, and therefore pity the world lying in wickedness. They would gladly pluck the brands out of the fire, remembering that they themselves were plucked out of it. They labor to commend religion to others, both by word and example; and rather deny themselves the liberty in indifferent things, than, by the uncharitable use of it, destroy others; 1 Cor. 8:13, “Therefore, if meat make my brother to sin, I will eat no flesh while the world stands, lest I make my brother to sin.”

(5.) In their use of LAWFUL COMFORTS, there is a great change. They rest not in them, as their end; but use them as means to help them in their way. They draw their satisfaction from the higher springs—even while lower springs are running. Thus Hannah, having obtained a son, rejoiced not so much in the gift, as in the giver, 1 Sam. 2:1, “And Hannah prayed and said, My heart rejoices in the Lord.” Yes, when the comforts of life are gone, they can exist without them, and “rejoice in the Lord although the fig-tree do not blossom,” Hab. 3:17, 18.

Grace teaches to use the conveniences of the present life as pilgrims; and to show a holy moderation in all things. The heart, which formally reveled in these things without fear, is now shy of being over much pleased with them. Being apprehensive of danger, it uses them warily; as the dogs of Egypt run, while they lap their water out of the river Nile, for fear of the crocodiles that are in it.

(6.) This change shines forth in the man’s performance of PIOUS DUTIES. He who lived in the neglect of them will do so no more, if once the grace of God enter into his heart. If a man be new-born, he will desire the sincere milk of the word 1 Pet. 2:2, 3. Whenever the prayerless person gets the Spirit of grace, he will be in him a Spirit of supplication, Zech. 12:10. It is as natural for one that is born again to pray, as for the new-born babe to cry. Acts 9:11, “Behold, he prays!” His heart will be a temple for God, and his house a church. His devotion, which before was superficial and formal, is now spiritual and lively; for as much as heart and tongue are touched with a live coal from heaven: and he rests not in the mere performance of duties, as careful only to get his task done—but in every duty seeks communion with God in Christ; justly considering them as means appointed of God for that end, and reckoning himself disappointed if he miss of it.

Thus far of the nature of regeneration.

II. I come to show WHY this change is called regeneration, a being born again. It is so called, because of the resemblance between natural and spiritual birth, which lies in the following particulars.

1. Natural birth is a MYSTERIOUS thing: and so is spiritual birth. John 3:8, “The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound thereof—but can not tell whence it comes and where it goes: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” The work of the Spirit is felt; but his way of working is a mystery we cannot comprehend. A new light is let into the mind, and the will is renewed; but how that light is conveyed there, how the will is fettered with cords of love, and how the rebel is made a willing captive—we can no more tell, than we can tell “how the bones grow in the womb of her that is with child,” Eccl. 11:5. As a man hears the sound of the wind, and finds it stirring—but knows not where it begins, and where it ends, “so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” He finds the change that is made upon him; but how it is produced he knows not. One thing he may know, that whereas he was blind, now he sees. But “the seed of grace” “springs and grows up—he knows not how,” Mark 4:26, 27.

2. In both, the creature comes to a being it had not before. The child is not, until it be born; and a man has no gracious being, no being in grace, until he is re-born. Regeneration is not so much the curing of a sick man, as “the quickening of a dead man,” Eph. 2:1-5. Man in his depraved state, is a mere nonentity in grace, and is brought into a new being by the power of Him “who calls things that are, not as though they were;” being “created in Jesus Christ unto good works,” Eph. 2:10. Therefore, our Lord Jesus, to give ground of hope to the Laodiceans, in their wretched and miserable state, proposes himself as “the beginning of the creation of God,” Rev. 3:14, namely, the active beginning of it; “for all things were made by him” at first, John 1:3. From whence they might gather, that as he made them when they were nothing, he could make them over again, when worse than nothing; the same hand that made them his creatures, could make them new creatures.

3. As the child is PASSIVE in birth, so is the child of God in regeneration. The one contributes nothing to its own birth; neither does the other contribute anything, by way of efficiency, to its own regeneration: for though a man may lay himself down at the pool—yet he has no hand in moving the water, no power in performing the cure. One is born the child of a king, another the child of a beggar: the child has no hand at all in this difference. God leaves some in their depraved state; others he brings into a state of grace, or regeneracy. If you be thus honored, no thanks to you; for “who makes you to differ from another? and what have you that you did not receive?” 1 Cor. 4:7.

4. There is a wonderful combination of parts in both births. Admirable is the structure of man’s body, in which there is such a variety of organs; nothing lacking, nothing superfluous. The psalmist, considering his own body, looks on it as a piece of marvelous work; “I am fearfully and wonderfully made,” says he, Psalm 139:14, “and marvelously wrought in the womb,” ver. 15; where I know not how the bones grow, any more than I know what is doing in the lowest parts of the earth. In natural birth we are marvelously wrought, like a piece of needle-work; as the word imports: even so it is in regeneration. Psalm 45:14, “She shall be brought unto the King in raiment of needle-work,” raiment marvelously wrought. It is the same word in both texts. What that raiment is, the apostle tells us, Eph. 4:24. It is “the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” This is the raiment which he says, in the same place, we must put on; not excluding the imputed righteousness of Christ. Both are marvelously wrought, as masterpieces of the manifold wisdom of God. O the wonderful combination of graces in the new creature! O glorious creature, new-made after the image of God! It is grace for grace in Christ, which makes up this new man, John 1:16; even as in bodily birth, the child has member for member in the parent; has every member which the parent has in a certain proportion.

5. All this, in both cases, has its rise from that which is in itself very small and inconsiderable. O the power of God, in making such a creature of the corruptible seed, and much more in bringing forth the new creature from such small beginnings! It is as “the little cloud, like a man’s hand,” which spread, until “heaven was black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain,” 1 Kings 18:44, 45. A man gets a word from God at a sermon, which hundreds besides him hear, and let slip: but it remains with him, works in him, and never leaves him, until the little world is turned upside down by it; that is, until he becomes a new man. It is like the dream which got up into Ahasuerus’s head, and cut off sleep from his eyes, Esther 6:1, which proved a spring of such motions as never ceased, until Mordecai, in royal pomp, was brought on horseback through the streets, proud Haman trudging at his foot; the same Haman afterwards hanged, Mordecai advanced, and the church delivered from Haman’s hellish plot. “The grain of mustard seed becomes a tree,” Matt. 13:31, 32. God loves to bring great things out of small beginnings.

6. Natural birth is carried on by degrees. So is regeneration. It is with the soul, ordinarily, in regeneration, as with the blind man cured by our Lord, who first “saw men as trees walking,” afterward “saw every man clearly,” Mark 8:23-25. It is true, regeneration being, strictly speaking, a passage from death to life, the soul is quickened in a moment; like as when the embryo is brought to perfection in the womb, the soul is infused into the lifeless lump. Nevertheless, we may imagine somewhat like conception in spiritual regeneration, whereby the soul is prepared for quickening; and the new creature is capable of growth, 1 Peter 2:2, and of having life more abundantly, John 10:10.

7. In both there are new relations. The regenerate may call God, Father; for they are his children, John 1:12, 13, “begotten of him,” 1 Pet. 1:3. The bride, the Lamb’s wife, that is, the church, is their mother, Gal. 4:26. They are related, as brethren and sisters, to angels and glorified saints; “the family of heaven.” They are of the heavenly stock: the lowest of them, “the base things of the world,” 1 Cor. 1:28, the kinless things, as the word imports, who cannot boast of the blood that runs in their veins, are yet, by their new birth, near of kin with the excellent in the earth.

8. There is a likeness between the parent and the child. Everything that generates, generates its like; and the regenerate are “partakers of the divine nature,” 2 Peter 1:4. The moral perfections of the divine nature are, in measure and degree, communicated to the renewed soul: thus the divine image is restored; so that, as the child resembles the father, the new creature resembles God himself, being holy as he is holy.

9. As there is no birth without pain, both to the mother and to the child, so there is great pain in bringing forth the new creature. The children have more or less of these birth-pains, whereby they are “pricked in their heart,” Acts 2:37. The soul has sore pains when under conviction and humiliation. “A wounded spirit who can bear?” The mother is pained; “Zion travails,” Isaiah 66:8. She sighs, groans, cries, and has hard labor, in her ministers and members—to bring forth children to her Lord, Gal. 4:19, “My little children, of whom I travail in birth again, until Christ be formed in you.” Never was a mother more feelingly touched with “joy, that a child is born into the world,” than she is upon the new birth of her children.

But, what is more remarkable than all this, we read not only of our Lord Jesus Christ’s “travail,” or toil “of soul,” Isaiah 53:11—but, what is more directly to our purpose, of his “pains,” or pangs, as of one travailing in childbirth; so the word used, Acts 2:24, properly signifies. Well might he call the new creature, as Rachel called her dear-bought son, Benoni, that is, the son of my sorrow; and as she called another, Naphtali, that is, my wrestling: for the pangs of that travail put him to “strong crying and tears,” Heb. 5:7; yes, into an “agony and bloody sweat,” Luke 22:44. And in the end he died of these pangs; they became to him “the pains of death,” Acts 2:24.

III. I shall now APPLY this doctrine.

Use 1. By what is said, you may try whether you are in the state of grace or not. If you are brought out of the state of wrath or ruin, into the state of grace or salvation, you are new creatures, you are born again.

Objection. But you will say, How shall we know whether we are born again, or not?

Answer. Were you to ask me, if the sun were risen, and how you should know whether it were risen or not? I would bid you look up to the heavens, and see it with your eyes. And, would you know if the light be risen in your heart? Look in, and see. Grace is light, and discovers itself.

Look into your mind, see if it has been illuminated in the knowledge of God. Have you been inwardly taught what God is? Were your eyes ever turned inward to see yourself; the sinfulness of your depraved state, the corruption of your nature; the sins of your heart and life? Were you ever led into a view of the exceeding sinfulness of sin? Have your eyes seen King Jesus in his beauty; the manifold wisdom of God in him, his transcendent excellence, and absolute fullness and sufficiency, with the vanity and emptiness of all things else?

Next, What change is there on your will? Are the fetters taken off, wherewith it was formerly bound up from moving heavenward? Has your will got a new turn? Do you find an aversion to sin, and an inclination to good, wrought in your heart? Is your soul turned towards God, as your chief end? Is your will new-molded into some measure of conformity to the preceptive and providential will of God? Are you heartily reconciled to the covenant of peace, and fixedly disposed to the receiving of Christ, as he is offered in the gospel?

And as to a change on your affections, are they rectified, and placed on right objects? Are your desires going out after God? Are they to his name, and the remembrance of him? Isaiah 26:8.

Are your hopes in him? Is your love set upon him, and your hatred set against sin? Does your offending a good God affect your heart with sorrow, and do you fear sin more than suffering? Are your affections regulated? Are they, with respect to created comforts, brought down, as being too high; and with respect to God in Christ, raised up, as being too low? Has he the chief seat in your heart? And are all your lawful worldly comforts and enjoyments laid at his feet?

Has your conscience been enlightened and awakened, refusing all ease—but from the application of the blood of a Redeemer? Is your memory sanctified, your body consecrated to the service of God? And are you now walking in newness of life? Thus you may discover whether you are born again or not.

But, for your farther help in this matter, I will discourse a little of another sign of regeneration, namely, the love of the brethren; an evidence whereby the weakest and most timorous saints have often had comfort, when they could have little or no consolation from other marks proposed to them. This the apostle lays down, 1 John 3:14, “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.” It is not to be thought that the apostle, by the brethren in this place means brethren by a common relation to the first Adam—but to the second Adam, Christ Jesus; because, however true it is, that universal benevolence, a good will to the whole race of mankind, takes place in the renewed soul, as being a lively lineament of the divine image—yet the whole context speaks of those that are “the sons of God,” ver. 1, 2; “children of God,” ver. 10; “born of God,” ver. 9; distinguishing between “the children of God,” and “the children of the devil,” ver. 10; between those that are “of the devil,” ver. 8, 12, and those that are “of God,” ver. 10.

The text itself comes in as a reason why we should not marvel that the world hates the brethren, the children of God, ver. 13. How can we marvel at it, seeing the love of the brethren is an evidence of one’s having passed from death to life? Therefore, it were absurd to look for that love among the men of the world, who are dead in trespasses and sins. They cannot love the brethren; no wonder, then, that they hate them. Wherefore it is plain, that by brethren here, are meant brethren by regeneration.

Now, in order to set this mark of regeneration in a true light, consider these three things.

1. This love to the brethren, is a love to them as such. Then do we love them in the sense of the text, when the grace, or image of God in them, is the chief motive of our love to them. When we love the godly for their godliness, the saints for their sanctity or holiness, then we love God in them, and so may conclude were born of God; for “every one that loves him that begat, loves him also that is begotten of him,” 1 John 5:1. Hypocrites may love saints, on account of civil relations to them; because of their obliging conversation; for their being of the same opinion as to outward religious matters; and on many other such like accounts, whereby wicked men may be induced to love the godly. But happy they who love them merely for grace in them; for their heaven-born temper and disposition; who can pick this pearl even out of infirmities in and about them; lay hold of it, and love them for it.

2. It is a love that will be given to all in whom the grace of God appears. Those who love one saint, because he is a saint, will have “love to all the saints,” Eph. 1:15. They will love all, who, in their view, bear the image of God. Those who cannot love a gracious person in rags—but confine their love to those who wear rich clothing, have not this love to the brethren in them. Those who confine their love to a church party, to whom God has not confined his grace, are souls too narrow to be put among the children. In whatever points men differ from us, in their judgment or way; yet if they appear to agree with us, in love to God, and our Savior Jesus Christ, and in bearing his image, we shall love them as brethren, if we are of the heavenly family.

3. If this love be in us, the more grace any person appears to be possessed of, he will be the more beloved by us. The more vehemently the holy fire of grace does flame in any, the hearts of true Christians will be the more warmed in love to them. It is not with the saints as with many other men, who make themselves the standards for others; and love them so far as they think they are like themselves. But, if they seem to outshine and darken them, their love is turned to hatred and envy, and they endeavor to detract from the due praise of their exemplary piety; because nothing is liked with them, in the practice of religion, that goes beyond their own measure; what of the life and power of religion appears in others, serves only to raise the serpentine grudge and envy in their pharisaical hearts.

But as for those who are born again, their love and affection to the brethren bears proportion to the degrees of the divine image they discern in them.

Now, if you would improve these to the knowledge of your state, I would advise you,

1. To set apart some time, when you are at home, for a review of your case, to try your state by what has been said. Many have comfort and clearness as to their state, at a sermon, who in a little time lose it again; because while they hear the word preached, they make application of it; but do not consider these things more deliberately and leisurely when alone. The impression is too sudden and short to give lasting comfort; and it is often so inconsiderate, that it has bad consequences. Therefore, set about this work at home, after earnest and serious prayer to God for his help in it. Complain not of your lack of time while the night follows the busy day; nor of place, while fields and houses are to be got.

2. Renew your repentance before the Lord. Guilt lying on the conscience, unrepented of, may darken all your evidences and marks of grace. It provokes the Spirit of grace to withdraw; and when he goes, our light ceases. It is not a fit time for a saint to read his evidences, when the candle is blown out by some conscience-wounding guilt.

3. Exert the powers of the new nature; let the graces of the divine Spirit discover themselves in you by action. If you would know whether there is sacred fire in your bosom, or not, you must blow the coal; for although it exist, and be a live coal—yet if it be under the ashes, it will give you no light. Settle in your hearts a firm purpose, through the grace that is in Christ Jesus, to comply with every known duty, and watch against every known sin, having readiness of mind to be instructed in what you know not.

If gracious souls would thus manage their inquiries into their state, it is likely that they would have a comfortable outcome. And if others would take such a solemn review, and make trial of their state, impartially examining themselves before the tribunal of their consciences, they might have a timely discovery of their own sinfulness; but the neglect of self-examination leaves most men under sad delusions as to their state, and deprives many saints of the comfortable sight of the grace of God in them.

But that I may afford some farther help to true Christians in their inquiries into their state, I shall propose and briefly answer some cases or doubts, which may possibly hinder some people from the comfortable view of their happy state. The children’s bread must not be withheld; though, while it is held forth to them, the dogs should snatch at it.

Case 1. “I doubt if I be regenerate, because I know not the precise time of my conversion; nor can I trace the particular steps of the way in which it was brought to pass.”

Answer. Though it is very desirable to be able to give an account of the beginning, and the gradual advances, of the Lord’s work upon our souls, as some saints can distinctly do, the manner of the Spirit’s working being still a mystery—yet this is not necessary to prove the truth of grace. Happy he who can say, in this case, as the blind man in the Gospel, “One thing I know, that whereas I was blind, now I see.” As, when we see flame, we know there is fire, though we know not how or when it began; so the truth of grace may be discerned in us, though we know not how or when it was dropped into our hearts. If you can perceive the happy change which is wrought on your soul; if you find your mind is enlightened, your will inclined to comply with the will of God in all things; especially to fall in with the divine plan of salvation, through a crucified Redeemer; in vain do you trouble yourself, and refuse comfort, because you know not how and what way it was brought about.

Case 2. “If I were a new creature, sin could not prevail against me as it does.”

Answer. Though we must not lay pillows for hypocrites to rest their heads upon, who indulge themselves in their sins, and make the doctrine of God’s grace subservient to their lusts, lying down contentedly in the bond of iniquity like men that are fond of golden chains; yet it must be owned, “the just man falls seven times a day;” and iniquity may prevail against the children of God.

But if you are groaning under the weight of the body of death, the corruption of your nature; loathing yourself for the sins of your heart and life; striving to mortify your lusts; fleeing daily to the blood of Christ for pardon; and looking to his Spirit for sanctification: though you may be obliged to say with the Psalmist, “Iniquities prevail against me;” yet you may add with him, “As for our transgressions you shall purge them away,” Psalm 65:3. The new creature does not yet possess the house alone: it dwells by the side of an ill neighbor, namely, remaining corruption, the relics of depraved nature. They struggle together for the mastery. “The flesh lusts against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh,” Gal. 5:17. And sometimes corruption prevails, bringing the child of God into captivity to the law of sin, Rom. 7:23. Let not therefore the prevailing of corruption make you, in this case, conclude you are none of God’s children: but let it humble you, to be the more watchful, and to thirst the more intensely after Jesus Christ, his blood and Spirit; and that very disposition will evidence a principle of grace in you, which seeks the destruction of sin that prevails so often against you.

Case 3. “I find the motions of sin in my heart more violent since the Lord began his work on my soul, than they were before that time. Can this consist with a change of my nature?”

Answer. Dreadful is the case of many, who, after God has had a remarkable dealing with their souls, tending to their reformation, have thrown off all bonds, and have become grossly and openly immoral and profane; as if the devil had returned into their hearts with seven spirits worse than himself. All I shall say to such people is, that their state is exceedingly dangerous; they are in danger of sinning against the Holy Spirit: therefore, let them repent, before it be too late.

But if it be not thus with you; though corruption is stirring itself more violently than formerly, as if all the forces of hell were raised, to hold fast, or bring back, a fugitive; yet these stirrings may consist with a change of your nature. When the restraint of grace is newly laid upon corruption, it is no wonder if it acts more vigorously than before, “warring against the law of the mind,” Rom. 7:23. The motions of sin may really be most violent, when the new principle is brought in to cast it out. The sun sending its beams through the window, discovers the motes in the house, and their motions, which were not seen before; so the light of grace may discover the risings and actings of corruption, in another manner than ever the man saw them before, though they really do not rise nor act more vigorously.

Sin is not quite dead in the regenerate soul; it is but dying, and dying a lingering death, being crucified: no wonder there are great fightings, when it is sick at the heart, and death is at the door. Besides, temptations may be more in number, and stronger, while Satan is striving to bring you back, who are escaped, than while he only endeavored to retain you: “After you were illuminated, you endured a great fight of affliction,” says the apostle to the Hebrews, chap. 10:32. But “cast not away your confidence,” ver. 35. Remember his “grace is sufficient for you,” and “the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly.”

Pharaoh and his Egyptians never made such a formidable appearance against the Israelites, as at the Red Sea, after they were brought out of Egypt: but then were the pursuers nearest to a total overthrow, Exod., chap. 14. Let not this case, therefore, make you raze the foundations of your trust; but be you emptied of self, and strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might, and you shall come off victorious.

Case 4. “But when I compare my love to God with my love to some created enjoyments, I find the pulse of my affections beat stronger to the creature than to the Creator. How then can I call him Father? Nay, alas! those turnings of heart within me, and glowings of affection to him, which I had, are gone; so that I fear all the love which I ever had to the Lord has been but a fit and flash of affection, such as hypocrites often have.

Answer. It cannot be denied, that the predominant love of the world is a certain mark of an unregenerate state, 1 John 2:15, “If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” Nevertheless, those are not always the strongest affections which are most violent. A man’s affections may be more moved, on some occasions, by an object that is little regarded, than by another that is exceedingly beloved; even as a little brook sometimes makes more noise than a great river. The strength of our affections is to be measured by the firmness and fixedness of the root, not by the violence of their actings.

Suppose a person meeting with a friend, who has been long abroad, finds his affections more vehemently acting towards his friend on that occasion, than towards his own wife and children; will he therefore say, that he loves his friend more than them? Surely not. Even so, although the Christian may find himself more moved in his love to the creature, than in his love to God; yet it is not therefore to be said, that he loves the creature more than God, seeing love to God is always more firmly rooted in a gracious heart, than love to any created enjoyment whatever: as appears when competition arises in such a manner, that the one or other is to be foregone.

Would you, then, know your case? Retire into your own hearts, and there lay the two in the balance, and try which of them weighs down the other. Ask yourself, as in the sight of God, whether you would part with Christ for the creature, or part with the creature for Christ, if you were left to your choice in the matter? If you find your heart disposed to part with what is dearest to you in the world for Christ at his call, you have no reason to conclude you love the creature more than God; but, on the contrary, that you love God more than the creature, although you do not feel such violent motions in the love of God, as in the love of some created thing, Matt. 10:37, “He who loves father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me.” Luke 14:26, “If any man comes to me, and hates not his father and mother – he cannot be my disciple.” From which texts compared, we may infer, that he who hates, that is, is ready to part with, father and mother for Christ, is, in our Lord’s account, one that loves them less than him, and not one who loves father and mother more than him.

Moreover, you are to consider that there is a twofold love to Christ.

1. There is a SENSIBLE love to him, which is felt as a dart in the heart, and makes a holy love-sickness in the soul, arising from lack of enjoyment, as in that case of the spouse, Cant. 5:8, “I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, if you find my beloved, that you tell him that I am sick of love:” or else from the fullness of it, as in Cant. 2:5, “Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples; for I am sick of love.” These glowings of affection are usually wrought in young converts, who are ordinarily made “to sing in the days of their youth,” Hos. 2:15.

While the fire-edge is upon the young convert, he looks upon others, reputed to be godly, and not finding them in such a temper or disposition as himself, he is ready to censure them; and to think there is far less religion in the world than indeed there is. But when his own cup comes to settle below the brim, and he finds that in himself which made him question the state of others, he is more humbled, and feels more and more the necessity of daily recourse to the blood of Christ for pardon, and to the Spirit of Christ for sanctification; and thus grows downwards in humiliation, self-loathing, and self-denial.

2. There is a RATIONAL love to Christ, which, without these sensible emotions felt in the former case, evidences itself by a dutiful regard to the divine authority and command. When one bears such a love to Christ, though the vehement stirrings of affection be lacking—yet he is truly tender of offending a gracious God; endeavors to walk before him unto all well pleasing; and is grieved at the heart for what is displeasing unto him, 1 John 5:3, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.”

Now, although that sensible love does not always continue with you, you have no reason to deem it a hypocritical fit, while the rational love remains with you; any more than a loving and faithful wife needs question her love to her husband, when her fondness is abated.

Case 5. “The attainments of hypocrites and apostates are a terror to me, and come like a shaking storm on me, when I am about to conclude, from the marks of grace, which I seem to find in myself, that I am in the state of grace.”

Answer. These things should, indeed, stir us up to a most serious and impartial examination of ourselves; but ought not to keep us in a continued suspense as to our state. Sirs, you see the outside of hypocrites, their duties, their gifts, their tears, and so on—but you see not their inside; you do not discern their hearts, the bias of their spirits. Upon what you see of them, you found a judgment of charity as to their state; and you do well to judge charitably in such a case, because you cannot know the secret springs of their actions: but you are seeking, and ought to have, a judgment of certainty as to your own state; and therefore are to look into that part of religion, which none in the world but yourselves can discern in you, and which you can as little see in others.

A hypocrite’s region may appear far greater than that of a sincere soul: but that which makes the greatest figure in the eyes of men, is often of least worth before God. I would rather utter one of those groans which the apostle speaks of, Rom. 8:26, than shed Esau’s tears, have Balaam’s prophetic spirit, or the joy of the stony-ground hearer. “The fire that shall try every man’s work,” will try, not of what bulk it is—but “of what kind it is,” 1 Cor. 3:13. Though you may know what bulk of religion another has, and that it is more bulky than your own—yet God does not regard that; why, then, do you make such a matter of it? It is impossible for you, without divine revelation, certainly to know of what sort another man’s religion is: but you may certainly know what sort your own is of, without extraordinary revelation; otherwise the apostle would not exhort the saints to “give diligence to make their calling and election sure,” 2 Peter 1:10. Therefore, the attainments of hypocrites and apostates should not disturb you, in your serious inquiry into your own state.

I will tell you two things, wherein the lowest saints go beyond the most refined hypocrites:

1. In denying themselves; renouncing all confidence in themselves, and their own works; acquiescing in, being well pleased with, and venturing their souls upon, God’s plan of salvation through Jesus Christ, Matt. 5:3, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” And, chap. 11:6, “Blessed is he who shall not be offended in me.” Phil. 3:3, “We are the true circumcision, who worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Jesus Christ, and have no confidence in the flesh.”

2. In a real hatred of all sin; being willing to part with every lust, without exception, and to comply with every duty which the Lord makes, or shall make known to them, Psalm 119:6, “Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all your commandments.” Try yourselves by these.

Case 6. “I see myself fall so far short of the saints mentioned in the Scriptures, and of several excellent people of my own acquaintance, that, when I look on them, I can hardly look on myself as one of the same family with them.”

Answer. It is, indeed, matter of humiliation, that we do not get forward to that measure of grace and holiness which we see is attainable in this life. This should make us more vigorously press towards the mark: but surely it is from the devil, that weak Christians make a rack for themselves, of the attainments of the strong. To yield to the temptation, is as unreasonable as for a child to dispute away his relation to his father, because he is not of the same stature with his elder brethren. There are saints of several sizes in Christ’s family; some fathers, some young men, and some little children, 1 John 2:13, 14.

Case 7. “I never read in the word of God, nor did I ever know of a child of God, so TEMPTED, and so left of God, as I am; and therefore, no saint’s case being like mine, I can only conclude that I am none of their number.

Answer. This objection arises to some from their ignorance of the Scriptures, and the experience of Christians. It is profitable, in this case, to impart the matter to some experienced Christian friend, or to some godly minister. This has been a blessed means of peace to some people; while their case, which appeared to them to be singular, has been proved to have been the case of other saints. The Scriptures give instances of very horrid temptations, wherewith the saints have been assaulted. Job was tempted to blaspheme; this was the great thing the devil aimed at in the case of that great saint, Job 1:11, “He will curse you to your face.” Chap. 2:9, “Curse God and die.” Asaph was tempted to think it was in vain to be pious, which was in effect to throw off all religion, Psalm 73:13, “Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain.” Yes, Christ himself was tempted to “cast himself down from a pinnacle of the temple,” and to “worship the devil,” Matt. 4:6-9. And many of the children of God have not only been attacked with—but have actually yielded to very gross temptation for a time. Peter denied Christ, and cursed and swore that he knew him not, Mark 14:71. Paul, when a persecutor, compelled even saints to blaspheme, Acts 26:10, 11.

Many of the saints can, from their sad experience, bear witness to very gross temptations, which have astonished their spirits, made their very flesh to tremble, and sickened their bodies. Satan’s fiery darts make terrible work; and will cost some pains to quench them, by a vigorous managing of the shield of faith, Eph. 6:16. Sometimes he makes such desperate attacks, that never was one more put to it, in running to and fro; without intermission, to quench the fire-balls incessantly thrown into his house by an enemy, designing to burn the house about him, than the poor tempted saint is, to repel Satanical injections. But these injections, these horrid temptations, though they are a dreadful affliction, they are not the sins of the tempted, unless they make them theirs by consenting to them. They will be charged upon the tempter alone, if they be not consented to; and will no more be laid to the charge of the tempted party, than a bastard’s being laid down at a chaste man’s door will fix guilt upon him.

But suppose neither minister nor private Christian, to whom you go, can tell you of any who has been in your case; yet you ought not thence to infer that your case is singular, far less to give up hope: for it is not to be thought, that every godly minister, or private Christian, has had experience of all the cases which a child of God may be in. We need not doubt that some have had distresses known only to God and their own consciences; and so to others these distresses are as if they had never been. Yes, and though the Scriptures contain suitable directions for every case which a child of God can be in, and these illustrated with a sufficient number of examples; yet it is not to be imagined that there are in the Scriptures perfect instances of every particular case incident to the saints. Therefore, though you cannot find an instance of your case in the Scripture—yet bring your case to it, and you shall find suitable remedies prescribed there for it.

Study rather to make use of Christ for your case, who has a remedy for all diseases, than to know if ever any was in your case. Though one should show you an instance of your case, in an undoubted saint; yet none could promise that it would certainly give you ease: for a scrupulous conscience would readily find out some difference. And if nothing but a perfect conformity of another’s case to yours will satisfy, it will be hard, if not impossible, to satisfy you; for it is with people’s cases, as with their natural faces: though the faces of all men are of one make, and some are so very like others, that, at first view, we are ready to take them for the same; yet if you view them more accurately, you will see something in every face, distinguishing it from all others; though possibly you cannot tell what it is. Therefore I conclude, that if you can find in yourselves the marks of regeneration, proposed to you from the word, you ought to conclude you are in the state of grace, though your case were singular, which is indeed unlikely.

Case 8. “The AFFLICTIONS I meet with are strange and unusual. I doubt if ever a child of God was tried with such dispensations of providence as I am.”

Answer. Much of what was said on the preceding case, may be helpful in this. Holy Job was assaulted with this temptation, Job 5:1, “To which of the saints will you turn?” But he rejected it, and held fast his integrity. The apostle supposes that Christians may be tempted to “think it strange concerning the fiery trial,” 1 Pet. 4:12. But they have need of larger experience than Solomon’s, who will venture to say, “See this is new,” Eccl. 1:10. What though, in respect of the outward dispensations of providence, “it happen to you according to the work of the wicked?” yet you may be just notwithstanding; according to Solomon’s observation, Eccl. 8:14. Sometimes we travel in ways where we can neither perceive the prints of the foot of man or beast; yet we cannot from thence conclude that there was never any there before us: so, though you can not perceive the footsteps of the flock, in the way of your affliction, you must not therefore conclude that you are the first that ever traveled that road.

But what if it were so? Some one saint or other must be first, in drinking of each bitter cup the rest have drunk of. What warrant have you or I to limit the Holy One of Israel to one trodden path, in his dispensations towards us? “Your way is in the sea, and your path in the great waters; and your footsteps are not known,” Psalm 77:19. If the Lord should carry you to heaven by some retired road, so to speak, you would have no ground of complaint. Learn to allow sovereignty a latitude; be at your duty; and let no affliction cast a veil over any evidences you otherwise have for your being in the state of grace: for “no man knows either love or hatred by all that is before him,” Eccl. 9:1.

Use 2. You who are strangers to this new birth, be convinced of the absolute necessity of it. Are all who are in the state of grace born again? then you have neither part nor lot in it, who are not born again. I must tell you in the words of our Lord and Savior, and O that he would speak them to your hearts! “You must be born again,” John 3:7. For your conviction, consider these few things.

1. Regeneration is absolutely necessary to qualify you to do anything really good and acceptable to God. While you are not born again, your best works are but glittering sins; for though the matter of them is good, they are quite marred in the performance. Consider,

(1.) That without regeneration there is no faith, and “without faith it is impossible to please God,” Heb. 11:6. Faith is a vital act of the new-born soul. The evangelist, showing the different treatment which our Lord Jesus had from different people, some receiving him, some rejecting him, points at regenerating grace as the true cause of that difference, without which, never any one would have received him. He tells us, that “as many as received him,” were those “who were born – of God,” John 1:11-13. Unregenerate men may presume; but true faith they cannot have. Faith is a flower that grows not in the field of nature. As the tree cannot grow without a root, neither can a man believe without the new nature, whereof the principle of believing is a part.

(2.) Without regeneration a man’s works are dead works. As is the principle, so must the effects be: if the lungs are rotten, the breath will be unsavoury; and he who at best is dead in sin, his works at best will be but dead works. “Unto those who are defiled and unbelieving, is nothing pure – being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate,” Tit. 1:15, 16. Could we say of a man, that he is more blameless in his life than any other in the world; that he reduces his body with fasting; and has made his knees as hard as horns with continual praying; but he is not born again: that exception would mar all. As if one should say, There is a well proportioned body—but the soul is gone; it is but a dead lump. This is a melting consideration. You do many things materially good; but God says, All these things avail not—as long as I see the old nature reigning in the man. Gal. 6:15, “For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision avails anything, nor uncircumcision—but a new creature.”

If you are not born again,

(1.) All your REFORMATION is nothing in the sight of God. You have shut the door—but the thief is still in the house. It may be you are not what once you were; yet you are not what you must be, if ever you would see heaven; for “except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God,” John 3:3.

(2.) Your PRAYERS are an “abomination to the Lord,” Prov. 15:8. It may be, others admire your seriousness; you cry as for your life; but God accounts of the opening of your mouth, as one would account of the opening of a grave full of rottenness, Rom. 3:13, “Their throat is an open sepulcher.” Others are affected with your prayers; which seem to them, as if they would rend the heavens; but God accounts them but as the howling of a dog: “They have not cried unto me with their hearts, when they howled upon their beds,” Hos. 7:14. Others take you for a wrestler and prevailer with God; but he can take no delight in you nor your prayers, Isaiah 66:3, “Their offerings will not be accepted. When such people sacrifice an ox, it is no more acceptable than a human sacrifice. When they sacrifice a lamb or bring an offering of grain, it is as bad as putting a dog or the blood of a pig on the altar! When they burn incense, it is as if they had blessed an idol.” Why, because you are yet “in the gall of bitterness, and bond of iniquity!”

(3.) All you have DONE for God, and his cause in the world, though it may be followed with temporal rewards—yet it is lost as to divine acceptance. This is clear from the case of Jehu, who was indeed rewarded with a kingdom, for his executing due vengeance upon the house of Ahab; as being a work good for the matter of it, because it was commanded of God, as you may see, 2 Kings 9:7; yet was he punished for it in his posterity, because he did it not in a right manner, Hos. 1:4, “I will avenge the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu.” God looks chiefly to the heart: and if so, truly, though the outward appearance be fairer than that of many others—yet the hidden man of your heart is loathsome; you look well before men—but are not, as Moses was, fair to God, as the margin has it, Acts 7:20. O, what a difference is there between the characters of Asa and Amaziah! “The high places were not removed; nevertheless, Asa’s heart was perfect with the Lord all his days,” 1 Kings 15:14. “Amaziah did that which was right in the sight of the Lord—but not with a perfect heart,” 2 Chron. 25:2. It may be you are zealous against sin in others, and do admonish them of their duty, and reprove them for their sin; and they hate you, because you do your duty: but I must tell you, God hates you too, because you do it not in a right manner; and that you can never do, while you are not born again.

(4.) All your STRUGGLES AGAINST SIN in your own heart and life, are nothing. The proud Pharisee afflicted his body with fasting, and God struck his soul, in the mean time, with a sentence of condemnation, Luke 18. Balaam struggled with his covetous temper, to that degree, that though he loved the wages of unrighteousness—yet he would not win them by cursing Israel: but he died the death of the wicked, Num. 31:8. All you do, while in an unregenerate state, is for yourself: therefore, it will fare with you as with a subject, who having reduced the rebels, puts the crown on his own head, and loses all his good service and his head too.

Objection. “If it be thus with us, then we need never perform any religious duty at all.”

Answer. The conclusion is not just. No inability of yours can excuse from the duty which God’s law lays on you: and there is less evil in doing your duty, than there is in the omission of it. But there is a difference between omitting a duty, and doing it as you do it. A man orders the masons to build him a house. If they quite neglect the work, that will not be accepted; if they build on the old rotten foundation, neither will that please: but they must raze the foundation, and build on firm ground. “Go and do likewise.” In the mean time, it is not in vain even for you to seek the Lord: for though he regards you not—yet he may have respect to his own ordinances, and do you good thereby, as was said before.

2. Without regeneration there is no communion with God. There is a society on earth, whose “fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ,” 1 John 1:3. But out of that society, all the unregenerate are excluded; for they are all enemies to God, as you heard before at large. Now, “can two walk together, except they be agreed?” Amos 3:3. They are all unholy: and “what communion has light with darkness – Christ with Belial?” 2 Cor. 6:14, 15. They may have a show and semblance of holiness; but they are strangers to true holiness, and therefore “without God in the world.” How sad is it, to be employed in religious duties—yet to have no fellowship with God in them! You would not be content with your food, unless it nourished you; nor with your clothes, unless they kept you warm: and how can you satisfy yourselves with your duties, while you have no communion with God in them?

3. Regeneration is absolutely necessary to qualify you for heaven. None go to heaven but those who are made meet for it, Col. 1:12. As it was with Solomon’s temple, 1 Kings 6:7, so is it with the temple above. It is “built of stone made ready before it is brought there;” namely, of “living stones,” 1 Pet. 2:5, “wrought for the selfsame thing,” 2 Cor. 5:5; for they cannot be laid in that glorious building just as they come out of the quarry of depraved nature. Jewels of gold are not fit for swine, and far less jewels of glory for unrenewed sinners. Beggars, in their rags, are not fit for kings’ houses; nor sinners to enter into the King’s palace, without the raiment of needlework, Psalm 45:14, 15. What wise man would bring fish out of the water to feed in his meadows? or send his oxen to feed in the sea? Just as little are the unregenerate fit for heaven, or heaven fit for them. It would never be relished by them.

The unregenerate would find fault with heaven on several accounts. As,

(1.) That it is a strange country. Heaven is the renewed man’s native country: his Father is in heaven; his mother is Jerusalem, which is above, Gal. 4:26. He is born from above, John 3:3. Heaven is his home, 2 Cor. 5:1; therefore, he looks on himself as a stranger on this earth, and his heart is homeward, Heb. 11:16, “They desire a better country, that is, a heavenly country.” But the unregenerate man is the man of the earth, Psalm 10:18; written in the earth, Jer. 17:13. Now, “Home is home, be it ever so homely:” therefore, he minds earthly things, Phil. 3:19. There is a peculiar sweetness in our native soil; and with difficulty are men drawn to leave it, and dwell in a strange country. In no case does that prevail more than in this; for unrenewed men would forfeit their pretensions to heaven, were it not that they see they cannot make a better bargain.

(2.) There is nothing in heaven that they delight in, as agreeable to the carnal heart, Rev. 21:27, “For there shall never enter into it anything that defiles.” When Mahomet explained his paradise to be a place of sensual delights, his religion was greedily embraced; for that is the heaven men naturally choose. If the covetous man could get bags full of gold there, and the voluptuous man could promise himself his sensual delights, they might be reconciled to heaven, and fitted for it too; but since it is not so, though they may utter fair words about it, truly it has little of their hearts.

(3.) Every corner there is filled with that which of all things they have the least liking for; and that is holiness, true holiness, perfect holiness. Were one who abhors swine’s flesh, bidden to a feast where all the dishes were of that sort of meat—but variously prepared, he would find fault with every dish at the table, notwithstanding all the art used to make them palatable. It is true, there is joy in heaven—but it is holy joy; there are pleasures in heaven—but they are holy pleasures; there are places in heaven—but it is holy ground: that holiness which in every place, and in everything there—would mar all to the unregenerate.

(4.) Were they carried there, they would not only change their place, which would be a great heart-break—but they would change their company too. Truly, they would never like the company there, who care not for communion with God here; nor value the fellowship of his people, at least in the vitals of practical godliness. Many, indeed, mix themselves with the godly on earth, to procure a name to themselves, and to cover the sinfulness of their hearts; but that trade cannot be managed there.

(5.) They would never like the employment of heaven, they care so little for it now. The business of the saints there would be an intolerable burden to them, seeing it is not agreeable to their nature. To be taken up in beholding, admiring, and praising him that sits on the throne, and the Lamb, would be work unsuitable, and therefore unsavoury to an unrenewed soul.

(6.) They would find this fault with it, that the whole is of everlasting continuance. This would be a killing ingredient in it to them. How would such as now account the Sabbath day a burden, brook the celebration of an everlasting Sabbath in the heavens!

4. Regeneration is absolutely necessary to your being admitted into heaven, John 3:3. No heaven without it. Though carnal men could digest all those things which make heaven so unsuitable for them—yet God will never bring them there. Therefore, born again you must be, else you shall never see heaven; you shall perish eternally. For,

(1.) There is a bill of exclusion against you in the court of heaven, and against all of your sort; “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God,” John 3:3. Here is a bar before you, that men and angels cannot remove. To hope for heaven, in the face of this peremptory sentence, is to hope that God will recall his word, and sacrifice his truth and faithfulness to your safety; which is infinitely more than to hope that “the earth shall be forsaken for you, and the rock removed out of its place.”

(2.) There is no holiness without regeneration. It is “the new man which is created in true holiness,” Eph. 4:24. And no heaven without holiness; for “without holiness no man shall see the Lord,” Heb. 12:14. Will the gates of pearl be opened, to let in dogs and swine? No; their place is outside, Rev. 22:15. God will not admit such into the holy place of communion with him here; and will he admit them into the holiest of all hereafter? Will he take the children of the devil, and permit them to sit with him in his throne? Or, will he bring the unclean into the city, whose street is pure gold? Be not deceived; grace and glory are but two links of one chain, which God has joined, and no man shall put asunder. None are transplanted into the paradise above—but out of the nursery of grace below. If you are unholy while in this world, you will be forever miserable in the world to come.

(3.) All the unregenerate are without Christ, and therefore have no hope while in that case, Eph. 2:12. Will Christ prepare mansions of glory for those who refuse to receive him into their hearts? Nay, “Since you neglected all my counsel and did not accept my correction, I, in turn, will laugh at your calamity. I will mock when terror strikes you, when terror strikes you like a storm and your calamity comes like a whirlwind, when trouble and stress overcome you. Proverbs 1:25-27

(4.) There is an infallible connection between a finally unregenerate state and damnation, arising from the nature of the things themselves; and from the decree of heaven which is fixed and immovable, as mountains of brass, John 3:3; Rom. 8:6, “To be carnally minded is death.” An unregenerate state is hell in the bud. It is eternal destruction in embryo, growing daily, though you do not discern it. Death is painted on many a fair face, in this life. Depraved nature makes men fit to be partakers of the inheritance of the damned, in utter darkness.

[1.] The heart of stone within you, is a sinking weight. As a stone naturally goes downward, so the hard stony heart tends downward to the bottomless pit. You are hardened against reproof; though you are told your danger—yet you will not see it, you will not believe it. But remember that the conscience being now seared with a hot iron, is a sad presage of everlasting burnings.

[2.] Your unfruitfulness under the means of grace, fits you for the axe of God’s judgments, Matt. 3:10, “Every tree that brings not forth good fruit, is hewn down, and cast into the fire.” The withered branch is fuel for the fire, John 15:6. Tremble at this, you despisers of the Gospel: if you be not thereby made fit for heaven, you will be like the barren ground, bearing briers and thorns, “near unto cursing, whose end is to be burned,” Heb. 6:8.

[3.] The hellish dispositions of mind, which discover themselves in profanity of life, fit the guilty for the regions of horror. A profane life will have a miserable end. “Those who do such things, shall not inherit the kingdom of God,” Gal. 5:19-21. Think on this, you prayerless people, you mockers of religion, you cursers and swearers, you unclean and unjust people, who have not so much as moral honesty to keep you from lying, cheating, and stealing. What sort of a tree do you think it is, upon which these fruits grow? Is it a tree of righteousness, which the Lord has planted? Or is it not such a one as cumbers the ground, which God will pluck up for fuel to the fire of his wrath?

[4.] Your being dead in sin, makes you fit to be wrapped in flames of brimstone, as a winding-sheet; and to be buried in the bottomless pit, as in a grave. Great was the cry in Egypt, when the first-born in each family was dead; but are there not many families, where all are spiritually dead together? Nay, many there are who are twice dead, plucked up by the root. Sometimes in their life they have been roused by apprehensions of death, and its consequences; but now they are so far on in their way to the land of darkness, that they hardly ever have the least glimmering of light from heaven.

[5.] The darkness of your minds presages eternal darkness. O, the horrid ignorance with which some are plagued; while others, who have got some rays of the light of reason in their heads, are utterly void of spiritual light in their hearts! If you knew your case, you would cry out, Oh! darkness! darkness! darkness! making way for the blackness of darkness forever! The face-covering is upon you already, as condemned people; so near are you to everlasting darkness. It is only Jesus Christ who can stop the execution, pull the napkin off the face of the condemned malefactor, and put a pardon in his hand; Isa. 25:7, “He will destroy, in this mountain, the face of covering cast over all people,” that is, the face-covering cast over the condemned, as in Haman’s case, Esther. 7:8, “As the word went out of the king’s mouth, they covered Haman’s face.”

[6.] The chains of darkness you are bound with in the prison of your depraved state, Isa. 61:1, fits you to be cast into the burning fiery furnace. Ah, miserable men! Sometimes their consciences stir within them, and they begin to think of amending their ways. But alas! they are in chains, they cannot do it. They are chained by the heart: their lusts cleave so fast to them, that they cannot, nay, they will not shake them off. Thus you see what affinity there is between an unregenerate state, and the state of the damned, the state of absolute and irretrievable misery. Be convinced, then, that you must be born again; put a high value on the new birth, and eagerly desire it.

The text tells you, that the word is the seed, whereof the new creature is formed: therefore, take heed to it, and entertain it, as it is your life. Apply yourself to the reading of the Scriptures. You who cannot read, get others to read it to you. Wait diligently on the preaching of the word, as by divine appointment the special mean of conversion; “for – it pleased God, by the foolishness of preaching, to save those who believe,” 1 Cor. 1:21. Therefore cast yourselves in Christ’s way; reject not the means of grace, lest you be found to judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life. Attend carefully to the word preached. Hear every sermon, as if you were hearing for eternity; take heed that the fowls of the air steal away this seed from you, as it is sown. “Give yourself wholly to it,” 1 Tim. 4:15. “Receive it not as the word of men—but, as it is in truth, the word of God,” 1 Thess. 2:13. Hear it with application, looking on it as a message sent from heaven, to you in particular; though not to you only, Rev. 3:22, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says unto the churches.” Lay it up in your hearts; meditate upon it; and be not as the unclean beasts, which chew not the cud. But by earnest prayer, beg that the dew of Heaven may fall on your heart, that the seed may spring up there.

More particularly,

(1.) Receive the testimony of the word of God, concerning the misery of an unregenerate state, the sinfulness thereof, and the absolute necessity of regeneration.

(2.) Receive its testimony concerning God, what a holy and just One he is.

(3.) Examine your ways by it; namely, the thoughts of your heart, the expressions of your lips, and the tenor of your life. Look back through the several periods of your life; and see your sins from the precepts of the word, and learn, from its threatening, what you are liable to on account of these sins.

(4.) By the help of the same word of God, view the corruption of your nature, as in a mirror which manifests our ugly face in a clear manner. Were these things deeply rooted in the heart, they might be the seed of that fear and sorrow, on account of your soul’s state, which are necessary to prepare and stir you up to look after a Savior. Fix your thoughts upon him offered to you in the Gospel, as fully suited to your case; having, by his obedience unto death, perfectly satisfied the justice of God, and brought in everlasting righteousness. This may prove the seed of humiliation, desire, hope and faith; and move you to stretch out the withered hand unto him, at his own command.

Let these things sink deeply into your hearts, and improve them diligently. Remember, whatever you are, you must be born again; else it had been better for you, that you had never been born. Therefore, if any of you shall live and die in an unregenerate state, you will be inexcusable, having been fairly warned of your danger.

 

The Sovereignty of God in Salvation

by Arthur W. Pink

 

O the depths of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out” Romans 11:33

“Salvation is of the Lord” (Jonah 2:9); but the Lord does not save all. Why not? He does save some; then if He saves some, why not others? Is it because they are too sinful and depraved? No; for the apostle wrote, “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief (1 Tim. 1:15). Therefore, if God saved the “chief” of sinners, none are excluded because of their depravity. Why then does not God save all? Is it because some are too stony-hearted to be won? No; because of the most stony-hearted people of all it is written, that God will yet “take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them a heart of flesh” (Ezek. 11:19). Then is it because some are so stubborn, so intractable, so defiant that God isunable to woo them to Himself? Before we answer this question let us ask another; let us appeal to the experience of the Christian reader.

Friend; was there not a time when you walked in the counsel of the ungodly, stood in the way of sinners, sat in the seat of the scorners, and with them said, “We will not have this Man to reign over us” (Luke 19:14)? Was there not a time when you “would not come to Christ that you might have life” (John 5:40)? Yea, was there not a time when you mingled your voice with those who said unto God, “Depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of Thy ways. What is the Almighty, that we should serve Him? and what profit should we have, if we pray unto Him?” (Job 21:14, 15)? With shamed face you have to acknowledgethere was. But how is it that all is now changed? What was it that brought you from haughty self-sufficiency to a humble suppliant, from one that was at enmity with God to one that is at peace with Him, from lawlessness to subjection, from hate to love? And, as one ‘born of the Spirit,’ you will readily reply, “By the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Cor. 15:10). Then do you not see that it is due to no lack of power in God, nor to His refusal to coerce man, that other rebelsare not saved too? If God was able to subdue your will and win your heart, and that without interfering with your moral responsibility, then is He not able to do the same for others? Assuredly He is. Then how inconsistent, how illogical, how foolish of you, in seeking to account for the present course of the wicked and their ultimate fate, to argue that God is unable to save them, that they will not let Him. Do you say, “But the time came when I was willing, willing to receive Christ as my Saviour”? True, but it was the Lord who made you willing (Ps. 110:3; Phil. 2:13) why then does He not make all sinners willing? Why, but for the fact that He is sovereign and does as He pleases! But to return to our opening inquiry.

Why is it that all are not saved, particularly all who hear the Gospel? Do you still answer, Because the majority refuse to believe? Well, that is true, but it is only a part of the truth. It is the truth from the human side. But there is a Divine side too, and this side of the truth needs to be stressed or God will be robbed of His glory. The unsaved are lost because they refuse to believe; the others are saved because they believe. But why do these others believe? What is it that causes them to put their trust in Christ? Is it because they are more intelligent than their fellows, and quicker to discern their need of salvation? Perish the thought—“Who maketh thee to differ from another? And what hast thou that thou didst not receive? Now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?” (1 Cor. 4:7). It is God Himself who maketh the difference between the elect and the non-elect, for of His own it is written, “And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know Him that is true” (1 John 5:20).

Faith is God’s gift, and “all men have not faith” (2 Thess. 3:2); therefore, we see that God does not bestow this gift upon all. Upon whom then does He bestow this saving favor? And we answer, upon His own elect—“As many as were ordained to eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48). Hence it is that we read of “the faith of God’s elect” (Titus 1:1). But is God partial in the distribution of His favors? Has He not the right to be? Are there still some who ‘murmur against the Good-Man of the house’? Then His own words are sufficient reply—“Is it not lawful for Me to do what I will with Mine own?” (Matt. 20:15). God is sovereign in the bestowment of His gifts, both in the natural and in the spiritual realms. So much then for a general statement, and now to particularize.

1. The Sovereignty of God the Father in Salvation.

Perhaps the one Scripture which most emphatically of all asserts the absolute sovereignty of God in connection with His determining the destiny of His creatures, is the ninth of Romans. We shall not attempt to review here the entire chapter, but will confine ourselves to verses 21-23—“Hath not the potter power over the clay of the same lump, to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor? What if God, willing to show His wrath, and to make His power known, endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had afore prepared unto glory?” These verses represent fallen mankind as inert and as impotent as a lump of lifeless clay. This Scripture evidences that there is “no difference,” in themselves, between the elect and the non-elect: they are clay of “the same lump,” which agrees with Ephesians 2:3, where we are told, that all are by nature “children of wrath.” It teaches us that the ultimate destiny of every individual is decided by the will of God, and blessed it is that such be the case; if it were left to our wills, the ultimate destination of us all would be the Lake of Fire. It declares that God Himself doesmake a difference in the respective destinations to which He assigns His creatures, for one vessel is made “unto honor and another unto dishonor;” some are “vessels of wrath fitted to destruction,” others are “vessels of mercy, which He had afore prepared unto glory.”

We readily acknowledge that it is very humbling to the proud heart of the creature to behold all mankind in the hand of God as the clay is in the potter’s hand, yet this is precisely how the Scriptures of Truth represent the case. In this day of human boasting, intellectual pride, and deification of man, it needs to be insisted upon that the potter forms his vessels for himself. Let man strive with his Maker as he will, the fact remains that he is nothing more than clay in the Heavenly Potter’s hands, and while we know that God will deal justly with His creatures, that the Judge of all the earth will do right, nevertheless, He shapes His vessels for His own purpose and according to His own pleasure. God claims the indisputable right to do as He wills with His own.

Not only has God the right to do as He wills with the creatures of His own hands, but He exercises this right, and nowhere is that seen more plainly than in His predestinating grace. Before the foundation of the world God made a choice, a selection, an election. Before His omniscient eye stood the whole of Adam’s race, and from it He singled out a people and predestinated them “unto the adoption of children,” predestinated them “to be conformed to the image of His Son,” “ordained” them unto eternal life. Many are the Scriptures which set forth this blessed truth, seven of which will now engage our attention.

“As many as were ordained to eternal life, believed” (Acts 13:48). Every artifice of human ingenuity has been employed to blunt the sharp edge of this Scripture and to explain away the obvious meaning of these words, but it has been employed in vain, though nothing will ever be able to reconcile this and similar passages to the mind of the natural man. “As many as were ordained to eternal life, believed.” Here we learn four things: First, that believing is the consequence and not the cause of God’s decree. Second, that a limited number only are “ordained to eternal life,” for if all men without exception were thus ordained by God, then the words “as many as are a meaningless qualification. Third, that this “ordination” of God is not to mere external privileges but to “eternal life,” not to service but to salvation itself. Fourth, that all—”as many as,” not one less—who are thus ordained by God to eternal life will most certainly believe.

The comments of the beloved Spurgeon on the above passage are well worthy of our notice. Said he, “Attempts have been made to prove that these words do not teach predestination, but these attempts so clearly do violence to language that I shall not waste time in answering them. I read: ‘As many as were ordained to eternal life believed’, and I shall not twist the text but shall glorify the grace of God by ascribing to that grace the faith of every man. Is it not God who gives the disposition to believe? If men are disposed to have eternal life, does not He—in every case—dispose them? Is it wrong for God to give grace? If it be right for Him to give it, is it wrong for Him to purpose to give it? Would you have Him give it by accident? If it is right for Him to purpose to give grace today, it was right for Him to purpose it before today—and, since He changes not—from eternity.”

“Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then it is no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work” (Rom. 11:5, 6). The words “Even so” at the beginning of this quotation refer us to the previous verse where we are told, “I have reserved to Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” Note particularly the word “reserved.” In the days of Elijah there were seven thousand—a small minority—who were Divinely preserved from idolatry and brought to the knowledge of the true God. This preservation and illumination was not from anything in themselves, but solely by God’s special influence and agency. How highly favored such individuals were to be thus “reserved” by God! Now says the apostle, Just as there was a “remnant” in Elijah’s days “reserved by God”, even so there is in this present dispensation.

“A remnant according to the election of grace.” Here the cause of election is traced back to its source. The basis upon which God elected this “remnant” was not faith foreseen in them, because a choice founded upon the foresight of good works is just as truly made on the ground of works as any choice can be, and in such a case, it would not be “of grace;” for, says the apostle, “if by grace, then it is no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace;” which means that grace and works are opposites, they have nothing in common, and will no more mingle than will oil and water. Thus the idea of inherent good foreseen in those chosen, or of anything meritorious performed by them, is rigidly excluded. “A remnant according to the election of grace,” signifies an unconditional choice resulting from the sovereign favor of God; in a word, it is absolutely a gratuitous election.

“For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty: and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in His presence” (1 Cor. 1:26-29). Three times over in this passage reference is made to God’s choice, and choice necessarily supposes a selection, the taking of some and the leaving of others. The Choser here is God Himself, as said the Lord Jesus to the apostles, “Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you” (John 15:16). The number chosen is strictly defined—“not many wise men after the flesh, not many noble,” etc., which agrees with Matthew 20:16, “So the last shall be first, and the first last; for many be called, but few chosen. So much then for the fact of God’s choice; now mark the objects of His choice.

The ones spoken of above as chosen of God are “the weak things of the world, base things of the world, and things which are despised.” But why? To demonstrate and magnify His grace. God’s ways as well as His thoughts are utterly at variance with man’s. The carnal mind would have supposed that a selection had been made from the ranks of the opulent and influential, the amiable and cultured, so that Christianity might have won the approval and applause of the world by its pageantry and fleshly glory. Ah! but “that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15). God chooses the “base things.” He did so in Old Testament times. The nation which He singled out to be the depository of His holy oracles and the channel through which the promised Seed should come, was not the ancient Egyptians, the imposing Babylonians, nor the highly civilized and cultured Greeks. No; that people upon whom Jehovah set His love and regarded as ‘the apple of His eye’, were the despised, nomadic Hebrews. So it was when our Lord tabernacled among men. The ones whom He took into favored intimacy with Himself and commissioned to go forth as His ambassadors, were, for the most part, unlettered fishermen. And so it has been ever since. So it is today: at the present rates of increase, it will not be long before it is manifested that the Lord has more in despised China who are really His, than He has in the highly favored U. S. A.; more among the uncivilized blacks of Africa, than He has in cultured (?) Germany! And the purpose of God’s choice, the raison d’etre of the selection He has made is, “that no flesh should glory in His presence”—there being nothing whatever in the objects of His choice which should entitle them to His special favors, then, all the praise will be freely ascribed to the exceeding riches of His manifold grace.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ: According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him; In love having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will. . . .In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will” (Eph. 1:3-5, 11). Here again we are told at what point in time—if time it could be called—when God made choice of those who were to be His children by Jesus Christ. It was not after Adam had fallen and plunged his race into sin and wretchedness, but long ere Adam saw the light, even before the world itself was founded, that God chose us in Christ. Here also we learn thepurpose which God had before Him in connection with His own elect: it was that they “should be holy and without blame before Him;” it was “unto the adoption of children;” it was that they should “obtain an inheritance.” Here also we discover the motive which prompted Him. It was “in love that He predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself”—a statement which refutes the oft made and wicked charge that, for God to decide the eternal destiny of His creatures before they are born, is tyrannical and unjust. Finally, we are informed here, that in this matter He took counsel with none, but that we are “predestinated according to the good pleasure of His will.”

“But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth” (2 Thess. 2:13). There are three things here which deserve special attention. First, the fact that we are expressly told that God’s elect are “chosen to salvation.” Language could not be more explicit. How summarily do these words dispose of the sophistries and equivocations of all who would make election refer to nothing but external privileges or rank in service! It is to “salvation” itself that God hath chosen us. Second, we are warned here that election unto salvation does not disregard the use of appropriate means: salvation is reached through “sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.” It is not true that because God has chosen a certain one to salvation that he will be saved willy-nilly, whether he believes or not: nowhere do the Scriptures so represent it. The same God who predestined the end, also appointed the means; the same God who “chose unto salvation”, decreed that His purpose should be realized through the work of the Spirit and belief of the truth. Third, that God has chosen us unto salvation is a profound cause for fervent praise. Note how strongly the apostle expresses this—“we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord,because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation,” etc. Instead of shrinking back in horror from the doctrine of predestination, the believer, when he sees this blessed truth as it is unfolded in the Word, discovers a ground for gratitude and thanksgiving such as nothing else affords, save the unspeakable gift of the Redeemer Himself.

“Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began” (2 Tim. 1:9). How plain and pointed is the language of Holy Writ! It is man who, by his words, darkeneth counsel. It is impossible to state the case more clearly, or strongly, than it is stated here. Our salvation is not “according to our works;” that is to say, it is not due to anything in us, nor the rewarding of anything from us; instead, it is the result of God’s own “purpose and grace;” and this grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began. It is by grace we are saved, and in the purpose of God this grace was bestowed upon us not only before we saw the light, not only before Adam’s fall, but even before that far distant “beginning” of Genesis 1:1. And herein lies the unassailable comfort of God’s people. If His choice has been from eternity it will last to eternity! “Nothing can survive to eternity but what came from eternity, and what has so come, will” (G. S. Bishop).

“Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:2). Here again election by the Father precedes the work of the Holy Spirit in, and the obedience of faith by, those who are saved; thus taking it entirely off creature ground, and resting it in the sovereign pleasure of the Almighty. The “foreknowledge of God the Father” does not here refer to His prescience of all things, but signifies that the saints were all eternally present in Christ before the mind of God. God did not “foreknow” that certain ones who heard the Gospel would believe it apart from the fact that He had ordained these certain ones to eternal life. What God’s prescience saw in all men was, love of sin and hatred of Himself. The “foreknowledge” of God is based upon His own decrees as is clear from Acts 2:23—“Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain”—note the order here: first God’s “determinate counsel” (His decree), and second His “foreknowledge.” So it is again in Romans 8:28, 29, “For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son,” but the first word here, “for, looks back to the preceding verse and the last clause of it reads, “to them who are the called according to His purpose”—these are the ones whom He did “foreknow and predestinate.” Finally, it needs to be pointed out that when we read in Scripture of God “knowing” certain people, the word is used in the sense of knowing with approbation and love: “But if any man love God, the same is known of Him” (1 Cor. 8:3). To the hypocrites Christ will yet say “I never knew you”—He never loved them. “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father” signifies, then, chosen by Him as the special objects of His approbation and love.

Summarizing the teaching of these seven passages we learn that, God has “ordained to eternal life” certain ones, and that in consequence of His ordination they, in due time, “believe;” that God’s ordination to salvation of His own elect, is not due to any good thing in them nor to anything meritorious from them, but solely of His “grace;” that God has designedly selected the most unlikely objects to be the recipients of His special favors, in order that “no flesh should glory in His presence;” that God chose His people in Christ before the foundation of the world, not because they were so, but in order that they “should be,holy and without blame before him”; that having selected certain ones to salvation, He also decreed the means by which His eternal counsel should be made good; that the very “grace” by which we are saved was, in God’s purpose, “given us in Christ Jesus before the world began;” that long before they were actually created, God’s elect stood present before His mind, were “foreknown” by Him, i.e., were the definite objects of His eternal love.

Before turning to the next division of this chapter, a further word concerning the subjects of God’s predestinating grace. We go over this ground again because it is at this point that the doctrine of God’s sovereignty in predestining certain ones to salvation is most frequently assaulted. Perverters of this truth invariably seek to find some cause outside God’s own will, which moves Him to bestow salvation on sinners; something or other is attributed to the creature which entitles him to receive mercy at the hands of the Creator. We return then to the question, Why did God choose the ones He did?

What was there in the elect themselves which attracted God’s heart to them? Was it because of certain virtues they possessed? because they were generous-hearted, sweet tempered, truth-speaking? in a word, because they were “good,” that God chose them? No; for our Lord said, “There is none good but one, that is God” (Matt. 19:17). Was it because of any good works they had performed? No; for it is written, “There is none that doeth good, no, not one” (Rom. 3:12). Was it because they evidenced an earnestness and zeal in inquiring after God? No; for it is written again, “There is none that seeketh after God” (Rom. 3:11). Was it because God foresaw they would believe? No; for how can those who are “dead in trespasses and sins” believe in Christ? How could God foreknow some men as believers when belief was impossible to them? Scripture declares that we “believe through grace (Acts 18:27). Faith is God’s gift, and apart from this gift none would believe. The cause of His choice then lies within Himself and not in the objects of His choice. He chose the ones He did simply because He chose to choose them.

“Sons we are by God’s election
Who on Jesus Christ believe,
By eternal destination,
Sovereign grace we now receive,
Lord Thy mercy,
Doth both grace and glory give!”

2. The Sovereignty of God the Son in Salvation.

For whom did Christ die? It surely does not need arguing that the Father had an express purpose in giving Him to die, or that God the Son had a definite design before Him in laying down His life—“Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world” (Acts 15:18). What then was the purpose of the Father and the design of the Son? We answer, Christ died for “God’s elect.”

We are not unmindful of the fact that the limited design in the death of Christ has been the subject of much controversy—what great truth revealed in Scripture has not? Nor do we forget that anything which has to do with the person and work of our blessed Lord requires to be handled with the utmost reverence, and that a “Thus saith the Lord” must be given in support of every assertion we make. Our appeal shall be to the Law and to the Testimony.

For whom did Christ die? Who were the ones He intended to redeem by His blood-shedding? Surely the Lord Jesus had some absolute determination before Him when He went to the Cross. If He had, then it necessarily follows that the extent of that purpose was limited, because an absolute determination or purposemust be effected. If the absolute determination of Christ included all mankind, then all mankind would most certainly be saved. To escape this inevitable conclusion many have affirmed that there was no such absolute determination before Christ, that in His death a merely conditional provision of salvation has been made for all mankind. The refutation of this assertion is found in the promises made by the Father to His Son before He went to the Cross, yea, before He became incarnate. The Old Testament Scriptures represent the Father as promising the Son a certain reward for His sufferings on behalf of sinners. At this stage we shall confine ourselves to one or two statements recorded in the well known fifty-third of Isaiah. There we find God saying, “When Thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed,” that “He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied,” and that God’s righteous Servant “should justify many” (vv. 10 and 11). But here we would pause and ask, How could it be certain that Christ should “see His seed,” and “see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied, unless the salvation of certain members of the human race had been Divinely decreed, and therefore was sure? How could it becertain that Christ should “justify many,” if no effectual provision was made that any should receive Him as their Saviour? On the other hand, to insist that the Lord Jesus did expressly purpose the salvation of all mankind, is to charge Him with that which no intelligent being should be guilty of, namely, to design that which by virtue of His omniscience He knew would never come to pass. Hence, the only alternative left us is that, so far as the pre-determined purpose of His death is concerned, Christ died for the elect only. Summing up in a sentence, which we trust will be intelligible to every reader, we would say, Christ died not merely to make possible the salvation of all mankind, but to make certain the salvation of all that the Father had given to Him. Christ died not simply to render sins pardonable, but “to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Heb. 9:26). As to who’s “sin” (i.e., guilt, as in 1 John 1:7, etc.) has been “put away,” Scripture leaves us in no doubt—it was that of the elect, the “world” (John 1:29) of God’s people!

(1.) The limited design in the Atonement follows, necessarily, from the eternal choice of the Father of certain ones unto salvation. The Scriptures inform us that, before the Lord became incarnate He said, “Lo, I come, to do Thy will O God” (Heb. 10:7), and after He had become incarnate He declared, “For I came down from heaven, not to do Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me” (John 6:38). If then God had from the beginning chosen certain ones to salvation, then, because the will of Christ was in perfect accord with the will of the Father, He would not seek to enlarge upon His election. What we have just said is not merely a plausible deduction of our own, but is in strict harmony with the express teaching of the Word. Again and again our Lord referred to those whom the Father had “given” Him, and concerning whom He was particularly exercised. Said He, “All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me; and him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out. . . . And this is the Father’s will which hath sent Me, that of all which He hath given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day” (John 6:37, 39). And again, “These words spake Jesus, and lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify Thy Son, that Thy Son also may glorify Thee; As Thou hast given Him power over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as Thou hast given Him. . . .I have manifested Thy name unto the men which Thou gavest Me out of the world: Thine they were, and Thou gayest them Me; and they have kept Thy Word. . . . I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which Thou hast given Me; for they are Thine. . . . Father, I will that they also,whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am; that they may behold My glory, which Thou hast given Me: for Thou lovest Me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:1, 2, 6, 9, 24). Before the foundation of the world the Father predestinated a people to be conformed to the image of His Son, and the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus was in order to the carrying out of the Divine purpose.

(2.) The very nature of the Atonement evidences that, in its application to sinners, it was limited in the purpose of God. The Atonement of Christ may be considered from two chief viewpoints—Godward and manward. Godwards, the Cross-work of Christ was a propitiation, an appeasing of Divine wrath, a satisfaction rendered to Divine justice and holiness; manwards, it was a substitution, the Innocent taking the place of the guilty, the Just dying for the unjust. But a strict substitution of a Person for persons, and the infliction upon Him of voluntary sufferings, involve the definite recognition on the part of the Substitute and of the One He is to propitiate of the persons for whom He acts, whose sins He bears, whose legal obligations He discharges. Furthermore, if the Law-giver accepts the satisfaction which is made by the Substitute then those for whom the Substitute acts, whose place He takes, must necessarily be acquitted. If I am in debt and unable to discharge it and another comes forward and pays my creditor in full and receives a receipt in acknowledgment, then, in the sight of the law, my creditor no longer has any claim upon me. On the Cross the Lord Jesus gave Himself a ransom, and that it was accepted by God was attested by the open grave three days later; the question we would here raise is, For whom was this ransom offered? If it was offered for all mankind then the debt incurred by every man has been cancelled. If Christ bore in His own body on the tree the sins of all men without exception, then none will perish. If Christ was “made a curse” for all of Adam’s race then none are now “under condemnation.” “Payment God cannot twice demand, first at my bleeding Surety’s hand and then again at mine.” But Christ did not discharge the debt of all men without exception, for some there are who will be “cast into prison” (cf. 1 Pet. 3:19 where the same Greek word for “prison” occurs), and they shall “by no means come out thence, till they have paid the uttermost farthing” (Matt. 5:26), which, of course, will never be. Christ did not bear the sins of all mankind, for some there are who “die in their sins (John 8:21), and whose “sin remaineth” (John 9:41). Christ was not “made a curse” for all of Adam’s race, for some there are to whom He will yet say, “Depart from Me ye cursed (Matt. 25:41). To say that Christ died for all alike, to say that He became the Substitute and Surety of the whole human race, to say that He suffered on behalf of and in the stead of all mankind, is to say that He “bore the curse for many who are now bearing the curse for themselves; that He suffered punishment for many who are now lifting up their own eyes in Hell, being in torments; that He paid the redemption price for many who shall yet pay in their own eternal anguish ‘the wages of sin, which is death’” (G. S. Bishop). But, on the other hand, to say as Scripture says, that Christ was stricken for the transgressions of God’s people, to say that He gave His life for the sheep, to say that He gave His life a ransom for many, is to say that He made an atonement which fully atones; it is to say He paid a price which actually ransoms; it is to say He was set forth a propitiation which really propitiates; it is to say He is a Saviour who truly saves.

(3.) Closely connected with, and confirmatory of what we have said above, is the teaching of Scripture concerning our Lord’s priesthood. It is as the great High Priest that Christ now makes intercession. But for whom does He intercede? for the whole human race, or only for His own people? The answer furnished by the New Testament to this question is clear as a sunbeam. Our Saviour has entered into heaven itself “now to appear in the presence of God for us (Heb. 9:24), that is, for those who are “partakers of the heavenly calling” (Heb. 3:1). And again it is written, “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”(Heb. 7:25). This is in strict accord with the Old Testament type. After slaying the sacrificial animal, Aaron went into the holy of holies as the representative and on behalf of the people of God: it was the names of Israel’s tribes which were engraven on his breastplate, and it was in their interests he appeared before God. Agreeable to this are our Lord’s words in John 17:9—“I pray for them: I praynot for the world, but for them which Thou hast given Me; for they are Thine.” Another Scripture which deserves careful attention in this connection is found in Romans 8. In verse 33 the question is asked, “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?” and then follows the inspired answer— “It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea, rather that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercessionfor us. Note particularly that the death and intercession of Christ have one and the same objects! As it was in the type so it is with the antitype—expiation and supplication are co-extensive. If then Christ intercedes for the elect only, and “not for the world,” then He died for them only. And observe further, that the death, resurrection, exaltation and intercession of the Lord Jesus, are here assigned as the reason why none can lay any “charge” against God’s elect. Let those who would still take issue with what we are advancing weigh carefully the following question—If the death of Christ extends equally to all, how does it become security against a “charge,” seeing that all who believe not are “under condemnation”? (John 3:18).

(4.) The number of those who share the benefits of Christ’s death is determined not only by the nature of the Atonement and the priesthood of Christ but also by His power. Grant that the One who died upon the cross was God manifest in the flesh, and it follows inevitably that what Christ has purposed that will He perform; that what He has purchased that will He possess; that what He has set His heart upon that will He secure. If the Lord Jesus possesses all power in heaven and earth, then none can successfully resist His will. But it may be said, This is true in the abstract, nevertheless, Christ refuses to exercise this power, inasmuch as He will never force anyone to receive Him as their Saviour. In one sense that is true, but in another sense it is positively untrue. The salvation of any sinner is a matter of Divine power. By nature the sinner is at enmity with God, and naught but Divine power operating within him, can overcome this enmity; hence it is written, “No man can come unto Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw him” (John 6:44). It is the Divine power overcoming the sinner’s innate enmity which makes him willing to come to Christ that he might have life. But this “enmity” is not overcome in all—why? Is it because the enmity is too strong to be overcome? Are there some hearts so steeled against Him that Christ is unable to gain entrance? To answer in the affirmative is todeny His omnipotence. In the final analysis it is not a question of the sinner’s willingness or unwillingness, for by nature all are unwilling. Willingness to come to Christ is the finished product of Divine power operating in the human heart and will in overcoming man’s inherent and chronic “enmity,” as it is written, “Thy people shall be willing in the day of Thy power (Ps. 110:3). To say that Christ is unable to win to Himself those who are unwilling is to deny that all power in heaven and earth is His. To say that Christ cannot put forth His power without destroying man’s responsibility is a begging of the question here raised, for He has put forth His power and made willing those who have come to Him, and if He did this without destroying their responsibility, why “cannot” He do so with others? If He is able to win the heart of one sinner to Himself, why not that of another? To say, as is usually said, the others will not let Him is to impeach His sufficiency. It is a question of His will. If the Lord Jesus has decreed, desired, purposed the salvation of all mankind, then the entire human racewill be saved, or, otherwise, He lacks the power to make good His intentions; and in such a case it could never be said, “He shall see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied.”The issue raised involves the deity of the Saviour, for a defeated Saviour cannot be God.

Having reviewed some of the general principles which require us to believe that the death of Christ was limited in its design, we turn now to consider some of the explicit statements of Scripture which expressly affirm it. In that wondrous and matchless fifty-third of Isaiah God tells us concerning His Son, “He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare His generation? for He was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of My people was He stricken”(v. 8). In perfect harmony with this was the word of the angel to Joseph, “Thou shalt call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21) i.e. not merely Israel, but all whom the Father had “given” Him. Our Lord Himself declared, “The Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many”(Matt. 20:28), but why have said “for many” if all without exception were included? It was “His people” whom He “redeemed” (Luke 1:68). It was for “the sheep,” and not the “goats”, that the Good Shepherd gave His life (John 10:11). It was the “Church of God” which He purchased with His own blood (Acts 20:28).

If there is one Scripture more than any other upon which we should be willing to rest our case it is John 11:49-52. Here we are told, “And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all, nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not. And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; And not for that nation only, but that also He should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad.” Here we are told that Caiaphas “prophesied not of himself, that is, like those employed by God in Old Testament times (see 2 Pet. 1:21), his prophecy originated not with himself, but he spake as he was moved by the Holy Spirit; thus is the value of his utterance carefully guarded, and the Divine source of this revelation expressly vouched for. Here, too, we are definitely informed that Christ died for “that nation,” i.e., Israel, and also for the One Body, His Church, for it is into the Church that the children of God—“scattered” among the nations—are now being “gathered together in one.” And is it not remarkable that the members of the Church are here called “children of God” even before Christ died, and therefore before He commenced to build His Church! The vast majority of them had not then been born, yet were they regarded as “children of God;” children of God because they had been chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, and therefore “predestinated unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself” (Eph. 1:4, 5). In like manner, Christ said, “Other sheep I have (not “shall have”) which are not of this fold” (John 10:16).

If ever the real design of the Cross was uppermost in the heart and speech of our blessed Saviour it was during the last week of His earthly ministry. What then do the Scriptures which treat of this portion of His ministry record in connection with our present inquiry? They say, “When Jesus knew that His hour was come that He should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end” (John 13:1). They tell us how He said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down His life for His friends (John 15:13). They record His word, “For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth” (John 17:19); which means, that for the sake of His own, those “given” to Him by the Father, He separated Himself unto the death of the Cross. One may well ask, Why such discrimination of terms if Christ died for all men indiscriminately?

Ere closing this section of the chapter we shall consider briefly a few of those passages which seem to teach most strongly an unlimited design in the death of Christ. In 2 Corinthians 5:14 we read, “One died for all. But that is not all this Scripture affirms. If the entire verse and passage from which these words are quoted be carefully examined, it will be found that instead of teaching an unlimited atonement, it emphatically argues a limited design in the death of Christ. The whole verse reads, “For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if One died for all, then were all dead.” It should be pointed out that in the Greek there is the definite article before the last “all,” and that the verb here is in the aorist tense, and therefore should read, “We thus judge: that if One died for all, then they all died.” The apostle is here drawing a conclusion as is clear from the words “we thus judge, that if . . . then were.” His meaning is, that those for whom the One died are regarded, judicially, as having died too. The next verse goes on to say, “And He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them, and rose again.” The One not only died but “rose again,” and so, too, did the “all” for whom He died, for it is here said they “live.” Those for whom a substitute acts are legally regarded as having acted themselves. In the sight of the law the substitute and those whom he represents are one. So it is in the sight of God. Christ was identified with His people and His people were identified with Him, hence when He died they died (judicially) and when He rose they rose also. But further we are told in this passage (v. 17), that if any man be in Christ he is a new creation; he has received a new life in fact as well as in the sight of the law, hence the “all” for whom Christ died are here bidden to live henceforth no more unto themselves, “but unto Him which died for them, and rose again.” In other words, those who belonged to this “all” for whom Christ died, are here exhorted to manifest practically in their daily lives what is true of them judicially: they are to “live unto Christ who died for them. Thus the “One died for all” is defined for us. The “all” for which Christ died are the they which “live,” and which are here bidden to live “unto Him.” This passage then teaches three important truths, and the better to show its scope we mention them in their inverse order: certain ones are here bidden to live no more unto themselves but unto Christ; the ones thus admonished are “they which live,” that is live spiritually, hence, the children of God, for they alone of mankind possess spiritual life, all others being dead in trespasses and sins; those who do thus live are the ones, the “all,” the “them,” for whom Christ died and rose again. This passage therefore teaches that Christ died for all His people, the elect, those given to Him by the Father; that as the result of His death (and rising again “for them”) they “live”—and the elect are the only ones who do thus “live;” and this life which is theirs through Christ must be lived “unto Him,” Christ’s love must now “constrain” them.

“For there is one God, and one Mediator, between God and men (not “man”, for this would have been a generic term and signified mankind. O the accuracy of Holy Writ!), the Man Christ Jesus; who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time” (1 Tim. 2:5, 6). It is upon the words “who gave Himself a ransom for all” we would now comment. In Scripture the word “all” (as applied to humankind) is used in two senses—absolutely and relatively. In some passages it means all without exception; in others it signifies all without distinction. As to which of these meanings it bears in any particular passage, must be determined by the context and decided by a comparison of parallel Scriptures. That the word “all” is used in a relative and restricted sense, and in such case means all without distinction and not all without exception, is clear from a number of Scriptures, from which we select two or three as samples. “And there went out unto him all the land of Judea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins” (Mark 1:5). Does this mean that every man, woman and child from “all the land of Judea and they of Jerusalem” were baptized of John in Jordan? Surely not. Luke 7:30 distinctly says, “But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him. Then what does “all baptized of him” mean? We answer it does not mean all without exception, but all without distinction, that is, all classes and conditions of men. The same explanation applies to Luke 3:21. Again we read, “And early in the morning He came again into the Temple, and all the people came unto Him; and He sat down, and taught them” (John 8:2); are we to understand this expression absolutely or relatively? Does “all the people” mean all without exception or all without distinction, that is, all classes and conditions of people? Manifestly the latter; for the Temple was not able to accommodate everybody that was in Jerusalem at this time, namely, the Feast of Tabernacles. Again, we read in Acts 22:15, “For thou (Paul) shalt be His witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard.” Surely “all men” here does not mean every member of the human race. Now we submit that the words “who gave Himself a ransom for all in 1 Timothy 2:6 mean all without distinction, and not all without exception. He gave Himself a ransom for men of all nationalities, of all generations, of all classes; in a word, for all the elect, as we read in Revelation 5:9, “For Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.” That this is not an arbitrary definition of the “all” in our passage is clear from Matthew 20:28 where we read, “The Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many”, which limitation would be quite meaningless if He gave Himself a ransom for all without exception. Furthermore, the qualifying words here, “to be testified in due time”, must be taken into consideration. If Christ gave Himself a ransom for the whole human race, in what sense will this be “testified in due time”? seeing that multitudes of men will certainly be eternally lost. But if our text means that Christ gave Himself a ransom for God’s elect, for all without distinction, without distinction of nationality, social prestige, moral character, age or sex, then the meaning of these qualifying words is quite intelligible, for in “due time” this will be “testified” in the actual and accomplished salvation of every one of them.

“But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that He by the grace of God shouldtaste death for every man (Heb. 2:9). This passage need not detain us long. A false doctrine has been erected here on a false translation. There is no word whatever in the Greek corresponding to “man” in our English version. In the Greek it is left in the abstract—”He tasted death for every.” The Revised Version has correctly omitted “man” from the text, but has wrongly inserted it in italics. Others suppose the word “thing” should be supplied—“He tasted death for every thing” —but this, too, we deem a mistake. It seems to us that the words which immediately follow explain our text: “For it became Him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” It is of “sons” the apostle is here writing, and we suggest an ellipsis of “son”—thus: “He tasted death for every”—and supply son in italics. Thus instead of teaching the unlimited design of Christ’s death, Hebrews 2:9, 10 is in perfect accord with the other Scriptures we have quoted which set forth the restricted purpose in the Atonement: it was for the “sons” and not the human race our Lord “tasted death” (1 John 2:2 will be examined in detail in Appendix 4).

In closing this section of the chapter let us say that the only limitation in the Atonement we have contended for arises from pure sovereignty; it is a limitation not of value and virtue, but of design and application. We turn now to consider—

3. The Sovereignty of God the Holy Spirit in Salvation.

Since the Holy Spirit is one of the three Persons in the blessed Trinity, it necessarily follows that He is in full sympathy with the will and design of the other Persons of the Godhead. The eternal purpose of the Father in election, the limited design in the death of the Son, and the restricted scope of the Holy Spirit’s operations are in perfect accord. If the Father chose certain ones before the foundation of the world and gave them to His Son, and if it was for them that Christ gave Himself a ransom, then the Holy Spirit is not now working to “bring the world to Christ.” The mission of the Holy Spirit in the world today is to apply the benefits of Christ’s redemptive sacrifice. The question which is now to engage us is not the extent of the Holy Spirit’s power—on that point there can be no doubt, it is infinite—but what we shall seek to show is that, His power and operations are directed by Divine wisdom and sovereignty.

We have just said that the power and operations of the Holy Spirit are directed by Divine wisdom and indisputable sovereignty. In proof of this assertion we appeal first to our Lord’s words to Nicodemus in John 3:8—“The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth; so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” A comparison is here drawn between the wind and the Spirit. The comparison is adouble one: first, both are sovereign in their actions, and second, both are mysterious in their operations. The comparison is pointed out in the word “so.” The first point of analogy is seen in the words “where it listeth” or “pleaseth”; the second is found in the words “canst not tell.” With the second point of analogy we are not now concerned, but upon the first we would comment further.

“The wind bloweth where it pleaseth . . . so is every one that is born of the Spirit.”The wind is an element which man can neither harness nor hinder. The wind neither consults man’s pleasure nor can it be regulated by his devices. So it is with the Spirit. The wind blows when it pleases, where it pleases, as it pleases. So it is with the Spirit. The wind is regulated by Divine wisdom, yet, so far as man is concerned, it is absolutely sovereign in its operations. So it is with the Spirit. Sometimes the wind blows so softly it scarcely rustles a leaf; at other times it blows so loudly that its roar can be heard for miles. So it is in the matter of the new birth; with some the Holy Spirit deals so gently, that His work is imperceptible to human onlookers; with others His action is so powerful, radical, revolutionary, that His operations are patent to many. Sometimes the wind is purely local in its reach, at other times wide-spread in its scope. So it is with the Spirit: today He acts on one or two souls, tomorrow He may, as at Pentecost, “prick in the heart” a whole multitude. But whether He works on few or many, He consults not man. He acts as He pleases. The new birth is due to the sovereign will of the Spirit.

Each of the three Persons in the blessed Trinity is concerned with our salvation: with the Father it is predestination; with the Son propitiation; with the Spirit regeneration. The Father chose us; the Son died for us; the Spirit quickens us. The Father was concerned about us; the Son shed His blood for us, the Spirit performs His work within us. What the One did was eternal, what the Other did was external, what the Spirit does is internal. It is with the work of the Spirit we are now concerned, with His work in the new birth, and particularly His sovereign operations in the new birth. The Father purposed our new birth; the Son has made possible (by His “travail”) the new birth; but it is the Spirit who effects the new birth—“Born of the Spirit (John 3:6).

The new birth is solely the work of God the Spirit and man has no part or lot in it. This from the very nature of the case. Birth altogether excludes the idea of any effort or work on the part of the one who is born. Personally we have no more to do with our spiritual birth than we had with our natural birth. The new birth is a spiritual resurrection, a “passing from death unto life” (John 5:24) and, clearly, resurrection is altogether outside of man’s province. No corpse can reanimate itself. Hence it is written, “It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing (John 6:63). But the Spirit does not “quicken” everybody—why? The usual answer returned to this question is, Because everybody does not trust in Christ. It is supposed that the Holy Spirit quickens only those who believe. But this is to put the cart before the horse. Faith is not the cause of the new birth, but the consequence of it. This ought not to need arguing. Faith (in God) is an exotic, something that is not native to the human heart. If faith were a natural product of the human heart, the exercise of a principle common to human nature, it would never have been written, “All men have not faith” (2 Thess. 3:2). Faith is a spiritual grace, the fruit of the spiritual nature, and because the unregenerate are spiritually dead—“dead in trespasses and sins”—then it follows that faith from them is impossible, for a dead man cannot believe anything. “So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom. 8:8)—but they could if it were possible for the flesh to believe. Compare with this last-quoted Scripture Hebrews 11:6—“But without faith it is impossible to please Him.” Can God be “pleased” or satisfied with any thing which does not have its origin in Himself?

That the work of the Holy Spirit precedes our believing is unequivocally established by 2 Thessalonians 2:13—“God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.” Note that “sanctification of the Spirit” comes before and makes possible “belief of the truth.” What then is the “sanctification of the Spirit”? We answer, the new birth. In Scripture “sanctification” always means “separation,” separation from something and unto something or someone. Let us now amplify our assertion that the “sanctification of the Spirit” corresponds to the new birth and points to the positional effect of it.

Here is a servant of God who preaches the Gospel to a congregation in which are an hundred unsaved people. He brings before them the teaching of Scripture concerning their ruined and lost condition; he speaks of God, His character and righteous demands; he tells of Christ meeting God’s demands, and dying the Just for the unjust, and declares that through “this Man” is now preached the forgiveness of sins; he closes by urging the lost to believe what God has said in His Word and receive His Son as their own personal Saviour. The meeting is over; the congregation disperses; ninety-nine of the unsaved have refused to come to Christ that they might have life, and go out into the night having no hope, and without God in the world. But the hundredth heard the Word of life; the Seed sown fell into ground which had been prepared by God; he believed the Good News, and goes home rejoicing that his name is written in heaven. He has been “born again,” and just as a newly-born babe in the natural world begins life by clinging instinctively, in its helplessness, to its mother, so this newborn soul has clung to Christ. Just as we read, “The Lord opened” the heart of Lydia “that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul” (Acts 16:14), so in the case supposed above, the Holy Spirit quickened that one before he believed the Gospel message. Here then is the “sanctification of the Spirit:” this one soul who has been born again has, by virtue of his new birth, been separated from the other ninety-nine. Those born again are, by the Spirit, set apart from those who are dead in trespasses and sins.

A beautiful type of the operations of the Holy Spirit antecedent to the sinner’s “belief of the truth”, is found in the first chapter of Genesis. We read in verse 2, “And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.” The original Hebrew here might be literally rendered thus: “And the earth had become a desolate ruin, and darkness was upon the face of the deep.” In “the beginning” the earth was not created in the condition described in verse 2. Between the first two verses of Genesis 1 some awful catastrophe had occurred [the Gap Theory-ed.]—possibly the fall of Satan—and, as the consequence, the earth had been blasted and blighted, and had become a “desolate ruin”, lying beneath a pall of “darkness.” Such also is the history of man. Today, man is not in the condition in which he left the hands of his Creator: an awful catastrophe has happened, and now man is a “desolate ruin” and in total “darkness” concerning spiritual things. Next we read in Genesis 1 how God refashioned the ruined earth and created new beings to inhabit it. First we read, “And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” Next we are told, “And God said, Let there be light; and there was light.” The order is the same in the new creation: there is first the action of the Spirit, and then the Word of God giving light. Before the Word found entrance into the scene of desolation and darkness, bringing with it the light, the Spirit of God “moved.” So it is in the new creation. “The entrance of Thy words giveth light” (Ps. 119:130), but before it can enter the darkened human heart the Spirit of God must operate upon it.1

To return to 2 Thessalonians 2:13: “But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.” The order of thought here is most important and instructive. First, God’s eternal choice; second, the sanctification of the Spirit; third, belief of the truth. Precisely the same order is found in 1 Peter 1:2—“Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.” We take it that the “obedience” here is the “obedience of faith” (Rom. 1:5), which appropriates the virtues of the sprinkled blood of the Lord Jesus. So then before the “obedience” (of faith, cf. Heb. 5:9), there is the work of the Spirit setting us apart, and behind that is the election of God the Father. The ones “sanctified of the Spirit” then, are they whom “God hath from the beginning chosen to salvation” (2 Thess. 2:13),those who are “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father” (1 Pet. 1:2).

But, it may be said, is not the present mission of the Holy Spirit to “convict the world of sin”? And we answer, It is not. The mission of the Spirit is threefold; to glorify Christ, to vivify the elect, to edify the saints. John 16:8-11 does not describe the “mission” of the Spirit, but sets forth the significance of His presencehere in the world. It treats not of His subjective work in sinners, showing them their need of Christ, by searching their consciences and striking terror to their hearts; what we have there is entirely objective. To illustrate. Suppose I saw a man hanging on the gallows, of what would that “convince” me? Why, that he was a murderer. How would I thus be convinced? By reading the record of his trial? by hearing a confession from his own lips? No; but by the fact that he washanging there. So the fact that the Holy Spirit is here furnishes proof of the world’s guilt, of God’s righteousness, and of the Devil’s judgment.

The Holy Spirit ought not to be here at all. That is a startling statement, but we make it deliberately. Christ is the One who ought to be here. He was sent here by the Father, but the world did not want Him, would not have Him, hated Him, and cast Him out. And the presence of the Spirit here instead evidences its guilt. The coming of the Spirit was a proof to demonstration of the resurrection, ascension, and glory of the Lord Jesus. His presence on earth reverses the world’s verdict, showing that God has set aside the blasphemous judgment in the palace of Israel’s high priest and in the hall of the Roman governor. The “reproof” of the Spirit abides, and abides altogether irrespective of the world’s reception or rejection of His testimony.

Had our Lord been referring here to the gracious work which the Spirit would perform in those who should be brought to feel their need of Him, He had said that the Spirit would convict men of their unrighteousness, their lack of righteousness. But this is not the thought here at all. The descent of the Spirit from heaven establishes God’s righteousness, Christ’s righteousness. The proof of that is, Christ has gone to the Father. Had Christ been an Imposter, as the religious world insisted when they cast Him out, the Father had not received Him. The fact that the Father did exalt Him to His own right hand, demonstrates that He was innocent of the charges laid against Him; and the proof that the Father has received Him, is the presence now of the Holy Spirit on earth, for Christ hassent Him from the Father (John 16:7)! The world was unrighteous in casting Him out, the Father righteous in glorifying Him; and this is what the Spirit’s presence here establishes.

“Of judgment, because the Prince of this world is judged” (v. 11). This is the logical and inevitable climax. The world is brought in guilty for their rejection of, for their refusal to receive, Christ. Its condemnation is exhibited by the Father’s exaltation of the spurned One. Therefore nothing awaits the world, and its Prince, but judgment. The “judgment” of Satan is already established by The Spirit’s presence here, for Christ, through death, set at nought him who had the power of death, that is, the Devil (Heb. 2:14). When God’s time comes for the Spirit to depart from the earth, then His sentence will be executed, both on the world and its Prince. In the light of this unspeakably solemn passage, we need not be surprised to find Christ saying, “The Spirit of truth, whom the worldcannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him”. No, the world wants Him not; He condemns the world.

“And when He is come, He will reprove (or, better, “convict”—bring in guilty) the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on Me; Of righteousness, because I go to My Father, and ye see Me no more; Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged” (John 16:8-11). Three things, then, the presence of the Holy Spirit on earth demonstrates to the world: first, its sin, because the world refused to believe on Christ; second, God’s righteousness in exalting to His own right hand the One cast out, and now no more seen by the world; third, judgment, because Satan the world’s prince is already judged, though execution of his judgment is yet future. Thus the Holy Spirit’s presence here displays things as they really are.

The Holy Spirit is sovereign in His operations and His mission is confined to God’s elect: they are the ones He “comforts,” “seals,” guides into all truth, shews things to come, etc. The work of the Spirit is necessary in order to the complete accomplishment of the Father’s eternal purpose. Speaking hypothetically, but reverently, be it said, that if God had done nothing more than given Christ to die for sinners, not a single sinner would ever have been saved. In order for any sinner to see his need of a Saviour and be willing to receive the Saviour he needs, the work of the Holy Spirit upon and within him were imperatively required. Had God done nothing more than given Christ to die for sinners and then sent forth His servants to proclaim salvation through Christ, leaving sinners entirely to themselves to accept or reject as they pleased, then every sinner would have rejected, because at heart every man hates God and is at enmity with Him. Therefore the work of the Holy Spirit was needed to bring the sinner to Christ, to overcome his innate opposition, and compel him to accept the provision God has made. We say “compel” the sinner, for this is precisely what the Holy Spirit does, has to do, and this leads us to consider at some length, though as briefly as possible, the parable of the “Marriage Supper.”

In Luke 14:16 we read, “A certain man made a great supper, and bade many.” By comparing carefully what follows here with Matthew 22:2-10 several important distinctions will be observed. We take it that these passages are two independent accounts of the same parable, differing in detail according to the distinctive purpose and design of the Holy Spirit in each Gospel. Matthew’s account—in harmony with the Spirit’s presentation there of Christ as the Son of David, the King of the Jews—says, “A certain king made a marriage for his son.” Luke’s account—where the Spirit presents Christ as the Son of Man—says, “A certain man made a great supper and bade many.” Matthew 22:3 says, “And sent forth His servants; Luke 14:17 says, “And sent His servant.”Now what we wish particularly to call attention to is, that all through Matthew’s account it is “servants,” whereas in Luke it is always “servant.” The class of readers for whom we are writing are those that believe, unreservedly, in the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures, and such will readily acknowledge there must be some reason for this change from the plural number in Matthew to the singular number in Luke. We believe the reason is a weighty one and that attention to this variation reveals an important truth. We believe that the “servants” in Matthew, speaking generally, are all who go forth preaching the Gospel, but that the “Servant” in Luke 14 is the Holy Spirit Himself. This is not incongruous, or derogatory to the Holy Spirit, for God the Son, in the days of His earthly ministry, was the Servant of Jehovah (Isa. 42:1). It will be observed that in Matthew 22 the “servants” are sent forth to do three things: first, to “call to the wedding (v. 3); second, to “tell those which are bidden . . . all things are ready: come unto the marriage” (v. 4); third, to “bid to the marriage” (v. 9); and these three are the things which those who minister the Gospel today are now doing. In Luke 14 the Servant is also sent forth to do three things: first, He is “to say to them that were bidden, Come: for all things are now ready” (v. 17) ; second, He is to “bring in the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind” (v. 21); third, He is to “compel them to come in” (v. 23), and the last two of these the Holy Spirit alone can do!

In the above Scripture we see that “the Servant,” the Holy Spirit, compels certain ones to come in to the “supper” and herein is seen His sovereignty, His omnipotency, His Divine sufficiency. The clear implication from this word “compel” is, that those whom the Holy Spirit does “bring in” are not willing of themselves to come. This is exactly what we have sought to show in previous paragraphs. By nature, God’s elect are children of wrath even as others (Eph. 2:3), and as such their hearts are at enmity with God. But this “enmity” of theirs is overcome by the Spirit and He “compels” them to come in. Is it not clear then that the reason why others are left outside, is not only because they are unwilling to go in, but also because the Holy Spirit does not “compel” them to come in? Is it not manifest that the Holy Spirit is sovereign in the exercise of His power, that as the wind “bloweth where it pleaseth”, so the Holy Spiritoperates where He pleases?

And now to sum up. We have sought to show the perfect consistency of God’s ways: that each Person in the Godhead acts in sympathy and harmony with the Others. God the Father elected certain ones to salvation, God the Son died for the elect, and God the Spirit quickens the elect. Well may we sing,

Praise God from whom all blessings flow,
Praise Him all creatures here below,
Praise Him above ye heavenly host,
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.


NOTES

  • The priority contended for above is rather in order of nature than of time, just as the effect must ever be preceded by the cause. A blind man must have his eyes opened before he can see, and yet there is no interval of time between the one and the other. As soon as his eyes are opened, he sees. So a man must be born again before he can “see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). Seeing the Son is necessary to believing in Him. Unbelief is attributed to spiritual blindness—those who believed not the “report” of the Gospel “saw no beauty” in Christ that they should desire Him. The work of the Spirit in “quickening” the one dead in sins, precedes faith in Christ, just as cause ever precedes effect. But no sooner is the heart turned toward Christ by the Spirit, than the Saviour is embraced by the sinner.