The Sufficiency of Christ Distilled by John Calvin

“We see that our whole salvation and all its parts are comprehended in Christ [Acts 4:12]. We should therefore take care not to derive the least portion of it from anywhere else. If we seek salvation, we are taught by the very name of Jesus that it is “of him” [I Cor. 1:30]. If we seek any other gifts of the Spirit, they will be found in his anointing. If we seek strength, it lies in his dominion; if purity, in his conception; if gentleness, it appears in his birth. For by his birth he was made like us in all respects [Heb. 2:17] that he might learn to feel our pain [cf. Heb. 5:2]. If we seek redemption, it lies in his passion; if acquittal, in his condemnation; if remission of the curse, in his cross [Gal. 3:13]; if satisfaction, in his sacrifice; if purification, in his blood; if reconciliation, in his descent into hell; if mortification of the flesh, in his tomb; if newness of life, in his resurrection; if immortality, in the same; if inheritance of the Heavenly Kingdom, in his entrance into heaven; if protection, if security, if abundant supply of all blessings, in his Kingdom; if untroubled expectation of judgment, in the power given to him to judge. b(a)In short, since rich store of every kind of good abounds in him, let us drink our fill from this fountain, and from no other. Some men, not content with him alone, are borne hither and thither from one hope to another; even if they concern themselves chiefly with him, they nevertheless stray from the right way in turning some part of their thinking in another direction. Yet such distrust cannot creep in where men have once for all truly known the abundance of his blessings.”
–Institutes of the Christian Religion, pp. 527-528

Sinners In The Hands of an Angry God – Jonathan Edwards

Sinners in the Hands of
An Angry God
by Jonathan Edwards

Preached at Enfield, July 8th, 1741, at a time of great awakenings;
and attended with remarkable impressions on many of the hearers.

Deuteronomy 32:35
“Their foot shall slide in due time.”

In this verse is threatened the vengeance of God on the wicked unbelieving Israelites, who were God’s visible people, and who lived under the means of grace; but who, notwithstanding all God’s wonderful works towards them, remained (as verse 28) void of counsel, having no understanding in them. Under all the cultivations of heaven, they brought forth bitter and poisonous fruit; as in the two verses next preceding the text. –The expression I have chosen for my text, Their foot shall slide in due time, seems to imply the following things, relating to the punishment and destruction to which these wicked Israelites were exposed.

1. That they were always exposed to destruction; as one that stands or walks in slippery places is always exposed to fall. This is implied in the manner of their destruction coming upon them, being represented by their foot sliding. The same is expressed, Psalm 73:18. “Surely thou didst set them in slippery places; thou castedst them down into destruction.”

2. It implies, that they were always exposed to sudden unexpected destruction. As he that walks in slippery places is every moment liable to fall, he cannot foresee one moment whether he shall stand or fall the next; and when he does fall, he falls at once without warning: Which is also expressed in Psalm 73:18, 19. “Surely thou didst set them in slippery places; thou castedst them down into destruction: How are they brought into desolation as in a moment!”

3. Another thing implied is, that they are liable to fall of themselves, without being thrown down by the hand of another; as he that stands or walks on slippery ground needs nothing but his own weight to throw him down.

4. That the reason why they are not fallen already, and do not fall now, is only that God’s appointed time is not come. For it is said, that when that due time, or appointed time comes, their foot shall slide. Then they shall be left to fall, as they are inclined by their own weight. God will not hold them up in these slippery places any longer, but will let them go; and then, at that very instant, they shall fall into destruction; as he that stands on such slippery declining ground, on the edge of a pit, he cannot stand alone, when he is let go he immediately falls and is lost.

The observation from the words that I would not insist upon is this. –“There is nothing that keeps wicked men at any one moment out of hell, but the mere pleasure of God”. –By the mere pleasure of God, I mean his sovereign pleasure, his arbitrary will, restrained by no obligation, hindered by no manner of difficulty, any more than if nothing else but God’s mere will had in the least degree, or in any respect whatsoever, any hand in the preservation of wicked men one moment. –The truth of this observation may appear by the following considerations.

1. There is no want of power in God to cast wicked men into hell at any moment. Men’s hands cannot be strong when God rises up. The strongest have no power to resist him, nor can any deliver out of his hands. –He is not only able to cast wicked men into hell, but he can most easily do it. Sometimes an earthly prince meets with a great deal of difficulty to subdue a rebel, who has found means to fortify himself, and has made himself strong by the numbers of his followers. But it is not so with God. There is no fortress that is any defence from the power of God. Though hand join in hand, and vast multitudes of God’s enemies combine and associate themselves, they are easily broken in pieces. They are as great heaps of light chaff before the whirlwind; or large quantities of dry stubble before devouring flames. We find it easy to tread on and crush a worm that we see crawling on the earth; so it is easy for us to cut or singe a slender thread that any thing hangs by: thus easy is it for God, when he pleases, to cast his enemies down to hell. What are we, that we should think to stand before him, at whose rebuke the earth trembles, and before whom the rocks are thrown down?

2. They deserve to be cast into hell; so that divine justice never stands in the way, it makes no objection against God’s using his power at any moment to destroy them. Yea, on the contrary, justice calls aloud for an infinite punishment of their sins. Divine justice says of the tree that brings forth such grapes of Sodom, “Cut it down, why cumbereth it the ground?” (Luke 13:7). The sword of divine justice is every moment brandished over their heads, and it is nothing but the hand of arbitrary mercy, and God’s mere will, that holds it back.

3. They are already under a sentence of condemnation to hell. They do not only justly deserve to be cast down thither, but the sentence of the law of God, that eternal and immutable rule of righteousness that God has fixed between him and mankind, is gone out against them, and stands against them; so that they are bound over already to hell. “He that believeth not is condemned already” (John 3:18). So that every unconverted man properly belongs to hell; that is his place; from thence he is. “Ye are from beneath” (John 8:23). And thither he is bound; it is the place that justice, and God’s word, and the sentence of his unchangeable law assign to him.

4. They are now the objects of that very same anger and wrath of God, that is expressed in the torments of hell. And the reason why they do not go down to hell at each moment, is not because God, in whose power they are, is not then very angry with them; as he is with many miserable creatures now tormented in hell, who there feel and bear the fierceness of his wrath. Yea, God is a great deal more angry with great numbers that are now on earth: yea, doubtless, with many that are now in this congregation, who it may be are at ease, than he is with many of those who are now in the flames of hell. –So that it is not because God is unmindful of their wickedness, and does not resent it, that he does not let loose his hand and cut them off. God is not altogether such an one as themselves, though they may imagine him to be so. The wrath of God burns against them, their damnation does not slumber; the pit is prepared, the fire is made ready, the furnace is now hot, ready to receive them; the flames do now rage and glow. The glittering sword is whet, and held over them, and the pit hath opened its mouth under them.

5. The devil stands ready to fall upon them, and seize them as his own, at what moment God shall permit him. They belong to him; he has their souls in his possession, and under his dominion. The Scripture represents them as his goods (Luke 11:12). The devils watch them; they are ever by them at their right hand; they stand waiting for them, like greedy hungry lions that see their prey, and expect to have it, but are for the present kept back. If God should withdraw his hand, by which they are restrained, they would in one moment fly upon their poor souls. The old serpent is gaping for them; hell opens its mouth wide to receive them; and if God should permit it, they would be hastily swallowed up and lost.

6. There are in the souls of wicked men those hellish principles reigning, that would presently kindle and flame out into hell fire, if it were not for God’s restraints. There is laid in the very nature of carnal men, a foundation for the torments of hell. There are those corrupt principles, in reigning power in them, and in full possession of them, that are seeds of hell fire. These principles are active and powerful, exceeding violent in their nature, and if it were not for the restraining hand of God upon them, they would soon break out, they would flame out after the same manner as the same corruptions, the same enmity does in the hearts of damned souls, and would beget the same torments as they do in them. The souls of the wicked are in Scripture compared to the troubled sea (Is. 57:20). For the present, God restrains their wickedness by his mighty power, as he does the raging waves of the troubled sea, saying, “Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further;” but if God should withdraw that restraining power, it would soon carry all before it. Sin is the ruin and misery of the soul; it is destructive in its nature; and if God should leave it without restraint, there would need nothing else to make the soul perfectly miserable. The corruption of the heart of man is immoderate and boundless in its fury; and while wicked men live here, it is like fire pent up by God’s restraints, whereas if it were let loose, it would set on fire the course of nature; and as the heart is now a sink of sin, so if sin was not restrained, it would immediately turn the soul into a fiery oven, or a furnace of fire and brimstone.

7. It is no security to wicked men for one moment, that there are no visible means of death at hand. It is no security to a natural man, that he is now in health, and that he does not see which way he should now immediately go out of the world by any accident, and that there is no visible danger in any respect in his circumstances. The manifold and continual experience of the world in all ages, shows this is no evidence, that a man is not on the very brink of eternity, and that the next step will not be into another world. The unseen, unthought-of ways and means of persons going suddenly out of the world are innumerable and inconceivable. Unconverted men walk over the pit of hell on a rotten covering, and there are innumerable places in this covering so weak that they will not bear their weight, and these places are not seen. The arrows of death fly unseen at noonday; the sharpest sight cannot discern them. God has so many different unsearchable ways of taking wicked men out of the world and sending them to hell, that there is nothing to make it appear, that God had need to be at the expense of a miracle, or go out of the ordinary course of his providence, to destroy any wicked man, at any moment. All the means that there are of sinners going out of the world, are so in God’s hands, and so universally and absolutely subject to his power and determination, that it does not depend at all the less on the mere will of God, whether sinners shall at any moment go to hell, than if means were never made use of, or at all concerned in the case.

8. Natural men’s prudence and care to preserve their own lives, or the care of others to preserve them, do not secure them a moment. To this, divine providence and universal experience do also bear testimony. There is this clear evidence that men’s own wisdom is no security to them from death; that if it were otherwise we should see some difference between the wise and politic men of the world, and others, with regard to their liableness to early and unexpected death: but how is it in fact? “How dieth the wise man? even as the fool” (Eccl. 2:16).

9. All wicked men’s pains and contrivance which they use to escape hell, while they continue to reject Christ, and so remain wicked men, do not secure them from hell one moment. Almost every natural man that hears of hell, flatters himself that he shall escape it; he depends upon himself for his own security; he flatters himself in what he has done, in what he is now doing, or what he intends to do. Every one lays out matters in his own mind how he shall avoid damnation, and flatters himself that he contrives well for himself, and that his schemes will not fail. They hear indeed that there are but few saved, and that the greater part of men that have died heretofore are gone to hell; but each one imagines that he lays out matters better for his own escape than others have done. He does not intend to come to that place of torment; he says within himself, that he intends to take effectual care, and to order matters so for himself as not to fail.

But the foolish children of men miserably delude themselves in their own schemes, and in confidence in their own strength and wisdom; they trust to nothing but a shadow. The greater part of those who heretofore have lived under the same means of grace, and are now dead, are undoubtedly gone to hell; and it was not because they were not as wise as those who are now alive: it is not because they did not lay out matters as well for themselves to secure their own escape. If we could speak with them, and inquire of them, one by one, whether they expected, when alive, and when they used to hear about hell, ever to be the subjects of that misery: we doubtless, should hear one and another reply, “No, I never intended to come here: I had laid out matters otherwise in my mind; I thought I should contrive well for myself: I thought my scheme good. I intended to take effectual care; but it came upon me unexpected; I did not look for it at that time, and in that manner; it came as a thief: Death outwitted me: God’s wrath was too quick for me. Oh, my cursed foolishness! I was flattering myself, and pleasing myself with vain dreams of what I would do hereafter; and when I was saying, Peace and safety, then suddenly destruction came upon me.”

10. God has laid himself under no obligation, by any promise to keep any natural man out of hell one moment. God certainly has made no promises either of eternal life, or of any deliverance or preservation from eternal death, but what are contained in the covenant of grace, the promises that are given in Christ, in whom all the promises are yea and amen. But surely they have no interest in the promises of the covenant of grace who are not the children of the covenant, who do not believe in any of the promises, and have no interest in the Mediator of the covenant.

So that, whatever some have imagined and pretended about promises made to natural men’s earnest seeking and knocking, it is plain and manifest, that whatever pains a natural man takes in religion, whatever prayers he makes, till he believes in Christ, God is under no manner of obligation to keep him a moment from eternal destruction.

So that, thus it is that natural men are held in the hand of God, over the pit of hell; they have deserved the fiery pit, and are already sentenced to it; and God is dreadfully provoked, his anger is as great towards them as to those that are actually suffering the executions of the fierceness of his wrath in hell, and they have done nothing in the least to appease or abate that anger, neither is God in the least bound by any promise to hold them up one moment; the devil is waiting for them, hell is gaping for them, the flames gather and flash about them, and would fain lay hold on them, and swallow them up; the fire bent up in their own hearts is struggling to break out: and they have no interest in any Mediator, there are no means within reach that can be any security to them. In short, they have no refuge, nothing to take hold of; all that preserves them every moment is the mere arbitrary will, and uncovenanted, unobliged forbearance of an incensed God.

Application.
The use of this awful subject may be for awakening unconverted persons in this congregation. This that you have heard is the case of every one of you that are out of Christ. –That world of misery, that lake of burning brimstone, is extended abroad under you. There is the dreadful pit of the glowing flames of the wrath of God; there is hell’s wide gaping mouth open; and you have nothing to stand upon, nor any thing to take hold of; there is nothing between you and hell but the air; it is only the power and mere pleasure of God that holds you up.

You probably are not sensible of this; you find you are kept out of hell, but do not see the hand of God in it; but look at other things, as the goodstate of your bodily constitution, your care of your own life, and the means you use for your own preservation. But indeed these things are nothing; if God should withdraw his hand, they would avail no more to keep you from falling, than the thin air to hold up a person that is suspended in it.

Your wickedness makes you as it were heavy as lead, and to tend downwards with great weight and pressure towards hell; and if God should let you go, you would immediately sink and swiftly descend and plunge into the bottomless gulf, and your healthy constitution, and your own care and prudence, and best contrivance, and all your righteousness, would have no more influence to uphold you and keep you out of hell, than a spider’s web would have to stop a fallen rock. Were it not for the sovereign pleasure of God, the earth would not bear you one moment; for you are a burden to it; the creation groans with you; the creature is made subject to the bondage of your corruption, not willingly; the sun does not willingly shine upon you to give you light to serve sin and Satan; the earth does not willingly yield her increase to satisfy your lusts; nor is it willingly a stage for your wickedness to be acted upon; the air does not willingly serve you for breath to maintain the flame of life in your vitals, while you spend your life in the service of God’s enemies. God’s creatures are good, and were made for men to serve God with, and do not willingly subserve to any other purpose, and groan when they are abused to purposes so directly contrary to their nature and end. And the world would spew you out, were it not for the sovereign hand of him who hath subjected it in hope. There are black clouds of God’s wrath now hanging directly over your heads, full of the dreadful storm, and big with thunder; and were it not for the restraining hand of God, it would immediately burst forth upon you. The sovereign pleasure of God, for the present, stays his rough wind; otherwise it would come with fury, and your destruction would come like a whirlwind, and you would be like the chaff of the summer threshing floor.

The wrath of God is like great waters that are damned for the present; they increase more and more, and rise higher and higher, till an outlet is given; and the longer the stream is stopped, the more rapid and mighty is its course, when once it is let loose. It is true, that judgment against your evil works has not been executed hitherto; the floods of God’s vengeance have been withheld; but your guilt in the mean time is constantly increasing, and you are every day treasuring up more wrath; the waters are constantly rising, and waxing more and more mighty; and there is nothing but the mere pleasure of God, that holds the waters back, that are unwilling to be stopped, and press hard to go forward. If God should only withdraw his hand from the flood-gate, it would immediately fly open, and the fiery floods of the fierceness and wrath of God, would rush forth with inconceivable fury, and would come upon you with omnipotent power; and if your strength were ten thousand times greater than it is, yea, ten thousand times greater than the strength of the stoutest, sturdiest devil in hell, it would be nothing to withstand or endure it.

The bow of God’s wrath is bent, and the arrow made ready on the string, and justice bends the arrow at your heart, and strains the bow, and it is nothing but the mere pleasure of God, and that of an angry God, without any promise or obligation at all, that keeps the arrow one moment from being made drunk with your blood. Thus all you that never passed under a great change of heart, by the mighty power of the Spirit of God upon your souls; all you that were never born again, and made new creatures, and raised from being dead in sin, to a state of new, and before altogether unexperienced light and life, are in the hands of an angry God. However you may have reformed your life in many things, and may have had religious affections, and may keep up a form of religion in your families and closets, and in the house of God, it is nothing but his mere pleasure that keeps you from being this moment swallowed up in everlasting destruction. However unconvinced you may now be of the truth of what you hear, by and by you will be fully convinced of it. Those that are gone from being in the like circumstances with you, see that it was so with them; for destruction came suddenly upon most of them; when they expected nothing of it, and while they were saying, Peace and safety: now they see, that those things on which they depended for peace and safety, were nothing but thin air and empty shadows.

The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times more abominable in his eyes, than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours. You have offended him infinitely more than ever a stubborn rebel did his prince; and yet it is nothing but his hand that holds you from falling into the fire every moment. It is to be ascribed to nothing else, that you did not go to hell the last night; that you were suffered to awake again in this world, after you closed your eyes to sleep. And there is no other reason to be given, why you have not dropped into hell since you arose in the morning, but that God’s hand has held you up. There is no other reason to be given why you have not gone to hell, since you have sat here in the house of God, provoking his pure eyes by your sinful wicked manner of attending his solemn worship. Yea, there is nothing else that is to be given as a reason why you do not this very moment drop down into hell.

O sinner! Consider the fearful danger you are in: it is a great furnace of wrath, a wide and bottomless pit, full of the fire of wrath, that you are held over in the hand of that God, whose wrath is provoked and incensed as much against you, as against many of the damned in hell. You hang by a slender thread, with the flames of divine wrath flashing about it, and ready every moment to singe it, and burn it asunder; and you have no interest in any Mediator, and nothing to lay hold of to save yourself, nothing to keep off the flames of wrath, nothing of your own, nothing that you ever have done, nothing that you can do, to induce God to spare you one moment. –And consider here more particularly,

1. Whose wrath it is: it is the wrath of the infinite God. If it were only the wrath of man, though it were of the most potent prince, it would be comparatively little to be regarded. The wrath of kings is very much dreaded, especially of absolute monarchs, who have the possessions and lives of their subjects wholly in their power, to be disposed of at their mere will. “The fear of a king is as the roaring of a lion: Whoso provoketh him to anger, sinneth against his own soul” (Prov. 20:2). The subject that very much enrages an arbitrary prince, is liable to suffer the most extreme torments that human art can invent, or human power can inflict. But the greatest earthly potentates in their greatest majesty and strength, and when clothed in their greatest terrors, are but feeble, despicable worms of the dust, in comparison of the great and almighty Creator and King of heaven and earth. It is but little that they can do, when most enraged, and when they have exerted the utmost of their fury. All the kings of the earth, before God, are as grasshoppers; they are nothing, and less than nothing: both their love and their hatred is to be despised. The wrath of the great King of kings, is as much more terrible than theirs, as his majesty is greater. “And I say unto you, my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that, have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom you shall fear: fear him, which after he hath killed, hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him” (Luke 12:4, 5).

2. It is the fierceness of his wrath that you are exposed to. We often read of the fury of God; as in Isaiah 59:18 “According to their deeds, accordingly he will repay fury to his adversaries.” So Isaiah 66:15 “For behold, the Lord will come with fire, and with his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire.” And in many other places. So, we read of “the wine press of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God” (Rev. 19:15). The words are exceeding terrible. If it had only been said, “the wrath of God,” the words would have implied that which is infinitely dreadful: but it is “the fierceness and wrath of God.” The fury of God! the fierceness of Jehovah! Oh, how dreadful must that be! Who can utter or conceive what such expressions carry in them! But it is also “the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.” As though there would be a very great manifestation of his almighty power in what the fierceness of his wrath should inflict, as though omnipotence should be as it were enraged, and exerted, as men are wont to exert their strength in the fierceness of their wrath. Oh! then, what will be the consequence! What will become of the poor worms that shall suffer it! Whose hands can be strong? And whose heart can endure? To what a dreadful, inexpressible, inconceivable depth of misery must the poor creature be sunk who shall be the subject of this!

Consider this, you that are here present, that yet remain in an unregenerate state. That God will execute the fierceness of his anger, implies, that he will inflict wrath without any pity. When God beholds the ineffable extremity of your case, and sees your torment to be so vastly disproportioned to your strength, and sees how your poor soul is crushed, and sinks down, as it were, into an infinite gloom; he will have no compassion upon you, he will not forbear the executions of his wrath, or in the least lighten his hand; there shall be no moderation or mercy, nor will God then at all stay his rough wind; he will have no regard to your welfare, nor be at all careful lest you should suffer too much in any other sense, than only that you shall not suffer beyond what strict justice requires. Nothing shall be withheld, because it is so hard for you to bear. “Therefore will I also deal in fury: mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity; and though they cry in mine ears with a loud voice, yet I will not hear them” (Ezek. 8:18). Now God stands ready to pity you; this is a day of mercy; you may cry now with some encouragement of obtaining mercy. But when once the day of mercy is past, your most lamentable and dolorous cries and shrieks will be in vain; you will be wholly lost and thrown away of God, as to any regard to your welfare. God will have no other use to put you to, but to suffer misery; you shall be continued in being to no other end; for you will be a vessel of wrath fitted to destruction; and there will be no other use of this vessel, but to be filled full of wrath. God will be so far from pitying you when you cry to him, that it is said he will only “laugh and mock” (Prov. 1:25, 26, etc.).

How awful are those words which are the words of the great God. “I will tread them in mine anger, and will trample them in my fury, and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment” (Is. 63:3). It is perhaps impossible to conceive of words that carry in them greater manifestations of these three things, viz. contempt, and hatred, and fierceness of indignation. If you cry to God to pity you, he will be so far from pitying you in your doleful case, or showing you the least regard or favour, that instead of that, he will only tread you under foot. And though he will know that you cannot bear the weight of omnipotence treading upon you, yet he will not regard that, but he will crush you under his feet without mercy; he will crush out your blood, and make it fly, and it shall be sprinkled on his garments, so as to stain all his raiment. He will not only hate you, but he will have you, in the utmost contempt: no place shall be thought fit for you, but under his feet to be trodden down as the mire of the streets.

3. The misery you are exposed to is that which God will inflict to that end, that he might show what that wrath of Jehovah is. God hath had it on his heart to show to angels and men, both how excellent his love is, and also how terrible his wrath is. Sometimes earthly kings have a mind to show how terrible their wrath is, by the extreme punishments they would execute on those that would provoke them. Nebuchadnezzar, that mighty and haughty monarch of the Chaldean empire, was willing to show his wrath when enraged with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; and accordingly gave orders that the burning fiery furnace should be heated seven times hotter than it was before; doubtless, it was raised to the utmost degree of fierceness that human art could raise it. But the great God is also willing to show his wrath, and magnify his awful majesty and mighty power in the extreme sufferings of his enemies. “What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction?” (Ro. 9:22). And seeing this is his design, and what he has determined, even to show how terrible the unrestrained wrath, the fury and fierceness of Jehovah is, he will do it to effect. There will be something accomplished and brought to pass that will be dreadful with a witness. Then the great and angry God hath risen up and executed his awful vengeance on the poor sinner, and the wretch is actually suffering the infinite weight and power of his indignation, then will God call upon the whole universe to behold that awful majesty and mighty power that is to be seen in it. “And the people shall be as the burnings of lime, as thorns cut up shall they be burnt in the fire. Hear ye that are far off, what I have done; and ye that are near, acknowledge my might. The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites…” (Is. 33:12-14).

Thus it will be with you that are in an unconverted state, if you continue in it; the infinite might, and majesty, and terribleness of the omnipotent God shall be magnified upon you, in the ineffable strength of your torments. You shall be tormented in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb; and when you shall be in this state of suffering, the glorious inhabitants of heaven shall go forth and look on the awful spectacle, that they may see what the wrath and fierceness of the Almighty is; and when they have seen it, they will fall down and adore that great power and majesty. “And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the Lord. And they shall go forth and look upon the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against me; for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched, and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh” (Is. 66:23, 24).

4. It is everlasting wrath. It would be dreadful to suffer this fierceness and wrath of Almighty God one moment; but you must suffer it to all eternity. There will be no end to this exquisite horrible misery. When you look forward, you shall see a long for ever, a boundless duration before you, which will swallow up your thoughts, and amaze your soul; and you will absolutely despair of ever having any deliverance, any end, any mitigation, any rest at all. You will know certainly that you must wear out long ages, millions of millions of ages, in wrestling and conflicting with this almighty merciless vengeance; and then when you have so done, when so many ages have actually been spent by you in this manner, you will know that all is but a point to what remains. So that your punishment will indeed be infinite. Oh, who can express what the state of a soul in such circumstances is! All that we can possibly say about it, gives but a very feeble, faint representation of it; it is inexpressible and inconceivable: For “who knows the power of God’s anger?”

How dreadful is the state of those that are daily and hourly in the danger of this great wrath and infinite misery! But this is the dismal case of every soul in this congregation that has not been born again, however moral and strict, sober and religious, they may otherwise be. Oh that you would consider it, whether you be young or old! There is reason to think, that there are many in this congregation now hearing this discourse, that will actually be the subjects of this very misery to all eternity. We know not who they are, or in what seats they sit, or what thoughts they now have. It may be they are now at ease, and hear all these things without much disturbance, and are now flattering themselves that they are not the persons, promising themselves that they shall escape. If we knew that there was one person, and but one, in the whole congregation, that was to be the subject of this misery, what an awful thing would it be to think of! If we knew who it was, what an awful sight would it be to see such a person! How might all the rest of the congregation lift up a lamentable and bitter cry over him! But, alas! instead of one, how many is it likely will remember this discourse in hell? And it would be a wonder, if some that are now present should not be in hell in a very short time, even before this year is out. And it would be no wonder if some persons, that now sit here, in some seats of this meeting house, in health, quiet and secure, should be there before tomorrow morning. Those of you that finally continue in a natural condition, that shall keep out of hell longest will be there in a little time! your damnation does not slumber; it will come swiftly, and, in all probability, very suddenly upon many of you. You have reason to wonder that you are not already in hell. It is doubtless the case of some whom you have seen and known, that never deserved hell more than you, and that heretofore appeared as likely to have been now alive as you. Their case is past all hope; they are crying in extreme misery and perfect despair; but here you are in the land of the living and in the house of God, and have an opportunity to obtain salvation. What would not those poor damned hopeless souls give for one day’s opportunity such as you now enjoy!

And now you have an extraordinary opportunity, a day wherein Christ has thrown the door of mercy wide open, and stands in calling and crying with a loud voice to poor sinners; a day wherein many are flocking to him, and pressing into the kingdom of God. Many are daily coming from the east, west, north and south; many that were very lately in the same miserable condition that you are in, are now in a happy state, with their hearts filled with love to him who has loved them, and washed them from their sins in his own blood, and rejoicing in hope of the glory of God. How awful is it to be left behind at such a day! To see so many others feasting, while you are pining and perishing! To see so many rejoicing and singing for joy of heart, while you have cause to mourn for sorrow of heart, and howl for vexation of spirit! How can you rest one moment in such a condition? Are not your souls as precious as the souls of the people at Suffield, where they are flocking from day to day to Christ?

Are there not many here who have lived long in the world, and are not to this day born again? and so are aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and have done nothing ever since they have lived, but treasure up wrath against the day of wrath? Oh, sirs, your case, in an especial manner, is extremely dangerous. Your guilt and hardness of heart is extremely great. Do you not see how generally persons of your years are passed over and left, in the present remarkable and wonderful dispensation of God’s mercy? You have need to consider yourselves, and awake thoroughly out of sleep. You cannot bear the fierceness and wrath of the infinite God. –And you, young men, and young women, will you neglect this precious season which you now enjoy, when so many others of your age are renouncing all youthful vanities, and flocking to Christ? You especially have now an extraordinary opportunity; but if you neglect it, it will soon be with you as with those persons who spent all the precious days of youth in sin, and are now come to such a dreadful pass in blindness and hardness. –And you, children, who are unconverted, do not you know that you are going down to hell, to bear the dreadful wrath of that God, who is now angry with you every day and every night? Will you be content to be the children of the devil, when so many other children in the land are converted, and are become the holy and happy children of the King of kings?

And let every one that is yet out of Christ, and hanging over the pit of hell, whether they be old men and women, or middle aged, or young people, or little children, now hearken to the loud calls of God’s word and providence. This acceptable year of the Lord, a day of such great favours to some, will doubtless be a day of as remarkable vengeance to others. Men’s hearts harden, and their guilt increases apace at such a day as this, if they neglect their souls; and never was there so great danger of such persons being given up to hardness of heart and blindness of mind. God seems now to be hastily gathering in his elect in all parts of the land; and probably the greater part of adult persons that ever shall be saved, will be brought in now in a little time, and that it will be as it was on the great outpouring of the Spirit upon the Jews in the apostles’ days; the election will obtain, and the rest will be blinded. If this should be the case with you, you will eternally curse this day, and will curse the day that ever you were born, to see such a season of the pouring out of God’s Spirit, and will wish that you had died and gone to hell before you had seen it. Now undoubtedly it is, as it was in the days of John the Baptist, the axe is in an extraordinary manner laid at the root of the trees, that every tree which brings not forth good fruit, may be hewn down and cast into the fire.

Therefore, let every one that is out of Christ, now awake and fly from the wrath to come. The wrath of Almighty God is now undoubtedly hanging over a great part of this congregation: Let every one fly out of Sodom: “Haste and escape for your lives, look not behind you, escape to the mountain, lest you be consumed.”

HT: 21st Century Puritanism

Christian Directions – Samuel Rutherford

1. That hours of the day, less or more time, for the Word and prayer, be given to God; not sparing the twelfth hour, or mid-day, howbeit it should then be the shorter time.

2. In the midst of worldly employments, there should be some thoughts of sin, death, judgment, and eternity, with at least a word or two of ejaculatory prayer to God.

3. To beware of wandering of heart in private prayer.

4. Not to grudge if ye come from prayer without sense of joy. Downcasting, sense of guiltiness, and hunger, are often best for us.

5. That the Lord’s Day, from morning to night, be spent always either in private or public worship.

6. That words be observed, wandering and idle thoughts be avoided, sudden anger and desire of revenge, even of such as persecute the truth, be guarded against; for we often mix our zeal with our wild-fire.

7. That known, discovered, and revealed sins, that are against the conscience, be avoided, as most dangerous preparatives to hardness of heart.

8. That in dealing with men, faith and truth in covenants and trafficking be regarded, that we deal with all men in sincerity; that conscience be made of idle and lying words; and that our carriage be such, as that they who see it may speak honourably of our sweet Master and profession

HT: Fire and Ice

God’s Grace In Justifying the Sinner – Robert Traill

GOD’S GRACE IN JUSTIFYING THE SINNER

A Sermon by

Robert Traill

Galatians 2:21 – “I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.”

The scope of the apostle Paul in this epistle, is to reprove the church that he writes to, for a great and sudden apostasy from that faith of the gospel that they were planted in: the apostle Paul himself was one of the main planters amongst them; and quickly after his removal from them false brethren crept in amongst them, and perverted them from the simplicity that was in Christ: their great error lay here, in mixing the works of the law with the righteousness of Christ, in the grand point of the justification of a sinner before God. Throughout this epistle the apostle argues strongly against this error: they had not renounced the doctrine of Christ; they did not deny justification by faith in him; but they thought that the works of the law were to be added to their faith in Christ, in order to their justification.

I shall only take notice briefly of a few of his arguments against this error, as they lie in the context, to lead you to the words that I have read, and mean to speak to.

The former part of the chapter is historical, telling them what he had done, and what had befallen him some years ago; how he was entertained and received by the great servants of Christ at Jerusalem, Peter, James, and John, that seemed to be pillars, and were indeed so: see the first ten verses. The next thing that he breaks forth into, in point of arguing with them, is upon the account of Peter’s dissimulation, and Paul’s reproof of him: the point seemed to be very small; Peter had made use of his Christian liberty in free converse with the believing Gentiles; but when some of the brethren of the Jews came from Jerusalem, he withdrew himself, and separated from them, fearing them of the circumcision; “fearing that they would take it ill:” a weak kind of fear it was, and upon this small thing the apostle set himself against him with great zeal. I withstood him, saith he, to the face, because he was to be blamed, ver. 11. By this withdrawing the use of his Christian liberty, he hardened the Jews, and he weakened the hands of the weaker Jewish converts, that thought the wall of partition between the Jews and Gentiles was not yet taken away.

First, his argument against mingling the works of the law with faith in justification, is taken from the practice of the believing Jews. What way did they take to be justified? We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ; even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified, ver. 15, 16.

Secondly, his next argument is taken from the bad effect and sad consequence of seeking righteousness by the law, ver. 17, which, because it is something dark, I would explain it a little in a few words: But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves are also found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid. If so be we that have sought righteousness in Jesus Christ, if we have yet any dealings with the law in point of righteousness, we are found sinners still; and if a justified man be found a sinner, why then Jesus Christ, instead of delivering us from the bondage of the law, is found a minister of sin.

Thirdly, his third argument is yet strongest of all, and some way the darkest, ver. 20. For I through the law am dead unto the law, that I might live unto God. As if he should have said, “For my part, all the use that I got of the law, the more. I was acquainted with it, it slew me the more, and I died the more to it, that I might live to God; all that the law can do to me in point of justification, is only to condemn me, and it can do no more;” and whenever the law enters into a man’s conscience it always does this: When the commandment came, sin revived, and I died: the commandment slew me (Rom. 7:9, 11 ).

Fourthly, his next argument is taken from the nature of the new life that he led, ver. 20. 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.” Words of extraordinary form, but of more extraordinary matter: words that one would think seem to be some way cross to one another: but yet they set forth gloriously that gracious life that through Christ Jesus is imparted to justified believers. “Christ died for me, and I am crucified with Christ; and yet I live, but it is Christ that lives in me, and Christ lives in me only by faith.”

My text contains two arguments more, drawn from a common natural head of arguing against error, by the absurdities that necessarily flow from it; and they are two the greatest that can be, “Frustrating the grace of God,”—and “making the death of Christ to be in vain.” And greater sins are not to be committed by men: the greatest sin, the unpardonable sin, is expressed in words very like to this, Heb. 10:29—”Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden underfoot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite to the Spirit of grace?” And how near to one another are frustrating the grace of God, and doing despite to the Spirit of grace, and making Christ’s death to be in vain, and counting the blood of the covenant an unholy thing!

There are two words to be explained before we go any further: First, what is the grace of God? Secondly, what is it to frustrate the grace of God?

First, what is the grace of God? The grace of God hath two common noted acceptations in the Scripture.

First, it is taken and used in the Scripture for the doctrine of the grace of God, and so it is frequently used; the gospel itself is called the grace of God (Tit. 2:12). The grace of God, that bringeth salvation, hath appeared unto all men: that is, the gospel; for it is the teaching grace of God that is there spoken of, called by the apostle, the gospel of his grace. And this grace of God may be received in vain. Many may have this grace of God and go to hell. Pray that you receive not the grace of God in vain.

Secondly, by the grace of God in the word is understood the blessing itself; and this is never frustrated; that grace that called Paul, that grace that wrought mightily with him, that was not given him in vain: the grace that was bestowed was not in vain, for I laboured more abundantly than they all; yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. The gospel of the grace of God is frequently frustrated, but the grace itself is never so.

Secondly, what is it to frustrate this grace of God? The word that I remember in the original is used, Mark 7:9—Ye make void (or reject) the commandments of God. It is the same word with that in my text: to frustrate the grace of God, is to defeat it of its end, to miss the end of it. In Luke 7:30 it is said the Pharisees and Lawyers frustrated the grace of God against themselves; or, as we read it there, they rejected the counsel of God against themselves. The true grace of God itself can never be frustrated, it always reaches its end, for it is almighty: but the doctrine of the grace of God is many times rejected; and the apostle here in the text speaks of it as a sin that they are guilty of that speak of righteousness by the works of the law. There is one thing that I would observe in general from the scope of the apostle, that in the great matter of justification the apostle argues from his own experience: the true way to get sound light in the main point of the justification of a sinner before God, is to study it in thy own personal concern; if it be bandied about by men as a notion only, as a point of truth, discoursing wantonly about it, it is all one in God’s sight whether men be sound or unsound about it; they are unsound in heart how sound soever they are in head about it. The great way to know the right mind of God about the justification of a poor sinner, is for all to try it with respect to themselves. Would the apostle say, “1 know how I am justified, and all the world shall never persuade me to join the righteousness of the law with the righteousness of Christ.”

There are four points of doctrine that I would raise, and observe from the first part of these words:

First, that the grace of God shines gloriously in the justifying of a sinner through the righteousness of Christ.

Secondly, it is a horrible sin to frustrate the grace of God.

Thirdly, All that seek righteousness by the law do frustrate the grace of God in the gospel.

Fourthly, that no sound believer can be guilty of this sin.

I would speak to the first of these at this time: “That the grace of God shines gloriously in the justifying of a sinner by the righteousness of Christ alone.” When the apostle speaks of it, how frequently is this term grace added? Being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, Rom. 3:24. That being justified by his grace, we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

There are four things to be explained here, that will make our way plain to the proof of this point. What is justification? Who is it that doth justify? Who are justified? And upon what account?

First, what is justification? We read much of it in our Bible, and the doctrine of it is reckoned one of the fundamental points of the true Christian religion, and so indeed it is. This grand doctrine, the fountain of our peace, and comfort, and salvation, was wonderfully darkened in the Popish kingdom; and the first light of the reformation, that God was pleased to break up in our forefathers’ days, was mainly about this great doctrine. Justification is not barely the pardon of sin; it is indeed always inseparable from it, the pardon of sin is a fruit of it, or a part of it. Justification is God’s acquitting a man, and freeing him from all attainder; it is God’s taking off the attainder that the broken law of God lays upon every sinner. Who is he that shall condemn? It is God that justifies, Rom. 8:33. Justification and condemnation are opposites; every one is under condemnation that is not justified; and every justified man is freed from condemnation. Justification is not sanctification; it is an old Popish error, sown in the heads of a great many Protestants. to think that justification and sanctification are the same: justification’ and sanctification are as far different as these two:—There is a man condemned for high treason against the king by the judge; and the same man is Sick of a modal disease and if he dies not by the hands of the hangman today, he may die of his disease tomorrow: it is the work of the physician to cure the disease, but it is an act of mercy from the king that must save him from the attainder. Justification is the acquitting and repealing the law-sentence of condemnation; sanctification is the healing of the disease of sin, that will be our bane except Christ be our physician.

Justification and sanctification are always inseparable, but they are wonderfully distinct. Justification is an act of God’s free grace; sanctification is a work of God’s Spirit: sanctification is a work wrought within us, justification is something done about us, and therefore justification is every where spoken of in the word in the terms of a court act.

Secondly, who is he that justifies? I answer God only: Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifies, who shall condemn? Rom. 8:33. He only can justify that gives the law: he only can justify that condemns for sin: he only can justify that is wronged by sin, Mark 2:7. The Pharisees blasphemed, it was in their darkness; but yet the truth that they spake was good, though the application of it was quite naught: Why doth this man speak blasphemies? Who can forgive sin, but God only? In the case of the man sick of the palsy, whose sins Christ first forgave before he healed him of the palsy—so that the forgiveness of his sins was his justification, and the healing of his disease was as if it were the type of his sanctification—-their application was wrong, in that they did not know that Christ was God, and that he had power on earth to forgive sins: but the truth itself was sound—”none can forgive sins but God only.”

Justification is an act of the judge; it is only the judge and lawgiver that can pronounce it: and there is but one law-giver, saith James, that can both save and destroy, chap. 4:12. “None properly offended by sin but God, and nothing violated by sin so immediately as the law of God.”

Thirdly, who is justified? Every one is not justified. What sort of a man is he that is justified? Justification is the acquitting of a man from all attainder, and it is God’s doing alone; but what sort of a man is it that is justified? !s it a holy man? A man newly come from heaven? Is it a new sort of a creature, rarely made and framed? No. It is a sinner: it is an ungodly man: “God justifies the ungodly.”

The man is not made godly before he is justified, nor is he left ungodly after he is justified; he is not made godly a moment before he is justified, but he is justified from his ungodliness by the sentence of justification: when he is dead in sins and trespasses, quickening comes, and life comes, Eph. 2:1.

Fourthly, upon what account is all this done? And this is the hardest of all. You have heard that justification is the freeing of a man from all charge, and that it is done by God alone, and given to a man before he can do anything of good—for no man can do anything that is good till he be sanctified, and no man is sanctified till he is justified—but the grand question is, How can God justly do this? Saith the apostle, Rom. 3:26. That he might be just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus. How can God be just, and yet justify an ungodly man? “To justify the wicked, and to condemn the righteous, are both an abomination in the sight of God,” when practised by man, Prov. 17:15. How then can God justify the ungodly? The grand account of this is, God justifies the ungodly for the sake of nothing in himself, but solely upon the account of this righteousness of Christ, that the apostle is here arguing upon: Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ, whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, Rom. 3:24, 25. When God justifies a man, the righteousness of Christ is reckoned to him, and God deals with him as a man in Christ; and therefore his transgressions are covered, and the man is made the righteousness of God in Christ, because Christ is made of God unto him righteousness, I Cor. 1:30. Of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us righteousness. Where is the poor man’s righteousness that is justified? It is in Christ Jesus. For, 2 Cor. 5:21, he hath made him to be sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. And to be made the righteousness of God, is nothing else but to be made righteous before God in and through Jesus Christ.

These things considered, the proof of this point is very easy—That the grace of God shines gloriously in the way of justifying a sinner by the righteousness of Jesus Christ: I shall therefore add but a few things more in the proof of it.

First, in this way all is of God, and nothing of the creature’s procuring, and therefore it is of grace. Grace always shines most brightly where man appears least; every thing that tends to advance the power and efficacy of man’s working, always hinders the shining forth of the glory of the grace of God; but in this way of justifying us through the righteousness of Christ, grace shines forth most gloriously, because it is all of God: we do nothing in it. To instance in a few things here,

First, the finding out of this righteousness by which we are justified is of God alone. If the question had been put to all the angels in heaven, and to many worlds of men, if this one question had been put, How can a just and holy God justify a sinner?, no created understanding could ever have been able to find out how it could be done; it was the infinite wisdom of God alone that found out this way. He will send his own Son to be a sinless man, that shall sustain the persons, and bear the sins, and take away the sins of all that shall be justified. The native sense of all mankind is this: when we know any thing of God, we know that it stands with his nature to condemn sin, and hate the sinner; but how it can stand with his justice to acquit a sinner; it is God only that could find out that.

Secondly, as the finding out of the way of our justification is of God alone, so the working out of it is Christ’s alone. There was no creature of God’s counsel in finding out the way, so there was no creature Christ’s helper in making the way. All the great work of fulfilling the righteousness of the law was done by Christ alone; none could offer to help in the great work of bearing the weight of his Father’s wrath, and bearing the burden of the justice of God, for the sins of his church. Our Lord was the alone bearer of this, he alone brought in everlasting righteousness, and put away sin by the sacrifice of himself, Heb. 9:26.

Thirdly, the applying of this righteousness is only of God alone. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to bring it close unto the sinner by faith: and here we have as little to do as in the former. There was none of God’s everlasting council in the finding out this way, nor had Christ any helper in the work of redemption; and we help the Spirit of God as little in his work of applying this: for till the grace of God prevails upon the heart, there is a constant struggling against it. There are many poor sinners that have struggled with the Spirit of God, seeking to save them, more than many believers have ever strove with Satan, seeking to destroy them. All unbelievers are led more tamely to hell by the devil, than believers are led quietly to heaven by the Spirit of God.

Fourthly, the securing all this by the everlasting covenant is of God only. We seal God’s covenant by our faith for the benefit of it; but it is Christ’s great seal that is its security, even the seal of his own blood. This is my blood of the New Testament, which is shed for many, for the remission of sins, Matt. 26:28. And so much for this first thing: The grace of God shines gloriously in the way of justifying a sinner by the righteousness of Christ; because it is altogether of God, the sinner hath no hand in it.

Secondly, this will further appear, if we consider what vile creatures the receivers of it are; they have nothing to procure it, nothing to deserve it, but a great deal to deserve the contrary. In, that Romans 5 they have three names; ver. 6 we are called ungodly; In due time Christ died for the ungodly. Ver. 8 we are called sinners; Whilst we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Ver. 10 we are called enemies; When we were enemies, were reconciled to God by the death of his Son. Here are three names; Ungodly! Sinners! Enemies!

The highest words whereby ill-deserving can be well expressed; and it is the usual way of the Spirit of God, to lay open the worst in a poor sinner, when God is about to give the best and all they that receive it, receive this grace under these names. God be merciful to me a sinner, saith the poor publican; and this man, saith our Lord, went down to his house justified, Luke 18:13, 14. Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief, saith Paul, I Tim. 1:15.

And not only is it so that they are undeserving and unworthy, but they are also very proud and vain, and have a great opinion of themselves; and must it not be great grace then to justify such men? Thou sayest I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing, saith our Lord to the church of Laodicea, and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: even when Christ is courting them to buy of him his gold and white raiment, Rev. 3:17, 18.

Thirdly, the grace of God in justifying a sinner through the righteousness of Christ appears to be very glorious, even in the very naming of it: it is the grace of God: it must be great grace, for it is the grace of God: it is the grace of a holy God: it is the grace of a just God; it is the grace of a powerful God: it is the grace of that God that can do every thing; every name that exalts the glory of God, doth also raise the value of this grace: it is the grace of God towards vile sinners, and that makes it great indeed. Let us consider this grace of God a little.

This grace of God is dear to God; and therefore it is the more grace. The grace of God in justifying us is dear to God; it cost the Father dear to part with his own Son; it cost the Son dear to part with his own life to bring in this righteousness; and, if I may so say, it cost the Holy Ghost dear to work the faith of this righteousness in the heart of a poor sinner. When we consider how all things else that God did were easily done but this: when the world was to be made, no more is to be done, but “Let it be;” but when the world was to be redeemed, “Let it be” will not do; a body must be prepared for the Son, and that body must be sacrificed for sin, and be slain, and sustain the wrath of God, and the curse of the law; and all this to bring in an everlasting righteousness.

Again: This grace that was so dear to God comes to us good cheap, we give nothing for it: the Lord will take nothing for it, we have nothing to give: the apostle does not think it enough to say being justified by his grace, but he adds, being justified FREELY by his grace, Rom. 3:24. Whosoever will, let him take of the water of life FREELY, Rev. 22:17. Taking implies some freedom in it, but taking freely is a redoubling of the expression. This grace of God, that is so dear to God, comes good cheap to us, it cost us nothing.

Again, this grace of God is everlasting; it is the eternal raiment of all believers, even of them that are in heaven. Saith the apostle, Rom 5:21, Grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Observe, neither grace, nor righteousness, nor eternal life, nor Jesus our Lord, cease in heaven; they are all there together; Christ as the author of eternal life, and worker of righteousness; and the believer as the possessor of eternal life, and the enjoyer of this life; and grace as the high spring of all; grace is in heaven; the reign of grace is only in heaven. That of Revelation 19:8 is by most understood to relate to the other world; and it is said there, that “unto the Lamb’s wife it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white;” and that fine linen is the righteousness of Christ, in which the saints stand everlastingly accepted before God. Behold I and the children that thou hast given me! saith our Lord, Heb. 2:13, and their glory in heaven is to behold the glory that he had with the Father, as their head, before the world began, John 17:24.

Again, it is grace, because it is very abundant: it is a usual thing in the Old Testament to call great things by the name of God, as the trees of God, the city of God, the river of God; now this grace of God is so-called because it is great, exceedingly abundant: saith the apostle Paul concerning it, The grace of our Lord Jesus was exceeding abundant towards me, I Tim. 1:14. Did ever any of you know how many sins you had? Yet you must have a great deal more grace, or you can never be saved; there must be more grace than sin, or you cannot be saved, Rom. 5:20. The law entered that sin might abound: but where sin abounded grace did much more abound. I do not say, no man can be saved unless he hath more inherent grace than he hath inherent corruption in him; but, unless there be a greater abundance of the grace of God for covering of sin, than there is of sin to be covered, no man can be saved: the apostle adds a much more abundance to it. One would think there was enough of sin and guilt in the disobedience of the first Adam; and so there was: but, saith the apostle, the matter is far greater here: And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift; for the judgment was by one to condemnation; but the free gift is of many offences unto justification: for if by one man’s offence death reigned by one, much more they that receive abundance of grace, and of the gift of righteousness, shall reign in life, by one, Christ Jesus, ver. 16, 17 of that fifth chapter of Romans. There is abundance of grace, and of the gift of righteousness through Jesus Christ, needful to save any sinner. When the Lord makes this matter to balance in the eyes of his people, and there are great discoveries made to them of the aggravations and of the multitude of their sins; this is a common wicked thought arising in their awakened consciences: Can God forgive? Can God pass by so many and so great transgressions? It is a sinful thought, the plain meaning of it is, “Is there more grace in God than there is sin and guilt with me?” We were all undone if it was not so; if Christ’s righteousness was not more able to justify than the first Adam’s sin was to condemn, no man could be saved.—The grace of God shines in this way of the justification of a sinner by the righteousness of Christ, in that there is an abundance of it imparted to all them that partake of it.

APPLICATION. You have heard that the grace of God shines gloriously in the justification of a sinner by the righteousness of Christ: in all your dealings, then, with God, mind grace mainly: they that never had an errand to God for .the blessing of justification, they may possibly be saved; but they are not yet in the way to salvation that were never yet concerned about this question, How shall a man be acquitted before God? Or that never treated, with God about justification? In all your dealings with God still remember grace: when you come for justification, plead for it as grace: when you receive it, receive it as grace: and when you praise for it, praise for it as grace; and thus will you behave as the people of God have done. When you plead for it, plead for it as grace; bring nothing with you in your hand, offer nothing to God for your justification; it is a free gift: if God be pleased to give it, in his great bounty, you shall be saved. You have no reason to quarrel if God doth not give it: you have nor reason to fear but God will give it. Though you do not deserve it, yet he hath promised it. As there is a fulness of righteousness in Christ to procure grace, so there is a fulness of grace in the tender of the gospel; and you are to believe that Christ is willing to make all this over to sinners.

When you receive justification, receive it as grace; sometimes we get it as an alms, and sometimes in the gospel the Lord offers it as a gift, and we are to receive it as such. if the Lord tenders you the gift of righteousness through Jesus Christ, do not say you cannot receive it; do not say you are not meet for it; the question is, Are you in need of it? Are you not guilty?. And is not a pardon suitable for the guilty? Receive it as a grace. The true reason why so many neglect right dealing with God for justification, and slight God’s dealing with them about receiving it, is because their hearts stand at a distance from, and they have a sort of a quarrel with mere grace. As it is certain that nothing but grace can save the sinner, so it is as certain there is nothing more unpleasing to the sinner than grace; than that good, which when received he must always own the bounty of the giver, and never to eternity be able to say, “My own hand hath made me rich.” Christ will bring none to heaven that are in that mind. He that will not be rich in Christ, must be poor and condemned still in the first Adam. Know ye not, saith the apostle, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, who though he was rich, yet he became poor, that we through his poverty might be made rich, 2 Cor. 8:9. The riches of a believer stands in the poverty of Christ; and every true believer counts Christ’s poverty his riches.

Gettin’ Geeky with the Greeky

Here are some newer Greek helps that you may not be aware of:

Reading Koine Greek: An Introduction and Integrated Workbook is a new beginner’s Greek and a viable alternative to Mounce’s Basic’s of Biblical Greek. One benefit is an awareness of ongoing dialogue surrounding verbal aspect, included in the lesson material.

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Daily Dose of Greek has 25 videos available to help you learn New Testament Greek from scratch. The vids are keyed to Black’s Learn to Read NT Greek, 3rd ed. In addition (and possibly more relevant), a daily 2 minute video is available to help hone your already-acquired skills. These resources are from Rob Plummer, who is professor of New Testament at Southern Seminary in Louisville. Dr. Plummer is also a co-author of the next resource on the list.

Going Deeper with New Testament Greek is a new intermediate  textbook designed for those with their initial Greek classes completed.

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The Watchtower Prophet

Here are  images of some very interesting Watchtower publications.  These images are taken from my personal library of original Watchtower publications.

The first is the original cover of Judge Rutherford’s book The Harp of God.  Take note that it contains “Proof Conclusive that Millions Now Living Will Never Die”.  The book was originally written in 1921 and this picture is of the 1927 edition.

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Here is the cover from the same book published the following year, 1928.  Note that the “proof conclusive” referenced on the original cover is now missing.  Plus they have omitted reference to Rutherford’s other book “Millions Now Living Will Never Die” on the title page.

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How far away was Armageddon in 1971?  Less than 30 years.  See below.

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Another page from the same book, speaking of the “anointed” and “appointed” faithful watchmen like Ezekiel of old.

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What is a “prophet” according to the Watchtower?  Read for yourself:

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The Watchtower claims the same commission as Ezekiel:

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Does the Watchtower claim to be commissioned to speak in Jehovah’s name?

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What conclusions can you draw concerning the Jehovah’s Witness organization?

Union With Christ

Union with Christ, to be “in Christ”, is a powerful description of our personal relationship to God in Christ, and to one another corporately. The following link will take you to episode 123 of the EFCA Theology Podcast, where pastor Dr. Erik Thoennes shares theological and pastoral insights that may prove helpful for you.

“Union with Christ” with Dr. Erik Thoennes

During the discussion, Dr. Thoennes mentions two resources:

 

Stephen Charnock – A Discourse of Delight In Prayer

The old puritan Stephen Charnock may be known to you by recognizing his name as the author of the tremendous volume, The Existence and Attributes of God. I would also venture a guess that you may not have read any of his work yet. I encourage you to give this discourse a reading.  It may spark your interest in finding a puritan well worth the investment in time to read. You can find this work and more at Puritan Sermons.

A Discourse of Delight In Prayer

by Stephen Charnock
Edited by William Symington

“Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give the desires of thine heart.” Psalm 37:4

The beginning of this psalm is a heap of instructions: The great lesson intended in it is placed in verse 1. “Fret not thyself because of evil-doers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity.” It is resumed, verses 7, 8, where many reasons are asserted to enforce it.

Fret not.

1. Do not envy them. Be not troubled at their prosperity.

2. Do not imitate them. Be not provoked by their glow-worm happiness, to practise the same wickedness to arrive to the same prosperity.

3. Be not sinfully impatient, and quarrel not with God, because he hath not by his providence allowed thee the same measures of prosperity in the world. Accuse him not of injustice and cruelty, because he afflicts the good, and is indulgent to the wicked. Leave him to dispense his blessings according to his own mind.

4. Condemn not the way of piety and religion wherein thou art. Think not the worse of thy profession, because it is attended with affliction.

The reason of this exhortation is rendered, verse 2. “For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb;” amplified by a similitude or resemblance of their prosperity to grass: their happiness hath no stability. It hath, like grass, more of colour and show, than strength and substance. Grass nods this and that way with every wind. The mouth of a beast may pull it up, or the foot of a beast may tread it down; the scorching sun in summer, or the fainting sun in winter, will deface its complexion.

The Psalmist then proceeds to positive duties, verve 3.

1. Faith. Trust in the Lord. This is a grace most fit to quell such impatience. The stronger the faith, the weaker the passion. Impatient motions are signs of a flagging faith. Many times men are ready to cast off their help in Jehovah, and address to the God of Ekron multitudes of friends or riches. But trust thou in the Lord; in the promises of God, in the providence of God.

2. Obedience. Do good. Trust in God’s promises, and observance of his precepts, must be linked together. It is but a pretended trust in Cod, where there is a real walking in the paths of wickedness. Let not the glitter of the world render thee faint and feeble in a course of piety.

3. The keeping our station. Do good. Because wicked men flourish, hide not thyself therefore in a corner, but keep thy sphere, run thy race. “And verily thou shalt be fed;” have every thing needful for thee. And now, because men delight in that wherein they trust, the Psalmist diverts us from all other objects of delight, to God as the true object. “Delight thyself in the Lord;” place all thy pleasure and joy in him. And because the motive expresseth the answer of prayer, the duty enjoined seems to respect the act of prayer, as well as the object of prayer; prayer coming from a delight in God, and a delight in seeking him. Trust is both the spring of joy and the spring of supplication. When we trust him for sustenance and preservation, we shall receive them; so when we delight in seeking him, we shall be answered by him.

1. The duty. In the act, delight. In the object, the Lord.

2. The motive. “He shall give thee the desires of thy heart;” the most substantial desires, those desires which he approves of; the desire of thy heart as gracious, though not the desire of thy heart as carnal: the desire of thy heart as a Christian, though not the desire of thy heart as a creature. He shall give; God is the object of Our joy, and the author of our comfort.

Doctrine. Delight in God, in seeking him only, procures gracious answers; or, without cheerful prayers, we cannot have gracious answers.

There are two parts. 1. Cheerfulness on our parts. 2. Grants on God’s part.

1. Cheerfulness and delight on our parts. Joy is the tuning the soul. The command to rejoice precedes the command to pray. “Rejoice evermore: pray without ceasing,” 1 Thess. 5:16, 17. Delight makes the melody, otherwise prayer will be but a harsh sound. God accepts the heart only, when it is a gift given, not forced. Delight is the marrow of religion.

1. Dullness is not suitable to the great things we are chiefly to beg for. The things revealed in the Gospel are a feast, Isa. 25:6. Dullness becomes not such a solemnity. Manna must not be sought for with a lumpish heart. With joy we are to draw water out of the wells of salvation, Isa. 12:3. Faith is the bucket, but joy and love are the hands that move it. They are the Hur and Aaron that hold up the hands of this Moses. God doth not value that man’s service, who accounts not his service a privilege and a pleasure.

2. Dullness is not suitable to the duty. Gospel-duties are to be performed with a gospel-disposition. God’s people ought to be a willing people, Psalm 110:3, a people of willingness: as though in prayer no other faculty of the soul had its exercise but the will. This must breathe fully in every word; as the spirit in Ezekiel’s wheels. Delight, like the angel, Judges 13:20, must ascend in the smoke and flame of the soul. Though there be a kind of union by contemplations yet the real union is by affection. A man cannot be said to be a spiritual king, if he doth not present his performances with a royal and prince-like spirit. It is for vigorous wrestling that Jacob is called a prince, Gen. 32:28.

This disposition is essential to grace. Natural men are described to be of a heavy and weary spirit in the offering of sacrifices, Mal. 1:13. It was but a sickly lame lamb they brought for an offering, and yet they were weary of it; that which was not fit for their table, they thought fit for the altar.

In the handling this doctrine I shall shew,

1. What this delight is.

2. Whence it springs.

3. The reasons of the doctrine.

4. The use.

1. What this delight is. Delight properly is an affection of the mind that springs from the possession of the good which hath been ardently desired. This is the top stone, the highest step; delight is but an embryo till it come to fruition, and that certain and immutable: otherwise, if there be probability or possibility of losing that which we have present possession of, the fear of it is as a drop of gall that infects the sweetness of this passion; delight properly is a silencing of desire, and the banquet of the soul on the presence of its desired object.

But there is a delight of a lower stamp.

1. In desires. There is a delight in desire, as well as in fruition. A cheerfulness in labour, as well as in attainment. The desire of Canaan made the good Israelites cheerful in the wilderness. There is an beginning delight in motion, but a consummate delight in rest and fruition.

2. In hopes. Desired happiness affects the soul; much more expected happiness. “We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God,” Rom. 5:2. Joy is the natural issue of a well-grounded hope. A tottering expectation will engender but a tottering delight: such a delight will mad men have, which is rather to be pitied than desired. But if an imaginary hope can affect the heart with some real joy, much more a hope settled upon a sure bottom, and raised upon a good foundation, there may be joy in a title as well as in possession.

3. In contemplation. The consideration and serious thoughts of heaven do affect a gracious heart, and fill it with pleasure, though itself be as if in a wilderness. The near approach to a desired good doth much affect the heart. Moses was surely more pleased with the sight of Canaan from Pisgah, than with the hopes of it in the desert. A traveller’s delight is more raised when he is nearest his journey’s end, and a hungry stomach hath a greater joy when he sees the meat approaching which must satisfy the appetite. As the union with the object is nearer, so the delight is stronger. Now this delight the soul hath in duty, is not a delight of fruition, but of desire, hope, or contemplation; Gaudium viae, not patriae [a delight of the journey, not of the home].

1. We may consider delight as active or passive.

1. Active: which is an act of our souls in our approaches to God. When the heart, like the sun, rouseth up itself as a giant to run a spiritual race.

2. Passive: which is God’s dispensation in approaches to us, and often met with in our cheerful addresses to God, “Thou meetest him that rejoiceth and worketh righteousness,” Isa. 64:5. When we delightfully draw close about the throne of grace, God doth often cast his arms about our necks: especially when cheerful prayer is accompanied with a cheerful obedience. This joy is, when Christ meets us in prayer with a “Be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven,” thy request granted. The active delight is the health of the soul, the passive is the good complexion of the soul. The one is man’s duty, the other God’s peculiar gift. The one is the inseparable property of the new birth, the other a separable privilege. There may be a joy in God when there is little joy from God. There may be gold in the mine, when no flowers are on the surface.

2. We may consider delight as settled or transient: As spiritual or sensitive.

1. A settled delight. In strong and grown Christians, when prayer proceeds out of a thankfulness to God, a judicious knowledge and apprehension of God. The nearer to God the more delight; as the motion of a stone is most speedy when nearest its centre.

2. A sensitive delight. As in persons troubled in mind, there may be a kind of delight in prayer, because there is some sense of ease in the very venting itself; and in some, because of the novelty of a duty they were not accustomed to before. Many prayers may be put up by persons in necessity without any spiritual delight in them; as crazy persons take more medicine than those that are healthy, yet they delight not in that medicine. The Pharisee could pray longer, and perhaps with some delight too, but upon a sensual ground, with a proud and a vaunting kind of cheerfulness, a delight in himself, when the publican had a more spiritual delight; though a humble Sorrow in the consideration of his own vileness, yet a delight in the consideration of God’s mercy.

This sensitive delight may be more sensible in a young, than in a grown Christian. There is a more sensible affection at the first meeting of friends, though more solid after some converse; as there is a love which is called the love of the espousals. As it is in sorrow for sin, so in this delight: a young convert hath a greater torrent, a grown Christian a more constant stream; as at the first conversion of a sinner there is an overflowing joy among the angels, which we read not of after, though, without question, there is a settled joy in them at the growth of a Christian. An elder son may have a delight in his father’s presence, more rooted, firm, and rational, than a younger child that clings more about him with affectionate expressions. As sincerity is the soul of all graces and duties, so this delight is the lustre and embroidery of them.

Now this delight in prayer,

1. It is an inward and hearty delight. As to the subject of it, it is seated in the heart. A man in prayer may have a cheerful countenance and a drowsy spirit. The Spirit of God dwells in the heart, and love and joy are the first-fruits of it, Gal. 5:22. Love to duty, and joy in it; joy as a grace, not as a mere comfort. As God is hearty in offering mercy, so is the soul in petitioning for it. There is a harmony between God and the heart. Where there is delight, there is great pains taken with the heart; a gracious heart strikes itself again and again, as Moses did the rock twice. Those ends which God hath in giving, are a Christian’s end in asking. Now the more of our hearts in the requests, the more of God’s heart in the grants. The emphasis of mercy is God’s whole heart and whole soul in it, Jer. 32:41. So the emphasis of duty is our whole heart and whole soul. As without God’s cheerful answering, a gracious soul would not relish a mercy, so without our hearty asking, God doth not relish our prayer.

2. It is a delight in God, who is the object of prayer. The glory of God, communion with him, enjoyment of him, is the great end of a believer in his supplications. That delight which is in prayer, is chiefly in it as a means conducing to such an end, and is but a spark of that delight which the soul hath in the object of prayer. God is the centre wherein the soul rests, and the end which the soul aims at. According to our apprehensions of God are our desires for him; when we apprehend him as the chiefest good, we shall desire him, and delight in him as the chiefest good. There must first be a delight in God, before there can be a spiritual delight, or a permanency in duty. “Will he delight himself in the Almighty? Will he always call upon God?” Job 27:10. Delight is a grace; and as faith, desire, and love, have God for their object, so hath this. And according to the strength of our delight in the object or end, is the strength of our delight in the means of attainment. When we delight in God as glorious, we shall delight to honour him; when we regard him as good, we shall delight to pursue and enjoy him, and delight in that whi5b brings us to an intercourse with him. He that rejoices in God, will rejoice in every approach to him. “The joy of the Lord is our strength,” Neh. 8:10. The more joy in God, the more strength to come to him. The lack of this is the reason of our snail-like motion to him. Men have no sweet thoughts of God, and therefore no mind to converse with him. We cannot judge our delight in prayer to be right, if we have not a delight in God; for natural men may have a delight in prayer, when they have corrupt and selfish ends; they may have a delight in a duty, as it is a means, according to their apprehensions, to gain such an end: As Balaam and Balak offered their sacrifice cheerfully, hoping to ingratiate themselves with God, and to have liberty to curse his people.

3. A delight in the precepts and promises of God, which are the ground and rules of prayer. First, David delights in God’s testimonies, and then calls upon him with his whole heart. A gracious heart must first delight in precepts and promises, before it can turn them into prayers: for prayer is nothing else but a presenting God with his own promise, desiring to work that in us and for us which he hath promised to us. None was more cheerful in prayer than David, because none was more rejoicing in the statutes of God. God’s statutes were his songs, Psalm 119:54. And the divine Word was sweeter to him than the honey and the honey-comb. If our hearts leap not at divine promises, we are like to have but drowsy souls in desiring them. If our eye be not upon the dainties God sets before us, our desires cannot be strong for him. If we have no delight in the great charters of heaven, the rich legacies of God, how can we sue for them? If we delight not in the covenant of grace, we shall not delight in prayers for grace. It was the hopes of reward made Moses so valiant in suffering, and the joy set before Christ in a promise, made him so cheerful in enduring the shame, Heb. 12:1, 2.

4. A delight in prayer itself. A Christian’s heart is in secret ravished into heaven. There is a delight in coming near God, and warming the soul by the fire of his love.

The angels are cheerful in the act of praise; their work is their glory. A holy soul doth so delight in this duty, that if there were no command to engage him, no promise to encourage him, he would be stepping into God’s courts. He thinks it not a good day that passeth without some intercourse with God. David would have taken up his lodgings in the courts of God, and regards it as the only blessedness, Psalm 65:4. And so great a delight he had in being in God’s presence, that he envies the birds the happiness of building their nests near his tabernacle. A delight there is in the holiness of prayer; a natural man under some troubles may delight in God’s comforting and easing presence, but not in his sanctifying presence. He may delight to pray to God as a store-house to supply his wants, but not as a refiner’s fire to purge away his dross. “Prayer, as praise, is a melody to God in the heart,” Eph. 5:19. And the soul loves to be fingering the instrument and touching the strings.

5. A delight in the things asked. This heavenly cheerfulness is most in heavenly things. What delight others have in asking worldly goods, a gracious heart hath in begging the light of God’s countenance. That soul cannot be dull in prayer that seriously considers he prays for no less than heaven and happiness; no less than the glory of the great God. A gracious man is never weary of spiritual things, as men are never weary of the sun, but though it is enjoyed every day, yet long for the rising of it again. From this delight in the matter of prayer it is that the saints have redoubled and repeated their petitions, and redoubled the Amen at the end of prayer, to manifest the great affections to those things they have asked. The soul loves to think of those things the heart is set upon; and frequent thoughts express a delight.

6. A delight in those graces and affections which are exercised in prayer. A gracious heart is most delighted with that prayer wherein grace hath been more stirring, and gracious affections have been boiling over. The soul desires not only to speak to God, but to make melody to God; the heart is the instrument, but graces are the strings, and prayer the touching them, and therefore he is more displeased with the flagging of his graces than with missing an answer. There may he a delight in gifts, in a man’s own gifts, in the gifts of another, in the pomp and varnish of devotion; but a delight in exercising spiritual graces is an ingredient in this true delight. The Pharisees are marked by Christ to make long prayers; vaunting in an outward bravery of words, as if they were playing the courtiers with God, and complimenting him: but the publican had a short prayer, but more grace, “Lord be merciful to me a sinner;” there is reliance and humility. A gracious heart labours to bring flaming affections; and if he cannot bring flaming grace, he will bring smoking grace: he desires the preparation of his heart as well as the answer of his prayer, Psalm 10:17.

2. Whence this delight springs.

1. From the Spirit of God. Not a spark of fire upon our own hearth is able to kindle this spiritual delight; it is the Holy Ghost that breathes such a heavenly heat into our affections. The Spirit is the fire that kindles the soul, the spring that moves the watch, the wind that drives the ship. The swiftest ship with spread sails will be but sluggish in its motion, unless the wind fills its sails; without this Spirit we are but in a weak and sickly condition, our breath but short, a heavy and troublesome asthma is upon us. “When I cried unto thee, thou didst strengthen me with strength in my soul.” Psalm 138:3. As prayer is the work of the Spirit in the heart, so doth delight in prayer owe itself to the same author. God will make them joyful in his house of prayer, Isa. 56:7.

2. From grace. The Spirit kindles, but gives us the oil of grace to make the lamp burn clear. There must not only be wind to drive, but sails to catch it; a prayer without grace is a prayer without wings. There must be grace to begin it. A dead man cannot rejoice in his land, money, or food; be cannot act, and therefore cannot be cheerful in action. Cheerfulness supposeth life; dead men cannot perform a duty, “The dead praise not the Lord,” (Psalm 115:17), nor dead souls a cheerful duty. There must not only be grace infused, but grace actuated. No man in a sleep or swoon can rejoice. There must not only be a living principle, but a lively operation. If the sap lurk only in the root, the branches can bring forth no fruit: our best prayers without the sap of grace diffusing itself, will be but as withered branches. Grace actuated puts heat into performances, without which they are but benumbed and frozen, (Reynolds). Just as a rusty key will not unlock a door, rusty grace will not enlarge the heart. There must be grace to maintain it. There is not only need of fire to kindle the lamp, but of oil to preserve the flame. Natural men may have their affections kindled in a way of common working, but they will presently faint and die, as the flame of cotton will dim and vanish, if there be no oil to nourish it. There is a temporary joy in hearing the word; and if in one duty, why not in another? Why not in prayer? Like a fire of thorns that makes a great blaze but a short stay, Mat. 13:20.

3. From a good conscience. “A good heart is a continual feast,” Prov. 15:15 He that hath a good conscience must needs be cheerful in his religious and civil duties. Guilt will come trembling, and with a sad countenance, into the presence of God’s majesty. A guilty child cannot with cheerfulness come into a displeased father’s presence. A soul smoked with hell, cannot with delight approach to he heaven. Guilty souls, in regard of the injury they have done to God, will be afraid to come; and in regard of the soot of sin wherewith they are defiled, and the blackness they have contracted, they will be ashamed to come. They know that by their sins they should provoke his anger, not allure his love. A soul under conscience of sin cannot up to God, Psalm 40:12. Nor will God with favour look down upon it, Psalm 59:8. It must be a pure heart that must see him with pleasure, Matt. 5:8. And pure hands must be lifted up to him, 1 Tim. 2:8. Jonah was asleep after his sin, and was outdone in readiness to pray even by idolaters. The mariners jog him, but could not get him, that we read of, to call upon that God whom he had offended, Jonah chap. 1. Where there is corruption, the sparks of sin will kindle that tinder, and weaken a spiritual delight. A perfect heart and a willing mind are put together, 1 Chron. 29:9. There cannot be willingness without sincerity, nor sincerity without willingness.

4. From a holy and frequent familiarity with God. Where there is a great familiarity there is a great delight; delight in one another’s company, and delight in one another’s converse; strangeness contracts, and familiarity enlarges the soul. There is more swiftness in going to a God with whom we are acquainted, than to a God to whom we are strangers. This encourages the soul to go to God; I go to a God whose face I have seen, whose goodness I have tasted, with whom I have often met in prayer. Frequent familiarity makes us more understanding of the excellency of another; an excellency understood will be beloved, and being beloved, will be delighted in.

5. From hopes of receiving. There is an delight which ariseth from hopes of enjoying. “Rejoicing in hope,” Rom. 12:12. There cannot be a pleasant motion where there is a paralysis of doubts. How full of delight must that soul be that can plead a promise, and carry God’s hand and seal to heaven, and shew him his own bond; when it can be pleaded not only as a favour to engage his mercy, but in some sense a debt to engage his truth and righteousness! Christ in his prayer, which was his swan-like song, (John 17) pleads the terms of the covenant between his Father and himself; “I have glorified thee on earth, glorify me with that glory I had with thee before the world was.” This is the case of a delightful approach, when we carry a covenant of grace with us for ourselves, and a promise of security and perpetuity for the church. Upon this account we have more cause of a pleasant motion to God than the ancient believers had. Fear motivated them under the law; love motivates us under the gospel. He cannot but delight in prayer that hath arguments Of God’s own framing to plead with God, who cannot deny his own arguments and reasonings. Little comfort can be sucked from a perhaps. But when we come to seek covenant-mercies, God’s faithfulness to his covenant puts the mercy past a perhaps. We come to a God sitting upon a throne of grace, upon Mount Sion, not on Mount Sinai; to a God that desires our presence, more than we desire his assistance.

6. From a sense of former mercies. If manna be rained down, it doth not only take off our thoughts from Egyptian garlic, but quickens our desires for a second shower. A sense of God’s majesty will make us lose our showy self-satisfaction; and a sense of God’s love will make us lose our dumpishness. We may as well come again with a merry heart, when God accepts our prayers, as go away and eat our bread with joy when God accepts our works, Eccles. 9:7. The doves will readily fly to the windows where they have formerly found shelter; and the beggar to the door where he hath often received alms. “Because he hath inclined his ear to hear me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live,” Psalm 116:2. I have found refuge with God before; I have found my wants supplied, my soul raised, my temptations checked, my doubts answered, and my prayers accepted, therefore I will repeat my appeals with cheerfulness.

I might also add other causes; as a love to God, a heavenliness of spirit, a consideration of Christ’s intercession, a deep humiliation. The more unpleasant sin is to our relish, the more delightful will God be, and the more cheerful our souls in addresses to him. The more unpleasant sin is to us, the more spiritual our souls are; and the more spiritual our souls, the more spiritual our affections; the more stony, the more lumpish and unable to move; the more contrite, the more supple. Another cause is a spiritual taste: a report of a thing may give some pleasure, but a taste greater.

3. Reasons. Without cheerful seeking we cannot have a gracious answer.

1. God will not give an answer to those prayers that dishonour him. A flat and dumpish attitude is not for his honour. The heathens themselves thought their gods should not be put off with a sacrifice dragged to the altar. We do not read of lead, that lumpish earthly metal, employed about the tabernacle or temple, but the purer and most glittering sorts of metals. God will have the most excellent service, because he is the most excellent being. He will have the most delightful service, because he bestows the most delightful and excellent gifts. All sacrifices were to be offered up with fire, which is the quickest and most active element. It is a dishonour to so great, so glorious a majesty, to put him off with such low and dead-hearted services. Those petitions cannot expect an answer, which are offered in a manner injurious to the person we address them to. It is not for the credit of our great Master to have his servants dejected in his work: As though His service were an uncomfortable thing; as though God were a wilderness, and the world a paradise.

2. Dull and lumpish prayer doth not reach him, and therefore cannot expect an answer. Such desires are as arrows that sink down at our feet; there is no force to carry them to heaven: The heart is an unbent bow that hath no strength. When God will hear, he makes first a prepared heart, Psalm 10:17. He first strings the instrument, and then receives the sound. An enlarged heart only runs, Psalm 119:32. A contracted heart moves slowly, and often faints in the journey.

3. Lumpishness speaks an unwillingness that God should hear us. It speaks a kind of a fear that God should grant our petitions. He that puts up a petition to a prince coldly and dully, gives him good reason to think that he doth not care for an answer. That husbandman hath no great mind to harvest, that is lazy in tilling his ground and sowing his seed. How can we think God should delight to read over our petitions, when we take so little delight in presenting them? God gives not mercy to an unwilling person. The first thing God doth, is to make his people willing. Dull spirits seek God as if they did not care for finding him: such tempers either account not God real, or their petitions unnecessary.

4. Without delight we are not fit to receive a mercy. Delight in a mercy wanted, makes room for desire; and large desires make room for mercy. If no delight in begging, there will be no delight in enjoying. If there be no cheerfulness to quicken our prayers when we need a blessing, there will be little joy to quicken our praise when we receive a blessing. A weak, sickly stomach, is not fit to be seated at a plentiful table. Where there is a dull asking supply, there is none, or a very dull sense of wants. Now, God will not send His mercies but to a soul that will welcome them. The deeper the sense of our wants, the higher the estimation of our supplies. A cheerful soul is fit to receive the least, and fit to receive the greatest mercy. He will more prize a little mercy, than a dull petitioner shall prize a greater, because he hath a sense of his wants. If Zaccheus had not a great joy at the news of Christ’s coming by his door, he would not have so readily entertained and welcomed him.

Use 1. Of information.

1. There is a great pleasure in the ways of God, if rightly understood. Prayer, which is a duty wherein we express our wants, is delightful. There is more sweetness in a Christian’s asking, than in a wicked man’s enjoying blessings.

2. What delight will there be in heaven! If there be such sweetness in desire, what will there be in a full fruition! If there is joy in seeking, what is there then in finding! Duty hath its sweets, its thousands; but glory its ten thousands. If the pleasure of the seed-time be so great, what will the pleasure of the harvest be!

3. The miserable condition of those who can delight in any thing but prayer. It is an aggravation of our enmity to God, when we can sin cheerfully and pray dully: when duty is more loathsome than iniquity.

Use 2. Of examination. We pray; but how are our hearts? If it be for what concerns our momentary being, is not our running like the running of Ahimaaz? But when for spiritual things, do not our hearts sink within us, like Nabal’s? Let us, therefore, observe our hearts closly; allow them not to give us the slip in our examination of them; resolve not to take the first answer, but search to the bottom.

1. Whether we delight at all in prayer,

1. How do we prize the opportunities of duty? There is an opportunity of an earthly, and an opportunity of a heavenly gain; consider which our hearts more readily close with. Can we with much pleasure follow a vain world, and heartlessly welcome an opportunity of duty, delight more with Judas in bags, than in Christ’s company? This is sad! But are praying opportunities our festival times? Do we go to the house of God with the voice of joy and praise?

2. Whether we seek excuses to avoid a present duty, when conscience and opportunity urge and invite us to it? Are our souls more skilfill in delays than in performances? Are there no excuses when sin calls us, and studied put-offs when God invites us? Like the sluggard, folding our arms, yet a little while longer? Or do our hearts rise and beat quick against frivolous excuses that step in to hinder us from prayer?

3. How are our hearts affected in prayer? Are we more ready to pray ourselves asleep, than into a vigorous frame? Do we enter into it with some life, and find our hearts quickly tire and fatigue us? Are we more awake when we are up, than we were all the time upon our knees? Are our hearts in prayer like withered sapless things, and very quick afterwards if any worldly business invite us? Are we like logs and blocks in prayer, and like a roe upon the mountains in earthly concerns? Surely what our pulse beats quickest to, is the object most delighted in.

4. What time is it we choose for prayer? Is it not our drowsiest and laziest time, when our nods are as many, or more than our petitions; as though the dullest time, and the deadest state of mind were most suitable to a rising God? Do we come with our hearts full of the world, to pray for heaven? Or do we pick out the most lively seasons? Luther chose those hours for prayer and meditation wherein he found himself most lively for study.

5. Do we not often wish a duty over? As those in the prophet that were glad when the Sabbath was over, that they might run to their buying and selling? Or, are we of Peter’s temper, and express Peter’s language? It is good to be here with Christ on the mount.

6. Do we prepare ourselves by delightful and enlivening considerations? Do we think of the precept of God, which should spur us, and of the promise of God which should allure us? Do we rub our souls to heat them, Do we blow them to kindle them into a flame? Do we send up quick prayers for a quickening spirit? If thoughts of God be a burden, requests to him will not be a pleasure. If we have a coldness in our thoughts of God and duty, we can have no warmth in our desire, no delight in our petitions.

7. Do we content ourselves with dull motions, or do we give check to them? Can we, though our hearts be never so lazy, stroke ourselves at the end, and call ourselves good and faithful servants? Do we take our souls to task afterwards, and examine why they are so lazy, why so heavy? Do we inquire into the causes of our deadness? A gracious soul is more troubled at its dullness in prayer, than a natural conscience is at the omission of prayer. He will complain of his sluggishness and mend his pace.

2. If we find we have a delight, let us examine whether it be a delight of the right kind.

1. Do we delight in it because of the gift, we have ourselves, or the gift of others we join with? A man may rejoice in hearing the word, not because of the holiness and spirituality of the matter, but because of the goodness of the dress, and the elegancy of the expression. Ezek. 33:32; The prophet was unto them as a lovely song; as one that kind a pleasant voice. He may, upon the same ground, delight in prayer. But this is a temper not kindled by the true fire of the sanctuary. Or, do we delight in it, not when our tongues are most quick, but our hearts most warm; not because we have the best words, but the most spiritualized affections? We may have angels’ gifts in prayer, without an angel’s spirit.

2. Is there a delight in all parts of a duty? Not only in asking temporal blessings, or some spiritual, as pardoning mercy, but in begging for refining grace? Are we earnest only when we have bosom quarrels and conscience-convulsions, but tire when we come to pray for sanctifying mercy? The cause of this is a sense of discomfort with the trouble and danger, not with the sin and cause.

3. Doth our delight in prayer and spiritual things outdo our delight in outward things? The Psalmist’s joy in God was more than his delight in the harvest of vintage, Psalm 4:7. Are we like ravens that delight to hover in the air sometimes, but our greatest delight is to feed upon carrion? Though we have, and may have a sensible delight in worldly things, yet is it as solid and rational as that we have in duty?

4. Is our delight in prayer a humble delight? Is it a rejoicing with humbling? “Serve the Lord with gladness, and rejoice before him with trembling,” Psalm 2:11. If our service be right, it will be cheerful, and if truly cheerful, it will be humble.

5. Is our delight in prayer accompanied with a delight in waiting? Do we, like merchants, not only delight in the first launching of a ship, or the setting it out of the haven with a full freight; but also in expectations of a rich return of spiritual mercies? Do we delight to pray, though God for the present doth not delight to give, and wait, like David, with an owning God’s wisdom in delaying? Or do we shoot them only as arrows at random, and never look after them where they strike, or where to find them?

6. Is our delight in praising God when mercy comes, answerable to the delight in praying when a wanted mercy was begged? The ten lepers desired mercy with an equal cheerfulness, in hopes of having their leprosy cured; but only the one who returned expressed genuine delight. As he prayed with a loud voice, so he praised with a loud voice, Luke, 17:13, 15. And Christ tells him, his faith had made him whole. As he had an answer in the way of grace, so he had before a gracious delight in his asking; the others had a natural delight, and so a return in the way of common providence.

Use 3. Of exhortation. Let us delight in prayer. God loves a cheerful giver in alms, and a cheerful petitioner in prayer. God would have his children free with him. He takes special notice of a spiritual frame, “who hath engaged his heart?” Jer. 30:21. The more delight we have in God, the more delight he will have in us. He takes no pleasure in a lumpish service. It is an uncomely sight to see a joyful sinner and a dumpish petitioner. Why should we not exercise as much joy in holy duties, as formerly we did in sinful practices? How delightfully will men sit at their games, and spend their days in gluttony and luxury? And shall not a Christian find much more delight in applying himself to God? We should delight that we can, and have hearts to ask such gifts, that thousands in the world never dream of begging. To be dull, is a discontentedness with our own petitions. Delight in prayer is the way to gain assurance. To seek God, and treat him as our chiefest good, endears the soul to him. Delighting in accesses to him, will enflame our love. And there is no greater sign of an interest in him than a powerful estimation of him. God casts off none that affectionately clasp about his throne.

To this purpose,

1. Pray for quickening grace. How often do we find David upon his knees for it? God only gives this grace, and God only stirs this grace.

2. Meditate on the promises you intend to plead. Unbelief is the great root of all dumpishness. It was by the belief of the word we had life at first, and by an exercise of that belief we gain liveliness. What maintains our love will maintain our delight; the amiableness of God, and the excellency of the promises, are the incentives and fuel both of the one and of the other. Think that they are eternal things you are to pray for and that you have as much invitation to beg them, and as good a promise to attain them, as David, Paul, or any other ever had. How would this awaken our drowsy souls, and elevate our heavy hearts, and open the lazy eye-lids to look up! And whatever meditation we find begin to kindle our souls, let us follow it on, that the spark may not go out.

3. Choose the time when your hearts are most revived. Observe when God sends an invitation, and hoist up the sails when the wind begins to blow. There is no Christian but hath one time or an another a greater activeness of spirit. Choose none of those seasons which may quench the heat, and dull the sprightliness of your affection. Resolve beforehand this, to delight yourselves in the Lord, and thereby you shall gain the desire of your hearts.