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.

The Trinity and Christian Worship… or Worship In Spirit and Truth

“True Christian worship is founded upon Christian truth. We have to have knowledge of our God to worship Him correctly. If we have defective knowledge, or worse, if we have wrong information and have been deceived, our worship is either lessened (due to simple ignorance), or it is completely invalid, as the worship of idols and false gods. That is not to say that we have to have perfect knowledge to worship God— none of us do. But our desire must be to grow in the grace and knowledge of God, and we must always remember that Jesus taught that eternal life was the possession of those who know the one true God. Knowledge does not save (that is the error of Gnosticism); but true worship does not exist without knowledge.”

  — “The Forgotten Trinity” by James R. White

J. C. Ryle – Are You Born Again?

Second, John wrote:”Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God” (1 John 5:1).

A man who is born again, or regenerated, believes that Jesus Christ is the only Saviour who can pardon his soul, that He is the divine Person appointed by God the Father for this very purpose, and beside Him there is no Saviour at all. In himself he sees nothing but unworthiness. But he has full confidence in Christ, and trusting in Him, he believes that his sins are all forgiven. He believes that, for the sake of Christ’s finished work and death on the Cross, he is reckoned righteous in God’s sight, and he may look forward to death and judgment without alarm (Romans 4:20-5:1; 8:1).

He may have fears and doubts. He may sometimes tell you that he feels as if he had no faith at all. But ask him if he is willing to trust in anything instead of Christ, and see what he will say. Ask him if he will rest his hope of eternal life on his own goodness, his own works, his prayers, his minister, or his church, and listen to his reply. What would the apostle say about you? Are you born again?

–J.C. Ryle, tract Are You Born Again?

The Reality of a Fallen World

For my younger readers, I have something to share with you for your benefit, your growth, your maturity.

Life is filled with tremendous challenges. If you have been spared to this point, thank God for his mercy. But even if you have been spared, should you have the blessing of many more years, there will be a load to carry.  This is one of life’s great lessons for the aged; the curse is real, not only in a spiritual sense, but in a very personal, very visceral sense as well.

As I have observed my own mother’s decline over the years into dementia (and she is still quite lucid and happy these days), I recognize some of the stone and stubble landscape that Dr. Groothuis describes in the linked article.

Please, young Christian, take the time to read what Dr. Groothuis has written and consider the depths of the merciful care of God. This is not a pure “thought exercise”, for it will be lived out by you and your loved ones in the years to come.

Bediviled by My Wife’s Dementia by Douglas Groothuis.
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Jesus Christ / Jehovah’s Witnesses Q&A, part 2

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An Evangelical Response to the April 1, 2012 Watchtower.

The Watchtower has a thing about Jesus Christ. They write about him regularly. A careful reading of the Bible alongside their publications reveals significant differences between what the Bible says, and what the Watchtower says about Jesus.

The April 1, 2012 Watchtower is another attempt to build a persuasive case for their specific understanding of Jesus; who he is, what he has done, and why it matters to us today.

Claiming to present “the answers to our questions”, the article contains many misunderstandings, errors, and even deception.  Rather than presenting reliable and accurate answers taken from the Bible, they paint a picture of Jesus which is flawed in critical ways. The Watchtower Jesus is another Jesus, not Jesus Christ from the Bible.

Let’s look at one of the question and answers. The Watchtower writes:

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The Watchtower position in this specific answer can be broken down and summarized in two specific thoughts:
1) Jesus’ subordination to God demonstrates that he never considered himself equal to God.
2) Jesus distinguished between himself and God, showing they are separate persons. The Watchtower sees in this an explicit denial by Jesus of being God.

Worldview and Philosophy
Few of us are trained philosophers, but we are all philosphers nonetheless. We construct a philosophical worldview at a personal level which acts as a filter through which we try to make sense of the world. Worldviews – everyone has one, and they are always philosophical in nature. The Watchtower “answer” above contains several philosophical ideas.

A Few Words About a Few Words
Subordination

Equality

Personhood

Being

First, subordination is a statement about what a person does in relation to a position or office… the position they occupy in a constructed hierarchy. For example, a front-line employee in a corporation is subordinate to their supervisor or manager. Within an organization, an employee is rightly said to be subordinate to their boss in position or rank. But take note that this subordination is not a statement concerning the employee’s essential being. It does not concern their inherent worth as a human compared with the inherent worth of their boss’s humanity. A boss is not a higher order human being compared to the employees under them. In other words, subordinate in position is not a statement concerning someone’s essence or being, their nature.

Personhood

Second, the Watchtower approaches personhood as though our exerience of personhood is the norm, the standard of existence for all beings, including Almighty God. This is an assumption on the part of the Watchtower.

Response

Our response will be wide-ranging. It simply must be. The Bible is filled with teachings, allusions, types, poetry, and prophecies concerning who Jesus is. In fact, we will even see passages from the Old Testament concerning Jehovah taken up and applied by New Testament authors to Jesus. It has been said by others that we can find Jesus on every page of the Bible. To understand who he is, we must spend time and energy seeking throughout the breadth of biblical revelation God has gifted us with.

This wide-ranging examination is in contrast to the Watchtower’s approach. As pointed out in our initial look at this edition of the Watchtower, they limit their investigation into who Jesus is by examining only what Jesus said about himself in the gospels. The Watchtower’s limitation on the evidence and testimony they will consider is an artificial one, one that ignores the incredible nature of the Word of God concerning its own internal unity and claims to inspiration by God.

And yet… this little article is but a nick on a corner, a bare scratching the surface of all the Bible has to say about Jesus. I feel my inadequacy quite sharply, but also the awesome power of God who uses His Word in the winning of souls to the kingdom. Onward.

To develop a grounded and well-formed answer to the question posed, “Is Jesus actually God?”, we will examine five main testimonies:

1) What does God say?
2) What does Jesus say?
3) What do Jesus’ friends say?
4) What do Jesus’ enemies say?
5) What does all of creation say?

1) What does God say?

Is Jesus actually God? Should we consider what God has to say about such a critical question? When we examine the claims of the Bible concerning its inspiration from God, then what he says in the Bible is supremely important, revealing details we would otherwise be ignorant of.

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:  “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,and they shall call his name Immanuel”(which means, God with us).  (Matthew 1:22-23)

The Lord has set the stage, bringing about the fulfillment of his long-standing promise, bringing to us a son born of a virgin, whose name is Immanuel. This name means “God with us”. An exceptional child, where both the means of his birth and his name bear testimony of his unique nature. In this one little passage, we see the incarnation of the Son of God in action. His unique conception is so designed by God to bring about the only appropriate response. “Immanuel. God with us.”

Immanuel arrives as no other has, for “the virgin shall conceive and bear a son.” God is involved with this little life in an entirely unique way, opening vistas before us which are unimaginable apart from this great act of God’s mercy. This profound miracle bears the weight of God’s testimony, even “God with us”.

Let that sink in for a moment. God delivered a message long ago by the prophet that an even-better message would be given. God, in his providence, brought about the fulfillment of this prophecy which would deliver a more sure word of God’s gracious mercy; the birth of the son Immanuel. This special one, whose arrival had been anticipated and longed-for by the people of God for many centuries, had arrived. He is, in the best and fullest sense, “God with us”.

“Is Jesus actually God?”

To be “God with us” in the context of Hebrew monotheism is not meaningless, nor is Immanuel a throwaway name. When Almighty God, who is jealous for his own glory, identifies the virgin-born as “God with us”, we have no choice but to sit up and take notice. In every way, the Lord is careful and takes great pains to ensure we do not confuse him with his creation. Here we see, not a moment of divine dementia, but instead the opening of our eyes to the absolutely unique person of Jesus Christ. God is using this ancient message from the prophet Isaiah, even today, to tell people everywhere who Jesus is. He is no mere man. He is man, indeed fully man, but also far, far more.

For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness:Prepare the way of the Lord;make his paths straight.’”  (Matthew 3:3)

which itself is a quote from the prophet Isaiah: 

A voice cries:“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord;make straight in the desert a highway for our God. (Isaiah 40:3)

John the Baptist’s work is seen as preparing the way of the Lord. When you look at his personal context, he is understood to be the forerunner of Jesus. When you look at his prophetic context, he is seen as preparing the way for Jehovah. Readers of the New World Translation take note, Jehovah and Jesus are connected here in a profound way. A clear reference to Jehovah in Isaiah has become a proclamation of Jesus’ arrival. The predicted forerunner of Jehovah is now known as the forerunner of Jesus.

God’s prophet pictures nothing less than the arrival of Jehovah as king of his people. God’s predicted forerunner, announcing his arrival as the savior king, is John the Baptist. Matthew recognizes this king, this messiah predicted. He is Jesus.

I recognize the wilderness spoken of here by John the Baptist. The desert is familiar territory. My life of sin and futile rebellion are pictured vividly in all their stark emptiness. But wait. One is coming who can change all of that, for me, for you, for all who would repent. John calls us to the Lamb of God, given for our sin, that we would be raised to new life in Him.

And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:16-17)

The Father speaks! His good pleasure in his son is tenderly displayed here in all its vast infinity. When God speaks, we must listen. This one, rising from the waters of baptism (not for remission of sins but rather to fulfill all righteousness) is the beloved Son of God. Beloved by the Almighty. Oh, what soaring affirmation that lifts the human heart to adore this same one beloved by the Father! We do well to place our feet in the footsteps of the Father, as a toddler imitates the gait of his daddy, to commit our hearts in full-orbed love for this Savior, this Son of the Father.

See, God does not say “my first and only direct creation”, as the Watchtower would have us believe. If our own family relationships are to teach us anything, it must be grasped by all but the most profoundly abused, that a son’s position of esteem in a father’s heart is not equivalent to a mild happiness in a well-designed robot he constructed. By no means! My sons and daughters are in my heart, for they are flesh of my flesh and my blood courses in their veins. He is my son! She is my daughter! They are my beloved ones. Let all other constructs, labors, and inventions be cursed forever in comparison. The greatest achievement of my mind or hands shares no glory in my heart beside my own children. They are of a separate order, a unique and precious gift from the Father, and all “things” are unworthy of comparison.

Read again this testimony of the Father for his son. Does this testimony of God reverberate in your hearing, or does it fall flat to the ground, as if the Father professes some good will for an elevator or clever toaster? The Watchtower would instruct you to believe Jesus is only a mere creature, a derived, dependent, temporarily-existing finite human with some extra memories of someone else’s existence injected into his mind. But the testimony of God speaks volumes more about this one, this Son of God, well-pleasing to the Father.

He [Peter] was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” (Matthew 17:5)

On the mount of transfiguration, as Jesus’ appearance is changed miraculously before the small circle of disciples, the Father speaks from within the bright cloud. He speaks again of his beloved Son, just as he did at Jesus’ baptism. Here we see the beloved, well-pleasing Son displayed in veiled heavenly glory.

Jesus is not some kind of creaturely retread, or Michael-recycled. To picture the Most High, who is jealous of His own glory, sharing the stage with Jesus feels unsettling, out of order, if all we have here is a fancy glowing man.

This scene is not the adding of glory to one who did not possess it. It is not a preview of some other creature’s so-called “honor” (hint: the Watchtower’s Michael-recycled), given in a vision to the unsuspecting and certainly confused disciples in attendance. Instead, it is the partial unveiling of the Lord of Glory. Jesus, arrayed in splendor, announced by the Father, is the well-pleasing one, his Beloved Son. As one has described it, “This tranfiguration of Jesus is the appetizer, whetting our appetite for the full display of His glory in heaven.”

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:10-11)

Good news of great joy, not only for those of Bethlehem, not only for the Jews, not only for those alive at that time. Christ the Lord is born this day, which is news of great joy for all people. This is great news for our joy today, for you and for me. The Savior, the Messiah, has arrived. At the time of his birth, he is Christ the Lord; which again, is quite a departure from the “food in due season” provided by the Watchtower organization.

Something as simple and straight-forward as this announcement from God, delivered by angels, becomes twisted, convoluted, and non-sensical in the hands of the Watchtower. In it’s simplicity, “unto you is born this day… a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” The Watchtower says, “a creature has been miraculously born, who is not ‘the Christ’ yet, who is not the Savior yet but who does have some impersonal connection with an angel named Michael (who no longer exists)… but this little one who will become the Christ at his baptism will also be granted memories of that angel named Michael at that time, so that he will know things that angel experienced but which has no connection to him in his current state or labor. These memories will strengthen the resolve of this Messiah, but we’re not sure why.”

The Watchtower’s message isn’t good news. This mess of make-believe is not coming from the text. God’s word stands sure. The child born is Christ the Lord, which is news our worn and weary world needs.

2) What does Jesus say?

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Matthew 7:21-23)

In describing apparent devout religious Jews, the doubled “Lord” is superbly placed within the account of Jesus as judge of all. “Lord” was a common term among Jews of Jesus’ time to refer to Jehovah. The doubled “Lord, Lord” pictured in the final judgment here bears even more dignity, and it is addressed to Jesus himself. What a perfect opportunity for Jesus to set the record straight, if their error was believing he was equal with God. Yet, his rebuke is not about this profession. Instead, it is about the dissonance between their profession and their lives. Although they thought most highly of Jesus in the world of ideas, they lived a life contradicting that very belief. They were “workers of lawlessness.”

Jesus elevates himself here as the judge of all, the one in whom we may safely place our faith and to whom we may rightly live. This is not a picture of some blank-slate creature who has been hijacked by Jehovah through brain-washing techniques to think it is someone else (as the Watchtower proposes).

Jesus pictures himself, in a devout religious Jewish context, as “Lord, Lord”, fully knowing the weight borne by the title in this specific cultural context. This is not, “Sir”, or “Sir, Sir”, or even “Your Highness” as we may think is being said in our current setting. This is a form of address where the Most High is meant. If Jesus was simply and merely being misunderstood by his hearers, this is the perfect opportunity to set the record straight. But instead of denying his Deity, he frames their judgment in the context of them addressing him as the One True God, without comment or editorial on this aspect of their profession. Dear friends, Jesus is “Lord, Lord” in every aspect, in every act, in very nature God.

And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” And he rose and went home. (Matthew 9:2-7)

The Savior has arrived, demonstrating his true nature in the most practical of ways. The invisible greater miracle precedes the visible lesser one. The lesser miracle stands as testimony of the greater, that all would see and understand that forgiveness of sins pronounced by Jesus is real, true, and authentic. The true Savior grants true forgiveness.

If we would look merely on the surface, healing the paralyzed man may appear to be the more profound, life-changing miracle. But elevating the outward physical manifestation over the inward spiritual reality is to turn Jesus’ work inside out. The man has been forgiven of all his offenses, all his detriment, all his unbelief and rebellion and hardness of heart, committed personally against and in opposition to God Himself. The previously-paralyzed-but-now-healed, previously-dead-in-sin-but-now-alive has a clean record and a lasting peace with the Almighty, which shall never end. Jesus’ forgiveness has brought life where there was no life, strength where there was no strength, hope where there was no hope. He sends the man home, whole and healed, inside and out, walking in spirit and in body, where there was only death and paralysis before.

It is no blasphemy that Jesus commits here, but it is true and real forgiveness of offenses against the Almighty. Pause to consider something… if I were to say to your most hate-fueled enemy, “I forgive you all your offenses against Joe V. Witness (insert your name there)”, could you accept that this person was now fully, freely, and completely forgiven by you? This person who has sought to offend you in the most personal and repugnant ways: lying, slandering, abusing, stealing, cursing, beating, and dismissing you as well as oppressing your family in the most injurious ways; this one now has a clean slate with you based on my word? Would that be acceptable in your eyes? Of course not! “Who are you to forgive them for me?”

All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. (Matthew 11:27)

In the broader context of Matthew 11, Jesus is speaking of salvation and judgment in all their vivid color. In verses 25-26, the sovereignty of the Father over all things, including salvation, is highlighted. Then the Son places himself in the center of that picture, as the one who has received all things (pertaining to salvation) from the Father, revealing the true depths of his relationship with the Father. Father and Son have a mutual complete understanding of one another, which is an astounding claim. No mere creature may claim this for himself. In revealing and relating, selecting and saving, Father and Son are equals.

This is not some puny little man, endowed with a fingernail of authority who has lofty thoughts concerning God. Instead, the Son reveals the interpenetrating nature of Father and Son, where every corner of their individual inner existence is known and understood by both in their entirety. This is no place for a mere man who has been brainwashed. The Watchtower God has brainwashed their “Jesus” by inserting memories into his mind, out of concern with convincing him he was another creature, an angel named Michael. How could such a confused creature hope to understand the Father in all things, when he doesn’t even understand who, or what, he is?

But that is not the case at all. Listen to Jesus. He knows himself. He knows he has been given all things. He knows the Father entirely, and He reveals the Father to all whom he wills.

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

Who is this Jesus, given “all authority in heaven and on earth”? The Watchtower says, “Jesus never considered himself equal to God.” Yet we see Jesus here, possessing all authority spanning all of creation. The ordinance of baptism which he prescribes here, includes himself in the formula. “Jesus never considered himself equal to God”, says the Watchtower. Yet we see Jesus here, standing with the Father and the Spirit as the identified Savior of the professing Christian. “Jesus never considered himself equal to God.” Yet we see here that his word and his presence are given for the strengthening of the saints in all places, at all times.

Dear friends, the Watchtower tries to marginalize Jesus, but God’s word stands true. He is so interwoven in the text with the one true and living God, that there is no seam to be found between Father and Son in their identification as God.

3) What do Jesus’ friends say?

Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” (Matthew 14:22-33)

What an incredible, wonderful scene. Peter’s real bravery and faith shine but not as much as the glory of the Son of God. Jesus invites Peter out of the boat and onto the waves. Peter continues to look at the spectacle as he walks on the water towards Jesus, and in doing so, his faith in Jesus falters. As he begins to slip into the tumult, he cries out in faith once again, “Lord, save me.” The trustworthy Savior reaches out his hand to the disciple at his side, saving him in the immediate context, picturing salvation from far greater chaos – the rebel heart of each disciple who comes to Jesus for salvation.

The scene is deeply religious at its core. The disciples panic, thinking Jesus is a ghost. Immediately, Peter engages with Jesus and participates in the miracle. Upon entering the boat, the storm ceases. In this scene, the disciples worship Jesus, proclaim that he is the Son of God. The story shouts “glory” in the open display of the powers of Jesus. Master of the water. Master of the waves. Master of the storm. Savior. Is it any surprise that the disciples reacted as they did?

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:13-16)

Peter makes the great confession which stands as the testimony of the gospel, that Jesus is truly the Christ, the Anointed One, the Messiah, the Savior, the one sent to save his people. Not only is he the one sent to save; his character, power, and authority are such that Peter believes Jesus is the revealer of God to men. Jesus is not a hologram, or a ghost, or an angel who puts on a human suit to bring God’s message to men. He is the living God’s very own son, displaying the character of the one true God by possessing that character in himself.

Examining Peter’s confession from within the Watchtower would mean he is confessing Jesus is the first and only direct creation, the first and only directly-created-by-God creature, as Michael the Archangel. The Watchtower explains in numerous places in their literature that Jesus’ identity as “the Son of God” is purely due to the fact that he is the only one (within Watchtower theology) to be created directly by God. This is another one of the points where the “system” of Watchtower belief does not stand up under scrutiny. We will be writing a separate piece to provide an in-depth analysis of the Watchtower’s views of “being”. Considered here, Peter’s confession is so much more than an identification of Jesus as “the first created creature”.

Peter’s confession draws out the incredibly profound impression that Jesus has made on the disciples. While remote observers may think this Jesus is merely or only an itinerant rabbi with a group of students, Peter speaks the mind of those disciples. This one among them is like none other, greater than every rabbi, greater than every teacher, greater than every other person in the world. Jesus’ greatness is not a perception that he is God’s only directly-created creature, possessing a nature infinitely less than God in every way. No. Instead of professing that Jesus is a mere creature, a derived, dependent, insufficient creature; Peter confesses that Jesus possesses, within himself, the very nature of God Almighty, the very nature of the living God, as a true son displays the nature and character of his father.

Peter’s confession is not a statement about “which number were you holding when God started creating?” The sonship that Peter speaks of goes to the very root of Jesus’ nature, of Jesus’ identity, of his being.

Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” (John 1:47-49)

Nathanael’s response seems all out of proportion to his very brief interaction with Jesus. Obviously there is more going on here than we are explicitly told. Nathanael’s time under the fig tree bore meaning known only to him, or so he thought. Whatever happened, Jesus is telling Nathanael that he saw Nathanael there. Nathanael was not as alone as he thought.

Although originally skeptical of Philip’s identification of Jesus, Nathanael’s attitude shifts rather dramatically as Jesus reveals he knows Nathanael. Responding to Jesus, Nathanael now addresses him as “Rabbi” (teacher), “the Son of God”, and “the King of Israel”. This is an ascending progression, climaxing with Nathanael committing himself into the hand of his King (note the earlier identification by Jesus that Nathanael is a true Israelite). At this early stage of his knowledge of Jesus, Nathanael is using known messianic titles for Jesus.

Note that “the King of Israel” in a Jewish frame of reference is a title and position which God proclaims for himself in Zephaniah 3:15. “The Lord has taken away the judgments against you;he has cleared away your enemies.The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst;you shall never again fear evil.” I do not say, at the time of Nathanael’s proclamation of the Christ, that he fully loaded this meaning into the titles ascribed to Jesus. Ongoing revelation inside the Gospel of John and across the breadth of scripture will reveal the unsoundable depths of Christ.

Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.” (John 11:23-27)

Jesus is unlike every other prophet or priest. All who came before, in truth, pointed to another. Jesus’ message is himself. “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me… “. He is not merely the provider of resurrection. He is the resurrection. He is not merely the conduit used to provide life. He is the life. Our resurrection, our life, are linked here with unbreakable bonds to Jesus. Our faith must be in him. He possess llife in himself and gifts his followers, his disciples who believe in him, with life that overcomes the grave. Much more could be said, but we will leave the discussion on the nature of resurrection for another time.

Martha responds to Jesus. Responding to him, not simply or only to his message. No, it is faith Martha has placed in him. He is her Lord, “the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.” Martha is not confessing a belief that Jesus is a mere creature, as the Watchtower paints him. Martha is not confessing a belief that this man in front of her is an amalgam of man and angel, or that he has been brainwashed by Jehovah into believing he was Michael the Archangel. Hers is not a faith in a man deceived by God. No, her faith is in the Messiah, the Son of God, who is coming into the world, and who is her Savior in every way she grasps.

Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:26-28)

Jesus comes back to catch the disciple who was absent from his first appearance to the group. Jesus knows the dialogue between Thomas and the witnessing disciples, and challenges him on exactly those evidences that he demanded. Thomas need to know it was Jesus risen, and the proofs he wanted were concerned with the physical body of the risen Jesus. He wants to see Jesus with the marks of crucifixion, which the other disciples had mentioned to him, and he wants to touch them to confirm it is really, truly Jesus risen from the grave.

Jesus steps into the intimate setting with the group now including Thomas. He shows the wounds and invites the touch of Thomas, to break down the barriers of his unbelief. There is tenderness and persistence displayed by Jesus that makes my heart sing in praise to him. He did not give up on Thomas. He did not leave him in unbelieving despair. He did not walk away from him or deny his struggle to believe what no one had ever seen before these days and this Jesus. Instead, he returns to the scene in mercy and evident love for Thomas. Jesus calls Thomas to believe in him… not simply to believe that he has risen, but that he has defeated death and is risen again, the Savior.

Thomas’ response is loaded with profound depth. His profession of faith in this Jesus speaks for itself. “The Lord of me and the God of me!” “My Lord and my God!” After three years following Jesus through personal interaction, teaching, and witnessing his miracles; Thomas’ ripe faith blossoms in this encounter with his Lord, with his God. Thomas makes the supreme exaltation of Jesus Christ explicit in the mouth of a disciple, in a way that the Watchtower says never happens. He identifies Jesus as “the God”. Not merely “a god”, “some god”, “an angel”, “an exalted spirit creature”, or any other designation infintely lesser than the infinite Creator God. Jesus is Thomas’ Lord, Thomas’ God.

The merciful Savior has won the heart, mind, and faith of the struggling disciple in its entirety. Thomas has met the One who is truly the Savior of all who come to the faith that Thomas professes.

“My Lord and my God!”

4) What do Jesus’ enemies say?

And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:3-4)

The old accuser seeks to trip up the savior, tempting him to satisfy his physical hunger (which would be tremendous at the end of this fast) through an act of creation by command. The devil, trying to exert every pressure, challenges the identity of Jesus as the Son of God. The Watchtower’s portrayal of “the Son of God” is that a spirit creature was the only direct creation of the Father, and that all other creatures were brought into existence through the work of the Father in cooperation with this first created creature, as though “Son of God” is an identification of order of creation and not speaking of his essential nature. The old devil is not challenging Jesus on the basis of order of creation. He is challenging this man as one who possesses the creative ability of God.

And when he came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men met him, coming out of the tombs, so fierce that no one could pass that way. And behold, they cried out, “What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?” (Matthew 8:28-29)

The demon-possessed speak the fear of their demonic oppressors. They are afraid of the judge, the one who comes to put their wicked freedom to an end. They are afraid of the Son of God, not because he is the first one created by God, but because he is the Son of God who will judge them, as the Son of God in essential nature, and who can, by virtue of his Deity, judge and punish them for all time.

But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” (Matthew 26:63-64)

Jesus elevates his person, nature, and glory to the highest level, “seated at the right hand of Power”. The high priest has accosted him, demanding a clear answer to the burning question, “Are you the Christ, the Son of God?” While the high priest has the title Son of God in mind as a messianic title, Jesus ensures that the high priest and the assembled court understand how high he is. Jesus elevates the messianic to the heavenly, to the Divine! He does not possess a title. He is the Son of God, seated at the right hand of the Father and coming with the clouds of heaven (which is another illustration meant to paint Christ as truly God).

Remember the Watchtower’s original premise, that Jesus never considered himself equal with God. Have you not read the passage above? To be seated at the right hand (the position of blessing and honor) of the Power is a claim to equality with the Power. This is unmistakable to all but those with prior commitments which do not allow them to acknowledge the clear language used by Christ in this confrontation and revelation.

5) What does all of creation say?

And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” (Revelation 5:13)

Finally,what will you and I say of Jesus when we see him at the end of all things? What will the entirety of creation say of Jesus? The picture painted in Revelation 5 is heavy with the weight of glory and the vocabulary of worhip. “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” You and I and all of creation will join our voices in unison to worship the Father and the Lamb simultaneously. Read Revelation 5 in its entirety. It is no mere display of respect to a creature-king. The vocabulary and actions of worship are present and presented to the Lamb proper.

Dear Jehovah’s Witness friend, you will worship Jesus one day. It is my heart’s desire that you would be prepared and eager to offer that future worship by believing in Jesus today, embracing him as Savior and King without reservation. I have sought to present accurately what the Bible tells us about Jesus, that you may see and believe in the biblical Jesus. The Watchtower presents a caricature of the biblical Jesus, concealing his rich beauty behind a veil of confusing creatureliness.

Jesus says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Psalm 136

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,for his steadfast love endures forever. 

Give thanks to the God of gods,for his steadfast love endures forever. 

Give thanks to the Lord of lords,for his steadfast love endures forever; 

  to him who alone does great wonders,for his steadfast love endures forever; 

  to him who by understanding made the heavens,for his steadfast love endures forever; 

  to him who spread out the earth above the waters,for his steadfast love endures forever; 

  to him who made the great lights,for his steadfast love endures forever; 

    the sun to rule over the day,for his steadfast love endures forever; 

    the moon and stars to rule over the night,for his steadfast love endures forever; 

  to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt,for his steadfast love endures forever; 

    and brought Israel out from among them,for his steadfast love endures forever; 

    with a strong hand and an outstretched arm,for his steadfast love endures forever; 

  to him who divided the Red Sea in two,for his steadfast love endures forever; 

    and made Israel pass through the midst of it,for his steadfast love endures forever; 

    but overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea,for his steadfast love endures forever; 

  to him who led his people through the wilderness,for his steadfast love endures forever; 

  to him who struck down great kings,for his steadfast love endures forever; 

    and killed mighty kings,for his steadfast love endures forever; 

    Sihon, king of the Amorites,for his steadfast love endures forever; 

    and Og, king of Bashan,for his steadfast love endures forever;

    and gave their land as a heritage,for his steadfast love endures forever; 

    a heritage to Israel his servant,for his steadfast love endures forever. 

It is he who remembered us in our low estate,for his steadfast love endures forever; 

  and rescued us from our foes,for his steadfast love endures forever; 

  he who gives food to all flesh,for his steadfast love endures forever. 

Give thanks to the God of heaven,for his steadfast love endures forever.

The Reign of Grace – Chapter 11, Abraham Booth

CONCERNING THE PERSON OF CHRIST, BY WHOM GRACE REIGNS.

THE person of Christ, considered in connexion with his work, is a copious and exalted subject; infinitely deserving our most attentive regards. For his person is dignified with every excellency, divine and human; and his work includes every requisite for the complete salvation of our guilty souls.

The constitution of our Mediator’s wonderful person was an effect of infinite wisdom, and a manifestation of boundless grace. The hypostatical union of his Divine and human nature, is a fact of the last importance to our hope of eternal happiness. For, by the personal union of these two natures, he is rendered capable of performing the work of a Mediator between God and man. If he had not possessed a nature inferior to that which is Divine, he could neither have performed the obedience required, nor have suffered the penalty threatened by the holy law; both which were absolutely necessary to the salvation of sinners.

Nor was it sufficient merely to assume a created nature; for it was to be that which is common to men. The law being given to man, the obedience required by it, as the condition of life, was to be performed by man, a real, though sinless man. Because the wisdom and equity of the Supreme Legislator could not have appeared in giving a law to our species, if it had never, so much as in one instance, been honoured with perfect obedience by any in our nature. As man was become a transgressor of the law, under its curse, and bound to suffer eternal misery; it was necessary that he who should undertake his deliverance, by vicarious sufferings, should be himself a man. It would not have appeared agreeable, that a different nature from that which sinned should have suffered for sin. Had it pleased the infinite Sovereign to have saved the angels that fell, with reverence we may suppose, that it would have appeared suitable to Divine wisdom, that their deliverer should have assumed the angelic nature. But as man, having lost his happiness, was the creature to be redeemed; and as humanity, having lost its excellence, was the nature to be restored; it was necessary that redemption, and this restoration, should be effected in the human nature. For as by the disobedience of one man, many were made sinners, brought under condemnation, and liable to eternal death; even so, by the obedience of one man, Jesus Christ, must many be made righteous, be delivered from condemnation, and accepted to everlasting life.

It was necessary also that the human nature of Christ, in which he was to accomplish our deliverance, should be derived from the common root and fountain of it in our first parents. For it does not appear suitable to answer the various purposes designed by the assumption of our nature, that it should be created immediately out of no thing; nor yet that his body should be formed out of the dust, like that of the first man. Because, on that supposition, there would not have been any such alliance between him and us, as to lay a foundation for our hope of salvation by his undertaking. It was necessary that he who should sustain the character and perform the work of a Redeemer, should be our Goel, or near kinsman: one to whom the right of redemption belonged? (Lev. 25:48, 49. Ruth 2:20, 3:9 Margin) So it was declared in the first promise; The seed of the woman, and no other, shall bruise the serpent’s head. He was not only to assume the nature of man, but to partake of it, by being made of a woman. Thus he became our kind-man, and our brother. According to that saying, both he that sanctifieth, and they who are sanctified, are all of one nature: for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren. (Heb. 2:11) Amazing condescension this! That the son of the Highest should become the child of a virgin; that the God of nature should become the seed of her who, with a bold, presumptuous hand, plucked the fatal fruit which entailed death on all our species; that He whom angels adore should appear in our nature when sunk in ruin, that he might obey, and bleed, and die for our deliverance! What words can express, what heart can conceive the depth of that condescension, and the riches of that grace, which appear in such a procedure!

It was absolutely necessary, notwithstanding, that the nature in which the work of redemption was to be performed should not be so derived from its original fountain as to be tainted with sin; or partake, in any degree, of that moral defilement, in which every child of Adam is conceived and born. It behooved us to have such an High Priest, as was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners; for as a priest, he was to atone for our sins and ransom our souls, If the human nature of Christ had partook, in any measure, of that pollution which, since the fall, is hereditary to us; it would have been destitute of the holy image of God, as we are prior to regeneration: and, consequently, he would have been rendered incapable of making the least atonement for us. He who is himself sinful, cannot satisfy Divine justice on the behalf of another; because, by one offence, he forfeits his own soul. Here, then, the adorable wisdom of God appears in its richest glory. For though it was necessary our Surety should be man, and the seed of the woman; yet he was conceived in such a manner as to be entirely without sin. Yes, Jesus, though born of a woman, was absolutely free from the guilt of the first transgression, and from every degree of that depravity which is common to all the offspring of Adam. The perfect purity of our Mediator’s humanity, being an article of the last importance to our salvation, is frequently and strongly asserted in the sacred writings. The complete rectitude of his heart, and the unspotted sanctity of his life, are there displayed in lively colours.

A little to explain and illustrate this momentous truth, it may be of use to consider, how it is that we, who are the natural descendants of Adam, became guilty through the first transgression, and are made partakers of a depraved nature. As to guilt by the first offence, it may be observed, that the whole human nature subsisted in our original parents when it was committed; and that Adam was our public representative. Hence it is that his offence became the sin of us all; is justly imputed and charged upon us. In him, as our common representative, we all sinned. Such being our natural state, as the descendants of an apostate head, we justly bear that humbling and awful character; CHILDREN OF WRATH, BY NATURE. But Adam was not a federal head of Christ. The Lord from heaven was neither included in him, nor represented by him. He was not included in him. For the blessed Jesus was conceived in a way entirely supernatural, and born of a virgin. He was not born in virtue of those prolific words, by which the great Creator blessed the connubial state before the fall, Increase and multiply; but in virtue of a gracious promise, made after the fall, when Adam ceased to be any longer a public person. He was not represented by him, for our grand progenitor was the representative of none but his natural offspring. The holy Jesus, therefore, not being naturally descended from him, could not be represented by him. It appears indeed, highly incongruous for us to imagine, that he who was of the earth, earthy, should be the representative of him who is the Lord from heaven; of him who is, in all respects, his Great Superior. It could not be, that One who is the Son of God, as well as tile seed of a woman, should acknowledge Adam for his federal head. Our Lord therefore had no concern in his guilt, as a descendant from him, which is the case of all his natural posterity. The promised seed not being included in that covenant under which the first human pair stood, could not be chargeable with any part of that guilt which attended the violation of it. Original guilt becomes ours in virtue of Adam’s relation to us, as our public representative; and hence R is imputed to us by a righteous God. For if we had riot been some way involved in the first transgression, before it was imputed to us, it could not justly have been charged upon us. Because it is not the imputation of Adam’s offence that makes it ours; but, being legally ours, in consequence of our natural and federal relation to him, it is justly imputed to us.

Nor could the Lord Redeemer be liable to the necessary consequence of Adam’s offence; that is, a depravation of nature. This immediately followed, as the natural effect of his first transgression, which transgression being committed by him as our representative, is legally ours; and hence we share with him in its natural and awful effects. In other words, we derive a corrupt nature from him, because we were guilty with him. Nor was the imputation of his offence to us, the cause of this woful effect; but his offence being legally ours, prior to that imputation. But as Christ was not concerned with him in original guilt, having no relation to him as a federal head; the natural consequence of that guilt could not take place in him, as it does in us, being represented by Adam and descended from him according to the common course of nature. Thus was the human nature of Jesus Christ entirely free from all contamination: and thus that holy thing, which was formed in the womb of the virgin, by the power of the Most High, was constituted the second Adam, in opposition to the first. This production of the human nature of our glorious Immanuel, being in a way supernatural and divine, is called the creation of a new thing in the earth. (Jer. 31:22) Thus Christ became a partaker of the nature which had sinned, without the least sinfulness of that nature.

It was absolutely necessary also, that our Mediator and Surety should be God as well as man. For as he could neither have obeyed, nor suffered, if he had not possessed a created nature; so, had he been a mere man, however immaculate, he could not have redeemed one soul. Nay, though he had possessed the highest possible created excellencies, they would not have been sufficient; because he would still have been a dependent being. For as it is essential to Deity, to be underived and self-existent; so it is essential to a creature, to be derived and dependent. The loftiest seraph that sings in glory is as really dependent on God, every moment of his existence, as the meanest worm that crawls. In this respect, an angel and an insect are on a level. Every intelligent creature, therefore, whether human or angelic, having received existence from the Almighty, and being continually dependent on him, as the all-producing, all-supporting first cause; must be obliged to perpetual obedience, by virtue of that relation in which he stands to God, as his Maker and Preserver. It is highly absurd to suppose it possible for any creature to supererogate, or to do more in a way of obedience to Him from whom his all was received, than he is under the strongest obligations to perform, in consequence of his absolute and universal dependence. But whatever is previously due from any one, on his own account, cannot be transferred to another, without rendering the first devoid of that obedience which it is absolute-Iv necessary for him to have. Universal obedience, in every possible instance, is so necessary in a rational creature, as such, being dependent on God and created for his glory, that the omission of it, in any degree, would not only be criminal, but expose to everlasting ruin.

The righteousness, therefore, of a mere creature, however highly exalted, could not have been accepted by the Great Supreme, as any compensation for our obedience. Because whoever undertakes to perform a vicarious righteousness, must be one who is not obliged to obedience on his own account. Consequently, our Surety must be a Divine Person; for every mere creature is trader indispensable obligations to perfect and perpetual obedience. Now, as our situation required, so the gospel reveals, a Mediator and Substitute thus exalted and glorious. For Jesus is described as a Divine Person, as one who could, without any arrogance, or the least disloyalty, claim independence; and, when thus considered, he appears tit fin the task. But of such an One we could have had no idea, without that distinction of Persons in the Godhead which the Scriptures reveal. Agreeably to this distinction, we behold the rights of Deity asserted and vindicated, with infinite majesty and authority, in the person of the Father; while we view every Divine perfection displayed and honoured, in the most illustrious manner, by the amazing condescension of the eternal Son: By the humiliation of Him who, in his lowest state of subjection, could claim an equality with God. Such being the dignity of our wonderful Sponsor, it was by his own voluntary condescension that be became incarnate, and took upon him the form of a servant. By the same free act of his will he was made under the law, to perform that obedience in our stead, to which, as a Divine Person, he was no way obliged.

The necessity there was that our Surety should be a Divine Person, might be further proved, by considering the infinite evil there is in sin. That sin is an infinite evil, appears from hence. Every crime is more or less heinous, in proportion as we are under obligations to the contrary. For the criminality &any disposition, or action, consists in a contrariety to what we ought to possess, or perform. If, therefore, we hate, disobey, or dishonour any person, the sin is always proportional to the obligations we are under to love, to honour, and to obey him. Now the obligations we are under to love, to honour, and to obey any person, are in proportion to his loveliness, his dignity, and his authority. Of this, none can doubt. If then infinite beauty, dignity, and authority belong to the immensely glorious God; we must be under equal obligations to love, to honour, and to obey him; and a contrary conduct must be infinitely criminal. Sin, therefore, is a violation of infinite obligation to duty; consequently an unlimited evil, and deserving of infinite punishment. Such being the nature of our offences, and of the aggravations attending them, we stand in absolute need of a surety, the worth of whose obedience and sufferings should be equal to the unworthiness of our persons, and to the demerit of our disobedience. If to the evil there is in every sin, we take into consideration the vast number of sinners that were to be redeemed; the countless millions of enormous crimes that were to be expiated; and the infinite weight of Divine wrath that was to be sustained; all which were to be completed in a limited and short time, in order to reconcile man to God, and to effect his eternal salvation; we shall have still stronger evidence in proof of the point.

Were a defence of the proper Deity of Christ my intention, the Scriptures would furnish me with ample matter and abundant evidence in favour of the capital truth. For the names that he bears, the perfections ascribed to him, the works he has done, and the honours he has received, loudly proclaim his ETERNAL DIVINITY. But I wave the attempt, and proceed to observe,

That it was necessary our Surety should be God and man, in unity of person. This necessity arises from the nature of his work; which is that of a Mediator between God, the offended Sovereign, and man, the offending subject. If he had not been a partaker of the Divine nature, he could not have been qualified to treat with God; if not of the human, he would not have been fitted to treat with man. Deity alone was too high to treat with man; humanity alone was too low to treat with God. The eternal Son therefore assumed our nature, that he might become a middle person; and so be rendered capable of laying his hands upon both, (Job 9:33) and of bringing them into a state of perfect friendship. He could not have been a mediator, in regard to his office, if he had not been a middle-person, in respect of his natures. Such is the constitution of his wonderful person, and hence he is called IMMANUEL God with us, or in our nature.

The perfect performance of all his offices, as priest, prophet, and king, requires this union of the Divine to the human nature. As a Priest. For it was necessary he should have something to offer, that he should offer himself. But pure Deity could not be offered. It was requisite therefore that he should be man, and taken from among men, as every other high-priest was. And, had he not been God, as he could not have had an absolute power over his own life, to lay it down and take it up at his pleasure; so the offering of the human nature, if not in union with the Divine, would not have made a proper atonement for our transgressions, would by no means have expiated that enormous load of human guilt, for which he was to suffer. Nor could his death have been an equivalent, in the eye of eternal justice, to that everlasting punishment which the righteous law threatens against sin; which must have been the sinner’s portion, as it is his just desert, if such an admirable Sponsor had not appeared on his behalf. But when we consider that he who suffered, the just for the unjust, was a Divine Person incarnate, we cannot but look upon him as perfectly able to bear the punishment and to perform the work. For as the infinite evil of sin arises from the majesty, and the excellence of him against whom it is committed; so the merit of our Surety’s obedience and sufferings must be equal to the dignity of his person. How great, how transcendently glorious are the perfections of the eternal Jehovah! so great, so superlatively excellent is the atonement of the dying Jesus!

As a Prophet. For had he not been the omniscient God, he could not, without a revelation, have known the Divine will respecting his people. Nor could he have had a perfect acquaintance with that infinite variety of cases, in which, through every age and nation, they continually need his teaching. And, if he had not been man he could not so familiarly, in his own person, have revealed the Divine will.

As a King. For if he had not been God, he could not have ruled in the heart, or have been the Lord of conscience; nor would he have been able to defend and provide for the church, in this imperfect and militant state. Neither could he, in his own right, have dispensed eternal life to his followers, or everlasting death to his enemies at the last day. And if he had not been man, he could not have been a head, either political or natural, of the same kind with the body to which he is united, and over which he is placed as King in Zion. Consequently, he could not have sympathized with the members of his mystical body, as he evidently does. But as his wonderful person is dignified with every perfection, Divine and human; as he possesses all the glories of Deity, and all the graces of immaculate humanity; these render him a Mediator completely amiable and supremely glorious–an adequate object of the sinner’s confidence, and of the believer’s joy.

Hence it appears, that Christ is a glorious, a Divine Mediator; a Mediator that has power with God and with man. He must be able, therefore, to save to the uttermost, to all perfection and forever, all that come to God by him. The obedience of such a Surety must magnify the law, and render it highly venerable; must have an excellence and a merit, incomparably and inconceivably great. It must be of more value than the obedience of all the saints in the world, or of all the angels in glory. The sufferings underwent by this heavenly Substitute, the sacrifice offered up by this wonderful High Priest, must be all-sufficient to expiate the most accumulated guilt; omnipotent to save the most horrid transgressor. For his obedience is that in worth, which his person is in dignity. This, infinite in glory; that, boundless in merit.

As the greatness of an offence is proportional to the dignity of the person whose honour is invaded by it; so the value of the satisfaction made by the sufferings of any substitute, must be equal to the excellence of the person satisfying. Sin, being committed against infinite Majesty, deserved infinite punishment; the sacrifice of Christ is of infinite worth, being offered by a person of infinite dignity. It was the sacrifice, not of a mere man, not of the highest angel, but of Jesus the incarnate God; of Him who is the brightness of the Father’s glory, and Head over all creation. As the infinite glory of his Divine Person cannot be separated from his humanity; so infinite merit is necessarily connected with his obedience and sufferings. In all that he did, and in all that he underwent, he was the Son of God; as well on the cross, as before his incarnation; as well when he cried, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? as when he raised the dead, anti reversed the laws of nature. He was Jehovah’s Fellow when he felt the sword of justice awake upon him; he thought it no robbery to assert an equality with God, even when he was fastened to the bloody tree, and expired under a curse. (Zech. 23: 7. Phil. 2:6.8. Gal. 3: 13) Was the sin for which he suffered infinitely evil? the Person who satisfied is infinitely excellent. Did an infinite Object suffer in his honour by our offences? the injury is repaired by a Subject of infinite excellence making an atonement for them. Our sin is infinite in respect of the object; our sacrifice is infinite, in regard to the subject. Jehovah considered our Surety as the Man his fellow, when he smote him; and we should consider him under the same exalted character when we believe on him, and plead his atonement before God. “Here is firm footing, here is solid rock.” In the Divine dignity of the Redeemer’s person, and in the consummate perfection of his work; there is an everlasting basis for faith, the assurance of faith, the full assurance of faith. A basis, firm as the pillars of nature; immovable, as the eternal throne.

Whereas if, with Socinians, we suppose that Jesus had no existence before his conception in the womb of the virgin, and so look upon him as a mere man; or if, with Arians, we imagine him to be a kind of superangelic spirit, united to a human body; yea, though we should compliment him, as some of them have done, with ascribing all Divine perfections to him, except eternity and self-existence, which is absurdly impious; yet we rob him of proper Deity, we make him a dependent being, we reduce him to the rank of mere creatures, and deprive ourselves of that foundation of confidence in him which his true character affords. For we never can persuade ourselves, that the sufferings of a mere creature, and those for so short a time, could be accepted by the most high and holy God, as a righteous compensation to his law and justice, for the sins of innumerable millions of hell-deserving transgressors. Hence it is, that those who deny the proper Deity of Christ, commonly deny that he made satisfaction for sin to Divine justice. Thus far they are consistent, and (what they affect to be called) rational. But they may do well to consider, whether they themselves be able to satisfy eternal justice; and how they can expect admission into the kingdom of glory, by the sin-avenging God, without any satisfaction made for their crimes. For, certain it is, that He who governs the universe is inflexibly just, as well as divinely merciful. THE JUST GOD AND THE SAVIOUR is his revealed character. As thus revealed, we must know him, and trust in him, if we would escape the wrath to come.

Here let the reader admire and adore the love of the Eternal Father, and the condescension of the Divine Son. The love of the eternal Father. For the glorious person described is the Son of God, and the Father’s gift to sinful men. In comparison with whom, all the angels and all worlds, bestowed upon us for an inheritance, would be trifling and next to nothing. Because all created things are equally easy to Divine power, being only the effects of the simple will of God. The formation of an angel, or of an insect; of a thousand systems, or of a thousand grains, is the same thing to Omnipotence. For which reason, there could be no comparative greatness in any such gifts. If, therefore, the eternal Father would manifest his love to an uncommon degree; if he would so gratify his mercy, in blessing his offending creatures, as to have an appearance of doing violence to himself; it must be by giving his only begotten Son, who is one in nature and equal in glory with him–by giving him to be their substitute, their propitiation, and their Saviour. In this view, how great the propriety, how striking the beauty of those apostolic sayings! He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? God commendeth his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. Here Divine low appears in the utmost advantage: here it shines in all its glory. For its rich donation is infinitely excellent, and the blessedness resulting from it is consummate and eternal. The condescension of the Divine Son. That He who was in the form of God, and thought it no robbery to be equal with God; that He whom angels obey; that He whom seraphs adore, and before whom they veil their faces; as conscious of their own comparative meanness, or as dazzled with the blaze of his infinite glories –that HE should be made flesh, take upon him the form of a servant, perform obedience, and give up himself to the most infamous death, is amazing! But that he should surrender himself to die for sinners, for enemies, and for such as were in actual rebellion against him, is unspeakably more amazing! These are demonstrative proofs, that the Lord Redeemer is as much superior to his creatures in the riches of his grace, as he is in the depths of his wisdom, or in the works of his power. Let all the heavens adore him! and let the children of men be filled with wonder, and burn with gratitude! For this glorious Redeemer is accessible by sinners, who was designed for sinners; and on them his power and grace are magnified.

Such is that representation which the gospel gives of Divine, redeeming love. But were we to deny the proper Deity of Jesus Christ, and to reject the reality of his atonement, we should, in reference both to the Father and the Son, obscure its glory, weaken its force, and almost destroy its very being. On Socinian principles, many of the most emphatical terms and phrases of inspiration, relative to our salvation by the Son of God, must be understood in a sense directly contrary to their natural import; or, in other words, the language of Scripture must be reversed. For instance: our Lord says, God so loved THE WORLD, that he gave his only begotten Son. But Socinianism teaches us to understand the Divine declaration thus: “God so loved the son of Mary, that he gave him the government of the world.” –Paul says, Ye know the grace of our LORD JESUS CHRIST, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes be became poor. But, according to this hypothesis, the meaning and the fact are, “Ye know the grace of God to the man Jesus Christ; who, though he was by nature poor, as any that are born of a woman; though, in the whole of his life, he was equally dependent on the Father’s power and pleasure as any other person can possibly be, and though neither the labours of his ministry, nor the pains of his martyrdom, were equal to those of many among his disciples; yet, for his own sake, and as the reward of his obedience, he became, through divine bounty, incomparably rich.”

In another epistle the same apostle says: Christ Jesus, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God; but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Now this, according to the principles of SOCINUS, may be paraphrased thus: “Christ Jesus, being a merely human creature, existed in the form of a man. Conscious of this, he thought it the most impious robbery on the honours of Deity, for him to be equal with God; whether it were by bearing his names, by claiming his attributes, by presuming to perform his works, or by receiving his worship. Yes, being made in the form of a servant, (because as a mere creature, it was impossible he should exist in any other form) and feeling his own emptiness, he was contented to appear in the likeness of men. And seeing he was a mere man, there is no reason to wonder that he Was found in fashion as a man; or that, as a righteous person, and a teacher of truth, he was greatly humbled, as many other good men have been, by poverty and reproach. Nor yet, feeling himself entirely at the Divine disposal, is there any reason to be surprised that, as a martyr, he became obedient to death, even the death of the cross: Because he knew that such was the will of his Creator and Sovereign. But as he had no bodily disease to affect his imagination with melancholy gloom; no guilt on his conscience, to excite despondency; no unhallowed attachment to family connexions, to religious friends, or to any sensible object: no doubt of special interest in the Father’s love; nor any fear, with regard to his own final felicity; the wonder is, that, in his last sufferings, and before any human hand was upon him, he should be so full of consternation, so penetrated with anguish, as to sweat blood, and to exclaim, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death–My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me! At this we may well be astonished; because many of his disciples, even when in the hands of their barbarous executioners, and though conscious of personal guilt, have sustained the extremest sufferings without one complaint, and sometimes with indications of exuberant joy.

“Besides, Jesus dying only as a martyr, being perfectly innocent of the crimes laid to his charge, and suffering nothing at all from the hand of eternal justice for the sins of others; the love he expressed to men like himself was far from being so disinterested, so fervent, or so great, as multitudes have imagined. For he was absolutely certain of rising again from the dead within the space of three days; and, as the reward of his obedience to death, of being exalted to the throne of universal empire. Yes, he knew that God would highly exalt him, and give him a name above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of thing’s in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Now, as he was a mere man; as his death was only that of a witness to Divine truth; as he lost his life only for three days; and as he had the most certain expectation of such an unbounded reward; it cannot with reason be supposed that his love to men considered as neighbours, or his compassion to men, considered as perishing in ignorance and in superstition, was much superior to that philanthropy which prophets, apostles, and martyrs have discovered. Because it is manifest that, had self-love been the only principle of his conduct, he could not have promoted his own advantage so effectually in any other way. Who, that Loves God and man; who, that pursues his own supreme honour and happiness, would refuse to undergo similar sufferings, provided he were absolutely certain of an equal reward? Nay, did not CODRUS, did not the DECII, voluntarily devote themselves to death for the good of their respective countries; though, being enveloped in Pagan darkness, the only reward they had to expect was a little posthumous renown?”

So abhorrent are the grand principles of Socinianism to the language and sentiments of Divine revelation! On those principles, the phraseology of inspired writers is extremely strange, and very obscure: so obscure, that instead of saying, Great is the mystery of GODLINESS; we may justly exclaim, Unaccountably singular, and profoundly mysterious, is THE LANGUAGE of prophets and of apostles, respecting the person and work of Jesus Christ! For though the things intended are plain, and easily apprehended by common capacities; yet the terms by which those things are expressed are so extremely abstruse, that the most ardent study, and the greatest acumen, are absolutely necessary to develope their meaning. Christians have been used to consider Scripture mysteries, as relating to the MODUS of certain important facts; which facts, being plainly revealed, are believed on the authority of Divine testimony: but this new theology teaches us to look for those mysteries in the unparalleled MODUS of biblical expression. I said, unparalleled. For, surely, if the Socinian system be true, no set of writers, who had not lost their senses, and who intended to be understood, ever expressed common ideas in such mysterious language, as that which is used by the inspired penmen relative to Jesus Christ, and to the great work of redemption by him.*

* See Dr. ABBADIE on the Deity of Jesus Christ essential to the Christian Religion, passim.

Fully persuaded, therefore, that the Scriptures mean as they speak, let the sinner who is conscious of nothing but misery and wretchedness about him, flee to the all-sufficient Mediator; trust in him as mighty to save; and veracity itself has engaged that he shall not be disappointed in his expectations. As a Divine person, ho must be able to act agreeably to every character he bears; perfectly qualified to execute every office he has undertaken; and completely fitted to fill up each relation in which he stands to his people. Let us repose the most unreserved confidence in his atonement and intercession, as our Priest; look to him for instruction, as our prophet; be subject to him, and expect protection from him, as0ur King. Let us manifest the most fervent love to him, as our Redeemer; yield him the most cordial obedience, as our Lord; and pay him the sublimest worship, as our God. I will add, let all those who deny his proper Deity, and reject his vicarious death; who refuse to honour him as a Divine person, and to accept his righteousness as Mediator; be aware lest, when it is too late, they feel their want of his atonement, and be compelled to acknowledge, that He IS OVER ALL, GOD BLESSED FOREVER.

Let my reader contemplate with wonder and with joy, the infinite honour that is conferred on the human nature. in the person of our great Mediator. For it is in everlasting union with the Son of God; is now seated on a throne of light; is the most glorious of all creatures, and the eternal ornament of the whole creation. Yes, believer, He on whom you rely, in whose hands you have intrusted your soul, still wears your nature while he pleads your cause. That very body that hung on the cross, and was laid in the grave; that very soul which suffered the keenest anguish, and was exceeding sorrowful, even unto death; are now, and ever shall be, m close connexion with the eternal Word. Mysterious, ineffable union! big with wonder and replete with comfort! How encouraging it is to consider, that as Jesus is clothed with that very humanity, in which he suffered afflictions and trials of every kind and of every degree; he cannot forget his tempted, despised, afflicted people in this militant state. In himself he sees their image; in his hands he beholds their names. He feels for them, he suffers with them: (Heb. 2:18, and 4:15. Isa. xlix. 15, 16) he never will, he never can overlook their persons, or be unmindful of their best interests