Monthly Archives: February 2011

Every Christian’s Testimony

“I am not what I ought to be.  Ah! how imperfect and deficient.

Not what I might be, considering my privileges and opportunities.

Not what I wish to be.  God, who knows my heart, knows I wish to be like him.

I am not what I hope to be; ere long to drop this clay tabernacle, to be like him and see him as He is.

Not what I once was, a child of sin, and a slave of the devil.

Thought not all these, not what I ought to be, not what I might be, not what I wish or hope to be, and not what I once was, I think I can truly say with the apostle, ‘By the grace of God I am what I am‘ (1 Corinthians 15:10).”

John Newton (1725-1807), Letters by the Rev. John Newton, 400.

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How to Mortify Sin

Determine that you will, everyday and in every duty abolish and destroy this ruling principle of sin.  it will not die unless it is gradually and constantly weakened.  Spare it, and it heals its wounds and recovers its strength.  Negligence allows sin to regain such power that we may never recover our former state as long as we live.

We are continually to watch out for the rising up of this ruling principle of sin and immediately subdue it.  This is to be done in all that we are and do.  We are to be watchful in our behaviour to others, watchful when we are alone, watchful when in trouble or joy.  We are to be particularly watchful in the use of our pleasure times and in temptations.

Determine that you will no longer serve sin  (Rom. 6:6).  See it as the worst service of which a rational creature is capable.  If you serve sin it will bring you to a dreadful end.  Determine that though sin remains in you, yet you will not serve it.  Remember, if the ‘old ma’ is not crucified with Christ, you are still a servant of sin, whatever you might think of yourself.

Realise that it is no easy task to mortify sin.  Sin is a powerful and dreadful enemy.  There is no living thing that will not do everything in its power to save its life.  So sin also will fight to save its life.  If sin is not diligently hunted down and dealt with by holy violence, it will escape all our attempts at killing it.  It is a great mistake to think that we can at any time rest from this duty.  The ruling principle of sin to be slain is in us, and so has hold of all our faculties.  Sin cannot be killed without a sense of pain and trouble.  So Christ compared it to ‘cutting of the right hand’ and ‘plucking out the right eye’.  The battle is not against any particular lust but against all sinful lusts which war against the soul.

Mortification arising from convictions of the law leads only to dealing with particular sins, and always proves fruitless.  True mortifying of sin deals with the entire body of sin.  It goes tot the heart of the matter and lays the axe to the root of the tree.  This is the mortification which the Holy Spirit drives the believer to do.

Mortification of particular sins arises from a guilty conscience.  But mortification arising from gospel principles deals with the whole body of sin in its opposition to the renewing of the image of God in us.

John Owen (1616-83), The Holy Spirit, 167-69.

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Filed under Applied Theology, Bible, Christian Living, Christian Thinking, Church History, Holiness, Mortification of Sin, Pneumatology, Puritans, Reformation, Reformers, Sanctification, Sin, Spirit, Theology

No One Saved By “Free Will”

As to myself, I openly confess, that I should not wish “Free-will” to be granted me, even if it could be so, nor anything else to be left in my own hands, whereby I might endeavour something towards my own salvation. And that, not merely because in so many opposing dangers, and so many assaulting devils, I could not stand and hold it fast, (in which state no man could be saved, seeing that one devil is stronger than all men;) but because, even though there were no dangers, no conflicts, no devils, I should be compelled to labour under a continual uncertainty, and to beat the air only. Nor would my conscience, even if I should live and work to all eternity, ever come to a settled certainty, how much it ought to do in order to satisfy God. For whatever work should be done, there would still remain a scrupling, whether or not it pleased God, or whether He required any thing more; as is proved in the experience of all justiciaries, and as I myself learned to my bitter cost, through so many years of my own experience.

But now, since God has put my salvation out of the way of my will, and has taken it under His own, and has promised to save me, not according to my working or manner of life, but according to His own grace and mercy, I rest fully assured and persuaded that He is faithful, and will not lie, and moreover great and powerful, so that no devils, no adversities can destroy Him, or pluck me out of His hand. “No one (saith He) shall pluck them out of My hand, because My Father which gave them Me is greater than all.” (John 10 27-28). Hence it is certain, that in this way, if all are not saved, yet some, yea, many shall be saved; whereas by the power of “Free-will,” no one whatever could be saved, but all must perish together. And moreover, we are certain and persuaded, that in this way, we please God, not from the merit of our own works, but from the favour of His mercy promised unto us; and that, if we work less, or work badly, He does not impute it unto us, but, as a Father, pardons us and makes us better.—This is the glorying which all the saints have in their God!

Martin Luther (1483-1546), The Bondage of the Will, 273-74.

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Your Heart Must Be Pure

If we must be pure in heart then we must not rest in outward purity.  Civility is not sufficient.  A swine may be washed, yet a swine still.  Civility does not wash a man, grace changes him.  Civility, like a star may shine in the eyes of the world, but it differs as much from purity as the crystal from the diamond.  Civility is but strewing flowers on a dead corpse.  A man may be wonderfully moralized, yet but a tame devil.  How many have made civility their saviour!  Morality may damn as well as vice.  A vessel may be sunk with gold, as well as with dung.

Observe two things:

1. The civil person, though he will not commit gross sins, yet he is not sensible of heart sins.  He does not discern the ‘law in his members’ (Romans 7:23).  He is not troubled for unbelief, hardness of heart, vanity of thoughts.  He abhors gaol-sins, not gospel-sins.

2. The civil person has an aching tooth at religion.  His heart rises against holiness.  The snake is of a fine colour, but has a deadly sting.  The civil man is fair to look to, but has a secret antipathy against the ways of God.  He hates grace as much as vice.  Zeal is as odious to him as uncleanness.  So that civility is not to be rested in.  The heart must be pure.  God would have Aaron wash the inwards of the sacrifice (Leviticus 9:14).  Civility does but wash the outside; the inwards must be washed.  “Blessed are the pure in heart.’

Thomas Watson (1620-86), The Beatitudes: An Exposition of Matthew 5:1-12, 175-76.

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A Pilgrim Burdened No More

As I walked through the wilderness of this world, I lighted on a certain place where was a den, and laid me down in that place to sleep; and as I slept, I dreamed a dream. I dreamed, and behold, I saw a man clothed with rags, standing in a certain place, with his face from his own house, a book in his hand, and a great burden upon his back. (Isa 64:6; Luke 14:33; Psalm 38:4). I looked and saw him open the book, and read therein; and as he read, he wept and trembled; and not being able longer to contain, he brake out with a lamentable cry, saying, “What shall I do?” (Acts 2:37; 16:30; Habak 1:2,3)….

Now I saw in my dream, that the highway up which Christian was to go, was fenced on either side with a wall, and that wall was called Salvation. (Isaiah 26:1). Up this way, therefore, did burdened Christian run, but not without great difficulty, because of the load on his back.

He ran thus till he came at a place somewhat ascending; and upon that place stood a cross, and a little below, in the bottom, a sepulchre. So I saw in my dream, that just as Christian came up with the cross, his burden loosed from off his shoulders, and fell from off his back, and began to tumble, and so continued to do till it came to the mouth of the sepulchre, where it fell in, and I saw it no more.

Then was Christian glad and lightsome, and said with a merry heart, “He hath given me rest by his sorrow, and life by his death.” Then he stood still a while, to look and wonder; for it was very surprising to him that the sight of the cross should thus ease him of his burden. He looked, therefore, and looked again, even till the springs that were in his head sent the waters down his cheeks. (Zech. 12:10). Now as he stood looking and weeping, behold, three Shining Ones came to him, and saluted him with, “Peace be to thee.” So the first said to him, “Thy sins be forgiven thee,” (Mark 2:5); the second stripped him of his rags, and clothed him with change of raiment, (Zech. 3:4); the third also set a mark on his forehead, Eph. 1:13, and gave him a roll with a seal upon it, which he bid him look on as he ran, and that he should give it in at the celestial gate: so they went their way. Then Christian gave three leaps for joy, and went on singing,

“Thus far did I come laden with my sin,

Nor could aught ease the grief that I was in,

Till I came hither. What a place is this!

Must here be the beginning of my bliss?

Must here the burden fall from off my back?

Must here the strings that bound it to me crack?

Blest cross! blest sepulchre! blest rather be

The Man that there was put to shame for me!”

John Bunyan (1628-88), The Pilgrim’s Progress (first published this day 1678), First and Third Stage.

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Are You Really Spiritual?

We find that true saints, or those persons who are sanctified by the Spirit of God, are in the New Testament called spiritual persons. And their being spiritual is spoken of as their peculiar character, and that wherein they are distinguished from those who are not sanctified. This is evident because those who are spiritual are set in opposition to natural men, and carnal men. Thus the spiritual man, and the natural man, are set in opposition one to another; I Corinthians 2:14–15, “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them; because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things.” The Scripture explains itself to mean an ungodly man, or one that has no grace, by a natural man… That by carnal the Apostle means corrupt and unsanctified, is abundantly evident, by Romans 7:25 and Romans 8:1, 4–9, 12, 13; Galatians 5:16 to the end; Colossians 2:18. Now therefore, if by natural and carnal, in these texts, he intended “unsanctified”; then doubtless by spiritual, which is opposed thereto, is meant “sanctified” and gracious….

Now it may be observed that the epithet “spiritual,” in these and other parallel texts of the New Testament, is not used to signify any relation of persons or things to the spirit or soul of man, as the spiritual part of man, in opposition to the body, which is the material part: qualities are not said to be spiritual, because they have their seat in the soul, and not in the body: for there are some properties that the Scripture calls carnal or fleshly, which have their seat as much in the soul, as those properties that are called spiritual. Thus it is with pride and self-righteousness, and a man’s trusting to his own wisdom, which the Apostle calls fleshly (Colossians 2:18). Nor are things called spiritual, because they are conversant about those things that are immaterial, and not corporeal. For so was the wisdom of the wise men, and princes of this world, conversant about spirits, and immaterial beings; which yet the Apostle speaks of as natural men, totally ignorant of those things that are spiritual (I Corinthians, ch. 2). But it is with relation to the Holy Ghost, or Spirit of God, that persons or things are termed spiritual, in the New Testament. “Spirit,” as the word is used to signify the third person in the Trinity, is the substantive, of which is formed the adjective “spiritual,” in the holy Scriptures. Thus Christians are called spiritual persons, because they are born of the Spirit, and because of the indwelling and holy influences of the Spirit of God in them. And things are called spiritual as related to the Spirit of God; I Corinthians 2:13–14, “Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God.” Here the Apostle himself expressly signifies, that by spiritual things, he means the things of the Spirit of God, and things which the Holy Ghost teacheth. The same is yet more abundantly apparent by viewing the whole context. Again, Romans 8:6, “To be carnally minded is death: but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” The Apostle explains what he means by being carnally and spiritually minded, in what follows in the 9th verse, and shows that by being spiritually minded, he means a having the indwelling and holy influences of the Spirit of God in the heart. “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.”

Jonathan Edwards (1703-58), Religious Affections, 197-99.

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Sovereign Grace Destorys Pride

God does not grant His mercy [and grace] to some people because they know Him, but in order that they may know Him.  Nor is it because they are upright in heart, but that they may become so, that He grants them His righteousness by which He justifies the ungodly.  This thought does not inflate us with pride!  The sin of pride arises when anyone has too much self-confidence, and makes himself the supreme reason for living.  Driven by this conceited feeling, the proud person departs from the Fountain of life, from Whose streams alone we can drink the holiness which is itself the good life.  Yes, the proud person departs from that unchanging Light, by sharing in which the rational soul is set on fire (so to speak) and becomes a created and reflected light.

Augustine (354-430), On the Spirit and the Letter, 11 in N. R. Needham, The Triumph of Grace: Augustine’s Writings on Salvation, 191-92.

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