Sanctification Is Also By Grace

December 18th, 2006

Walter Marshall The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification, Direction IX, Subpoint 3

The usual method of gospel doctrine, as it is delivered to us in the Holy Scriptures, is first, to comfort our hearts, and in this way to establish us in every good word and work (2 Thess. 2:17). And it appears how clearly this method is adjusted in several Epistles written by the apostles, in which they first acquaint the churches with the rich grace of God towards them in Christ, and the spiritual blessings which they are made partakers of for their strong consolation, and they exhort them to a holy conversation, answerable to such privileges. And it is not only the method of whole Epistles, but of many particular exhortations to duty, in which the comfortable benefits of the grace of God in Christ are made use of as arguments and motives to stir up the saints to a holy practice; which comfortable benefits must first be believed, and the comfort of them applied to our own souls, or else they will not be forcible to engage us to the practice for which they are intended.

To give you a few instances, out of a multitude that might be alleged, we are exhorted to practice holy duties because we are dead to sin and alive to God through Jesus Christ our Lord (Rom. 6:11); and because sin shall not have dominion over us, for we are not under the law, but under grace (Rom. 6:14); because we are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, and God will quicken our mortal bodies by His Spirit dwelling in us (Rom. 8:9, 11); because our bodies are the members of Christ and the temples of the Holy Ghost (1 Cor. 6:15, 19); because God has made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor. 5:21); and has promised that He will dwell in us, and walk in us, and be to us a Father, and we shall be to Him sons and daughters (2 Cor. 6:18; 7:1); because God has forgiven us for Christ’s sake, and accounts us His dear children; and Christ has loved us, and given Himself for us; and we, that were sometimes darkness, are now light in the Lord (Eph. 4:32; 5:1, 2, 8 ); because we are risen with Christ and, when Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall we also appear with Him in glory (Col. 3:1, 4); because God has said, ‘I will never leave you, nor forsake you’ (Heb. 13:5); because of the many promises made to us (2 Cor. 7:1). Search the Scriptures, and you may with delight see that this is the vein that runs through gospel exhortations, and you may find the like vein of comfort running through the prophetical exhortations in the Old Testament.

Some may object that the apostles used this method, in their writings to saints, who had practiced holiness already, that so they might continue and increase therein. But to that I may easily reply, ‘If it be a method needful for grown saints, much more for beginners, that find the work of obedience most difficult and have most need of strong consolation.’ And I hope to show how we may be able to lay hold of these consolations by faith, in the very first beginning of a holy life. Besides, the gospel proposes peace and comfort freely to those that are not yet brought to holiness that, if they have hearts to receive it, they may be converted from sin to righteousness. When the apostles entered into a house they were first to say, ‘Peace be to this house’ (Luke 10:5). At their very first preaching to sinners, they acquainted them with the glad tidings of salvation by Christ, for everyone that would receive it as a free gift by faith (Acts 3:26; 13:26, 32, 38; 16:30, 31). They assured them, if they would but trust heartily on Christ for all His salvation, they should have it, although they were at present the chief of sinners – which was comfort sufficient for all that duly esteem spiritual comfort, hungering and thirsting after it. And this is a method agreeable to the design of the gospel, which is, to advance the riches of the grace of God in all our spiritual enjoyments. God will give us His consolations before our good works, as well as after them, that we may know that He gives us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, and not through the procurement of our works (2 Thess. 2:16).

This excellent book

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A Moravian View of Justification

December 14th, 2006

This is a bit of a sermon by Peter Bohler, that John Wesley quotes in his journal: I believe it’s volume 1.

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The word of reconciliation which the Apostles preached, as the foundation of all they taught, was, that we are reconciled to God, not by our own works, nor by our own righteousness, but wholly and solely by the blood of Christ.

But you will say, ‘Must I not grieve and mourn for my sins? Must I not humble myself before God? Is not this just and right? And must I not first do this, before I can expect God to be reconciled to me?’ I answer, It is just and right. You must be humbled before God. You must have a broken and contrite heart. But then observe, this is not your own work. Do you grieve that you are a sinner? This is the work of the Holy Ghost. Are you contrite? Are you humbled before God? Do you indeed mourn, and is your heart broken within you? All this worketh the self-same Spirit.

Observe again, this is not the foundation. It is not this by which you are justified. This is not the righteousness, this is no part of the righteousness, by which you are reconciled unto God. You grieve for your sins. You are deeply humble. Your heart is broken. Well; but all this is nothing to your justification. The remission of your sins is not owing to this cause, either in whole or in part. Your humiliation and contrition have no influence on that. Nay, observe farther, that it may hinder your justification; that is, if you build any thing upon it; if you think, ‘I must be so or so contrite. I must grieve more, before I can be justified.’ Understand this well. To think you must be more contrite, more humble, more grieved, more sensible of the weight of sin, before you can be justified, is to lay your contrition, your grief, your humiliation, for the foundation of your being justified; at least, for a part of the foundation. Therefore it hinders our justification; and a hindrance it is which must be removed before you can lay the right foundation. The right foundation is, not your contrition, (though that is not your own,) not your righteousness; nothing of your own; nothing that is wrought in you by the Holy Ghost; but it is something without you, viz., the righteousness and the blood of Christ.

For this is the word, ‘To him that believeth on God that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.’ See ye not, that the foundation is nothing in us? There is no connection between God and the ungodly. There is no tie to unite them. They are altogether separate from each other. They have nothing in common. There is nothing less or more in the ungodly, to join them to God. Works, righteousness, contrition? No; ungodliness only. This then do, if you will lay a right foundation. Go straight to Christ with all your ungodliness. Tell him, ‘Thou, whose eyes are as a flame of fire searching my heart, seest that I am unholy. I plead nothing else. I do not say, I am humble or contrite; but I am ungodly. Therefore bring me to Him that justifieth the ungodly. Let thy blood be the propitiation for me. For there is nothing in me but ungodliness.’

Here is a mystery. Here the wise men of the world are lost, are taken in their own craftiness. This the learned of the world cannot comprehend. It is foolishness unto them: Sin is the only thing which divides men from God. Sin (let him that heareth understand) is the only thing which unites them to God; that is, the only thing which moves the Lamb of God to have compassion upon, and, by his blood, to give them access to the Father.

This is the ‘word of reconciliation’ which we preach. This is the foundation which never can he moved. By faith we are built upon this foundation; and this faith also is the gift of God. It is his free gift, which He now and ever giveth to every one that is willing to receive it. And when they have received this gift of God, then their hearts will melt for sorrow that they have offended Him. But this gift of God lives in the heart, not in the head. The faith of the head, learned from men or books, is nothing worth. It brings neither remission of sins, nor peace with God. Labor then to believe with your whole heart. So shall you have redemption through the blood of Christ. So shall you be cleansed from all sin. So shall ye go on from strength to strength being renewed day by day in righteousness and all true holiness.”

Which is rather nice.

James White, Scripture Alone, “The Canon of Scripture Considered”

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The fact that many churches avoid uncomfortable topics, not only in the preaching of the Word but in Bible study as well, leads to the creation of blind spots in the theology of even the most devout Christians. These blind spots can then function as a door through which false teaching is introduced; hence the importance of doing as Paul said, preaching the “whole counsel of God”.

Evil Desire Is Not Satisfied

November 20th, 2006

W.G. Blaikie, The Second Book of Samuel, pp.159,160

And when evil desire has large scope for its exercise, instead of being satisfied it becomes more greedy and more lawless.

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A Letter from John Knox

October 11th, 2006

John Knox to his mother-in-law, 1553

Where God saith, “It repenteth me that I made Saul king,” he means not, that Saul at any time was a member of Christ’s body; but that he was a temporal officer, promoted of God, and yet most inobedient to his commandment; and therefore, that he would provide another to occupy his room: and that where he says, “I repent,” we must understand him to speak after the manner of men, attemperating himself to our understanding. For otherwise, God repenteth not; for before, his majesty knew the inobedience and rebellion of the wicked king. But, Sister, God the Father cannot repent, that he hath engrafted us members of Christ’s body; for that were to repent the honor of His own Son, yea, and his own good work in us.

Abide patiently, and give no place to the temptations of the adversary. Let him shoot his darts in his despite; but say you in your heart, The Lord is my defender, and therefore shall I not be confounded: dolor shall be but for a moment, but ever and ever shall we reign with Jesus our Lord; whose Holy Spirit be your comfort to the end.

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