Hebrews 6:4-6— ‘For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.’

Here is an excellent example of Hebrews 6:4-6, among other scripture on apostasy. The ‘faith’ they leave is the broader practice, not the individual regenerative transformation:

Former Desiring God and TGC Author Paul Maxwell Describes in VIVID Detail how he Came to Lose his Faith

– – – – – – – – – – –
“I became a Christian at a…conference.”

“I wanted to understand the Bible. So I went to…Bible College.”

“…a lot of people in seminary go there because they sense a vocational calling on their lives…– that was never me. I wanted to understand God, who is this God that I’ve devoted my life to?”

“…when I announced that I wasn’t a Christian anymore, I think it was a combination of that seed that had been planted when I was 19, where I learned to kind of perforate my faith experience with genuine questioning…”

Having read a ‘self-esteem’ book that changed his whole mindset and worldview: “And [the] claim in that book is essentially, in order to have the cognitive architecture of mental wellness, begins with esteeming the self, honoring the self, loving the self. And his definition of self-esteem, was what allowed me to let go of the version of Christianity I had held onto for so long…”

“And I realised if I have to choose between at least the way I’m manifesting and experiencing God through Christianity, and having self-esteem defined as ‘having the coordination of self-respect and self-confidence,’ I need self-esteem.”
– – – – – – – – – – –

This is what not knowing God looks like; what being “converted” under false pretenses looks like; what “devoting your life” to something you’ve not actually been eternally transformed by looks like.

Apostacy is not a faithful Christian giving up or losing hope—or “deconstructing”—but rather it is for those who the phrase ‘I never knew you; depart from me’ Christ directs. To truly know Christ is to know the only hope man has in this life.

We must be mindful, and prayerful, of the gospel we present, who we present it to, and how we share it. We are not trying to simply “sell” a mindset and worldview by the wisdom of men, but we seek to be the hands and feet of Christ that deliver the incomparable power of God—through His Word—to the lost souls of men.



Psalm 14:3b — ‘There is none that doeth good, no, not one.’



“Origen maketh a question, how it could be said that there was none, neither among the Jews nor Gentiles, that did any good; seeing there were many among them which did clothe the naked, feed the hungry, and did other good things: he hereunto maketh this answer:—

That like as one that layeth a foundation, and buildeth upon it a wall or two, yet cannot be said to have built a house till he have finished it; so although those might do some good things, yet they attained not unto perfect goodness, which was only to be found in Christ.

But this is not the apostle’s meaning only to exclude men from the perfection of justice; for even the faithful and believers were short of that perfection which is required; he therefore showeth what men are by nature, all under sin and in the same state of damnation, without grace and faith in Christ: if any perform any good work, either it is of grace, and so not of themselves, or if they did it by the light of nature, they did it not as they ought, and so it was far from a good work indeed.”


Andrew Willet

on Romans iii. 10.



As seen referenced in: Charles H. Spurgeon’s The Treasury of David expositional commentary (and more), Passmore & Alabaster, p.192





“The pursuing love of God is the greatest wonder of the spiritual universe. We leave God in the heat of our own self-desire and run from His will because we want so much to have our own way. We get to a crossroads and look back in pride, thinking that we have put distanced Him. Just as we are about to congratulate ourselves on our achievement of self-enthronement, we feel a touch on our arm and turn in that direction to find Him there.

‘My child,’ He says in great tenderness, ‘I love you; and when I saw you running away from all that is good, I pursued you through a shortcut that love knows well, and awaited you here at the crossroads.’

We have torn ourselves free from His grasp and rushed off again, through deepest woods and farthest swamp, and as we look back again, we are sure, this time, that we have succeeded in escaping from Him. But, once more, the touch of love is on our other sleeve and when we turn quickly we find that He is there, pleading with the eyes of love, and showing Himself once more to be the tender and faithful One, loving to the end.

He will say, ‘My child, my name and nature are Love, and I must act according to that which I am. So it is that I have pursued you, to tell you that when you are tired of your running and your wandering, I will be there to draw you to myself once more.'”

Donald Gray Barnhouse



As seen referenced in: James Montgomery Boice’s The Minor Prophets expositional commentary, Zondervan, p.23



“If you are Christ’s servant, take a sheet of paper, and write down, ‘Lord, I bring my loaves and fishes to Thee’; and if you are not Christ’s, confess the awful truth to yourself, and face it. I wish that you would make a record of it in black and white, putting down both name and date, ‘I am not Christ’s.’

Take a good look at it, try and grasp what it means to withhold yourself from Him who loves you, and waits to save; then ask yourself why you are not His.

I remember a woman not long ago, who said that at her work it came across her mind, ‘I am not saved.’ She was sweeping the room, and when she finished that, she said to herself, ‘I have to cook dinner, but I am not saved.’ She went into the kitchen, and had her fire all ready, and her food; but all the while she was putting things into the pot she kept saying to herself, ‘I am not saved’; and so it was when she was busy all afternoon; and when her husband came home, she could not help but blurting it out to him, ‘Oh, husband, I am not saved!’ But he was; and he pointed her to Christ; they knelt together, and oh, how he prayed with her! She found that such she had so earnestly sought, and it was not very many days before she could say, ‘Oh, husband, I am saved!’

May that be the case with you! The Lord bless every single one of you, wherever you may be! We shall all meet in the day of judgment. May you and I meet without fear there, to sing to the sovereign grace of God, which saved us from the wrath to come, and helped us while we were here to bring our little, and put it into Christ’s hands!”

Charles H. Spurgeon
August 9, 1891

For more see: https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/sermons/the-lads-loaves-in-the-lords-hands/#flipbook/


The Pilgrim’s Digest is a sampling of Christian writings throughout the centuries on many subjects from
Reformers, Puritans, pastors, and various theologians. Let’s take a short walk with the saints.
Soli Deo Gloria!

The Existence and Creed of Devils Considered

with a word concerning apparitions.

by Augustus Montague Toplady

Augustus Toplady (1740-1778) was an English Anglican cleric and hymn writer, who staunchly defended Calvinism against the likes of John Wesley. He is most well-known for being the author of the hymn “Rock of Ages”.





A discourse preached in the parish church of St. Olive, Jewry, on Sunday Afternoon, October 29, 1775

And the Lord said unto Satan, whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the Lord, and said; From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it. – Job i. 7

Sermon IX

Thou believest that there is one God. Thou doest well. The devils also believe, and tremble.


     One grand motive which induced St. James to write this epistle was to stifle and repress a most dangerous error which, even in the apostolic times, began to gain ground among too many reputed followers of Christ.

     This error was, that a mere naked assent to the truths of Christianity, considered as a doctrinal system, without having the heart affected, and without having the life sanctified, would be sufficient evidence of their salvation, and prove them children of God.

     Against this most dangerous delusion the blessed apostle James drew his pen. And the principal drift of this epistle is, not to counteract St. Paul (for all the divine writers speak one uniform, harmonious language): but merely to show the delusion which the Gnostics, who were the Antinomians of that age, were under, and to prove that something more weighty, and more substantial than mere head knowledge, is requisite to stamp us heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ.

     Hence we find the apostle, at the 14th verse, asking, What does it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and hath not works? Can faith save him? Observe with what caution St. James expresses himself. He does not say, “what will it profit a man to have faith without works?” for he knew that to be impossible. But the words are, What will it profit a man to say that he hath faith, without works? There is a vast difference between believing, and saying we believe.The man who professes himself a believer must offer something more solid than his own ipse dixit, than a mere verbal profession, if he wishes to be credited by those to whom that profession is made. Was I to affirm that I am possessed of a neat hundred thousand per annum, not one of you would believe me. And why? because I have nothing to show for it. I have no writings to produce as my authentic vouchers. By the same rule, when a man comes to you or me, and says, I have faith; it is very natural for us to ask, Where are your works? If thou hast faith, thou hast it to thyself before God. Faith is a hidden principle, until rendered visible by a holy life and conversation. What does it profit a man barely to say that he has faith? It profits a man much to have faith; for if he has faith, he will also have a life correspondent with the holiness of that leading grace. Indeed a man can never be holy till he has faith. To them, says Christ, who are sanctified by faith that is in me.—There is no such thing as real holiness without faith; and there is no such thing as true faith without holiness. These two always go together; and none but a visionary self-deceiver, or an intentional hypocrite, would ever wish to put them asunder. Can faith, that is, can a bare profession of faith save him, or prove him to be in a saved state? Far from it. Profession will only sink us deeper into condemnation at last, unless God give us to feel and to possess those graces to which our lips lay claim. Here a Pharisee may step in, and ask, But will not works save us? Indeed they will not. Will not faith and works together save us? No. Faith is the evidence, not the cause, of salvation: just as works are the evidences, not the cause, of faith.


“It is only the religion of Christ, which runs counter to all the rest, by affirming that we are saved, and called with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to the Father’s own purpose and grace, which was [not sold out to us on certain conditions, to be fulfilled by ourselves, but was] given us in Christ, before the world began.”


     I observed, at another end of the town this morning, and I will repeat the observation here: That the religion of Jesus Christ stands eminently distinguished, and essentially differenced, from any other religion that was ever proposed to human reception, by this remarkable peculiarity: that, look abroad in the world, and you will find that every religion, except one, puts you upon doing something, in order to recommend yourself to God.

     A Mahometan expects to be saved by his works. A Socinian thinks to go to heaven by his works. A Papist looks to be justified by his works. A Freewiller hopes for salvation by his works, compliances, endeavours, and perseverance. A Pagan, if he believes that there is a future state, expects to be happy hereafter, by virtue of the supposed good he does, and of the evil he leaves undone. A mystic has the same hope, and stands on the same sad foundation. It is only the religion of Christ, which runs counter to all the rest, by affirming that we are saved, and called with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to the Father’s own purpose and grace, which was [not sold out to us on certain conditions, to be fulfilled by ourselves, but was] given us in Christ, before the world began {2 Tim. i.19}. It was long ago remarked by a good man, that “It is the business of all false religions to patch up a righteousness, in which the sinner is to stand before God.” But it is the business of the glorious gospel to bring near to us, by the hand of the Holy Spirit, a righteousness ready wrought; a robe of perfection ready made; wherein God’s people, to all the purposes of justification and happiness, stand perfect and without fault before his throne.

     You may object, “if that is the case, if we are saved and justified entirely by a righteousness imputed, to what purpose are those good works which the Bible every where inculcates, and which the chapter whence the text has been read, so particularly enforces the practice of?” I answer, that as robes and a coronet do not constitute a peer, but are ensigns and appendages of his peerage (for the will of the sovereign is the grand efficient cause which elevates a commoner to noble rank); and as the very patent of creation is only an authentic manifesto, not causal, but declarative of the king’s pleasure to make his subject a nobleman: just so, good works do not make us alive to God, not justify us before him; nor exalt us to the dignity and felicity of celestial peerage: they are but the robes, the coronet, and the manifesto, shining in our lives and conversations; and making evident to all around us that we are, indeed, and in truth, chosen to salvation, justified through Christ, and renewed by the Holy Ghost.

    I need not apprise you that the generality of those who are dead to God, either think, or pretend to think, that we who preach, and you who believe, absolute salvation by the finished atonement and the finished obedience of Jesus Christ, rested on by faith alone; are “opening the floodgates to licentiousness, and annihilating the necessity of good works.”

     I would wish you to notice the inconsistency of those objections with which worldly people assail the gospel of the grace of God {Acts xx. 24}. One while, they tell us that we are righteous overmuch, and are more godly than we need to be. At another time we are for no good works at all, but make void the law through faith. Now, these two cavils effectually, and primá facie, demolish each other, like two equal contrary forces in natural philosophy. Would it not be very absurd if I was to say of a lady that she is literally straight as an arrow, and as crooked as a rainbow?

     They who are acquainted with themselves, with the love of Christ, and with the holiness of the moral law, know and feel, that so far from doing too much, they can never do enough for God. This knowledge and persuasion effectually cut up the two incoherent objections above mentioned. On one hand, we cannot, even in speculation, be negligent of good works: since we consider, and are zealous for them as the grand visible indications of our appointment to eternal glory.—On the other, a sense of those immense deficiencies which attend our best obedience operates as a most powerful inducement to the unintermitted performance of as much good as we can. Not that we are hereby justified. For as I have often asked (and I shall continue to reiterate the question as long as I can speak for God), where is the man that ever fulfilled the law of God? Let us only bring ourselves to the test of the second table, whose precepts are all summed up in this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Since the fall, no man ever did this but Jesus Christ.

     As I was going through Holborn the other day, I saw a house on fire. The mob were assembled, and the engines were playing: I felt, with great tenderness, for the immediate sufferers. Yet it instantly occurred to me, that I was not so deeply concerned as when I lately saw my own house in a similar danger. What was the reason? Because I do not love my neighbour as myself. And was there nothing else to exclude me from justification by my own righteousness, I should know, from this circumstance alone, that it is utterly impossible for me to be accepted of God, and entitled to heaven, through my defective conformity to the moral law.

    In the prosecution of his argument, St. James puts a very obvious case: a case which, I am afraid, happens almost every day. If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace! be ye warmed and filled! notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body: what does it profit? Intimating that as a string of smooth canting words, unaccompanied by substantial relief, conveys no service to a distressed petitioner, and is no decisive proof of benevolence in the speaker; so an empty, unactive profession of faith, without a heart and life devoted to God, and to the good of mankind, will stand us in no stead at all. The apostle himself makes the application: even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Are we to infer from this that works cause us to live in the sight of God? No. It would sound very odd in your ears, and with very good reason, if I was to affirm that I am therefore alive because I have the honour of preaching before you this afternoon: no. My preaching does not make me alive. It only shews that I do live. Since if I did not live, I could neither move, nor speak, nor act. In like manner, holy works do not endue us with life.– They only prove us to be spiritually alive, if the Spirit of God has enabled us, from right principles, and to right ends, thus to bring forth fruit to his honour and praise.


“Thou believest that there is one God. Thou doest well: this is very right, so far as it goes: but remember that the devils also believe this, together with a great deal more, and tremble.”


     The goodness of the fruit does not make, but discover and declare, the goodness of the tree: since if this were not good, it could not produce good fruit. The purity of a stream does not make the fountain pure, but proves it to be so. All that we can possibly say and do for God, contribute not one jot or tittle to the acquisition either of spiritual or of eternal life, but only make known that he has infused into our souls the breath of supernatural regenerating grace, by the powerful ministration of the Holy Ghost.

    A man may say, adds the apostle, thou hast faith and I have works. Show me thy faith without thy works: as much as to say, I defy thee to do it: faith can only be shown by the good works which it produces. Therefore, I will show thee (and every true believer says the same), I will show thee my faith by my works: I will adduce these, to demonstrate the reality of that.

    Thou believest that there is one God. Thou doest well: this is very right, so far as it goes: but remember that the devils also believe this, together with a great deal more, and tremble. The faith of a deist (which is all ultimately resolvable into this solitary article, I believe that there is one God) is at best but a small part of the devil’s creed; and, if it proceed no farther, will leave the soul infinitely short of everlasting salvation.


    In the text there are three objects of enquiry:

I. Who are the devils here mentioned?
II. What it is that they believe, and how far their faith goes?
III. In what respects their faith differs from the faith of God’s elect, or from that faith which the    Holy Spirit breathes into every converted heart?


    I. By the devils here referred to, we are doubtless to understand that whole body of apostate spirits whose names were not in the book of life, and who were therefore permitted to fall from that state of holiness, dignity, and happiness, which they were originally made.

    Our text styles them devils, δαιμόνια, probably from their depth of skill, and from the exquisite subtilty of their knowledge. At what precise point of time the angels and these among the rest, were created; and whether their creation was successive, or simultaneous, cannot perhaps, be exactly ascertained from Scripture: which only informs us at large that within the first six days the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the hosts of them. St. Austin thinks that the angels were called into being, when God said, Let there be light. And it seems extremely certain, from a passage in the book of Job, that the angels were created before our part of the universe, or that terraqueous globe which we inhabit, was completely formed into its present state. For we read that no sooner was this portion of our own solar system moulded into its present scheme, than angels admired the fabric, and blessed the Builder. Whereupon are the foundations of [the earth] fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof? When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy {Job xxxviii. 6, 7.}. Who were those morning stars? Who were those sons of God? The angels of light; styled morning stars, from their purity, their dignity, their excellency and glory; the sons of God, because they were of God’s own immediate creation. 

     It is likewise plain that the fall of a vast number of these unembodied spirits was antecedent to the fall at least, if not to the creation of man. For we read in the only authentic account of the origin of evil any where extant, that one of these apostate spirits was the being who, in a borrowed form seduced the mother of the human race.

     Should it be asked, “How came any part of those angels, who were created in such a state of natural and moral excellence, to make shipwreck of their holiness, of their majesty and of their joy?” I answer, that the origin of evil, whether among angels (with whom evil seems, strictly, to have originated), or among men, is the most difficult question, perhaps, and the most mysterious part of the divine conduct that ever yet presented itself to human investigation. Clouds and darkness are the seat of its residence; though wisdom, goodness, and justice, were certainly (in a manner unknown to us) the motives to its permission.

     It becomes us probably, on such a occasion as this, to repress the sallies of imagination, and to clip the wings of idle curiosity. It may be that we cannot answer the question in better words than in those of our Lord, Even so, Father! for so it seemeth good in thy sight. We may perhaps venture to surmise that, according to our present views and apprehensions of things, the divine perfections could not have been manifested in equal glory and to equal advantage, if nothing but absolute and uniform good had universally and immutably prevailed. I was greatly pleased some days ago with the remark of a pious and learned friend, who, in the course of our free conversation on this subject, observed, that “Had evil never been permitted, how could the justice of God have been glorified in punishing it? How could the wisdom of God have been displayed in over-ruling it? How could the goodness of God have been manifested in pardoning and forgiving it? And how could the power of God have been exerted in subduing it?” Here, probably, is our ne plus ultra on this subject, until we ripen into that fulness of knowledge which awaits us at God’s right-hand. Until our dis-imprisoned spirits rise into a superior state, it becomes us to confess our ignorance and incompetency, and to address the uncreated Cause of all things, in those words of (I think) good bishop Hooper, a few moments before his martyrdom, “Lord, I am darkness, but thou art light!”

     Should it be enquired, What particular crime it was which drew on the fallen angels that indignation and wrath, that tribulation and anguish, which we read will be their portion? we are not perhaps altogether in the dark as to that. For where St. Paul observes, that {1 Tim. iii. 6.} a bishop should not be a novice, [νεόφυτος, newly converted, or lately implanted into Christ], but a person of gravity, and wisdom, and long experience in the ways of God; the reason assigned is, lest a raw, unfledged bishop, being lifted up with pride, should fall into the condemnation of the devil. Whence it seems that pride and self-admiration were the immediate sins which rendered Satan and his angels obnoxious to the vengeance of the Almighty.

     St. Jude likewise, in the 6th verse of his Epistle, gives us some insight into the nature of the sin committed by those degenerate spirits. The angels, says he, who kept not their first estate (τὴν ἑαυτῶν ἀρχὴν, their own proper and original principality), but left their own habitation; who were not satisfied with that rank in the scale of being, and with that degree of knowledge, dignity, and bliss, assigned them by creating Wisdom, but left their own station and deserted the post in which their Maker placed them; he has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness, to the judgment of the great day. Whence we may soberly conclude that the original sin of the apostate angels was a compound of pride on one hand, and of murmuring on the other.

     Discontent is the daughter of pride. Every discontented heart is a proud heart. Instead of being angry with Providence for not making us greater than we are; the meanest person of us all, if he rightly knew himself and God, would fall low at his footstool and adore him for condescending to bestow any thought upon us, or to take any care of us whatever. As I once heard a valuable person remark, “God is often better to us than our fears; and always better to us than we deserve.”—We should be perfectly at ease, under every possible combination of circumstances, if we could but give credit to infinite Wisdom, for doing all things well.


“Presumptuous man! the reason would’st thou find

Why form’d so weak, so little and so blind?

First, if thou can’st, the harder reason guess,

Why form’d no weaker, blinder, and no less!

Ask of they mother earth, why oaks were made

Taller and stronger than the weeds they shade?

Or ask, of yonder argent fields above,

Why Jove’s satellites are less than Jove?”

—Alexander Pope


     Some there are in the world who sagely laugh at the very mention of devils. These illuminated rationalists cannot bring themselves to believe that there are any such beings. Let me therefore just drop a cursory hint as to the scriptural evidences, and the philosophic reasonableness, of the article now in question.

(1.) There is nothing unscriptural in that doctrine which asserts the real and literal existence of degraded and malevolent unembodied spirits, who retain, amidst all the losses and horrors inseparable from their fallen state, a very extensive portion of knowledge, subtlety and power. The Bible is so far from denying this that, from the first to the last of the inspired books, it gives us a large account both of these spirits themselves and of their various operations. Yea, the Bible is the only source whence any thing certain can be gathered concerning their existence, their history, and their activity.

(2.) There is nothing unphilosophical in the scripture account of these nefarious agents. The whole universe consists of matter and spirit. The positive existence of matter (though it be incapable of absolute demonstration, stictly so called, yet) will not admit of a moment’s reasonable doubt: and with regard to spirit, we must commence Atheists at once ere we can deny the real existence of that. God the Father is an unembodied spirit. God the Son, prior to his incarnation, was an unembodied spirit. God the Holy Ghost is an unembodied spirit. Angels are unembodied spirits. The glorified souls of the departed elect are disembodied spirits.

     Moreover, by the same rule that there are good unembodied spirits, why may there not be evil unembodied spirits? Where is the absurdity of this belief? (I now consider it merely in a rational point of view). If it be Atheism to deny the existence of good unembodied spirits; then is it not totally unreasonable to deny the existence of bad unembodied spirits?

     We know that there are good embodied spirits and bad embodied spirits upon earth, viz. good men and women, and bad men and women. Now, what is a man, or a woman? an immaterial ray, if I may so speak, united to a machine of dust; a deathless spirit, implunged in a mass of dying matter. And why may not that spirit exist when the matter is dropped? That matter which is so far from ennobling, that at the best of times it hangs as a dead weight upon the incarnated angel within!

     I will go still further, and declare it as my stedfast and mature belief, not only that there are unembodied spirits, but also that, upon some special occasions, unembodied spirits and disembodied spirits have been permitted, and may again, to render themselves visible and audible.

     There is nothing absurd in the metaphysical theory of apparitions. I do not suppose that one story in a hundred of this kind is true. But I am speaking as to the naked possibility of such phænomena. And this I am satisfied of, that if a spirit (like mine or your’s for instance), even while shut up in a prison of flesh, can render itself and its operations perceptible to other spirits through the medium of the senses; and if the bodily powers, quick and acute as they are in some men, be at best but very in commodious engines of mental action, and (on the sum total) rather clog and impede and embarrass both the faculties and the exertions of the soul, which yet can do such great things, even while in connection with so feeble and depressing a vehicle as now hangs about us ; where is the unreasonableness of believing (yea, how great is the unreasonableness of not believing) that a soul, disimprisoned and disentangled from this burden of the flesh, is (so far from losing the powers it had) abundantly more at liberty to make itself perceived than when it was connected into one compositum with a material habitation?

    As I have ventured, with that intentional humility which becomes me, to set before you my judgment concerning the doctrine of apparitions; permit me a moment longer to digress from the immediate subjects of our text, while I remind you of two very remarkable Scripture examples quite in point to the case in hand.

(1.) Eliphas the Temanite gave the following relation of a spectre which he himself both saw and heard {Job iv. 13, &c.}. In thoughts from the visions of the night, when deep sleep falleth on men, fear came upon me, and trembling, which made all my bones to shake. Then a spirit passed before my face. The hair of any flesh stood up. It stood still, but I could not (distinctly and perfectly) discern the form thereof: (I can only say in general terms, that) an image was before mine eyes. There was silence (deep and solemn, all around, while the spirit spake); and I heard a voice, saying, Shall mortal man be more just than God? shall a man be more pure than his Maker? Or, as others render it, Shall mortal man be just before God? shall man be pure in the presence of his Maker? No: nothing can constitute us just, in his eyes, but the imputation of Christ’s perfect righteousness. Nor can any thing restore us, incohatively on earth, and completely in heaven, to the purity of God’s image, but the omnipotent agency of God’s sanctifying spirit.

(2.) Carry back your views to our Lord’s transfiguration on Mount Tabor {Luke ix. 29-31}, and you will read of not one only, but two persons, who descended for a while from heaven to earth, appearing visibly to, and conversing audibly with, the Son of God and three of his disciples.—As Jesus prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment became white and glittering. And behold there talked with him two men, who were Moses and Elijah: who appeared in glory, and spake of his decease, which he should accomplish at Jerusalem.

From such holy, from such happy, from such glorified beings as Moses and Elias; I revert, for the present, to those malignant spirits of whom our text speaks; to the devils who believe and tremble. Spirits of a very different cast from those above! Spirits who are bound down, under the chains of Divine providence, and now imprisoned at large, in the atmosphere that surrounds our globe, till the great audit comes, when they shall be turned into hell, together with all who forget God, and obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.


“Do you think there is such a being as an Arian devil? or a Socinian devil? or a Sabellian? Is there an Anti-Trinitarian among the devils? or an Arminian, or a Pelagian? No. They endeavour to seduce men into these heresies: but they are too well informed to be speculatively heterodox themselves.”


     II. I now proceed to the second enquiry: viz. What it is that these devils believe? and how far their faith goes?

     To which I answer, in general, that the devils are incomparably more orthodox than nineteen in twenty of our modern divines. Do you think there is such a being as an Arian devil? or a Socinian devil? or a Sabellian? Is there an Anti-Trinitarian among the devils? or an Arminian, or a Pelagian? No. They endeavour to seduce men into these heresies: but they are too well informed to be speculatively heterodox themselves.

     They believe the existence of God, and that God is one. So the text may be rendered: Thou believest, ὅτι ὁ Θεός εἷς εςτι, that God is one in nature and essence: the devils believe as much; and that in the unity of this Godhead there is a co-existence of three distinct, eternal, consubstantial, and equal persons.

     Satan and his angels believe also, and tremble in believing, that the second of the Divine persons assumed the nature of man; and by the perfection of his obedience and atonement, secured the justification and completed the redemption of every elect sinner.

     They know, too, that the covenant-office and business of the Holy Ghost is to quicken, to convert, and bring to eternal life, all those who are elected by God the Father, and sprinkled with the blood of Jesus Christ.

     They know that the Bible is the unerring word of God: that every syllable of it is true: and that a time shall come when they themselves shall be arraigned at the Messiah’s bar, and receive sentence for all the evil they have done, and for the evil which they have prevailed on men to do. They believe this, and tremble : φρίσσθσι, they are all in horror, commotion and confusion. The term is borrowed from that violent, convulsive fermentation, which agitates the ocean when it is wrought and lashed into all the turbulence and rage of total tempest. Thus do these once dignified, but now degraded spirits, believe with all the certainty of demonstration, and tremble with all the horrible magnificence of angelic fury and despair. They wait, with anxious dread, the enunciation of that sentence which they know they must receive from the lips of that incarnate God whose crucifixion was brought about through their instigation. They asked him, in the days of his flesh, Art thou come to torment us before the time {Matt. viii. 20}? And they still tremble at the sure expectation of what they are to suffer, when they have filled up the measure of their iniquities, and the destined season of their torment is come.

     What was observed a few minutes ago concerning the orthodoxy of devils, holds, I doubt not, equally true of every human soul now in hell. When the departed spirits of unregenerate men do (figuratively speaking) open their eyes in torments; they, at the same time, open their eyes on the truths of God. There is not an Arian, a Socinian, a Sabellian, a Pelagian, or an Arminian, weltering in that lake of fire. As there are no heretics in heaven, so there are none in hell. It is only on earth that men have the dreadful prerogative of out-sinning the very devils themselves.

     Do not however mistake me, as though I meant to pass sentence of condemnation on any of my fellow-creatures. Whether the souls of such men as Arius, Socinus, and Arminius, who certainly trampled the gospel system under their feet, and were the artful and indefatigable instruments of disseminating the most pernicious errors; I say, whether the departed souls of such heresiarchs and heretics as these are saved or lost (which is among the secret things that belong to God); I will venture to declare that Arius is not an Arian now. Sabellius is not now a Sabellian. The two Socinuses are not now Socinians. Pelagius is no longer a Pelagian, nor Manes a Manichean. Arminius is not an Arminian, nor does Roëllus any longer dispute the eternal generation of the Son of God.


“The diabolic faith is an Antinomian faith: a faith without holiness, a faith without good works. Whereas the faith of God’s people is a faith inseparably connected with holiness, and infallibly productive of practical obedience. Whoever has St. Paul’s faith, will and must have St. James’s works.”


     III. Let us consider in what respects does the faith of devils differ from the evangelical faith of the saints, or from that faith which is of the {Col. ii. 12.} operation of God?

     Much every way : but chiefly in these.—

(1.) The faith of the devils is only a mere assent of the understanding, unaccompanied by any cordial consent of the will and affections, to the truth: a faith without regard to Christ, or any concern for the glory of God. They discern the traces of infinite wisdom shining in the gospel plan; but they feel nothing of Christ’s suitableness and loveliness. They speculatively see, but it is only to hate and blaspheme (and, if it were possible to counteract) the covenant-designs of the Trinity respecting the salvation of sinners.

     Sorry I am to observe that we have some professors among ourselves who are for shutting out all feelings of grace for Christian experience. I dare do no such thing. On the contrary, I am persuaded that if a cold, dry assent to the written word be that faith which is connected with salvation, all the devils in hell are and must be children of God. But I cannot bring myself to have so good an opinion of Satan and his legions. Nor, consequently, can I suppose that faith to be saving which has nothing to do with spiritual feelings.

     If once the feeling, or inward perception, of God’s Spirit, as a {John xvi. 8.} convincer of sin, and of righteousness, and of sanctification, were to be excluded from faith, there would presently be an end of all vital religion, and the power of godliness would take its flight from that day forward. What is conviction of sin? It is no conviction to me, unless I feel myself convinced of my sinfulness and inability. What is conviction of Christ’s righteousness? No conviction at all to me, unless I feel the necessity and value of that righteousness. What are the comforts of the Holy Spirit? No comforts at all to me, except I feel them. Unfelt consolation is a contradiction in terms.

     Hence our (Collect for Whitsunday) Church teaches us to pray, that by the light of the same Holy Spirit who taught and illumined the disciples in the day of Pentecost, we, too, may have a right judgment in all things pertaining to God, and be enabled evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort. But how can we rejoice in the comfort of the Holy Ghost unless we feel and perceive his visitations? Where is the enthusiasm of believing that the blessed Spirit of God can make my soul feel, no less vividly, than the impressions of outward objects can make my soul perceive, through the organs of sensation? Putting Scripture quite out of the question, I am bold to assert that no churchman can reprobate religious feelings without reprobating the Church at the same time. For in the 17th Article upon election, or predestination unto life, the Church roundly affirms, that the godly consideration of our election and predestination in Christ is full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort to godly persons, and to such as feel in themselves the workings of the Spirit of Christ. May we feel these workings more and more, mortifying the deeds of the flesh, and drawing up our minds to high and heavenly things!

(2.) The faith of the devils is faith without repentance. Though they saw something of the glory of God before they fell; yet they do not repent of having fallen. My meaning is, they do not repent of having offended God; though the fear of punishment, resulting from self-love, may make them wish they had not sinned.

(3.) Their’s is a faith without love. Their language to the Almighty is, Depart from us, for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways. Whereas the cry of those who are endued with the faith of God’s elect {Titus i. 1.} is, Like as the hart panteth after the waterbrooks, so longeth my soul after thee, O God {Psalm xlii. 1.}.

(4.) The diabolic faith is an Antinomian faith: a faith without holiness, a faith without good works. Whereas the faith of God’s people is a faith inseparably connected with holiness, and infallibly productive of practical obedience. Whoever has St. Paul’s faith, will and must have St. James’s works.

(5.) The faith of devils is a faith without desire. But that faith which the Holy Ghost works in the hearts of his people, causes them earnestly to desire the favour, the presence, and the image of God in Christ. Nothing will satisfy a renewed soul but communion with God, and conformity to him.

(6.) The faith of devils is a faith without reliance. Though they know the mercy of God to be immense, and though they see the merits of Jesus Christ to be all-sufficient; yet they have not one grain of reliance, nor wish they to rely either upon the one or upon the other. Whereas they who {Acts xvii. 27.} believe through grace are enabled, in some degree, to trust the goodness, the covenant, and the promise of God: to trust the blood, and obedience, and mediation of Christ; to trust the grace, the power, and faithfulness of the Holy Ghost. They trust a little, and wish they could trust more. They build a little, and wish they could build higher and deeper, on the merits of Christ. They not only give their assent to the history of his obedience and sufferings; but rely upon them, and take shelter under them, as the sole procuring cause of pardon and salvation.

(7.) While the devils believe against their wills, and wish they were not forced to believe so much; the saints believe with their hearts unto justification, and are ever crying Lord, increase our faith!

(8.) The faith of the infernal spirits does not look to the influences of the Holy Ghost. Whereas that faith which the Holy Ghost inspires, as it comes from him, so it leads to him; and causes the soul to see, and to feel, and to rejoice, that all its strength, all its holiness, and all its happiness, are treasured up in the faithful hands of that holy, blessed, and adorable Comforter.


“Now, if God could pass by millions and millions of angels, sparing not one of the whole number; who dares take divine sovereignty by the throat, and say, concerning its dealings with men, ‘What doest thou?'”


     To conclude.     What learn we from the whole subject?

     1. That those objections which are commonly brought against the doctrines of grace, and against the good old Church of England doctrine of predestination in particular; as if those doctrines carried an implication of arbitrariness and cruelty and injustice in God; all fall to the ground, when we consider how vast a body of apostate spirits, much our superiors in natural excellency, and of an incomparably higher order than ourselves, were permitted to fall still lower than we, and are all absolutely passed by, or reprobated, without the election of so much as one of them to eternal blessedness. Thus God spared not the angels that sinned. No sooner did they transgress than their punishment commenced; and Satan, with his rebellious hosts, fell like lightning from heaven {Luke x. 18.}. Now, if God could pass by millions and millions of angels, sparing not one of the whole number; who dares take divine sovereignty by the throat, and say, concerning its dealings with men, “What doest thou?” Has not the potter power over the clay, to make, of the same lamp, one vessel unto honour, and another to dishonour {Rom. xi. 21}? certainly he has I hope, and believe, that thousands of those who at present are not enlightened into the Bible and Church of England doctrine of predestination; nay, who look upon it as if it was a Jezebel, fit only to be thrown out of window and trampled under foot; I hope the time will come when even these shall experience the blessings with which God’s electing love is fraught.

     2. Bless the Trinity for distinguishing grace: astonishing it is, that he who is God by nature, as being the everlasting Son of the Father, should, by consent of the two other divine persons, vouchsafe to take our nature upon him, when he passed by the non-elect angels and left their nature alone. Well might those of the elect, unfallen angels, who announced the Messiah’s birth, sing Glory to God in the highest, and on the earth peace, good-will towards men: lost, guilty, feeble, hell-deserving men to the exclusion of revolted seraphs! O sinner, sinner, who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou which thou didst not receive {1 Cor. iv. 7.}  from the sovereign, discriminating bounty of free-grace? Men are taken and angels left! Nor does the Father of spirits incur the least shadow of injustice by doing what he wills with his own; or by withholding from any of his creatures, whether angelic or human, that grace, holiness, and happiness which he owes to none. Are you or I unjust in not giving to a person what we do not owe him? Surely not. And is God unjust who taketh vengeance? God forbid {Rom. iii. 5, 6}. O ye potsherds of the earth, who presume to cavil at the divine decrees, strive no longer against your Maker, nor madly run on the thick bosses of his buckler! Remember that you are no more qualified to arraign the glorious mystery of predestination, and to comprehend the whole of God’s designs, than the purblind mole, peeping from the top of its little cavern, can survey, judge, and pronounce of the universe at large. Fall down therefore at the footstool of the Omnipotent; and acknowledge, without limitation or reserve (what thou wilt surely and clearly discern in a future state), that God is holy in all his ways, and righteous in all his works. Be content to know no more of his motives and purposes than himself has condescended to reveal.

“With trembling pinions soar,

Wait the great teacher, death: and God adore.

Aspiring to be gods, if angels fell;

Aspiring to be angels, men rebel.”

     3. If the faith of the devils is a faith without works, it follows that such faith is unprofitable and dead, being fruitless and alone. For as the body without the soul is dead, so faith without works is dead also. Where there is life there will always be some degree of motion. And the believer who is truly such, cannot help shewing that he believes, by living unto God, and by doing the works which he enjoins.

     On the contrary, as a body literally dead is totally motionless and incapable of transacting any worldly business, and its being in such a state of absolute inactivity convinces us that its death is real, though it may still retain the shape and form of a man: so we may pronounce that person to be spiritually and religiously dead, who is motionless and inactive in the ways and works of God: notwithstanding such person may profess to be alive, and among some may even have a name to live. Faith without holiness is no more gospel-faith than an image of wood or stone deserves to be termed a man.

     4.I need not apprize you that you are called upon, by the voice of Providence, to perform a good work this afternoon. The barren faith of devils, I am persuaded, will not satisfy you and me. We are for proving by the good works we do that grace is a lively, benevolent, operative principle. 

     Since the first institution of that parochial school for which your bounty is now solicited, no fewer than five hundred and twenty-seven young persons have been admitted. Of those, one hundred and sixty have been apprenticed: fourteen fitted for the sea service: and upwards of three hundred have gone to domestic services, or been otherwise decently provided for. On the present establishment, there are now sixty children of both sexes, who are maintained and taught, chiefly by means of those voluntary contributions which are raised by good people from time to time. Such of you as are alive unto God through Jesus Christ, need no arguments from the pulpit to stir up your pure minds, even by way of remembrance. You do not, you will not, you cannot forget that Christ has made the poor his own receivers-general. I should therefore be guilty of offering an insult to all your fine feelings as men and Christians should I press this matter farther, by detaining you with petitions and remonstrances. They who possess a better faith than that of which the text speaks, will, as lovers and imitators of Christ, rejoice while and as often as they have opportunity to do good unto all men; and especially unto them who are of the household of faith.

     You know not, but many of these young people, whom you are now going to assist (nay all of them, for any thing we can tell to the contrary), may have their names in the Lamb’s book of life; may be useful members of society through the support afforded them, and in the world to come, through the free grace of God, reign in life everlasting.

     That they and you their benefactors may to all eternity sing and rejoice together, ascribing the whole of your salvation to the covenant mercy of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, is my heart’s desire, and my prayer to the tri-une God.



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The Completeness of the Substitution

by Horatius Bonar

Horatius Bonar (1808-1889) was a Scottish pastor, who ministered in Leith, Kelso and finally Ediburgh. He was a much-respected preacher and pastor, and a prolific author of hymns and books.







     In person and in work, in life and in death, Christ is the sinner’s substitute. His vicariousness is co-extensive with the sins and wants of those whom He represents, and covers all the different periods as well as the varied circumstances of their lives.


     He entered our world as the substitute. ‘There was no room for Him in the inn’ [Luke 2:7]—the inn of Bethlehem, the city of David, His own city. ‘Though rich, for our sakes He had become poor’ [2 Cor. 8:9]. In poverty and banishment His life began. He was not to be allowed either to be born or to die, save as an outcast man. ‘Without the gate’ [Heb. 13:12] was His position, as He entered and as He left our earth. Man would not give even a roof to shelter or a cradle to receive the helpless babe. It was as the substitute that He was the outcast from the first moment of His birth. His vicarious life began in the manger. For what can this poverty mean, this rejection by man, this outcast condition, but that His sin-bearing had begun.


     The name, too, that met Him as He came into our world intimated the same truth: ‘Thou shalt call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins’ [Matt. 1:21]. His name proclaimed His mission and His work to be salvation; ‘Jehovah the Saviour’ (Jesus) is that by which the infant is called. As the Saviour, He comes forth from the womb; as the Saviour, He lies in the manger; and if He is the Saviour, He is the substitute. The name Jesus was not given to Him merely in reference to the cross, but to His whole life below. Therefore did Mary say, ‘My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour‘ [Luke 1:46, 47]. Therefore also did the angel say to the shepherds, ‘Unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord’ [Luke 2:11].


“As the banished one, He bore our banishment that we might return to God.”


     Scarcely is He born when His blood is shed. Circumcision deals with Him as one guilty, and needing the sign of cleansing. He knew no sin, yet He is circumcised. He was not born in sin, nor shapen in iniquity, but was ‘the holy thing’ [Luke 1:35]; yet He is circumcised as other children of Abraham, for ‘He took upon Him the seed of Abraham’ [Heb. 2:16]. Why was He circumcised if not as the substitute? That rite proclaimed His vicarious birth, as truly as did the cross His vicarious death. ‘He who knew no sin was made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him’ [2 Cor. 5:21]. This was the beginning of that obedience in virtue of which righteousness comes to us; as it is written, ‘As by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous’ [Rom. 5:19]. For He Himself testified concerning His baptism, ‘Thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness’ [Matt. 3:15]; and what was true of His baptism was no less so of His circumcision. The pain and the blood and the bruising of His tender body, connected with that symbol of shame, are inexplicable save on the supposition that even in infancy He was the vicarious one, not indeed bearing sin in the full sense and manner in which He bore it on the cross (for without death, sin-bearing could not have been consummated), but still bearing it in measure, according to the condition of His years. Even then He was ‘the Lamb of God.’ His banishment into Egypt is referred to once and again by the old divines as part of that life of humiliation by which He was bearing our sins. As the banished one, He bore our banishment that we might return to God. He passed through earth as an outcast, because He was standing in the outcast’s place—’hurried up and down’ says an old writer, ‘and driven out of His own land as a vagabond’ (Flavel). In each part of His sin-bearing life there is something to meet our case. By the first Adam we were made exiles from God and paradise; by the last Adam we are brought back from our wanderings, restored to the divine favour, and replaced in the paradise of God.


     His baptism is the same in import with His circumcision. He needed not the symbol of death and cleansing; for He was wholly pure, not liable to death on His own account. Why, then, should this sign of washing the unclean be applied ti Him, if He was not then standing in the room of the unclean? What had water to do with the spotless One? What had ‘the figure of the putting away of the filth of the flesh, and of the answer of a good conscience toward God’ [1 Pet. 3:21], to do with Him who had no filth of the flesh to put away, and on whose conscience not the very shadow of dispeace had ever rested? But He was the substitute; and into all the parts and circumstances of our life He enters, fulfilling all righteousness in the name of those whom He had come to save. The water was poured upon Him as standing in our room, and fulfilling our obligations.


     In the Psalms we find Him giving utterance to His feelings while bearing sins that were not His own, but which were felt by Him as if they were His own. Again and again He confesses sin. But what had the Holy One to do with confession, or with strong crying tears? What connection had He with the horrible put and the miry clay, with the overwhelming floods and waves, with the deep waters, and the dust and the darkness, and the lowest pit? Why shrank He from the assembly of the wicked that enclosed Him, from the ‘bulls that compassed Him, the strong bulls of Bashan that beset Him round,’ from the power of the dogs, from the sword, from the lion’s mouth, from the horns of the unicorns? Why, during the days of His flesh, was He subjected to all this? and why were the powers of earth, and hell let loose against Him? Because he was the substitute, who had taken our place and assumed our responsibilities, and undertaken to do battle with our enemies. In these Psalms we find the seed of the woman at war with the seed of the serpent, and undergoing the varied anguish of the bruised heel.


“The utterance, It is finished,’ pointed back to a whole life’s sin-bearing work.”


     He speaks not merely of the anguish of the cross when the full flood of wrath descended on Him, but of His lifetime’s daily griefs: ‘I am afflicted and ready to die from my youth up: I suffer Thy terrors, I am distracted’ [Psa. 88:15]. ‘My soul is full of troubles, my life draweth nigh the grave,’ He said in the Psalms; just as afterwards He cried out, ‘My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death.’ ‘Mine eye mourneth by reason of affliction. … Thy fierce wrath goeth over me, Thy terrors have cut me off. … Lover and friend hast Thou put far from me, and mine acquaintance into darkness.’ Thus was He ‘despised and rejected of men (i.e. the despised and rejected one of men), a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief’ [Isa. 53:3]. And of the meaning of all this we can have no doubt, when we remember that He was always the sinless One bearing our sins, carrying them up to the cross as well as bearing them upon the cross [1 Pet. 2:24, ἀνήνεγκεν, anēnegken]; also that it is written of Him, ‘Surely He hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows’ [Isa. 53:4]; and yet again, that it is written expressly with reference to His daily life, ‘He healed all that were sick, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses‘ [Matt. 8:16, 17]. Vicariousness, or substitution, attached itself to each part of His life as truly as to His death. Our burden He assumed when He entered the manger, and laid it aside only at the cross. The utterance, ‘It is finished,’ pointed back to a whole life’s sin-bearing work.


    The confessions of our sins which we find in the Psalms (where, as ‘in a bottle,’ God has deposited the tears of the Son of man, Psa. 56:8) are the distinctest proofs of His work as the substitute. Let one example suffice: ‘O Lord, rebuke me not in Thy wrath, neither chasten me in Thy displeasure; for Thine arrows stick fast in me, and Thy hand presseth me sore. There is no soundness in my flesh because of Thine anger, neither is there any rest in my bones because of my sin. For mine iniquities are gone over mine head; as a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me’ [Psa. 38:1-4].


     These confessions must be either those of the sinner or the sin-bearer. They suit the former; and they show what views of sin we should entertain, and what our confession should be. But they suit the latter no less; and as they occur in those Psalms which are quoted in the New Testament as specifically referring to Christ, we must take them as the confessions of the sin-bearer, and meant to tell us what He thought of sin when it was laid upon Him simply as a substitute for others. The view this given of the completeness of the substitution is as striking as it is satisfying. We see here our Noah building His wondrous ark for the salvation of His household. We see its beginning, middle, and end. We see its different parts, external and internal; each plank as it is laid, each nail as it is driven in. Its form is perfect; its structure in all details is complete; its strength and stability are altogether divine. Yet with what labour and amid what mockings is this ark constructed! Amid what strong crying and tears, what blood and agony, is it completed! Thus, however we are assured of its perfection and security. Through the deep waters of this evil world it floats in peace. No storm can overset it, no billow break it, nor so much as loosen one of its planks. They who have fled to it as a hiding-place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest, are everlastingly safe.


     When the Lord said, ‘Now is my soul troubled’ [John 12:27]; and when, again, He said, ‘My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death’ [Matt. 26:38], He spoke as the sin-bearer. For what construction can we possibly put upon that trouble and sorrow, but that they were for us? Men, false to the great truth of a sin-bearing Christ, may say that in the utterance of this anguish He was merely giving us an example of patient endurance and self-sacrifice; but they who own the doctrine of Christ ‘suffering for sin, the just for the unjust,’ will listen to these bitter cries as to the very voice of the substitute, and learn from them the completeness of that work of satisfaction, for the accomplishment of which He took our flesh, and lived our life, and died our death upon the tree.


     But the completeness of the substitution comes out more fully at the cross. There the whole burden pressed upon Him, and the wrath of God took hold of Him, and the sword of Jehovah smote Him; He poured out His soul unto death, and He was cut off out of the land of the living.


     Then the work was done. ‘It is finished.’ The blood of the burnt-offering was shed. The propitiation was made; the transgression finished; and the everlasting righteousness brought in.


     All that follows is the fruit or result of the work finished on the cross. The grave is the awful pledge or testimony to His death as a true and real death; but it forms no part of the substitution or expiation. Ere our surety reached the tomb, atonement had been completed. The resurrection is the blessed announcement of the Father that the work had been accepted and the surety set free; but it was no part either of the atonement or the righteousness. The ascension and the appearing in the presence of God for us with His own blood, are the carrying out of the atonement made upon Calvary; but they are no part of the expiation by means of which sin is forgiven and we are justified. All was finished, once and for ever, when the surety said, ‘Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit.’


“The altar is the only place of expiation; and it is death that is the wages of sin. Burial was but the visible proof of the reality of the death.”


     There are some who would separate propitiation from the cross, who maintain that the three days’ entombment was part of the sin-bearing. But the cry from the cross, ‘It is finished,’ silences all such theories. The altar is the only place of expiation; and it is death that is the wages of sin. Burial was but the visible proof of the reality of the death. The surety’s death once given instead of ours, the work is done. The fire has consumed the sacrifice; the ashes which remain are not the prolongation of that sacrifice, but the palpable proof that the fire has exhausted itself, that wrath is spent, and that nothing can now be added to or taken from the perfection of that sacrifice, through which pardon and righteousness are henceforth to flow to the condemned and the ungodly.


     ‘Justified by His blood‘ is the apostolic declaration; and as the result of this, ‘saved from wrath through Him’ [Rom. 5:9]. Here we rest; sitting down beneath the shadow of the cross to receive the benefit of that justifying, saving, protecting sacrifice.


     It is at and by the cross that God justifies the ungodly. ‘By His stripes we are healed’ [Isa. 53:5]; and the symbol of the brazen serpent visibly declares this truth. It was the serpent when uplifted that healed the deadly bite, not the serpent after it was taken down and deposited in the tabernacle. As from the serpent—the figure of Him who was ‘made a curse for us,’—so from the cross health and life flow in. Not resurrection, but crucifixion, is the finishing of transgression and the making an end of sin, ‘Reconciled to God by the death of His Son’ [Rom. 5:10] is another of the many testimonies to the value and efficacy of the cross. Reconciliation is not connected with resurrection. The ‘peace was made by the blood of His cross‘ [Col. 1:20]. The fruits and results of the peace-offering may be many and various, but they are not the basis of reconciliation. That basis is the sacrificial blood-shedding. What can be more explicit than these three passages, which announce justification by the blood, reconciliation by the death, and peace by ‘the blood of the cross?’


     In the cross we see the Priest and the priesthood; in the resurrection, the King and royal power. To the Priest belong the absolution and the cleansing and the justifying; to the King, the impartation of blessing to the absolved and the cleansed and the justified.


     To the cross, therefore, do we look and cleave; knowing that out of its death cometh life to us, and out of its condemnation pardon and righteousness. With Christ were we crucified; and in this crucifixion we have ‘redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.’


“Death could no longer have dominion over Him. The work was finished, the debt paid, and the surety went forth free: He rose, not in order to justify us, but because we were justified.”


     Three times over in one chapter [Lev. 1:9, 13, 17] we read these words, ‘It is a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire of a sweet savour unto the Lord;’ and the apostle, referring to these words, says, ‘Christ hath loved us, and hath given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour’ [Eph. 5:2]. This sweet savour came from the brazen altar, or altar of burnt-offering. It was the sweet odour of that sacrifice that ascended to God, and that encompassed the worshipper, so that he was covered all over with this sacrificial fragrance, presenting him perfect before God, and making his own conscience feel that he was accepted as such, and treated as such. Thus, by that burnt-offering there is proclaimed to us justification in a crucified Christ. The manifold blessings flowing from resurrection and ascension are not to be overlooked; but nowhere does Scripture teach justification by these. The one passage sometimes quoted to prove this, declares the opposite [Rom. 4:25]; for the words truly translated run thus: ‘He was delivered because we had sinned, and raised again because of our justification.’ It was because the justifying work was finished that resurrection was possible. Had it not been so, He must have remained under the power of the grave. But the cross had completed the justification of His church. He was raised from the dead.


     Death could no longer have dominion over Him. The work was finished, the debt paid, and the surety went forth free: He rose, not in order to justify us, but because we were justified. In raising Him from the dead, God the Father cleared Him from the imputed guilt which had nailed Him to the cross and borne Him down to the tomb. ‘He was justified in the Spirit’ [1 Tim. 3:16]. His resurrection was not His justification, but the declaration that He was ‘justified;’ so that resurrection, in which we are one with Him, does not justify us, but proclaims that we were justified—justified by His blood and death.


     In so far, then, as substitution is concerned, we have to do with the cross alone. It was, indeed, the place of death; but on that very account it was also to us the place of life and the pledge of resurrection.


     The words of the apostle [Rom. 6:6, 7] are very explicit on this point: ‘Knowing this, that our old man has been crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.’ Here we have three things connected directly with the cross: (1) The death of the old man; (2) the destruction of the body of sin; (3) deliverance from the life-bondage of sin. Then he adds, ‘For he who dieth is freed from sin.’ The word ‘freed’ is literally ‘justified,’ teaching us that death is the exhaustion of the penalty and the justification of the sinner; so that justification in a crucified Christ is the teaching of the Spirit here. The words of another apostle are no less clear [1 Pet. 4:1]: ‘Christ suffered for us in the flesh; … he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin.’ Here Christ on the cross is set before us, suffering the just for the unjust; and having thus suffered, He exhausted the penalty which He was bearing; and having exhausted it, His connection with sin has ceased: He is now in the state described elsewhere, ‘without sin’ [Heb. 9:28]. The word ‘ceased’ means more properly, ‘has rest.’ The life of our surety was one of sorrow and unrest, for our penalty lay upon Him; but when this penalty was paid by His death, He ‘rested.’ The labour and the burden were gone; and as one who knew what entering into rest was [Heb. 4:10], He could say to us, ‘I will give you rest.’ He carried His life-long burden to the cross, and there laid it down, ‘resting from His labours.’ Or rather, it was there that the law severed the connection between Him and the burden; loosing it from His shoulders, that it might be buried in His grave. From that same cross springs the sinner’s rest, the sinner’s disburdening, the sinner’s absolution and justification.


“Acceptance, and completeness in our standing before God, are attributed to the cross and blood and death of the Divine Substitute.”


    Not for a moment are we to lose sight of the blessings flowing from resurrection, or to overlook and undervalue the new position into which we are brought by it. The ‘power of His resurrection’ [Phil. 3:10] must be fully recognised and acted on for its own results. We are crucified with Christ. With Him we died, were buried, and rose again. ‘Risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised Him from the dead’ [Col. 2:12]. ‘He hath quickened us together with Christ, and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus’ [Eph. 2:5, 6]. Such are the terms in which the apostle describes the benefits of Christ’s resurrection, and in which he reveals to us our oneness with Him who died and rose. But nowhere does he separate our justification from the cross; nowhere does he speak of Christ meeting our legal responsibilities by Hist resurrection; nowhere does he ascribe to His resurrection that preciousness in whose excellency we stand complete. Acceptance, and completeness in our standing before God, are attributed to the cross and blood and death of the Divine Substitute.


     Poor as my faith in this Substitute may be, it places me at once in the position of one to whom ‘God imputeth righteousness without works.’ God is willing to receive me on the footing of His perfection; and if I am willing to be thus received, in the perfection of another with whom God is well pleased, the whole transaction is completed. I AM JUSTIFIED BY HIS BLOOD. ‘As He is, so am I (even) in this world,’—even now, with all my imperfections and evils.


     To be entitled to use another’s name, when my own name is worthless; to be allowed to wear another’s raiment, because my own is torn and filthy; to appear before God in another’s person—the person of the Beloved Son—this is the summit of all blessing. The sin-bearer and I have exchanged names, robes, and persons! I am now represented by Him, my own personality having disappeared; He now appears in the presence of God for me [Heb. 9:24]. All that makes Him precious and dear to the Father has been transferred to me. His excellency and glory are seen as if they were mine; and I receive the love, and the fellowship, and the glory, as if I had earned them all. So entirely one am I with the sin-bearer, that God treats me not merely as if I had not done the evil that I have done; but as if I had done all the good which I have not done, but which my substitute has done. In one sense I am still the poor sinner, once under wrath; in another I am altogether righteous, and shall be so for ever, because of the Perfect One, in whose perfection I appear before God. Nor is this a false pretence or a hollow fiction, which carries no results or blessings with it. It is an exchange which has been provided by the Judge, and sanctified by law; an exchange of which any sinner upon earth may avail himself and be blest.



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The Pilgrim’s Digest, Vol. 6: The Completeness of the Substitution

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The Saint’s Hiding-Place in the Evil Day, Part 1

by Dr. Richard Sibbes

Richard Sibbes (1577-1636) stands as one of the greatest Puritan preachers in history.
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(Complete Works of Richard Sibbes, Vol. 1, pp401-410).




     Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to him in well-doing, as to a faithful Creator.

— I Pet. IV. 19.






Though divinity be clear in other differences from carnal or natural reasons, yet it hath homogeneal reasons and grounds of its own, whence come inferences as natural as for the tree to bear fruit, or the sun to shine; so upon the former divine grounds (for it is a matter of suffering wherein we must have pure divinity to support our souls), the apostle comes to bring a spiritual inference suitable to the same in the words read unto you. Wherefore, concluding all to be true that was said before, let them that suffer, &c. Wherein consider,

     1. That the state and condition of God’s children is to suffer.

     2. The dispensation of that suffering, they suffer not at all adventures, but according to the will of God.

     3. Their duty in this estate, namely, to commit the keeping of their souls to God.


     In the duty we have these particulars comprehended:—1. An action, to commit. 2. An object, what we must commit, the soul. 3. The person to whom, to God. 4. The manner, in well-doing. Lastly. The reason which should move us hereunto, implied in these words, as unto a faithful Creator. Whatsoever may support the doubting of a godly man in any trouble, and enforce upon him this duty of committing his soul to God, is briefly comprised in this, that God stands in that near relation of a Creator, yea, of a faithful Creator, to us. This is the scope of the words.


     Obs. 1. That the state of God’s children is to suffer, yea, to suffer of God; for sometimes he seems to be an enemy to his dearest servants, as unto Job. But chiefly they are in a militant estate and condition here.

     1. Why God’s children must suffer here. Because they live among those they cannot but suffer from, wheresoever they live. Suppose they live among Christians, yet there are many Christians in name that are not so in deed. There hath been secret underminers in all ages; and what else may they look for but suffering from these? All that ever truly feared God and made conscience of their ways have found afflictions among false brethren. It was never heard of that a sheep should pursue a wolf.

     2. They must suffer also in regard of themselves; for the truth is, the best of us all have many lusts to be subdued, and a great deal to be purged out, before we can come to heaven, that pure and holy place into which no unclean thing can enter, Rev. xxi. 27. Though a garden be never so fruitful, yet after a shower it will need weeding. So after long peace, the church of God gathers soil, and needs cleansing.

     Obj. But some carnal wretch will say, thank God I never suffered in my life, but have enjoyed peace and prosperity, and my heart’s content in everything.

     Ans. In the best estate there will be suffering one way or other. Then, suspect thyself to be in a bad estate, for every true Christian suffers in kind or other, either from without or within. Sometimes God’s children are troubled more with corruption than with affliction; at other times their peace is troubled both with corruption within and with affliction without; at the best, they have sufferings of sympathy. Shall the members of Christ suffer in other countries, and we profess ourselves to be living members, and yet not sympathise with them? We must be conformable to our Head before we can come to heaven. But the dispensation of our suffering is according to the will of God, where note two things.

     1. That it is God’s will we should suffer.

     2. When we suffer we suffer according to his will.

     To pass briefly over these, as not being the thing I aim at,

     God’s will concerning our suffering is permissive in respect of those that do us harm; but in regard of our patient enduring injuries, it is his approving and commanding will. We are enjoined to suffer, and they are permitted to wrong us.

     Obj. It seems, then, there is some excuse for those that persecute the saints. They do but according to God’s will; and if it be so, who dares speak against them?

     Ans. It is not God’s commanding will, but his suffering will. He useth their malice for his own ends. God lets the rein loose upon their necks. As a man is said to set a dog upon another when he unlooseth his chain, so God is said to command them when he lets them loose to do mischief. They are full of malice themselves, which God useth as physicians do their poison to cure poison. God and they go two contrary ways, as a man in a ship walks one way, but is carried another. In the death of Christ the will of Judas and the rest went one way, and God’s will another. So, in all our sufferings, when God useth wicked men, their will is destructive and hostile, but God’s will is clean otherwise, aiming at the good of his people in a this. Nebuchadnezzar did the will of God in carrying the people captive. However, he thought not so, Isa. x. 7. Every sinful wretch that offers violence to the poor saints, imagine they do God good service in it, whenas, indeed, they do but execute the malice and venom of their own hearts. In the highest heavens, as they say in philosophy, the first thing moved is by a violent motion. The sun is carried about the heavens violently against its own proper motion, which inclines to a clean contrary course. So God dealeth with wicked men; he carries them they know not whither. They are set to do mischief, and God useth their sinful dispositions for his 0wn ends, which plainly shews that God is without all fault, and they without all excuse.

     Obs. But observe further, that we never suffer but when God will. And, beloved, his will is not that we should always suffer, though generally our estate be so in one kind or other. God is not always chiding, Ps. ciii. 9, but hath times of breathing and intermission, which he vouchsafes his children for their good. He knows if we had not some respite, some refreshment, we should soon be consumed and brought to nothing. ‘The Lord knows whereof we are made, and considers we are but dust,’ Ps. ciii. 14. Therefore he saith, ‘Though for a season you are in heaviness, yet rejoice,’ &c., 1 Pet. i. 6.

     And this the Lord doth out of mercy to his poor creatures, that they might not sink before him, but gather strength of grace, and be the better fitted to bear further crosses afterwards. You know, Acts ix. 31, after Saul’s conversion, when he was become a Paul, then the church had rest, and increased in the comforts of the Holy Ghost. God gives his people pausing times, some lucida intervalla. Our time of going into trouble is in God’s hands; our time of abiding trouble is in God’s hands; our time of coming out is in God’s hands. As in our callings he preserves our going out and our coming in, so in every trouble that befalls us we come in and tarry there, and go out of the same when he pleaseth. He brings us to the fire as the goldsmith puts his metals and holds them there, till he hath refined them and purged out the dross, and then brings them out again. ‘Our times,’ as David saith excellently, ‘are in thy hands, O Lord,’ Ps. xxxi. 15. Beloved, if our times were in our enemies’ hands we should never come out. If they were in our own hands we should never stay in trouble, but come out as soon as we come in; nay, we would not come into trouble at all if we could choose. Beloved, everything of a Christian is dear unto God; his health is precious, his blood is precious; especially precious to the Lord is the death of his saints, Ps. cxvi. 15. Do you think, therefore, he will let them suffer without his will? No; he will have a valuable consideration of all those that are malignant persecutors of his people at last. And it is for matters better than life that God lets his children suffer here; for alas! this life is but a shadow, as it were, nothing. God regards us not as we are in this present world, but as strangers; therefore, he suffers us to sacrifice this life upon better terms than life, or else he would never let us suffer for his truth, and seal it with our dearest blood, as many of the saints have done.

     Use. I beseech you, therefore, considering all our sufferings are by the appointment and will of God, let us bring our souls to an holy resignation unto his Majesty, not looking so much to the grievance we are under as to the hand that sent it. We should with one eye consider the thing, with another eye the will of God in the same. When a man considers, I suffer now, but it is by the will of God; he puts me upon it, how cheerfully will such an one commit his soul to the Lord! It is a hard matter to suffer God’s will as to do his will. Passive obedience is as hard as active. In the active we labour that what we do may please God; in the passive we must endeavour that what he doth may please us. Our hearts are as untoward to the one as to the other. Therefore, let us beg of God to bring our wills to the obedience of his blessed will in everything. Would you have a pattern of this? Look upon our blessed Saviour, to whom we must be conformable in obedience if ever we will be conformable in glory. ‘Lo, I come,’ saith he; ‘I am ready to do thy will, O Lord,’ Heb. x. 9. What was the whole life of Christ but a doing and a suffering of God’s will? ‘Behold, it is written in the volume of thy book that I should do thy will,’ ver. 7, and here I am ready pressed for it. It should be, therefore, the disposition of all those that are led by the Spirit of Christ, as all must be that hope to reign with him, to be willing to suffer with Christ here, and say with him, Lord, I am here ready to do and suffer whatsoever thou requirest! When once we are brought to this, all the quarrel is ended between God and us.

     I come now to that which I chiefly intend, which is the Christian’s duty.

     Let him commit his soul to God in well-doing. Wherein observe,

     1. The manner how he must commit, in well-doing.

     2. What, his soul.

     3. To whom, to God.

     4. The reasons moving, implied in these words, as unto a faithful Creator,

     Now this well-doing must be distinguished into two times.

     1. Before our suffering. When a son of Belial shall offer violence to a poor saint of God, what a comfort is this, that he suffers in well-doing! Oh, beloved, we should so carry ourselves that none might speak evil justly against us, that none, unless it were wrongfully, might do us hurt. We should be in an estate of well-doing continually in our general and particular callings. We must not go out of our sphere, but serve God in our standings, that if trouble comes it may find us in a way of well-pleasing, either doing works of charity or else the works of our particular calling wherein God hath set us. In all that befalls thee look to this, that thou suffer not as an evil doer, 1 Pet. iv. 15.

     2. So likewise in suffering, we must commit our souls to God in well- doing in a double regard.

          1. We must carry ourselves generally well in all our sufferings.

          2. In particular, we must do well to them that do us wrong.

     First, I say, in affliction our carriage must be generally good in respect of God, by a meek behaviour under his hand, without murmuring against him.

     2. In regard of the cause of God, that we betray it not through fear or cowardice, through base aims and intentions, &c., but endeavour to carry it with a good conscience in all things. When we make it clear by managing anything, that we are led with the cause and conscience of our duty, it works mightily upon them that wrong us. (1.) It wins those that are indifferent ; and (2.) confounds the obstinate, and stops their mouths. Therefore, let us carry ourselves well, not only before, but in suffering. We may not fight against them with their own weapons, that is, be malicious as they are malicious, and rail as they rail. Beloved, this is as if a man should see another drink poison, and he will drink, too, for company; he is poisoned with malice, and thou, to revenge thyself, wilt be poisoned too. What a preposterous course is this! Ought we to rather behave ourselves as befits the cause of Christ, as becomes our Christian profession, and as befits him whose children we are?

     We should have an eye to God, and an eye to ourselves, and an eye to others, and an eye to the cause in hand; so we shall do well. We must not commit our souls to God in idleness, doing nothing at all, nor yet in evil doing, but in well doing. We must have a care, if we would suffer with comfort, not to study how to avoid suffering by tricks, so to hurt the cause of Christ. This is to avoid suffering, by sin, to leap out of one danger into another. Is not the least evil of sin worse than the greatest evil of punishment? What doth a man get by pleasing men, to displease God? Perhaps a little ease for the present. Alas! what is this to the inexpressible horror and despair which will one day seize upon thy soul eternally for betraying the blessed cause and truth of Christ? How can we expect God should own us another day, when we will not own him in his cause, and his members, to stand for them now? Think on that speech of our Saviour, ‘Whosoever shall be ashamed of me, or of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed when he cometh in the glory of his Father,’ Mark viii. 38.

     Therefore, avoid not any suffering by sin. See how blessed St Paul carried himself in this case. ‘The Lord,’ saith he, ‘hath delivered me and will deliver me,’ 2 Tim. iv. 18, From what? from death? No; from every evil work. What! will God keep him from evil sufferings? No; for immediately after he was put to death. What then? Why! he will preserve me from every evil work, that is, from every sinful act, which may hurt the cause of Christ, or blemish my profession. This was it Paul chiefly regarded; not whether he will preserve me from death or trouble, I leave that to him; but this I hope and trust to, that he will preserve me from every evil work to his heavenly kingdom. Thus should it be with every Christian in the cause of religion, or in a cause of justice, &c.; for there is not any good cause but it is worth our lives to stand in, if we be called to it. It is necessary we should be just; it is not so necessary we should live. A Christian’s main care is how to do well; and if he can go on in that course, he is a happy man.

     Obj. But I cannot do well, but I shall suffer ill.

     Ans. Labour, therefore, to carry thyself well in suffering evil, not only in the general, but even in particular, towards those persons that do thee wrong; endeavour to requite their evil with good. There is a great measure of self-denial required to be a Christian, especially in matter of revenge, ‘to pray for them that curse us, to do good to them that persecute us,’ &c., and so ‘heap coals of fire upon our enemies’ heads,’ Prov. xxv. 22, Rom. xii. 20. How is that? There are—

     1. Coals of conversion.

     2. Coals of confusion.

     How in suffering we heap coals of fire. You know coals do either melt or consume. If they belong to God, we shall heap coals of fire to convert them, and make them better by our holy carriage in suffering. If they be wicked, graceless wretches, we shall heap coals of fire to consume them; for it will aggravate their just damnation when they do ill to those that deserve well of them.

     Obj. Some will say, Christianity is a strange condition, that enforceth such things upon men, that are so contrary to nature.

     Ans. It is so, indeed, for we must be new-moulded before ever we can come to heaven. We must put off our whole self; and he is gone a great way in religion, that hath brought his heart to this pass. None ever overcame himself in these matters out of religious respects, but he found a good 1ssue at last. It is a sweet evidence of the state of grace, none better, when a man can love his very enemies, and those that have done him most wrong; it is an argument that such a man hath something above nature in him. What is above nature, if this be not, for a man to overcome himself in this sweet appetite of revenge? Revenge is most natural to a man; it is as sugar, as the heathen saith; and for a man to overcome himself in that, it argues the power of grace and godliness in such a one.

     As Christianity is an excellent estate, an admirable advancing of a man to a higher condition, so it must not seem strange for those that are Christians to be raised to a higher pitch of soul than other men. See how our Saviour dealt in this particular, ‘Father, forgive them, they know not what they do,’ Luke xxiii. 34; and so likewise Stephen, being led by the same Spirit of Christ, desired God ‘not to lay this sin to their charge,’ Acts vi 60; and so all the martyrs in the first state of the church, when the blood of Christ was warm, and the remembrance of Christ was fresh, were wont to pray for their enemies, committing their souls to God in well doing.

     The excellent victory of suffering. I beseech you let us labour by all means possible to bring our hearts hereunto. If anything overcome, this will do it, to suffer well. The church of God is a company of men that gain and overcome by suffering in doing good. Thus the dove overcomes the eagle, the sheep overcomes the wolf, the lamb overcomes the lion, &c. It hath been so from the beginning of the world. Meek Christians, by suffering quietly, have at length overcome those that are malicious, and have gained even their very enemies to the love of the truth. What shall we think, then, of the greatest part of the world, who never think of suffering, which is the first lesson in Christianity, but study their ease and contentment, accounting the blessed martyrs too prodigal of their blood, &c.?

     Others there are, who, if once they come to suffer, presently fall to shifting and plotting, how to get forth again by unlawful means; oftentimes making shipwreck of a good conscience, and dishonouring the gospel of God. I beseech you consider these things. Every man would have Christ, and be religious, so long as they may enjoy peace and quietness; but if once trouble or persecution arises, then farewell religion; they cast off their profession then. I wish this were not the case of many seeming Christians in these our days.

     But suppose a man carry himself ill in suffering?

     There is not the least promise of comfort in Scripture to such a man, unless he return, and seek the Lord by timely repentance; for all encouragement is to well-doing. Oh, what a pitiful thing it is for the soul to be in such a state, as that it dares not commit itself to God! A man in evil doing cannot go home to his own conscience for comfort, nor have any inward peace in the least action he performs, so long as he doth it with false aims, and carnal affections, &c. Who would deprive himself of comfort of suffering in a good cause for want of integrity? I beseech you, therefore, carry yourselves well in anything you either do or suffer, otherwise no blessing can be expected; for we tempt the Lord, and make him accessory to us, when we commit our souls to him in ill-doing: even as your pirates and other miscreants in the world, that will rob and steal, and do wickedly, and yet pray to God to bless them in their base courses; what is this but to make God like themselves, as if he approved their theft and horrible blasphemy?

     But what must we commit to God in well-doing? The keeping of our souls. The soul is the more excellent part, witness he that purchased the same with his dearest blood. ‘What will it profit a man,’ saith our Saviour, to gain the whole world and lose his own soul?’ Mark viii. 36. Who could know the price of a soul better than he that gave his life for redemption of it? Yea, if the whole world were laid in one balance and the soul in another, the soul were better than all. Therefore, whatsoever estate thou art in, let thy first care be for thy soul, that it may go well with that. You know in any danger or combustion, suppose the firing of an house, that which a man chiefly looks after is his jewels and precious things, ‘I have some wealth in such a place, if I could but have that I care for no more, let the rest go;’ so it is with a Christian, whatsoever becomes of him in this world, he looks to his precious soul, that that may be laid up safely in the hands of God. Suppose a man were robbed by the highway, and had special jewel about hi, though every thing else were taken away from him, yet so long as that is left he thinks himself a happy man, and saith, they have taken away some some luggage, but they have left me that which I prize more than all: so it is with Christians, let him be stripped of all he hath, so his soul be not hurt, but all safe and well there, he cares not much.

     Quest. But what should we desire our souls to be kept from in this world?

     Ans. From sin and the evil consequences thereof. Beloved, we have great need our souls should be kept by God; for alas! what sin is there but we shall fall into, unless God preserve us in peace and comfort, and assurance of a better estate.What would become of our poor souls if we had them in our own keeping? Ahithophel had the keeping of his own soul, and what became of him? First, he did run into the sins of treason, and afterwards, being a wicked politician, and an atheist, having no delight in God, was the executioner of himself. We shall be ready, as Job saith, to tear our own souls if God hath not the keeping of them; we shall tear them with desperate thoughts, as Judas, who never committed his soul to God, but kept it himself, and we see what became of him. The apostle bids us go to God in prayer, and committing our souls to him, to keep from sin, despair, distrust, and all spiritual evil whatsoever, ‘and then the peace of God which passeth all understanding,’ as the word in the original is, ‘shall guard our souls in Christ,’ Phil. iv. 7. Our souls have need of guarding, and we of ourselves are not sufficient to do it; therefore we should commit them unto God, for except he preserve us we shall soon perish.

     Wicked men think that they have no souls. I am ashamed to speak of it, and yet notwithstanding the courses of men are such, that they enforce a man to speak that which he is ashamed of. What do I speak of committing your souls to God, when many thousands in the world live as if they had no souls at all? I am persuaded that your common swearers, and profane wretches, who wrong their souls to pleasure their bodies, and prostitute both body and soul, and all to their base lusts, think for the time that they have no souls; they think not that there is such an excellent immortal substance breathed into them by God, which must live for ever in eternal happiness or endless misery. Did they believe this they would not wound and stain their precious souls as they do; they would not obey every base lust out of the abundance of profaneness in their hearts, even for nothing, as many notorious loose persons do. Oh could we but get this principle into people, that they have immortal souls, which must live for ever, they would s00n be better than they are; but the devil hath most men in such bondage that their lives speak that they believe they have no souls, by their ill usage of them.

     Obj. But must we not commit our bodies and our estates to God, as well as our souls?

     Ans. Yes, all we have; for that is only well kept which God keeps; but yet in time of suffering we must be at a point with these things. If God will have our liberty, if he will have our life and all, we must hate all for Christ’ s sake; but we must not be at such a point with our souls, we must keep them close to God, and desire him to keep them in well-doing.

     Obj. Suppose it come to an exigent, that we must either sin and hurt our souls, or else lose all our outward good things ?

     Ans. Our chief care must be over our souls. We must desire God to preserve our souls, whatsoever becomes of these; our principal care must be that that be not blemished in the least kind ; for,alas! other things must be parted with first or last. This body of ours, or whatsoever is dear in the world must be stripped from us, and laid in the dust ere long. But here is our comfort, though our body be dead, yet our souls are themselves still: dead, St Paul is Paul still. Our body is but the case or tabernacle wherein our soul dwells; especially a man’s self is his soul; keep that and keep all. I beseech you, therefore, as things are in worth and excellency in God’s account, let our esteem be answerable. You have many compliments in the world, how doth your body, &c., mere compliments indeed, but how few will inquire how our souls do ? alas! that is in poor case. The body perhaps is well looked unto, that is clothed, and care taken that nothing be wanting to it, but the poor soul is ragged and wounded, and naked. Oh that men were sensible of that miserable condition their poor souls are in.

     Beloved, the soul is the better part of a man, and if that miscarries, all miscarries. If the soul be not well, the body will not continue long in a good estate. Bernard saith sweetly, ‘Oh, body, thou hast a noble guest dwelling in thee, a soul of such inestimable worth that it makes thee truly noble.’ Whatsoever goodness and excellency is in the body, is communicated from the soul; when that once departs, the body is an unlovely thing, without life or sense. The very sight of it cannot be endured of the dearest friends. What an incredible baseness is it therefore, that so precious a thing as the soul is, should serve these vile bodies of ours! Let the body stay its leisure; the time of the resurrection is the time of the body. In this life it should be serviceable to our souls in suffering and doing whatsoever God calls us unto. Let our bodies serve our souls now, and then body and soul shall for ever after be happy; whereas, if we, to gratify our bodies, do betray our souls, both are undone.

     Beloved, the devil and devilish-minded men, acted with his spirit, have a special spite to the soul. Alas! what do they aim at in all their wrongs and injuries to God’s children? Do they care to hurt the body? indeed, they will do this rather than nothing at all; they will rather play at small game than sit out. The devil will enter into the swine rather than stand out altogether. Some mischief he will do, however; but his main spite is at the soul, to vex and disquiet that, and taint it with sin all he can. Considering therefore that it is Satan’s aim to unloose our hold from God, by defiling our souls with sin, so to put a divorce betwixt his blessed majesty and us, oh! let it be our chief care to see to that which Satan strikes at most! He did not so much care, in Job’s trouble, for his goods, or for his house, or children, &c. Alas! he aimed at a further mischief than this! his plot was how to make him blaspheme and wound his soul, that so there might be a difference betwixt God and him. He first tempts us to commit sin, and afterwards to despair for sin.

     Quest. But to whom must the soul be committed?

     Ans. Our souls must be committed to God. Commit the keeping of your souls to God. Indeed, he only can keep our souls. We cannot keep ourselves; neither can anything else in the world do it. Some when they are sick will commit themselves to the physician, and put all their trust him. When they are in trouble they will commit themselves to some great friend; when they have any bad, naughty cause to manage, they will commit themselves to their purse, and think that shall bear them out in anything. One thinks his wit and policy shall secure him, another that his shifts may shelter him, &c.; and indeed the heart of man is so full of atheism, that it can never light upon the right object, to trust God alone, until it sees everything else fail, as being insufficient to support the soul, or to yield any solid comfort in times of extremity and distress.

     Quest. But why must we commit our souls to God ?

     Ans. Because he is a faithful Creator. Whence observe,

     Obs. That the soul of man being an understanding essence, will not be satisfied settled without sound reasons. Comfort is nothing else but reasons stronger than the evil which doth afflict us; when the reasons are more forcible to ease the mind than the grievance is to trouble it. It is no difficult matter to commit our souls to God when we are once persuaded that he is a faithful Creator. A man commits himself to another man, and hath no other reason for it, but only he is persuaded of his ability and credit in the world; that he is a man of estate and power to do him good. So it is in this business of religion. Our souls are carried to anything strongly when they are carried by strong reasons, as in this particular of trusting God with our souls. When we see sufficient reasons inducing thereto, we easily resign them into his hands. This shews that popery is an uncomfortable religion, which brings men to despair. They have no reason for what they maintain. What reason can they give for their doctrine of doubting, transubstantiation, perfect obedience to the law, &c.? These are unreasonable things. The soul cannot yield to such absurdities. It must have strong reasons to stablish it, as here, to consider God as a faithful Creator, &c. There is something in God to answer all doubts and fears of the soul, and to satisfy it in any condition whatsoever. This is the very foundation of religion; not that any worth can accrue to the Creator from the creature, but that there is an all-sufficiency in the Creator to relieve the poor creature. If a man consider in what order God created him, it will make him trust God. Paradise and all in it were ready for him, so soon as he came into the world. God created us after his own image, that as he was Lord of all things, s0 we should be lord of the creatures. They were all at his service, that he might serve God. Therefore after everything else was created, he was made, that so God might bring him as it were to a table ready furnished.

     And not only in nature, but in holiness, having an immortal and invisible soul resembling God. We must take God here as a Creator of our whole man, body and soul, and of the new creature in us. God made man at the first, but that was not so much as for God to be made man, to make us new creatures. God created our bodies out of the dust, but our souls come immediately from himself. He breathes them into us, and in this respect he is a higher Creator than in the other; for when we had marred our first making, and became more like beasts than men, for indeed every one that is not like God sympathiseth with beasts or devils one way or other, God in Christ made us new again. Yea, God became man to enrich us with all grace and goodness, to free us from the hands of Satan, and bring us to an eternal state of communion with himself in heaven. For all the old heaven and the old earth shall pass away, and the old condition of creatures, and a new life shall be given them. God that made the new heaven and the new earth, hath made us for them. Considering therefore that God gave us our first being, and when we were worse than naught, gave us a second being in regard to our new creation, how should it stir us up to commit our souls unto him! especially if we consider that in him we ‘live and move and have our being,’ Acts xvii. 28; that there is not the least thought and affection to goodness in us but it comes from God; we are what we are by his grace.

     Quest. What is the reason that love descends so much?

     Ans. Because a man looks upon that which is his own and loves it. Now God looks upon us as upon those into whom he hath infused mercy and goodness, and he loves his on work upon us; and therefore having begun a good work, will perfect the same. Do not men delight to polish their own work? As in the first creation God never took off his hand till he had finished his work, so in the second creation of our souls he will never remove his hand from the blessed work of grace till he hath perfected the same; therefore we may well commit our souls to him.

     Obj. But suppose a man be in a desperate estate, and hath no way escaping?

     Ans. Remember that God is the same still; he hath not forgot his old art of creating, but is as able to help now as ever, and can create comforts for thee in thy greatest troubles. As in the first creation he made light out of darkness, order out of confusion, so still he is able out of thy confused and perplexed estate to create peace and comfort. Thou knowest not what to do perhaps, thy mind is so troubled and disquieted; why, commit thy soul to God; he can raise an excellent frame out of the chaos of thy thoughts. Therefore be not dismayed; consider thou hast God in covenant with thee, and hast to deal with an almighty Creator, who can send present help in time of need. Dost thou want any grace? dost thou want spiritual life? Go to this Creator, he will put a new life into thee; he that made all things of nothing can raise light out of thy dark mind, and can make fleshy thy stony heart, though it be as hard as a rock. Therefore never despair, but frequent the means of grace, and still think of God under this relation of a Creator; and when he hath begun any good work of grace in thee, go confidently to His Majesty, and desire him to promote and increase the same in thy heart and life. Lord, I am thy poor creature, thou hast in mercy begun a blessed work in me, and where thou hast begun thou hast said thou wilt make an end. When thou createdst the world, thou didst not leave it till all was done; and when thou createdst man thou madest an end. Now, I beseech thee, perfect the new creature in my soul. As thou hast begun to enlighten mine understanding and to direct my affections to the best things, so I commit my soul unto thee for further guidance and direction to full happiness.

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The Pilgrim’s Digest, Vol. 5: The Saint’s Hiding-Place in the Evil Day, Part 1

The Pilgrim’s Digest is a sampling of Christian writings throughout the centuries on many subjects from
Reformers, Puritans, pastors, and various theologians. Let’s take a short walk with the saints.
Soli Deo Gloria!

Why Do Some Sinners Come To Christ While Others Do Not?

by Ernest C. Reisinger

Ernest C. Reisinger, builder, pastor and author, has been described as an ‘unsung hero of the twentieth-century renaissance in Reformed Theology’. Reisinger, a Reformed Baptist pastor, helped lay the foundation for what became the Founders Ministries, which was instrumental under God in returning Southern Baptists to their Reformed beginnings. This excerpt is from his book, Today’s Evangelism: Its Message and Methods. (Craig Press, Ch.10, pp107-110, 1982).






     And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be

gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness

instructing those that oppose themselves; if

God peradventure will give them repentance to

the acknowledging of the truth; and that they may

recover themselves out of the snare of the devil,

who are taken captive by him at his will.

— II Tim. 2:24-26                         


     This passage is very relevant to our whole subject of evangelism because here we have one of the greatest evangelists who ever lived giving instructions to one who was told to “. . . do the work of an evangelist. . .” (II Tim. 4:5). Surely these two facts demand our careful and sober consideration. If we are serious about being biblical in our evangelism, we cannot ignore these instructions.


     There are several things in these few verses that would correct much of the error in man-centered evangelism, not only in the expected responses, but in the message and methods of evangelism. Let us carefully examine this passage, which contains instructions to one who was given the apostolic command to do the work of an evangelist. In this passage (II Tim. 2:24-26), we have some excellent instructions for the evangelist, preacher, and personal worker, and some necessary evangelistic principles if our evangelism is to be God-centered.


State of the Unconverted

Every preacher should know the condition of the unconverted.


     1. He is ignorant of saving truth. This is clearly seen in the words in verse 25, “. . . in meekness instructing those. . . .” They need instruction because they are ignorant of spiritual truth.

     2. He is a slave to Satan, which is seen in the words in verse 26: “. . . that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil. . .”

     3. He is a captive of Satan (in Satan’s prison house), verse 26: “. . . taken captive by him [Satan] at his will.”


Who Has the Key — God or the Sinner?

     Both man-centered and God-centered evangelism believe that sinners are ignorant of spiritual realities; they are slaves to Satan, and in Satan’s prison. The difference is that man-centered evangelism tells the sinner he has the key in his pocket to get out any time he wills to get out. The appeal is to the sinner’s will, his decision and his power to do something for himself. This is the opposite of the New Testament principle of boxing up the unconverted to hope in God alone and in God’s power.


     God-centered evangelism also believes that sinners are ignorant of spiritual realities—that they are slaves to Satan, and in Satan’s prison, and worse, that they are on death row. God-centered evangelism does not flatter the sinner or try to give him hope by telling him that he has the key in his pocket to get out at will, because the unconverted are all by nature unwilling and unable.


     The God-centered approach is to tell him he is in Satan’s prison house, yes, and he is on death row, and that he does not have the key in his pocket to get out! If anyone gets him out, it will have to be God. The sinner’s only hope is in God’s mercy and God’s power.


     This God-centered truth is found in the passage before us in the words, “If perhaps God.” The sinner’s only hope is in “God” (verse 25: “If perhaps God” will do something). This truth is not only hopeful to the sinner, but it is very hopeful to the preacher. The preacher’s only hope of a saving response is “if perhaps God” will do something for the sinner that he cannot do for himself and that no preacher can do for him. Please remember, this was written to a young preacher who was meant to do the work of an evangelist (II Tim. 4:5). This fact should give weight to all I am saying on this point. Certainly we should expect to find some principles for evangelism in these Epistles.


Efforts of the Servant of God

We also have in this passage the efforts that this young preacher was to exercise.


     1. Teach and instruct (v. 24: “. . . apt to teach. . .”; v. 25 “. . . in meekness instructing. . .”)

     2. Rescue them, if possible, from Satan (v. 26: “. . . that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil. . .”).

     3. Set before them the claims of God as their only hope, not just tell deathbed stories, seeking a psychological response.


Manner and Method Employed by the Servant of God

The passage also has the instructions as to the manner and method to be employed. “The servant of the Lord. . .” (v. 24):


     1. Must not strive (or be quarrelsome).

     2. Must be gentle (be kind to all).

     3. Must be able to teach.

     4. Must be patient (when wronged).

     5. Must instruct in meekness (with gentleness).


     Think how much more biblical and God-centered evangelism would be if all the zealous preachers and evangelists would have heeded these clear instructions found in this passage.


     What I am trying to show is that the Bible teaches that evangelism is a work of divine grace, divine power, divine sovereignty. Therefore, if evangelism is to be true, biblical evangelism, it must be God-centered and aim at a God-centered response from the sinner.


The Pilgrim’s Digest, Vol. 4: Why Do Some Sinners Come To Christ While Others Do Not?

The Pilgrim’s Digest is a sampling of Christian writings throughout the centuries on many subjects from
Reformers, Puritans, pastors, and various theologians. Let’s take a short walk with the saints.
Soli Deo Gloria!

Do Not Trouble Yourself About Controversy

by The Sword and the Trowel

The Sword And The Trowel is a magazine of which the venerable Charles Haddon Spurgeon was the Editor for many years until his death. This monthly magazine, still in production, was founded “to report the efforts of those Churches and Associations, which are more or less intimately connected with the Lord’s work at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, and to advocate those views of doctrine and Church order which are most certainly received among us. (Pilgrim Publications, Vol. 1, p21; originally published February 1865).





     Two learned doctors are angrily discussing the nature of food, and allowing their meal to lie untasted, while a simple countryman is eating as heartily as he can of that which is set before him. The religious world is full of quibblers, critics, and sceptics, who, like the doctors, fight over Christianity without profit either to themselves or others; those are far happier who imitate the farmer and feed upon the Word of God, which is the true food of the soul. Luther’s prayer was, “From nice questions the Lord deliver us.” Questioning with honesty and candour is not to be condemned, when the object is to “prove all things, and hold fast that which is good;” but to treat revelation as if it were a football to be kicked from man to man is irreverence, if not worse. Seek the true faith, by all manner of means, but do not spend a whole life in finding it, lest you be like a workman who wastes the whole day looking for his tools. Hear the true Word of God; lay hold upon it, and spend your days not in raising hard questions, but in feasting upon precious truth.


Seek the true faith, by all manner of means, but do not spendd a whole life in finding it, lest you be like a workman who wastes the whole day looking for his tools.


     It is, no doubt, very important to settle the point of General or Particular Redemption; but for unconverted men, the chief matter is to look to the Redeemer on the cross with the eye of faith. Election is a doctrine about which there is much discussion, but he who has made his election sure, finds it a very sweet morsel. Final perseverance has been fought about in all time; but he who by grace continues to rest in Jesus to the end, knows the true enjoyment of it. Reader, argue, if you please, but remember that believing in the Lord Jesus gives infinitely more enjoyment than disputing can ever afford you. If you are unsaved, your only business is with the great command, “Believe!and even if you have passed from death unto life, it is better to commune with Jesus than to discuss doubtful questions. When Melancthon’s mother asked him what she must believe amidst so many disputes, he, knowing her to be trusting to Jesus in a simple-hearted manner, replied, “Go on, mother, to believe and pray as you have done, and do not trouble yourself about controversy.” So say we to all troubled souls, “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him.”

The Pilgrim’s Digest, Vol. 3: Do Not Trouble Yourself About Controversy

The Pilgrim’s Digest is a sampling of Christian writings throughout the centuries on many subjects from
Reformers, Puritans, pastors, and various theologians. Let’s take a short walk with the saints.
Soli Deo Gloria!

God’s Providence Over All

by B.B. Warfield

Warfield was a Professor of Didactic and Polemic Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary from 1887-1921. This short work is originally from The King’s Own, VI. (1895, pp.671-675); featured in Selected Shorter Writings of Benjamin B. Warfield, Vol. I. (1970, pp. 110-115, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, edited by John E. Meeter).




     “We cannot be robbed of God’s providence.” This was one of the sayings current in the household of Thomas Carlyle, apparently much on the lips of that brilliant woman, Jane Welsh Carlyle. In it, the plummet is let down to the bottom of the Christian’s confidence and hope. It is because we cannot be robbed of God’s providence that we know, amid whatever encircling gloom, that all things shall work together for good to those that love him. It is because we cannot be robbed of God’s providence that we know that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ — not tribulation, nor anguish, nor persecution, nor famine, nor nakedness, nor peril, nor sword.


For over us there curves the infinite
   Blue heaven as a shield, and at the end
We shall find One who loveth to befriend
   E’en those who faint for shame within his sight.


Were not God’s providence over all, could trouble come without his sending, were Christians the possible prey of this or the other fiendish enemy, when perchance God was musing, or gone aside, or on a journey, or sleeping, what certainty of hope could be ours? “Does God send trouble?” Surely, surely. He and he only. To the sinner in punishment, to his children in chastisement. To suggest that it does not always come from his hands is to take away all our comfort. Even the Unitarian poet knew better than that:


These severe afflictions
   Not from the ground arise;
But oftentimes celestial benedictions
   Assume this dark disguise.


The world may be black to us; there may no longer be hope in man; anguish and trouble may be our daily portion; but there is this light that shines through all the darkness: “We cannot be robbed of God’s providence.” So long as the soul keeps firm hold of this great truth it will be able to breast all storms.

     A firm faith in the universal providence of God is the solution of all earthly troubles. It is almost equally true that a clear and full apprehension of the universal providence of God is the solution of most theological problems. Most of the religious difficulties with which men disturb their minds, rest on the subtle intrusion into our thinking of what we may call Deistic postulates, and would vanish could but the full meaning of God’s universal providence enter and condition all our thinking. It is because we forget this great truth that we vex and puzzle ourselves over difficulties which seem to be insoluble, but which cease to be difficulties at all so soon as we remember that God’s providence extends over all. Let us illustrate this by one or two instances, from regions which seem at first sight sufficiently remote from the influence of the doctrine of providence.


A firm faith in the universal providence of God is the solution of all earthly troubles. It is almost equally true that a clear and full apprehension of the universal providence of God is the solution of most theological problems.


     Here is the difficulty about the divine origin and the divine trustworthiness of the Bible. What is the root of it? Men have had their attention strongly directed to the human element in the Bible, and to the human factor in its origin. They are saying to themselves that the human element is real, and that it is much greater than they once thought it was. Their hearts sink within them as they then infer that the divine element is, therefore, less great, less pervasive, less determinative than they had thought. They feel driven to the conclusion that we can no longer say that the Bible is a divine book, but can only say that it is a mixed divine and human book. They perceive that much of it is Paul’s or John’s or Peter’s; and they do not know how to say, therefore, that all of it is God’s. They have, however, only forgotten God’s providence that is over all. For what is the conception which they are forming for themselves as to the way in which the Bible originated? Is it not something like this? They imagine that the divine and human factors have approached each other from opposite poles, as it were, and united on some common intermediate ground in the formation of a joint product, the Bible. So that so far as the Bible is divine it is not human; and so far as it is human it is not divine. The divine and human are conceived as contradictory forces infringing upon one another, and the Bible is the resultant of the two.


     But are the divine and human factors which unite to form our Bible thus contradictory and independent forces pushing in opposite directions? Not if God’s providence is over all. Whence came even the human factor but from God himself, preparing by his providence for the production of his Book? We are not to conceive the matter as if God had simply found the Chronicler, say, with his historical bias; or the Psalmist with his emotional nature already hardened in a purely earthly mould; or Paul with his habits of thought already developed and fixed: and has been compelled, by the pure force of his inspirational impact, to force his word with difficulty through their resisting tissues. Were this so, it might well be that God’s Word would come out stained and discolored by the “personal equations” of the human authors, and would no longer be the pure Word of God, but, at best, only the mixed word of God and man. But there was, in fact, no Chronicler save as God had himself made him by the providence which is over all. If he had a bias, it was a bias which God in his providence had given him; and had given him for the specific purpose that he might view the history of Israel thus and not otherwise, and so write it down for the instruction of the ages. There was no David, save the David whom God had moulded and prepared for the specific purpose of composing precisely these Psalms. The tones in which he sang were the tones to which his heart had been attuned by the overruling providence of God. There was no Paul save the Paul whom God had separated from his mother’s womb, and trained as he would have him trained — that in the fulness of time, he might declare as he would have him declare, all the words of his truth. It is thus not merely what we call the divine element of the Bible that is from God. What we call the human element in it, too, is equally from God. The real contrast is not between the divine and human in the Bible; but between the inspirational and the providential factors which have entered into the divine making of the Bible. It is all from God.


So soon as we remember the reach of his providence, we find that the discovery of a human element in the Bible only enriches our conception of the ways in which God was active in producing this Divine Book.


     Thus, it is only when we forget that God’s providence is over all that we can fancy that the human factor may introduce into the Bible aught that would mar its designed perfection as the Word of God. So soon as we remember the reach of his providence, we find that the discovery of a human element in the Bible only enriches our conception of the ways in which God was active in producing this Divine Book. We perceive him preparing the matter to be written, in the age-long development of his self-revelation to men; in the divine direction of the course of history in general, and of the history of his chosen people in particular; in the production of occasions by which men’s hearts were wrung, and they were made to feel deeply the greatness, the glory, or the goodness of God. We perceive him preparing the men to write, raising them up in just the circumstance in which their special powers would be developed; granting them just the ancestry, the gifts, the environment, the training which would prepare them best to write just the portions of Scripture to be committed to them, and then bringing them in contact with just the surroundings which would produce the precise bias, or call out the precise mode of expression, which was expected of them. We perceive him adding from time to time the open visions and the direct revelations which were needed to illuminate human darkness and to make known his gracious purposes. Then we perceive him compacting all these processes into the making of a book, superintended by his direct inspiration in every item of its preparation. And we no longer doubt that his Book, though human through and through, is the very word of God, and is clothed with all the qualities that belong to it as such.


     We take another example: this time from the distribution of God’s saving grace. How many of us are opposed in spirit as we think of the heathen in their darkness. It is a black problem, we say. The Scriptures clearly teach that there is no salvation for adult men and women save through faith in Jesus Christ. And “How shall they believe in him whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear him without a preacher? and how shall they preach, except they be sent?” But can we really credit that men and women, beyond the possible reach of the gospel message, perish without hope, because of the mere accident that the gospel has not been carried to them? Our souls faint at the thought. But we are only forgetting the universal reach of God’s providence again. There are no accidents from the point of view of providence. Not even a sparrow falls to the ground without our Father; and the very hairs of our head are all numbered. Probe the state of mind which such trains of thought represent, and what do we find? In the last analysis probably this: A half-formed, or perhaps even less than half-formed, feeling that there is no other way for such heathen to be saved but by an exception to God’s ordinary methods of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. And does such a fancy rest on anything else than lack of faith in God’s providence? For God surely needs no exceptions. It can never be true that he must break through his announced methods of salvation or else renounce his purpose to save. Is it not easy for him to convey the gospel to the remotest isle? And may we not be perfectly certain that no man was ever lost for lack of power on God’s part to convey to him the gospel? His providence is over all; and by his providence he both can and will always present the means where his grace has determined on the end.


His providence is over all; and by his providence he both can and will always present the means where his grace has determined on the end.


     Many appear almost to fancy that God dispenses his grace with one hand and his providence with the other, and does not let his right hand know what his left hand does. Providence and grace seem almost to be thought of as independent forces, working sometimes harmoniously, but liable to get out of gear and clog and embarrass one another. Perhaps it would be even true to say that at bottom some men practically have two gods – a good god of grace, and a severe god of providence. There is, however, but one God; and he is the God both of providence and of grace. The two can never be separated, nor can one suffer for lack of the support of the other. It is not necessary, therefore, for us to suppose, and it is not reverential for us to suggest, that God needs to save men by exception. His providence is adequate to all his gracious purposes, let them be as broad and as great as they may; and he will assuredly send his gospel in his providence to whomsoever his grace has set upon to save.


     But, it may be asked, may not the Church fail in her duty of extending the knowledge of the gospel? May she not withhold the gospel from the world, and thus bring down the blood of the perishing on her head? Undoubtedly she may: unhappily she has done, and is doing, just this. But our faithlessness shall never make of none effect the faithfulness of God. Let us hearken to the philosophy of Mordecai: “For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall relief and deliverance arise from another place, but thou and thy father’s house shall perish.” God has not committed his honor to another. Neither has he committed the souls of men to their fellows’ keeping. He has laid responsibilities upon us, and we shall stand or fall before him according to our fulfilment of them. But we must bear our own punishment; it will not be inflicted on others. His purposes of mercy will never fail because of our unfaithfulness, for his providence is over all. And there are none of us—not the neediest, not the meanest, not the most remote —who can be robbed of God’s providence.


Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of men, is now the God of providence, and all providence is administered, now, for the interests of his saving work. That work, therefore, cannot fail in a single particular for lack of providential co-operation.


     It is only, then, when we forget that God’s providence is over all that we are tempted to fancy that need may arise for him to save his people by some exceptional method, outside or beyond his announced method of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. So soon as we remember the reach of his providence, we find his announced method of salvation adequate for the needs of the world; and our conceptions of the saving operations of God are enriched, as we perceive all his providential working harnessed to its service. Thus we can better understand what he means when he declares that all power and authority have been committed to Christ, and that he has been made head over all things for his Church. Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of men, is now the God of providence, and all providence is administered, now, for the interests of his saving work. That work, therefore, cannot fail in a single particular for lack of providential co-operation.

The Pilgrim’s Digest, Vol. 2: God’s Providence Over All