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The online magazine of the Christian Military Fellowship.


So You, Too, Must Keep Watch

So You, Too, Must Keep Watch


"So you, too, must keep watch!  For you do not know the day or hour of My return."  (Matthew 25:13)  

 

No one can predict when Jesus’ will return. People have attempted to but the word of God clearly states we don’t know. There are many signs leading up to His coming. 

 

When Jesus’ returns what do you think he will find you doing? He is a loving savior but likes all mankind to want to follow him. 

 

Are you keeping watch? Are you daily reading scripture and looking up? You need to be ‘watchful’ and thankful until he comes again. And he WILL be back. 

 

PRAYER: Each day I get up and am thankful that I am alive. I realize I have a distinct purpose and thank you for that. Use me to help point others to Jesus’. In Jesus’ name. Amen

 

Becky Juett Miller

God's Lemonade Stand

https://www.facebook.com/GodsLemonadeStand/

https://www.godslemonadestand.blogspot.com

Just Pray...Okay?

Just Pray...Okay?

Just Pray...Okay?

“Now Jesus was telling the disciples a parable to make the point that at all times they ought to pray and not give up and lose heart,” Luke 18:1 AMP Bible Gateway

Today is the start of 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting in many churches across the United States which is intentional intense focused prayer which every believer should participate in just once if not every time it rolls around. But don’t wait for an organized prayer event to pray but pray always!

Don’t wait until a crisis and cry out to God but go to Him daily several times a day and talk to Him. He can use you to reach others for the kingdom as well.

I can testify to the power of not quitting and seeing miracles and I am sure some others can as well. Your words and cries and groans don’t fall on silent ears. Your enemy the devil tries all he can to keep you from seeking God. Don’t listen to his lies and keep pressing in trusting God.

PRAYER: Lord I pray for those I know who don’t pray for whatever reason some even being raised in Christian homes. I pray for others who may have grown weary not to give up. Help me trust you each day that you work all things for your glory. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Note: below is a link to 21 Days of Prayer

https://21days.churchofthehighlands.com/

Becky Juett Miller

God's Lemonade Stand

https://www.facebook.com/GodsLemonadeStand/

https://www.godslemonadestand.blogspot.com

Is Your Light Shining Bright, Dim, Flickering or Hidden?

Is Your Light Shining Bright, Dim, Flickering or Hidden?

Is Your Light Shining Bright, Dim, Flickering or Hidden?

You, LORD, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light. Psalm 18:28

Many who grew up in Sunday school may remember the children’s song ‘This little light of mine’ which basically taught young children to not be ashamed of Jesus. 

If you are a believer you are to be like a city set on a hill that can not be hidden for instance  picture Manhattan(NYC) at night to get the word picture. Be that bright, Times Square and all!  You are not to be ashamed and choose to be one way with one group of people and totally different with others. 

How is your light? Do people know you are different? Can they tell you are a believer or do you compromise your walk or try to snuff out your light sometimes? Never be ashamed but brightly shine God’s love to everyone you encounter. It is going to be a bright, bright, sun shiny day! 

PRAYER: I want to say I am sorry if I have ever tried to dim my light depending on where I am. Once a person accepts Christ the job for them just begins and that is to shine for Jesus’ to try to win others into the kingdom. Help me do kingdom work wherever I go. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Becky Juett Miller

God's Lemonade Stand

https://www.facebook.com/GodsLemonadeStand/

https://www.godslemonadestand.blogspot.com

Colossians 1:28

Colossians 1:28

Colossians 1:28

Whom we preach. Here he applies to his own preaching everything that he has previously declared as to the wonderful and adorable secret of God; and thus he explains what he had already touched upon as to the dispensation which had been committed to him; for he has it in view to adorn his apostleship, and to claim authority for his doctrine: for after having extolled the gospel in the highest terms, he now adds, that it is that divine secret which he preaches. It was not, however, without good reason that he had taken notice a little before, that Christ is the sum of that secret, that they might know that nothing can be taught that has more of perfection than Christ.

The expressions that follow have also great weight. He represents himself as the teacher of all men; meaning by this, that no one is so eminent in respect of wisdom as to be entitled to exempt himself from tuition. “God has placed me in a lofty position, as a public herald of his secret, that the whole world, without exception, may learn from me.”

In all wisdom. This expression is equivalent to his affirming that his doctrine is such as to conduct a man to a wisdom that is perfect, and has nothing wanting; and this is what he immediately adds, that all that shew themselves to be true disciples will become perfect. See the second chapter of First Corinthians. (1 Cor. 2:6.) Now, what better thing can be desired than what confers upon us the highest perfection? He again repeats, in Christ, that they may not desire to know anything but Christ alone. From this passage, also, we may gather a definition of true wisdom—that by which we are presented perfect in the sight of God, and that in Christ, and nowhere else.

Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians (pp. 170–172). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software. (Public Domain)

 

Ver. 28. Whom we preach, &c. Under the above considerations; as the riches, the glory, and the mystery of the Gospel; as the hope set before lost sinners to lay hold upon; as the only Savior and Redeemer, by whose righteousness believers are justified, through whose blood their sins are pardoned, by whose sacrifice and satisfaction atonement is made, and in whose person alone is acceptance with God: Christ and him crucified, and salvation by him, were the subjects of the ministry of the apostles; on this they dwelt, and it was this which was blessed for the conversion of sinners, the edification of saints, the planting of churches, and the setting up and establishing the kingdom and interest of Christ: warning every man; of his lost state and condition by nature; of the wrath to come, and the danger he is in of it; of the terrors of the Lord, and of an awful judgment; shewing sinners that they are unrighteous and unholy, that their nature is corrupt and impure, their best righteousness imperfect, and cannot justify them before God; that they stand guilty before him, and that destruction and misery are in all their ways; and therefore advise them to flee from the wrath to come, to the hope set before them in the Gospel: teaching every man in all wisdom; not natural, but spiritual and evangelical; the whole Gospel of Christ, the counsel of God, the wisdom of God in a mystery, and all the branches of it; teaching them to believe in Christ for salvation, to lay hold on his righteousness for justification, to deal with his blood for pardon, and with his sacrifice for the atonement of their sins; and to observe all things commanded by Christ, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly: by these two words, warning and teaching, the several parts of the Gospel ministry are expressed; and which extend to all sorts of men, rich and poor, bond and free, greater and lesser sinners, Gentiles as well as Jews; and who are chiefly designed here, and elsewhere, by every man and every creature: that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus; not in themselves, in which sense no man is perfect in this life; but in the grace, holiness, and righteousness of Christ, in whom all the saints are complete: or it may regard that ripeness of understanding, and perfection of knowledge, which, when arrived unto, saints become perfect men in Christ; and is the end of the Gospel ministry, and to which men are brought by it; see Eph. 4:13 and to be understood of the presentation of the saints, not by Christ to himself, and to his father, but by the ministers of the Gospel, as their glory and crown of rejoicing in the day of Christ.

Gill, J. (1809). An Exposition of the New Testament (Vol. 3, p. 181). London: Mathews and Leigh. (Public Domain)

 

Take Heed Acts 20:28

Take Heed Acts 20:28

Acts 20:28

“Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God which he obtained with the blood of his own Son.” (Acts 20:28, RSV)

“Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” (Acts 20:28, NASB 2020)

“Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God that he obtained with his own blood.” Do you see how [Paul] gives two orders here? Success with others alone does not bring any benefit—for I fear, he says, “lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” (1 Cor 9:27) Equally, caring only for oneself brings no benefit. For such a one is selfish and seeks only his own good, like the man who has buried his gold. He says this not because our own salvation is more precious than that of the flock but because when we attend to ourselves, the flock also benefits.  (John Chrysostom (344/354–407; fl. 386–407). Bishop of Constantinople who was noted for his orthodoxy, his eloquence and his attacks on Christian laxity in high places.)

28. Take heed, therefore. Attend to; be on your guard against the dangers which beset you, and seek to discharge your duty with fidelity.

To yourselves. To your own piety, opinions, and mode of life. This is the first duty of a minister; for without this all his preaching will be vain. Comp. Col. 4:17; 1 Ti. 4:14. Ministers are beset with peculiar dangers and temptations, and against them they should be on their guard. In addition to the temptations which they have in common with other men, they are exposed to those peculiar to their office—arising from flattery, and ambition, and despondency, and worldly-mindedness. And just in proportion to the importance of their office is the importance of the injunction of Paul, to take heed to themselves.

And to all the flock. The church; the charge entrusted to them. The church of Christ is often compared to a flock. See Notes on Jn. 10:1–20; also Jn. 21:15–17. The word flock here refers particularly to the church, and not to the congregation in general, for it is represented to be that which was purchased with the blood of the atonement. The command here is, (1) To take heed to the church; that is, to instruct, teach, and guide it; to guard it from enemies (ver. 29), and to make it their special object to promote its welfare. (2) To take heed to all the flock—the rich and the poor, the bond and the free, the old and the young. It is the duty of ministers to seek to promote the welfare of each individual of their charge—not to pass by the poor because they are poor, and not to be afraid of the rich because they are rich. A shepherd regards the interest of the tenderest of the fold as much as the strongest; and a faithful minister will seek to advance the interest of all. To do this he should know all his people; should be acquainted, as far as possible, with their peculiar wants, character, and dangers, and should devote himself to their welfare as his first and main employment.

Over the which the Holy Ghost. Though they had been appointed, doubtless, by the church, or by the apostles, yet it is here represented as having been done by the Holy Ghost. It was by him, (1) Because he had called and qualified them for their work; and, (2) Because they had been set apart in accordance with his direction and will.

Overseers—ἐπισκόπους. Bishops. The word properly denotes those who are appointed to oversee or inspect anything. This passage proves that the name bishop was applicable to elders; that in the time of the apostles, the name bishop and presbyter, or elder, was given to the same class of officers, and, of course, that there was no distinction between them. One term was originally used to denote office, the other age, and both were applied to the same persons in the church. The same thing occurs in Tit. 1:5–7, where those who in ver. 5 are called elders, are in ver. 7 called bishops. See also 1 Ti. 3:1–10; Phi. 1:1.

To feed—ποιμαίνειν. This word is properly applied to the care which a shepherd exercises over his flock. See Notes on Jn. 21:15, 16. It is applicable not only to the act of feeding a flock, but also to that of protecting, guiding, and guarding it. It here denotes not merely the duty of instructing the church, but also of governing it; of securing it from enemies (ver. 29), and of directing its affairs so as to promote its edification and peace.

The church of God. This is one of three passages in the New Testament in regard to which there has been a long controversy among critics, which is not yet determined. The controversy is, whether is this the correct and genuine reading. The other two passages are, 1 Ti. 3:16, and 1 Jn. 5:7. The MSS. and versions here exhibit three readings: the church of God (τοῦ Θεοῦ); the church of the Lord (τοῦ Κυρίου); and the church of the Lord and God (Κυρίου καὶ Θεοῦ). The Latin Vulgate reads it God; The Syriac, the Lord. The Arabic, the Lord God. The Ethiopic, the Christian family of God. The reading which now occurs in our text is found in no ancient MSS. except the Vatican Codex, and occurs nowhere among the writings of the fathers except in Athanasius, in regard to whom also there is a various reading. It is retained, however, by Beza, Mill, and Whitby as the genuine reading. The most ancient MSS., and the best, read the church of the Lord, and this probably was the genuine text. It has been adopted by Griesbach and Wetstein; and many important reasons may be given why it should be retained. See those reasons stated at length in Kuinoel in loco; see also Griesbach and Wetstein. It may be remarked, that a change from Lord to God might easily be made in the transcribing, for in ancient MSS. the words are not written at length, but are abbreviated. Thus, the name Christ (Χριστός) is written ΧΟΣ; the name God (Θεός) is written ΘΟΣ; the name Lord (Κυρίος) is written ΚΟΣ; and a mistake, therefore, of a single letter would lead to the variations observable in the manuscripts. Comp. in this place the note of Mill in his Greek Testament. The authority for the name God is so doubtful that it should not be used as a proof text on the divinity of Christ, and is not necessary, as there are so many undisputed passages on that subject.

Which he hath purchased. The word here used (περιεποιήσατο) occurs but in one other place in the New Testament: 1 Ti. 3:13, “For they that have used the office of deacon well, purchase to themselves a good degree and great boldness in the faith.” The word properly means to acquire or gain anything; to make it ours. This may be done by a price, or by labour, &c. The noun (περιποίησις) derived from this verb is several times used in the New Testament, and denotes acquisition: 1 Th. 5:9: “God hath appointed us to obtain [unto the obtaining or acquisition of] salvation;” 2 Th. 2:14, “Whereunto he called you by our gospel to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ;” 1 Pe. 2:9; Tit. 2:14; Ep. 1:14. In this place it means that Christ had acquired, gained, or procured, the church for himself by paying his own life as the price. The church is often represented as having thus been bought with a price, 1 Co. 6:20; 7:23; 2 Pe. 2:1.

With his own blood. With the sacrifice of his own life; for blood is often put for life, and to shed the blood is equivalent to taking the life. See Notes on Ro. 3:25. The doctrines taught here are, (1) That the death of Christ was an atoning sacrifice; that he offered himself to purchase a people to his own service. (2) That the church is, therefore, of peculiar value—a value to be estimated by the price paid for it. Comp. 1 Pe. 1:18, 19. (3) That this fact should make the purity and salvation of the church an object of special solicitude with ministers of the gospel. They should be deeply affected in view of that blood which has been shed for the church; and they should guard and defend it as having been bought with the highest price in the universe. The chief consideration that will make ministers faithful and self-denying is, that the church has been bought with a price. If the Lord Jesus so loved it; if he gave himself for it, they should be willing to deny themselves; to watch, and toil, and pray, that the great object of his death—the purity and the salvation of that church—may be obtained. (Barnes, A. (1884–1885). Notes on the New Testament: Acts. (R. Frew, Ed.) (pp. 295–297). London: Blackie & Son. (Public Domain))

Father, Glorify Your Name

Father, Glorify Your Name

Father, Glorify Your Name

“Father, glorify Your name.” Then a voice came out of heaven: “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.”” (John 12:28, NASB 2020)

Glorify thy name. The meaning of this expression in this connection is this: “I am willing to bear any trials; I will not shrink from any sufferings. Let thy name be honored. Let thy character, wisdom, goodness, and plans of mercy be manifested and promoted, whatever sufferings it may cost me.” Thus Jesus showed us that God’s glory is to be the great end of our conduct, and that we are to seek that, whatever sufferings it may cost us.

I have both glorified it. The word it is not here in the original, but it is not improperly supplied by the translators. There can be no doubt that when God says here that he had glorified his name, he refers to what had been done by Christ, and that this was to be understood as an attestation that he attended him and approved his work. See ver. 30. He had honored his name, or had glorified him, by the pure instructions which he had given to man through him; by the power displayed in his miracles; by proclaiming his mercy through him; by appointing him to be the Messiah, &c.

Will glorify it again. By the death, the resurrection, and ascension of his Son, and by extending the blessings of the gospel among all nations. It was thus that he sustained his Son in view of approaching trials; and we may learn, 1st. That God will minister grace to us in the prospect of suffering. 2d. That the fact that God will be honored by our afflictions should make us willing to bear them. 3d. That whatever was done by Christ tended to honour the name of God. This was what he had in view. He lived and suffered, not for himself, but to glorify God in the salvation of men. Barnes, A. (1884–1885). Notes on the New Testament: Luke & John. (R. Frew, Ed.) (p. 310). London: Blackie & Son. (Public Domain)

 

He then makes a request of His Father and exhibits the outward appearance of prayer, not as being weak in respect of that Nature which is Almighty, but in respect of His Manhood, ascribing to the Divine Nature those attributes that are superhuman; not implying that the Divine Nature was something external to Himself, since He calls God His own Father, but in full consciousness that universal power and glory would be the lot of both Father and Son. And whether the text has: Glorify Thy Son, or: Glorify Thy Name, makes no difference in the exact significance of the ideas conveyed. Christ however, despising death and the shame of suffering, looking only to the objects to be achieved by the suffering, and almost beholding the death of all mankind already passing out of sight as an effect of the death of His Own Flesh; knowing that the power of corruption was on the point of being forever destroyed, and that the nature of man would be thenceforth transformed to a newness of life: He all but says something of this sort to God the Father: “The body, O Father, shrinks from encountering the suffering, and dreads that death which is unnatural to it; nay more, it seems a thing not to be endured that One Who is enthroned with Thee and Who possesses Almighty power should be grossly outraged by the audacious insults of the Jews; but since this is the cause for which I have come, glorify Thy Son, that is, prevent Me not from encountering death, but grant this favor to Thy Son for the good of all mankind.” And that the Evangelist in some other places also speaks of the Cross under the name of “glory,” thou mayest learn from what he says: For the Holy Spirit was not yet [given]; because Jesus was not yet glorified. For in his wisdom he in these words speaks of being “crucified” as being “glorified:” and the Cross is a glory. For although at the season of His Passion, Christ willingly and patiently endured many contumelies, and moreover underwent voluntarily for our sake sufferings which He might have refused to suffer; surely the undergoing this for the benefit of others is a characteristic of excessive compassion and of supreme glory. And the Son became glorious also in another way. For from the fact that He overpowered death, we recognize Him to be Life and Son of the Living God. And the Father is glorified, when He is seen to have such a Son begotten of Himself, of the same Nature as Himself. And He is Good, Light, Life, and superior to death, and One Who does whatsoever He will. And when He says: Glorify Thy Son, He means this: “Give Thy consent to Me in My willingness to suffer.” For the Father gave up the Son to death, not without taking counsel, but in willingness for the life of the world: therefore, the Father’s consent is spoken of as a bestowal of blessings upon us; for instead of “suffering” He spake of “glory.” And this also He says as a Pattern for us: for while on the one hand we ought to pray that we fall not into temptation, yet on the other hand if we should be so tried we ought to bear it nobly and not to rush away from it, but to pray that we may be saved unto God. But Glorify Thy Name. For if through our dangers it comes to pass that God is glorified, let all things be accounted secondary to that end.

Moreover, just as death was brought to naught in no other way than by the Death of the Savior, so also with regard to each of the sufferings of the flesh: for unless He had felt dread, human nature could not have become free from dread; unless He had experienced grief, there could never have been any deliverance from grief; unless He had been troubled and alarmed, no escape from these feelings could have been found. And with regard to every one of the affections to which human nature is liable, thou wilt find exactly the corresponding thing in Christ. The affections of His Flesh were aroused, not that they might have the upper hand as they do indeed in us, but in order that when aroused they might be thoroughly subdued by the power of the Word dwelling in the flesh, the nature of man thus undergoing a change for the better.

Cyril of Alexandria. (1885). Commentary on the Gospel according to S. John (Vol. 2, pp. 152–154). London: Walter Smith. (Public Domain) Cyril of Alexandria (375–444; fl. 412–444). Patriarch of Alexandria whose extensive exegesis, characterized especially by a strong espousal of the unity of Christ, led to the condemnation of Nestorius in 431.

 

This was the weakness of His human nature. ‘However, I have no justification to offer for begging release from death,’ He said. ‘No, this is why I came to this hour.’ It was as if He was saying: ‘Even though we are disturbed, even though we are troubled, let us not flee from death. For, though I also am now troubled, I am not speaking so as to avoid it, for I must bear it when it comes upon Me. I do not mean: “Release Me from this hour,” but what? Father, glorify Thy name. Even though My perturbation caused Me to speak as I just did, I mean the opposite: “Glorify Thy name”; that is, “lead Me henceforward to the cross.” ’

This very effectually shows that He was human and that His human nature did not wish to suffer death, but was clinging to the present life, and it proves that He was not without human feelings. Just as the fact that He suffered hunger was not held against Him, or that He slept, so the fact that He dreaded the separation from this present life ought not to be held against Him, either. Christ’s Body was, to be sure, altogether free from sin, but it was not without physical needs; otherwise, it would not have been a real body. By these words, accordingly, He taught still another lesson. What, then, is it? That if we are ever in a state of distress and fear, we should not for that reason desist from our undertakings.

‘Father, glorify thy name!’ He was showing them that He would die for the sake of truth, and was referring to this as giving glory to God. Moreover, this effect would be evident after the crucifixion. The world would be converted and come to know the name of God and to serve Him, though not the name of the Father only, but also that of the Son. Nevertheless He remained silent about this as yet.

‘There came therefore a voice from heaven, “I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.” ’

‘When had He glorified it?’

‘In previous events; and I will glorify it again after the crucifixion.’

‘What, then, did Christ reply?’

‘Not for me did this voice come, but for you.’ However, they thought it was thunder, or that an angel had spoken to Him.

‘Yet how was it that they thought this? Was the voice not clear and distinct?’

Yes, but it quickly sped past them, since they were somewhat unspiritual and carnal and immortified. Moreover, some merely detected the sound, while others knew that the voice was articulate, but they did not yet comprehend what it meant. What, therefore, did Christ say? ‘Not for me did this voice come, but for you.’

‘Why did He say this?’

To refute the statement that they were repeatedly making; namely, that He was not from God. For how was it possible that He was not from God if He was glorified by God whose name was also glorified by Him? It was for this reason, to be sure, that the voice came. And that is also why He Himself said: ‘Not for me did this voice come, but for you. It was not that I might learn from it something of which I was ignorant (for I know all things that are the Father’s), but for your sake.’ In fact, since they were saying that an angel had spoken to Him or that there had been thunder, and since they were not heeding the voice, He said: ‘It came for your sake, that you might be induced by this means to inquire what was meant.’

John Chrysostom (344/354–407; fl. 386–407). Bishop of Constantinople who was noted for his orthodoxy, his eloquence and his attacks on Christian laxity in high places.

 

 

 

Mark 9:35

Mark 9:35

Mark 9:35

“And sitting down, He called the twelve and said to them, “If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.”” (Mark 9:35, NASB 2020)

Guileless Cohesion. Gregory of Nyssa: Let vanity be unknown among you. Let simplicity and harmony and a guileless attitude weld the community together. Let each remind himself that he is not only subordinate to the brother at his side, but to all.  If he knows this, he will truly be a disciple of Christ. On the Christian Mode of Life 8.1.

The Pursuit of Meekness. Chrysostom: If you are in love with precedence and the highest honor, pursue the things in last place, pursue being the least valued of all, pursue being the lowliest of all, pursue being the smallest of all, and pursue placing yourselves behind others. The Gospel of St. Matthew, Homily 58

πάντων ἔσχατος καὶ π. δίακονοςhe shall be last of all, and servant of all. This is the way to be great among the disciples of Jesus. It does not point out the penalty of ambition, as we might gather from the certain disapproval of the ordinary ambition by Jesus, but the way of satisfying Christian ambition. But the method is a paradox, like the beatification of sorrow. The Christian way to be first is to be last, to fall to the rear, to efface yourself. But it is not only humility that is demanded, but service. This again is a paradox, since primacy means dominion, the faculty not of serving, but of levying service on others. But these things, humility and service, in the kingdom of God, not only lead to greatness, they are greatness, i.e. they are the supreme marks of the Christian quality. And it is one of the signs that the world is becoming a seat of the kingdom of God, that rulers, leaders, employers, and others, are beginning to recognize this idea of service as the meaning of their position. Gould, E. P. (1922). A critical and exegetical commentary on the Gospel according to St. Mark (p. 174). New York: C. Scribner’s Sons. (Public Domain)

If any man desire to be first.—Comp. Matt. 23:12; 20:27; 18:4. Our clause seems in one formula to include two rules: whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; whosoever humbleth himself shall be exalted. Despotism makes man a slave; spiritual despotism makes him the lowest and most abject of all slaves, who must serve the most external and legal behests of a police for the internal kingdom of God. But voluntary service in the kingdom of love, and under the impulse of humility and self-denial, makes a man a spiritual power, and gives him an unconscious and blessed greatness in the kingdom of God, which does not complacently look at its own reflection. In this sense Christ came to minister unto all (symbol, the feet-washing), and has become Lord over all, Phil. 2:5–11. But the emphasis falls here obviously upon the second rule. Lange, J. P., Schaff, P., & Shedd, W. G. T. (2008). A commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Mark (p. 89). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software. (Public Domain)

Servant (διάκονος). minister. Probably from διώκω, to pursue; to be the follower of a person; to attach one’s self to him. As distinguished from other words in the New Testament meaning servant, this represents the servant in his activity; while δοῦλος, slave, represents him in his condition or relation as a bondman. A διάκονος may be either a slave or a freeman. The word deacon is an almost literal transcription of the original. See Philip. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:8, 12. The word is often used in the New Testament to denote ministers of the gospel. See 1 Cor. 3:5; Eph. 3:7; 1 Thess. 3:2, and elsewhere. Mark uses δοῦλος in 10:44.  Vincent, M. R. (1887). Word studies in the New Testament (Vol. 1, p. 210). New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons. (Public Domain)

The Nature and Necessity of Regeneration

The Nature and Necessity of Regeneration

The Nature and Necessity of Regeneration

John 3:3. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

AS there is an essential distinction between divine and human knowledge, so is there a very great difference in the ways by which each of them is to be obtained; the one being attainable only by rational investigation, the other only by faith. Reason indeed must judge whether such or such things be revealed; but when that point is clearly ascertained, faith must receive the truth simply on the authority of God; and that too, no less when it lies beyond the sphere of our reason, than when it may easily be comprehended by it. The manner in which revealed truths are inculcated seems to imply this; for the prophets enforced their declarations, not with arguments, but with, “Thus saith the Lord:” and our Savior, with an authority which none but himself ever presumed to exercise, and which strongly marked his equality with the Father, disdained to use any other confirmation than that of his own assertion: this appears, as in numberless other passages, so particularly in his conversation with Nicodemus; when, instructing him in the mysterious doctrine of regeneration, he required a full assent to it upon the testimony of his own word. May we bow to his authority, while we consider,

I.    The nature of regeneration—

The mistakes which very generally obtain respecting this subject being first rectified, the truth will be more clearly seen—

Many suppose that baptism is the same with regeneration—

In the early ages of Christianity these terms were often used as synonymous, because it was taken for granted that none but truly regenerate persons would submit to a rite which engaged them to separate themselves from an ungodly world, and exposed them to the most imminent peril of their lives. But there is a wide difference between the two; regeneration being absolutely necessary to salvation, while baptism, as in the case of the dying thief, may under some circumstances be dispensed with. Besides, it was doubtless the great design of our Lord and his Apostles to regenerate and convert men: but were they so intent on administering the rite of baptism? Our Lord, we are told, “baptized no man;” and it is said of Paul, that “God sent him not to baptize;” yea, he himself “thanks God that he had baptized none but Crispus and Gaius:” but if he had regenerated none other, would he have thought that a proper ground for thanksgiving? Again, if baptism and regeneration be the same thing, we may use them altogether as synonymous terms: now it is said that “Whosoever is born of God overcometh the worlda,” and that “he neither doth sin nor can sin, because he is born of Godb.” But if we should say the same of all that are baptized, would not the worldly and sinful lives of many flatly contradict us? It appears then from the superior importance of regeneration, from the design of Christ and his Apostles respecting it, and from the properties ascribed to it in Scripture, that it neither is, nor can be, the same with baptism. Baptism is an outward work of man upon the body; regeneration is an inward work of God upon the soul.

Others think that regeneration imports no more than an outward reformation, or at most, a partial change of the inward man—

But can we conceive that, when a ruler of the Jews came to our Lord, acknowledging him to be a teacher sent from God, and desiring to be instructed in those things which he was come to reveal, our Lord would tell him that wicked men could not be saved without reforming their lives? Did Nicodemus need such information as that? Or, if this was all that our Lord meant, would this teacher in Israel have been so astonished at it? And would not our Lord have instantly rectified his misapprehension, and shewn him that there was no cause for astonishment? Can we imagine that our Lord would have confirmed the mistake, by representing this doctrine as an incomprehensible mystery, which man can no more fathom, than he can ascertain the hidden causes, or mark the exact boundaries, of the wind? Yea, would he have left this man so bewildered, saying, How can these things be! if he had meant no more than, that a wicked man must reform his life? Nor is it less evident that regeneration does not consist in a partial change even of the inward man. To what purpose should we boast of having experienced the illumination of Balaamc, the humiliation of Ahabd, the confession of Judase, the faith of Simon Magusf, the confidence of the unbelieving Jewsg, the attention of Ezekiel’s auditorsh, the reformation of Herodi, or (what perhaps includes all these together) the promising appearance of the stony-ground hearersk, if, like them, we rest in any partial change? Surely, if our righteousness exceed not theirs, we cannot hope that we shall be happier than they in our final doom.

In opposition to all such erroneous notions, the Scripture itself defines regeneration to be “a new creation, wherein old things pass away, and all things become newl.”

The author of this work is the Holy Spirit, who by a supernatural agency renews our inward man, and makes us partakers of a divine naturem. Our faculties indeed remain the same as they were before; but there is a new direction given to them all. Our understanding is enlightened, so that we behold ourselves, and Christ, and the world, yea, every thing else too, in a very different light from what we ever did beforen———Our will is changed, so that instead of following, or even desiring to follow, our own way, we surrender up ourselves altogether to God’s government, saying most unfeignedly, Not my will, but thine be doneo———Our affections also are exercised in a very different manner from what they were before, so that, instead of being called forth principally by the things of time and sense, they are set upon things spiritual and eternalp———We say not that this change is perfect in any man, (for there still are sad remains of the old and corrupt nature even in the best of men; the leprosy is never wholly removed till the walls be taken down.) But the change is universal in all the faculties, and progressive throughout our lives: nor can it be effected by any efforts of man, or by any other power than that of Godq.

As the Scriptures give this extensive view of regeneration, so they fully declare,

II.   The necessity of it—

“The kingdom of God” sometimes imports the kingdom of grace on earth, and sometimes the kingdom of glory in heaven. Indeed both are one and the same kingdom, subject to the same Head, composed of the same members, and governed by the same laws: grace is glory begun; glory is grace consummated. But for the purpose of illustrating our subject, we observe that, without regeneration,

1.   We cannot enter into God’s kingdom of grace—

There are many duties to be performed, and many privileges to be enjoyed, by the subjects of God’s spiritual kingdom, which an unregenerate man can neither perform nor enjoy. Who can doubt whether it be our duty to “repent in dust and ashes,” to “live by faith on the Son of God,” or to “crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts?” But can an unregenerate man do these things? We acknowledge that he may restrain in many respects his outward conduct; but can he root out from his heart the love of the world, and the love of sin? Can he truly lothe and abhor himself as well for the unhallowed corruptions of his heart, as for the grosser transgressions of his life? As well may he attempt to create a world as to effect these things by any power of his own. Again; it is the Christian’s privilege to enjoy that “peace of God which passeth all understanding,” to “abound in hope through the power of the Holy Ghost,” and to be transported with that “joy which is unspeakable and full of glory.” But can an unregenerate man possess that peace, when his iniquities are not forgiven? Can he look forward with delight to the coming of the day of Christ, when all his desires and pursuits terminate in this lower world? Can he be so elevated with holy joy, when there is nothing in his state which does not rather call for rivers of tears? But if any one doubt what answer he must return to these questions, let him go to his chamber, and see whether he be competent to form his mind to these sublime employments; and he will soon find that no power but that which created our souls at first, can form them anew after the Divine image.

2.   We cannot enter into the kingdom of glory—

There is a meetness for the heavenly inheritancer, which every one must attain, before he can enjoy the felicity of the saints in light. As, on earth, no occupation can afford us pleasure, if we have not an inward taste and relish for it, so, in heaven, we must have dispositions suited to the state of those above. But where is this disposition to be obtained, if not in this life? Can it be thought that there shall be “repentance in the grave,” and that we shall become regenerate in a future state? Shall he, who never supremely loved his God, become at once inflamed with devout affection towards him? Shall not he, who never was renewed after the Divine image, rather behold with dread and horror the holiness of God, and tremble at the sight of that Lamb, whose dying love he despised, and whose blood he trampled under foot? Shall he, who never sought one hour’s communion with God in secret, delight to have no other employment to all eternity? No; “as the tree falleth, so it lieth;” “he that was unjust will be unjust still; and he that was filthy will be filthy still.” As there is this reason on the part of man, so is there a still more cogent reason on the part of God. God has declared, with repeated and most solemn asseverations, that “except a man be born again, he shall never enter into his kingdom.” And has he spoken thus merely to alarm us? “Is he a man that he should lie, or the son of man that he should repent?” Will he dishonor himself to favor us? Will he violate the rights of justice, holiness, and truth, in order to save those, who, to their dying hour, rejected and despised his proffered mercy? If all the world tell you that you shall be admitted into heaven, believe them not: for the Judge of quick and dead has with the strongest possible asseverations declared, you never shall. Let us not then deceive ourselves with such vain hopes: for they can terminate in nothing but disappointment and ruin.

Address—

1.   The unregenerate—

You cannot surely be at a loss to know your real state, if you will examine candidly whether you have ever experienced such a change in your views, desires, and pursuits, as has been before described? O, let every one put home to his conscience this question, Am I born again? And know that neither circumcision, nor uncircumcision will avail you any thing, but a new creations. You must be born again, or perish———

2.   The regenerate—

St. Peter, writing to such persons under the severest persecution, begins his Epistle with congratulationst: and St. Paul bids us under the heaviest calamities to be thankful for renewing graceu. Do ye then bless God in every state, and “shew forth the virtues of him who hath called you to his kingdom and gloryx”———Let your renovation be progressive; and never think that you have attained any thing as long as any thing remains to be attained.[1]

 

 

a 1 John 5:4.

b 1 John 3:9.

c Numb. 24:4.

d 1 Kings 21:29.

e Matt. 27:4.

f Acts 8:13, 21, 23.

g John 8:41, 42.

h Ezek. 33:31.

i Mark 6:20, 27.

k Matt. 13:20, 21.

l 2 Cor. 5:17.

m 2 Pet. 1:4.

n Acts 2:37–47.

o Acts 9:6.

p Col. 3:2.

q John 1:13.

r Col. 1:12.

s Gal. 6:15.

t 1 Pet. 1:1, 3, 4.

u Col. 1:11–13.

x Ἀρετὰς. 1 Pet. 2:9.

[1] Simeon, C. (1833). Horae Homileticae: Luke XVII to John XII (Vol. 13, pp. 245–250). London: Holdsworth and Ball. (Public Domain)

 

Divinity of Christ

Divinity of Christ

Divinity of Christ

John 1:1. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

WHAT astonishing majesty and dignity are displayed in these brief but comprehensive words! The other Evangelists commence their histories at the period of our Savior’s incarnation: but St. John carries us back to eternity itself; and informs us, not only what Christ did and suffered, but who he was. He calls him by a very peculiar name; “The Word;” and, in other places, “The Word of Lifea;” “The Word of Godb.” This name, as applicable to the Messiah, was not altogether unknown to the Jewsc: and it seems peculiarly proper to the Son, because it is by the Son that God has in all ages revealed his mind to man. And perhaps this very explanation of the term was intended to be conveyed to us by St. John, when he says, within a few verses after my text, “No man hath seen God at any time: the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of his Father, he hath declared himd.”

But, without dwelling upon matters of conjecture, let us consider,

I.    The testimony here given to the Lord Jesus Christ—

The beloved Apostle, speaking of the Lord Jesus, here declares,

1.   His eternal existence—

“In the beginning was the Word,” even before the creature existed, either in heaven or on earth: and from him every created being derived its existencee. So St. Paul also informs us: “By him were all things created that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: and he is before all things; and by him all things consistf.” Though he was born into the world in time, yet in his divine nature he existed from eternity: “He was the same yesterday, to-day, and foreverg:” “His goings-forth were of old from everlastingh:” “He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, the first and the lasti.”

2.   His distinct personality—

From all eternity “he was with God;” “having a glory with him before the worlds were madek;” and having a perfect participation of all that the Father possessed, whether of wisdom and knowledgel, or of authority and powerm. This appears from the council held, as it were, between the Father and the Son, respecting the formation of mann; and man’s consequent expulsion from Paradiseo; and the confounding of the projects of man’s apostate race by changing their language at Babelp. Hence the Lord Jesus is said to have “come forth from Godq,” even “from his bosom,” where had been his everlasting abode. The importance of this truth is marked by the repetition of it by St. John, in the words following my text, “The same was in the beginning with God.”

3.   His proper deity—

“The Word was God,” even “the mighty Godr,” “the great Gods,” “God over all, blessed for evert.” “He was in the form of God; and thought it no robbery to be equal with Godu;” and was therefore rightly “named Emmanuel, God with usx;” and is with truth declared to be “God manifest in the fleshy.”

Now, that this is not a mere speculative subject, I will proceed to shew, by pointing out,

II.   The deep interest we have in it—

On the very face of the question, “Whether our Savior be God, or only a created being?” it cannot fail of appearing a subject of extreme importance. Know, then, that Christ is truly God, as well as man: and on this truth depends,

1.   The efficacy of all that he did and suffered for us on earth—

Had he been only a creature, he could only have done what was his duty to do; and therefore he could have merited nothing at the hands of God: or, at all events, could have merited only for himself. But being God, his whole undertaking was gratuitous; there was no obligation lying upon him, to do any thing, or suffer any thing, for us. What he did and suffered, therefore, may well be put to our account; more especially since it was so concerted between him and his Father, when he undertook to redeem our ruined race. His sufferings, though only for a season, may well be regarded as equivalent to the eternal sufferings of man; and his obedience to the law be justly considered as if all mankind had obeyed it. On both the one and the other his Deity stamps an infinite value; so that, “he having been made sin for us, we may well be made the righteousness of God in himz.”

2.   The efficacy of all that he is yet doing for us in heaven—

There is our adorable Savior seated at the right hand of God; and all judgment is committed to him, that he may complete for his people the work which he began on earth. He is appointed “Head over all things to the Churcha.” But supposing him to be a mere creature, how can he attend to all at once, and supply the necessities of all, in every quarter of the universe, at the same instant of time? But there is no room for such a question as that, seeing he is the omnipresent, omniscient, Almighty God. “Our help is, indeed, laid upon One that is mightyb,” upon One that is Almighty, “in whom dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodilyc.” We need not fear, therefore, however great our necessities; but be fully assured, that “he is able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by himd.”

Behold then, brethren,

1.   How inconceivably great is the condescension of our God!

I wonder not at the unbelief of those who call in question the Divinity of Christ: for if it were not so fully revealed, as that it is impossible for a truly enlightened man to doubt it, I should be ready to doubt it myself; so inconceivable does it appear, that God should become a man, and make himself the surety and substitute of his own rebellious creatures. But he is God, and therefore can do it: he is God, and therefore cannot be judged by the finite capacity of man. In doing what he has done, he has acted like himself. He is God, and therefore I believe all that he has done for sinful man. Though himself eternal, he has been born in time: though eternally with God, he has come down and tabernacled with man: though himself the true and Living God, he has become a man, yea, and died for man upon the cross. I believe it, because he has revealed it. I believe it, because nothing less than this would have been adequate to my necessities. And were this not true, I should most gladly take my portion for ever under rocks and mountains.

2.   What unbounded consolation has he provided for sinful man!.

This doctrine meets my every want. I have guilt, which nothing less than “the blood of God” can wash awaye. I have corruptions, which none but the Spirit of God can subdue and mortify. I have wants, which none but the all-sufficient God can supply. But, having Jehovah for my friend, my surety, my righteousness, my all, I fear nothing. I hope in him; and believe in him; and glory in him; and make him “all my salvation and all my desire.” Trusting in him, I will defy all my enemiesf: and, “believing in him,” I will anticipate in my soul all the glory and blessedness of heaveng.[1]

 

 

a 1 John 1:1, 2.

b Rev. 19:13.

c See Bishop Pearson on the Creed, pp. 117, 118.

d ver. 18.

e ver. 3.

f Col. 1:16, 17.

g Heb. 13:8.

h Mic. 5:2.

i Rev. 1:8, 11.

k John 17:5.

l Matt. 11:27.

m John 5:17.

n Gen. 1:26.

o Gen. 3:22.

p Gen. 11:7.

q John 16:27, 28.

r Isai. 9:6.

s Tit. 2:13.

t Rom. 9:5.

u Phil. 2:6.

x Matt. 1:23.

y 1 Tim. 3:16.

z 2 Cor. 5:21.

a Eph. 1:22.

b Ps. 89:19.

c Col. 2:9.

d Heb. 7:25.

e Acts 20:28.

f Rom. 8:31.

g 1 Pet. 1:8.

[1] Simeon, C. (1833). Horae Homileticae: Luke XVII to John XII (Vol. 13, pp. 186–189). London: Holdsworth and Ball. (Public Domain)

Security of Christ's Sheep

Security of Christ's Sheep

Security of Christ's Sheep

John 10:27, 28. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.

WHILST we acknowledge with gratitude the powers of reason in investigations of a speculative or temporal nature, we must be very jealous of its conclusions in matters that are purely spiritual or practical. In whatever relates to God and to the soul, its decisions are apt to be biased by prejudice, or interest, or passion; and it yields, or withholds, assent, not so much according to the weight of evidence adduced, as according to the dispositions which are called forth into exercise. This was peculiarly manifest amongst the persons who attended on the ministry of our Lord: some were so wrought upon by the greatness of his miracles, and the impressive wisdom of his discourses, that they could not but receive him as the Messiah; whilst others were always complaining of want of evidence, and always caviling at his words. In the preceding context we are told, that “the Jews came round about him, and said, How long dost thou make us to doubt? if thou be the Christ, tell us plainly. Jesus answered them, I told you; and ye believed not.” He then informs them what the source was of their unbelief; “Ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep:” you are destitute of those gracious qualities which would have fitted you for receiving my word: had you been given to me by the Father, and possessed the dispositions which characterize my sheep, you would have both believed in me, and reaped all the benefits of that faith: “My sheep hear my voice; and I know them, and they follow me,” &c.

In these words, our Lord refers to a conversation which he had recently had with them respecting his sheep; and goes on to declare,

I.    Their character—

This is delineated with great simplicity:

1.   They hear his voice—

Sheep that are well attended, are always observant of the shepherd’s voice: so is the Christian also of the voice of Christ. Christ speaks to us in his word as truly as ever he spake to his Disciples in the days of his flesh: and it is the delight of all his people to hear and obey his word. The inspired volume is to them a source, an inexhaustible source, of comfort: they read it, they meditate upon it, they pray over it, they “esteem it more than their necessary food.” When they open it, they look up to their Divine Master, and say, “Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth;” “Open thou mine eyes, that I may see wondrous things out of thy law.” Directions, warnings, invitations, promises, are all alike acceptable to them: everything that conveys to them the mind and will of their good Shepherd, is received with implicit faith, and unreserved obedience.

2.   They follow his steps—

In the written word they behold the path their Savior trod; and wherever they see the traces of his feet, they endeavor to follow. They inquire not whether the way be arduous and self-denying, or perilous and beset with enemies; all that they desire is, to ascertain precisely the path of duty; and then to walk in it with steadiness and perseverance. They plainly see that their Shepherd is gone before them towards Zion, regardless of all dangers, indifferent to all the things of this world, and intent only on executing the will of his heavenly Father; and thither they direct their steps, cultivating in everything “the mind that was in him,” and endeavoring “to walk as he walked.”

In proportion as they pursue this path, they augment,

II.   Their happiness—

The Lord Jesus Christ regards them with approbation—

It is true that he “knows them” all by name; nay more, he knows everything relating to them, their wants, their weaknesses, their fears, their trials, their exertions, their desires. But the word in our text is intended to express the approbation with which their Shepherd notices their well-meant endeavors. And what can afford them greater happiness than the enjoyment of his favor? “In his favor is life; and his loving-kindness is better than life itself.” Is it asked, How be conveys to them a sense of his favor? I answer, by “the witness of his Spirit,” by “the testimony of their own conscience,” by “shedding abroad his love in their hearts through the Holy Ghost.” It is a certain truth, that “he will manifest himself to them as he does not unto the world:” and he “will give them the white stone, wherein is a new name written, which no man knoweth, saving he that receiveth itb.” In this sense of his love, they have a “peace that passeth all understanding,” and “a joy with which the stranger intermeddleth not.”

He loads them with his richest benefits—

Whatever he bestows upon them in this world, it is but a taste before the banquet, a drop before the shower, a pledge and earnest of infinitely richer blessings in the world to come. “He gives unto them eternal life:” he has prepared other pastures for them in heaven, where all his sheep from the commencement to the end of time shall be collected, and form “one-fold under one Shepherd.” If their “joys” even here are sometimes “unspeakable,” who shall declare the happiness reserved for them against that day? Never for a moment will they lose sight of their Beloved: they will hear his voice day and night: they will follow him incessantly without any weariness or difficulty: the richest images that can be borrowed from earthly things are incapable of conveying the smallest idea of the felicity that awaits them. And all this is given them; it is given them freely; it is given them now: it is said in our text, not, “I will give them,” but, “I give them:” the very moment that they are brought home to his fold, he bestows it on them: they have instantly a right and title to it; and when they go hence, they go and take possession of it, not as a new gift which shall then be conferred, but as an inheritance, which by the surest of all titles, they have before been enabled to call their own.

Their ultimate possession of these benefits is insured to them in such a manner, as warrants us to affirm and to rejoice in,

III.  Their security—

Nothing shall be permitted to rob them of their inheritance—

Sheep may perish either from internal disorders, or from outward enemies: and it should seem that the sheep of Christ also may fail of attaining eternal blessedness either through the corruptions of their own hearts, or through the assaults of their spiritual enemies. But against both these dangers their Shepherd has engaged to protect them: “they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of his hand.” It is here taken for granted, that they are exposed to things, which, without the intervention of Omnipotence to prevent it, might terminate in their destruction: and every one of them feels that this is really the case. But Jesus guarantees, if I may so say, their safety: he has himself begun the good work in them, and he undertakes to perfect it: he “has laid the foundation in their hearts, and he will finish it, and bring forth the top-stone:” he has reserved heaven for them; and he will keep them for itc.

For this Jesus pledges his own veracity and his Father’s power—

It is not asserted here, that they shall never be tempted: nor is it asserted that they shall never fall: but it is asserted that they shall never perish, nor be plucked out of their Redeemer’s hand. What shall we say then? That they are at liberty to live in sin? No; there is no such license allowed them. The way in which they shall be kept from perishing, is, by giving them “grace sufficient for them,” by enabling them to “mortify the deeds of the body,” and by sanctifying them throughout “in body, soul, and spirit,” and by “bruising Satan under their feet.” In this way they shall be made “more than conquerors through Him that loved them.” And, because Jesus was about to leave his Disciples, and to commit the keeping of them to his heavenly Father, he pledges himself, that his Father also, who was infinitely above all created Powers, yea, and greater than he himself also, as man, and as Mediator, should effectually preserve them; and that no enemy should prevail against them, unless he should first overcome Jehovah himself. This then being secured to them by a promise that cannot fail, and by a power that cannot he overcome, we may congratulate the sheep of Christ in the words of their good Shepherd; “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

Now because of the singular importance of this subject, we shall,

1.   Guard it against abuse—

By referring the final issue of our warfare to the veracity and power of God, rather than to the faithfulness and diligence of man, it may be thought that we open a door for licentiousness of manners, or at least for carelessness and indifference in our spiritual concerns. But if it be recollected what has been stated as the character of Christ’s sheep, (that “they hear his voice” and “follow his steps;”) and what has been declared as to the manner of perfecting in them the good work, (that God enables them to mortify sin, and to vanquish Satan;) what room can there be for the objection of its tending to licentiousness? If however there be any man disposed to say, ‘God will not suffer me to perish, therefore I will be careless about my walk and conduct,’ he needs nothing more to prove that he is not one of Christ’s sheep; he has not the smallest resemblance to his sheep; he is altogether deaf to the voice of Christ; he walks in a way directly opposite to his; and, instead of vanquishing sin and Satan, he is overcome by them. Whatever therefore he may call himself, he is no other than a wolf in sheep’s clothing. To imagine that he can attain the end without the means, is absurd; for God has ordained not only the end, but the means, and the end BY the means. See how clearly this is stated by St. Paul: “God,” says he, “hath from, the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truthd.” To what hath God chosen us? to enjoy the means of grace? to possess heaven, if we can earn it by our good works? No; he has chosen us to salvation, even “to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” But has he left it to our choice in what way this end shall be attained? No: he has appointed “sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth,” as the way to it: and if we are not proceeding in that way, it is in vain to think of ever attaining that end. If we choose to walk in sin, we may; but it will infallibly lead us to perdition: holiness is the appointed path to heaven; and “without holiness no man shall see the Lord.” To those, therefore, who would take the comfort arising from this subject, we recommend, that they judge of their state by their character and conduct: if they resemble Christ, and are walking truly in his ways, let them confidently trust in Him who “is able to keep them from falling, and to present them faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy:” but let them never entertain the thought of reaching heaven in any other than the appointed way: for, if they resemble “the goats,” it is in vain to hope that they shall have their portion with “the sheep.”

2.   Defend it against objections—

Many are the objections confidently urged against the doctrines here maintained: and I most willingly acknowledge that these mysterious truths are to be stated with extreme caution, and that they should occupy only such a space in our general ministrations as they appear to occupy in the Holy Scriptures. Yet we must not keep back any part of divine truth; but, when occasion offers, must “declare the whole counsel of God.” It is true, that many pious men cannot receive these doctrines; and therefore we should, as much as possible, avoid such a statement of them as may wound their minds: still, however, we are not called to suppress the mention of them, but only to concede to others what we claim for ourselves, the right of forming our own judgment, and of being treated with respect and candor by those who differ from us.

It is said that the doctrines before stated are contrary to Scripture, to fact, and to the interests of morality.

The Scripture, it is said, abounds with warnings and exhortations to obedience; in many of which our final enjoyment of God’s favor is actually suspended on our perseverance in his ways. All this is true; and we are grieved, when any, from an undue attachment to human systems, attempt to deny it: but is it not also true that the Scriptures abound with passages of like import with the texte? The great fault of those who adopt human systems is, that they will be wise above what is written, and, instead of receiving God’s word as little children, will presume to reject everything which they cannot reconcile with their own favorite opinions. Who could ever reconcile God’s fore-knowledge with the free-will of man? but who will venture to deny either? So, we may not see how to reconcile God’s determination to keep his people, with his cautions against the danger of apostasy; and yet God’s determinations may exist, without superseding the need of fear and caution on our part; nay, I am persuaded, that they are carried into effect by means of that very fear which his warnings inspire. And this is, I apprehend, the true solution of the difficulty, as far as it can be solved by man. God’s precepts teach us what we ought to do: his exhortations put us upon making every exertion in our power: his threatenings humble us for our short-comings and defects: his promises incline us to look to him for strength: and his covenanted engagements encourage us to “hope even against hope,” and to renew our exertions in an assured expectation of ultimate success. View the different portions of Scripture in this way, and, whatever the heat of controversy may lead men to urge against each other, there will be found no real opposition between them, but a perfect harmony in every part.

But, it may be said, it is contrary to fact that the Lord’s people are so preserved; for the inspired records inform us of many who “make shipwreck of their faith,” and “whose end,” in consequence of their apostasy, was “worse than their beginning.” This also is true: but it disproves not one atom of what is asserted in our text.

Hear what St. John says to this very point: he acknowledges that some had apostatized from the truth: but, says he, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest, that they were not all of usf.” To this it may be replied, that, if apostates are disclaimed as having ever really belonged to Christ, it is impossible to tell who do really belong to him. I readily acknowledge, that no man can know either that he himself belongs to Christ, or that any other person does, except by his works, or in any degree further than he is warranted by his life and conversation. If a man have the mark and character of Christ’s sheep, he may have a good hope that he belongs to Christ; but the very moment that he declines from that character, his evidences of relation to Christ decay, and, together with them, his hope of ultimate acceptance with him. “The foundation of God standeth sure; the Lord knoweth them that are his: but let everyone that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.”

As to the objection that these doctrines are contrary to the interests of morality, it has been already answered, when we were guarding this subject from abuse. The doctrine that asserts that we shall be kept in the way of holiness, can never be inimical to the interests of holiness. But we would further ask, What must be the effect of denying these doctrines? Will not men be tempted to trust in an arm of flesh? and will not that issue in disappointment? and will not repeated disappointments tend to create despondency? People are apt to dread the idea of despondency as connected with the doctrines of grace: but we will venture to affirm, that, for one instance of despondency arising from a view of the sovereignty of God, and of our entire dependence upon his power and grace, a hundred instances arise from want of just views of this subject. What is the answer which we uniformly receive when we exhort men to walk in the steps of Christ? Is it not this! ‘We cannot: You require more of us, than we are able to perform?’ Of course, in these persons exertion is discouraged; and they remain bond-slaves of Satan, because they conceive it impossible that they should be delivered from his power: whereas, the person who believes that God is all-sufficient and faithful to his promises, is encouraged to renew his application to him from day to day, and, even under the most distressing circumstances, to expect a happy termination of his conflicts. A view of God, as “able to keep us from falling,” and as engaged to “perfect that which concerneth us,” will be a cordial to the drooping soul: and will enable us to adopt the triumphant language of Christ himself; “He is near that justifieth me; who will contend with me? Let us stand together; Who is mine adversary I let him come near to me. Behold, the Lord God will help me; who is he that shall condemn meg?” And what the effect will be of such a cheering hope as this, I leave you to judge. Only see it realized in the Apostle Paul, and we have no fear about any conclusions that shall be drawn from ith.

3.   Improve it for your encouragement—

What unspeakable encouragement is here afforded to those who are yet ignorant of Christ! Who can hear this saying, and not wish to be numbered amongst his sheep? Methinks the hope of obtaining such security should induce everyone to return from his wanderings, and to put himself under his guidance and protection. Where shall we find any such promise made to those who are at a distance from the fold of Christ? Where has God said to them, “Ye shall never perish?” To them belongs rather that tremendous threatening, “Except ye repent, ye shall all perish.” O that all who are going astray might consider this, and “return immediately to the Shepherd and Bishop of their souls!”

To you who have fled to him for refuge, here is indeed strong consolation. You are sensible of manifold corruptions, any one of which is sufficient to destroy your souls. You feel your weakness too, and your utter inability to withstand that roaring lion that seeketh to devour you. What then would you do, if you were left to preserve yourselves by the unassisted efforts of your own strength and resolution 2 To you it is no little joy to be assured, that you are in the hands of an Omnipotent Being, against whom neither earth nor hell shall ever be able to prevail, and who engages in your behalf, that you shall never perishi. Learn then to “cast your care on Him,” and to commit the keeping of your souls to Him in well-doing, as into the hands of a faithful Creatork.”[1]

 

 

b Rev. 2:17.

c 1 Pet. 1:4, 5.

d 2 Thess. 2:13, 14.

e Job 17:9. Isai. 54:17. Jer. 32:40.

f 1 John 2:19. See this also confirmed by facts, Luke 22:31, 32. John 17:12.

g Isai. 50:8, 9.

h Rom. 8:33–39.

i 1 John 4:4.

k 1 Pet. 4:19.

[1] Simeon, C. (1833). Horae Homileticae: Luke XVII to John XII (Vol. 13, pp. 511–519). London: Holdsworth and Ball. (Public Domain)


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