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  • Samuel at Gilgal

    This year I will be sharing brief excerpts from the articles, sermons, and books I am currently reading. My posts will not follow a regular schedule but will be published as I find well-written thoughts that should be of interest to maturing Christian readers. Whenever possible, I encourage you to go to the source and read the complete work of the author.

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Samuel Davies: Can A Man Create Himself Or Raise Himself From The Dead?

Samuel Davies

Christ says, “No man can come unto me, except the Father draw him.” (John 6:44) Therefore, the agency of divine grace is necessary to draw sinners to Christ. Afterwards, it is this grace that also makes them fruitful. Samuel Davies provides an excellent explanation of this process:

“So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.” (I Corinthians 3:7, Hanover County, Virginia, November 19, 1752)

We may infer the same thing from the many passages of sacred writ ascribing the success of the gospel upon sinners, and even upon believers, to the agency of divine grace. If even a well- disposed Lydia gives a believing attention to the things spoken by Paul, it is, because the Lord hath opened her heart, Acts 16:14. Thus the Philippians believed, because, says the apostle, to you it is given on the behalf of Christ to believe, Philippians 1:29. Thus the Ephesians were spiritually alive, because says he, you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins, Ephesians 2:1. Faith is not of ourselves; but is expressly said to be the gift of God, Ephesians 2:8. Nay, the implantation of faith is represented as an exploit of omnipotence, like that of the resurrection of Christ. Hence the apostle prays, Ephesians 1:19-20, that the Ephesians might be made deeply sensible of the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward that believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead.

Repentance is also the gift of God: Christ is exalted to bestow it, Acts 5:31. When the Jewish Christians heard of the success of the gospel among the Gentiles, they unanimously ascribed it to God: then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life, Acts 11:18, and it is upon this encouragement that Paul recommends the use of proper means to reclaim the obstinate: if God, peradventure, will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth, II Timothy 2:25. Regeneration, also in which faith and repentance and other graces are implanted, is always ascribed to God. If all things are made new, all these things are of God, II Corinthians 5:17-18. If while others reject Christ some receive him, and so are honored with the privilege of becoming the sons of God, it is not owing to themselves, but to him. They are born, not of blood, nor of the will of man, nor of the will of the flesh, but of God, John 1:11-13. He begets such of his own sovereign will by the word of truth, James 1:18, and every good and perfect gift with which they are endowed is not from themselves, but from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, who is the great origin of all moral excellency, as the sun is of light, verse 17. Hence this change is expressed by such terms as denote the divine agency, and exclude that of the creature; as a new birth, John 3:3, a new creation, II Corinthians 5:17, Colossians 3:10, the workmanship of God created in Christ Jesus, Ephesians 2:10, a resurrection from the dead, John 5:25, Ephesians 2:1, Colossians 3:1. Now it is the greatest absurdity to speak of a man’s begetting, of his creating himself, or raising himself from the dead.

Thus we find that the first implantation of grace in the heart of a sinner is entirely the work of God; and, lest we should suppose that, when it is once implanted, it can flourish and grow without the influence of heaven, we find that the progress of sanctification in believers is ascribed to God, as well as their first conversion. David was sensible, after all his attainments, that he could not run the way of God’s commandments unless God should enlarge his heart, Psalm 119:32. All the hopes of Paul concerning his promising converts at Philippi depended upon his persuasion, that he that had begun a good work in them, would perform it until the day of Christ, Philippians 1:6. Nay, it was upon this he placed his own entire dependence. We are not sufficient of ourselves, says he, to think anything as of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God, II Corinthians 3:5. If I am faithful, it is “because I have obtained mercy of the Lord to make me so,” I Corinthians 7:25. By the grace of God I am what I am; and if I have labored more abundantly than others, it is not I, but the grace of God that was with me, I Corinthians 15:10. I can do all things through Christ that strengtheneth me, Philippians 4:13. (“The Success of the Ministry of the Gospel, Owing to a Divine Influence”)

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Christ’s Persevering Love

Robert Murray M'Cheyne

The true measure of life is not its length, but its usefulness. Robert Murray M’Cheyne’s ministry lasted but a short seven and a half years (He died at the age of 29.), yet the fruitfulness of that brief life remains active to this day. M’Cheyne left notes of only some 300 sermons when he died in 1843, but his sermons continue to bless. He once counseled a fellow pastor: “Get your texts from God – your thoughts, your words, from God… It is not great talents God blesses so much as great likeness to Jesus. A holy minister is an awful weapon in the hand of God.” Below, M’Cheyne elaborates on love and perseverance:

“For the love of Christ constrains us.” (II Cor. 5:14)

[I]f Christ’s love to us be the object which the Holy Spirit makes use of, at the very first, to draw us to the service of Christ, it is by means of the same object that He draws us to persevere even unto the end. So that if you are visited with seasons of coldness and indifference; if you begin to be weary, or lag behind in the service of God, behold! Here is the remedy: look again to the bleeding Savior. That Sun of Righteousness is the grand attractive centre, round which all His saints move swiftly, and in smooth harmonious concert, “not without song”. As long as the believing eye is fixed upon His love, the path of the believer is easy and unimpeded; for that love always constrains. But lift off the believing eye, and that path becomes impracticable, the life of holiness a weariness.

Whoever, then, would live a life of persevering holiness, let him keep his eye fixed on the Savior. As long as Peter looked only to the Savior, he walked upon the sea in safety, to go to Jesus; but when he looked around and saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid, and beginning to sink, cried, “Lord, save me!” Just so will it be with you. As long as you look believingly to the Savior, who loved you, and gave Himself for you, so long you may tread the waters of life’s troubled sea, and the soles of your feet shall not be wet. But venture to look around upon the winds and waves that threaten you on every hand, and, like Peter, you begin to sink, and cry, “Lord, save me!” How justly, then, may we address to you the Savior’s rebuke to Peter: “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” Look again to the love of the Savior, and behold that love which constrains you to live no more to yourself, but to Him that died for you and rose again. (“The Love of Christ”)

Can A Man Be Frightened Into Holiness?

Robert Murray McCheyne

Robert Murray M'Cheyne

Christ’s love for us is the object which the Holy Spirit uses to draw us to the service of Christ. Christ’s love is also the means that the Holy Spirit uses to draw us to persevere to the end. As long as the believing eye is fixed upon His love, the path of the believer’s sanctification will be traveled. Christ’s love always constrains us. However, if the believing eye is directed elsewhere, the life of holiness becomes drudgery. Robert Murray M’Cheyne explains the necessity of love in living a holy life:

“For the love of Christ constrains us.” (II Cor. 5:14)

It is truly admirable to see how the Bible way of making us holy is suited to our nature. Had God proposed to frighten us into a holy life, how vain would have been the attempt! Men have always an idea, that if one came from the dead to tell us of the reality of the doleful regions where dwell in endless misery the spirits of the damned, that that would constrain us to live a holy life; but what ignorance does this not show of our mysterious nature!

Suppose that God should this hour unveil before our eyes the secrets of those dreadful abodes where hope never comes; suppose, if it were possible, that you were actually made to feel for a season the real pains of the lake of living agony, and the worm that never dies; and then that you were brought back again on earth, and placed in your old situation, among your old friends and companions; do you really think that there would be any chance of your walking with God as a child? I doubt not you would be frightened out of your positive sins; the cup of godless pleasure would drop from your hand; you would shudder at an oath, you would tremble at a falsehood, because you had seen and felt something of the torment that awaits the drunkard, and the swearer, and the liar, in the world beyond the grave; but do you really think that you would live to God any more than you did, that you would serve Him better than before? It is quite true you might be driven to give larger charity; yea, to give all your goods to feed the poor, and your body to be burned; you might live strictly and soberly, most fearful of breaking one of the commandments, all the rest of your days: but this would not be living to God, you would not love Him one whit more. You are sadly blinded to your curiously formed hearts, if you do not know that love cannot be forced; no man was ever frightened into love, and, therefore, no man was ever frightened into holiness.

But thrice blessed be God, He has invented a way more powerful than hell and all its terrors; an argument mightier far than even a sight of those torments; He has invented a way of drawing us to holiness. By showing us the love of his Son, He calls forth our love. He knew our frame; He remembered that we were dust; He knew all the peculiarities of our treacherous hearts; and, therefore, He suited His way of sanctifying to the creature to be sanctified. Thus, the Spirit does not make use of terror to sanctify us, but of love. (“The love of Christ constrains us”)

 

His Love Brings Peace

Robert Murray McCheyne

God has invented a way of drawing us to holiness. When he shows forth the love of his Son, God calls forth our love. Robert Murray M’Cheyne touches on this idea in the excerpt below:

“For the love of Christ constrains us.” (II Cor. 5:14)

The love of Christ to man constrains the believer to live a holy life; because that truth not only takes away our fear and hatred, but stirs up our love.

When we are brought to see the reconciled face of God in peace, that is a great privilege. But how can we look upon that face, reconciling and reconciled, and not love him who has so loved us? Love begets love. We can hardly keep from esteeming those on earth who really love us, how worthless they may be. But when we are convinced that God loves us, and convinced in such a way as by the giving up of His Son for us all, how shall we but love Him, in whom are all excellences – everything to call forth love?

I have already shown you that the gospel is a restorative scheme; it brings us back to the same state of friendship with God which Adam enjoyed, and thus takes away the desire of sin. But now I wish to show you, that the gospel does far more than restore us to the state from which we fell. If rightly and consistently embraced by us, it brings us into a state far better than Adam’s. It constrains us by a more powerful motive. Adam had not this strong love of God to man shed abroad in his heart; and, therefore, he had not this constraining power to make him live to God. But our eyes have seen this great sight. Before us Christ has been evidently set forth crucified. If we really believe, His love has brought us into peace, through pardon; and because we are pardoned and at peace with God, the Holy Spirit is given us. What to do? Why, just to shed abroad this truth over our hearts, to show us more and more of this love of God to us, that we may be drawn to love Him who has so loved us, to live to Him who has so loved us, to live to Him who died for us and rose again. (“The Love of Christ”)

What Is True Success?

J. R. Miller

People are very concerned with success. Some are consumed by the desire for it. They will neglect family to have more time to climb the ladder of their career. They must always drive as good or better cars than their friends or neighbors. They must always dress themselves and their children in the latest name-brand clothes.

It is not that wanting to be successful is inherently wrong; it is in discerning the right goals and assigning values to the various areas of our lives that we often make wrong choices. Christians, in particular, should remember the words of Paul: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10) J. R. Miller (1840 – 1912) discusses this problem in the article below:

What is the true aim in life?

What should one, setting out to make his way through this world—take as the goal of all his living and striving?

‘Views of life’ differ widely. Many think they are in this world to make a career for themselves. They set out with some splendid vision of success in their mind—and they devote their life to the realizing of this vision. If they fail in this, they suppose they have failed in life. If they achieve their dream—they consider themselves, and are considered by others, as successful.

The world has no other standard of success:

• it may be the amassing of wealth;

• it may be the winning of power among men;

• it may be the triumph of a certain skill;

• or genius in art, in literature, in music, etc.

But whatever the definite object may be, it is purely an earthly ambition.

Applying this standard to life—but few men are really successful. Great men are as rare as lofty mountain peaks. Only a few win the high places; the mass remain in the low valleys. Only a few win honor, rise into fame, and achieve ‘distinction’; while the great multitude remain in obscurity—or go down in the dust of earthly defeat.

Is this the only standard of success in life? Do all men, except for the few who win earth’s prizes, really fail? Is there no other kind of success? The world’s answer gives no comfort to those who find themselves among the unhonored. . . .

The true test of life—is character. Everything else is extraneous, belonging only to the husk, which shall fall off in the day of ripening! Character is the kernel, the wheat—that which is true and enduring. Nothing else is worth while—except that which we can carry with us through death, and into eternity! “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18

It is altogether possible that a man may fail of winning any earthly greatness, any distinction among men, anything that will immortalize him in this world’s calendars—and yet be richly and nobly successful in spiritual things, in character, in a ministry of usefulness, in things which shall abide—when mountains have crumbled into dust! It is possible for one to fall behind in the race for wealth and honor—and yet all the while to be building up in himself—an eternal fabric of beauty and strength!

What is the standard of success in the sphere of the unseen and the eternal? It is the doing of the will of God. He who does the will of God—makes his life radiant and beautiful, though in the world’s scale he is rated as having altogether failed in the battle. He who is true, just, humble, pure, pleasing God and living unselfishly—is the only man who really succeeds—while all others fail.

Really, there is no other final and infallible standard of living. One who writes his name highest in earth’s lists, and yet has not done God’s will—has failed, as God Himself looks at his career.

God had a purpose in our creation—and we only succeed, when our life carries out this purpose. The most radiant career, as it appears to men, means nothing—if it is not that for which God made us. We fail in life—if we do not realize God’s will for us.

We live worthily—only when we do what God sent us here to do. A splendid career in the sight of men—has no splendor in God’s sight!

Not the making of a fine worldly career, therefore—but the simple doing of God’s will—is the one true aim in living. Only thus can we achieve real success. If we do this, though we fail in the earthly race—we shall not fail in God’s sight. We may make no name among men, may raise for ourselves no monument of earthly glory—but if we please God by a life of obedience and humble service, and build up within us a character in which divine virtues shine, we shall have attained abiding success!

God’s Love Lost?

Robert Murray McCheyne

It is God who tells us that our hearts are “desperately wicked. I’m sure that many of you hear this charge with indignation and say it cannot be true. Yet, God claims for Himself the privilege of knowing and trying the heart. God says that “the carnal mind is enmity against God”. The inclination of the unconverted mind is hatred against god. We may not be conscious of this hatred within us, but that is because we have made our true self-consciousness into a maze of self-deception. The dread and hatred of God, is an impelling force which blinds us to our true state of being. Robert Murray M’Cheyne (1813-1843) explains mans dilemma:

“For the love of Christ constrains us.” (II Cor. 5:14)

When Adam was unfallen, God was everything to his soul; and everything was good and desirable to him, only in so far as it had to do with God. Every vein of his body, so fearfully and wonderfully made, every leaf that rustled in the bowers of Paradise, every new sun that rose, rejoicing like a strong man to run his race, brought him in every day new subjects of godly thought and of admiring praise; and it was only for that reason that he could delight to look on them. The flowers that appeared on the earth, the singing of birds, and the voice of the turtle heard throughout the happy land, the fig tree putting forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grapes giving a good smell, all these combined to bring in to him at every pore a rich and varied tribute of pleasantness. And why? Just because they brought into the soul rich and varied communications of the manifold grace of Jehovah. For, just as you may have seen a child on earth devoted to its earthly parent, pleased with everything when he is present, and valuing every gift just as it shows more of the tenderness of that parent’s heart, so was it with that genuine child of God. In God he lived, and moved, and had his being; and not more surely would the blotting out of the sun in the heavens have taken away that light which is so pleasant to the eyes, than would the hiding of the face of God from him have taken away the light of his soul, and left nature a dark and desolate witness. But when Adam fell, the fine gold became dim; the system of his thoughts and likings was just reversed. Instead of enjoying God in everything, and everything in God, everything now seemed hateful and disagreeable to him, just in as far as it had to do with God.

When man sinned, then he feared, and hated Him whom he feared; and fled to all sin just to flee from Him whom he hated. So that, just as you may have seen a child who has grievously transgressed against a loving parent doing all it can to hide that parent from its view, hurrying from his presence and plunging into other thoughts and occupations, just to rid itself of the thought of its justly offended father; in the very same way when fallen Adam heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, that voice which before he sinned was heavenly music in his ears – then “Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden”. And in the same way does every natural man run from the voice and presence of the Lord, not to hide under the thick embowering leaves of Paradise, but to bury himself in cares and business and pleasures and reveling. Any retreat is agreeable, where God is not; any occupation is tolerable, if God be not in the thoughts.

Now I am quite sure that many of you may hear this charge against the natural man with incredulous indifference, if not with indignation. You do not feel that you hate God, or dread his presence; and therefore you say it cannot be true. But when God says of your heart that it is “desperately wicked”; when god claims for Himself the privilege of knowing and trying the heart, is it not presumptuous in such ignorant beings as we are to say that that is not true with respect to our hearts, which God affirms to be true, merely because we are not conscious of it? God says that “the carnal mind is enmity against God”, that the very grain and substance of an unconverted mind is hatred against god, absolute, implacable hatred against Him in whom we live, and move, and have our being. It is quite true that we do not feel this hatred within us; but that is only an aggravation of our sin and of our danger. We have so choked up the avenues of self-examination, there are so many turnings and windings before we can arrive at the true motives of our actions, that our dread and hatred of God, which first moved man to sin, and which are still the grand impelling forces whereby Satan goads on the children of disobedience; these are wholly concealed from our vies, and you cannot persuade a natural man that they are really there. But the Bible testifies that out of these two deadly roots – dread of God- – and hatred of God grows up the thick forest of sins with which the earth is blackened and overspread. And if there be one among you, who has been awakened by God to know what is in his heart, I take that men this day to witness that his bitter cry, in view of all his sins, has ever been: “Against thee, thee only have I sinned.”

If, then, dread of God, and hatred of God, be the cause of all our sins, how shall we be cured of the love of sin, but by taking away the cause? How do you most effectually kill the noxious weed? Is it not by striking at the root? In the love of Christ to man then – in that strange, unspeakable gift of God, when He laid down His life for His enemies, when He died the just for the unjust that he might bring us to God – do you not see an object which, if really believed by the sinner, takes away all his dread and all his hatred of God? The root of sin is severed from the stock. In His bearing double for all our sins, we see the curse carried away, we see God reconciled. Why should we fear any more? Not fearing, why should we hate God any more? Not hating God, what desirableness can we see in sin any more? Putting on the righteousness of Christ, we are again placed as Adam was, with God as our friend. We have no object in sinning; and, therefore, we do not care to sin.

In the sixth chapter of Romans Paul seems to speak of the believer sinning, as if the very proposition were absurd. “How shall we, that are dead to sin,” that is, who in Christ have already borne the penalty – “how shall we live any longer therein?” And again he says very boldly: “Sin shall not have dominion over you” – it is impossible in the nature of things – “for you are not under the law, but under grace”; you are no longer under the curse of a broken law, dreading and hating God; you are under grace; under a system of piece and friendship with God.

But is there anyone ready to object to me that if these things be so, if nothing more than that a man may be brought into peace with god is needful to a holy life and conversation, how comes it that believers do still sin? I answer, it is indeed too true that believers do sin; but it is just as true that unbelief is the cause of their sinning. If you and I were to live with our eye so closely on Christ bearing double for all our sins, freely offering to all a double righteousness for all our sins; and if this constant view of the love of Christ maintained within us, as assuredly it would if we looked with a straightforward eye, the peace of God which passes all understanding – the peace that rests on nothing in us, but upon the completeness that is in Christ – then I do say that, frail and helpless as we are, we should never sin; we should not have the slightest object in sinning. But this is not the way with us. How often in the day is the love of Christ quite out of view! How often is it obscured to us! Sometimes hid from us by God Himself, to teach us what we are. How often are we left without the realizing sense of the completeness of His offering, the perfectness of His righteousness, and without the will or confidence to claim an interest in Him! Who can wonder then that, where there is so much unbelief, dread and hatred of God should again creep in, and sin should often display its poisonous head.

The matter is very plain, if only we had spiritual eyes to see it. If we live a life of faith on the Son of God, then we shall assuredly live a life of holiness. I do not say we ought to do so; but I say, we shall, as a matter of necessary consequence. But in as far as we do not live a life of faith, in so far we shall live a life of unholiness. It is through faith that God purifies the heart; and there is no other way.

Is there one of you, then, desirous of being made new, of being delivered from the slavery of sinful habits and affections. We can point you to no other remedy but the love of Christ. Behold how He loves you! See what He bore for you; put your finger, as it were, into the prints of the nails, and thrust your hand into His side; and be no more faithless, but believing. Under a sense of your sin, flee to the Savior of sinners. As the timorous dove flies to hide itself in the crevices of the rock, so do you flee to hide yourself in the wounds of your Savior; and when you have found Him, like the shadow of a great rock in a weary land; when you sit under His shadow, with great delight; you will find that He has slain all the enmity, that He has accomplished all your warfare. God is now for you. Planted together with Christ in the likeness of His death, you shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection. Dead unto sin, you shall be alive unto God.

Living Unto God

Robert Murray McCheyne

Robert Murray M'Cheyne

Why do believers in Christ still sin? Believers do sin and unbelief is the cause of their sinning. However, if we Christians were to live with our eyes focused ever so closely on Christ – who bore our sins – and freely offers His righteousness for all our sins, then this constant view of the love of Christ maintained within us would provide the peace that rests on nothing in us. This is peace in Christ, which constrains us, helpless as we are, to live holy lives to the honor of God. Robert Murray M’Cheyne (1813-1843) explains further:

“For the love of Christ constrains us.” (II Cor. 5:14)

I appeal to those of you who know what it is to be just by believing. What is it that still clouds the brow, which represses the exulting of the spirit? Why might we not always join in the song of thanksgiving: “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: who forgives all thine iniquities”! If we have received double for all our sins, why should it ever be needful for us to argue as does the psalmist: “Why art thou cast down, O my soul: and why are thou disquieted within me?” My friends there is not a man among you who has really believed, who has not felt the disquieting thought of which I am now speaking. There may be some of you who have felt it so painfully, that it has obscured, as with a heavy cloud, the sweet light of gospel peace, the shining in of the reconciled countenance upon the soul. The thought is this: “I am a justified man; but, alas! I am not a sanctified man. I can look at my past life without despair; but how can I look forward to what is to come?”

Now it is to the man precisely in this situation, crying out at morning and at evening, “How shall I be made new?” What good shall the forgiveness of my past sins do me, if I be not delivered from the love of sin? It is to that man that we would now, with all earnestness and affection, point out the example of Paul, and the secret power which wrought in him. “The love of Christ” (says Paul) “constraineth us.” We, too, are men of like passions with yourselves; that same sight, which you view with dismay within you, was in like manner revealed to us in all its discouraging power. Ever and anon the same hideous view of our own hearts is opened up to us. But we have an encouragement which never fails. The love of the bleeding Savior constrains us. The Spirit is given to them that believe; and that almighty agent has one argument that moves us continually – the love of Christ.

[The] hand of the Spirit . . . . [moves] the believer to live unto God; how so simple a truth as the love of Christ to man, continually presented to the mind by the Holy Ghost, should enable any man to live a life of gospel holiness. (Sermon: “The Love of Christ”)

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