The Scriptures & Obedience – Part 2/2

by Arthur W. Pink

4. We profit from the Word when we not only see it is our bounden duty to obey God, but when there is wrought in us a love for His commandments. The “blessed” man is the one whose “delight is in the law of the Lord” (Ps. 1:2).And again we read, “Blessed is the man that fears the Lord, that delights greatly in his commandments” (Ps. 112:1). It affords a real test for our hearts to face honestly the questions, Do I really value His “commandments” as much as I do His promises? Ought I not to do so? Assuredly, for the one proceeds as truly from His love as does the other. The heart’s compliance with the voice of Christ is the foundation for all practical holiness.

 Here again we would earnestly and lovingly beg the reader to attend closely to this detail. Any man who supposes that he is saved and yet has no genuine love for God’s commandment is deceiving himself. Said the Psalmist, “O how love I your law!” (Ps. 119:97). And again, “Therefore I love your commandments above gold; yes, above fine gold” (Ps. 119:127). Should someone object that that was under the Old Testament, we ask, Do you intimate that the Holy Spirit produces a lesser change in the hearts of those whom He now regenerates than He did of old? But a New Testament saint also placed on record, “I delight in the law of God after the inward man” (Rom. 7:22). And, my reader, unless your heart delights in the “law of God” there is something radically wrong with you; yes, it is greatly to be feared that you are spiritually dead.

 5. A man profits from the Word when his heart and will are yielded to all God’s commandments. Partial obedience is no obedience at all. A holy mind declines whatever God forbids, and chooses to practice all He requires, without any exception. If our minds submit not unto God in all His commandments, we submit not to His authority in anything He enjoins. If we do not approve of our duty in its full extent, we are greatly mistaken if we imagine that we have any liking unto any part of it. A person who has no principle of holiness in him may yet be disinclined to many vices and be pleased to practice many virtues, as he perceives the former are unfit actions and the latter are, in themselves, lovely actions, but his disapprobation of vice and approbation of virtue do not arise from any disposition to submit to the will of God.

 True spiritual obedience is impartial. A renewed heart does not pick and choose from God’s commandments: the man who does so is not performing God’s will, but his own. Make no mistake upon this point; if we do not sincerely desire to please God in all things, then we do not truly wish to do so in anything. Self must be denied; not merely some of the things which may be craved, but self itself! A willful allowance of any known sin breaks the whole law (James 2:10, 11). “Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all your commandments” (Ps. 119:6). Said the Lord Jesus, “You are my friends, if you do whatever I command you” (John 15:14): if I am not His friend, then I must be His enemy, for there is no other alternative-see Luke 19:27.

 6. We profit from the Word when the soul is moved to pray earnestly for enabling grace. In regeneration the Holy Spirit communicates a nature which is fitted for obedience according to the Word. The heart has been won by God. There is now a deep and sincere desire to please Him. But the new nature possesses no inherent power, and the old nature or “flesh” strives against it, and the Devil opposes. Thus, the Christian exclaims, “To will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not” (Rom. 7:18). This does not mean that he is the slave of sin, as he was before conversion; but it means that he finds not how fully to realize his spiritual aspirations. Therefore does he pray, “Make me to go in the path of Your commandments; for therein do I delight” (Ps. 119:35). And again, “Order my steps in Your word, and let not any iniquity have dominion over me” (Ps. 119:133).

 Here we would reply to a question which the above statements have probably raised in many minds: Are you affirming that God requires perfect obedience from us in this life? We answer, Yes! God will not set any lower standard before us than that (see 1 Pet. 1:15). Then does the real Christian measure up to that standard? Yes and no! Yes, in his heart, and it is at the heart that God looks (I Sam. 16:7). In his heart every regenerated person has a real love for God’s commandments, and genuinely desires to keep all of them completely. It is in this sense, and this alone, that the Christian is experimentally “perfect.” The word “perfect,” both in the Old Testament (Job 1:1, and Ps. 37:37) and in the new Testament (Phil. 3:15), means “upright”, “sincere”, in contrast with “hypocritical”.

 “Lord, you have heard the desire of the humble” (Ps. 10:17). The “desires” of the saint are the language of his soul, and the promise is, “He will fulfil the desire of those who fear him” (Ps. 145:19). The Christian’s desire is to obey God in all things, to be completely conformed to the image of Christ. But this will only be realized in the resurrection. Meanwhile, God for Christ’s sake graciously accepts the will for the deed (1 Pet. 2:5). He knows our hearts and see in His child a genuine love for and a sincere desire to keep all His commandments, and He accepts the fervent longing and cordial endeavor in lieu of an exact performance (2 Cor. 8:12). But let none who are living in willful disobedience draw false peace and pervert to their own destruction what has just been said for the comfort of those who are heartily desirous of seeking to please God in all the details of their lives.

 If any ask, How am I to know that my “desires” are really those of a regenerate soul? we answer, Saving grace is the communication to the heart of an habitual disposition unto holy acts. The “desires” of the reader are to be tested thus: Are they constant and continuous, or only by fits and starts? Are they earnest and serious, so that you really hunger and thirst after righteousness” (Matt. 5:6) and pant “after God” (Ps. 42:1)? Are they operative and efficacious? Many desire to escape from hell, yet their desires are not sufficiently strong to bring them to hate and turn from that which must inevitably bring them to hell, namely, willful sinning against God. Many desire to go to heaven, but not so that they enter upon and follow that “narrow way” which alone leads there. True spiritual desires use the means of grace and spare no pains to realize them, and continue prayerfully pressing forward unto the mark set before them.

 7. We profit from the Word when we are, even now, enjoying the reward of obedience. “Godliness is profitable unto all things” (1 Tim. 4:8). By obedience we purify our souls (1 Pet. 1:21). By obedience we obtain the ear of God (1 John 3:22), just as disobedience is a barrier to our prayers (Isa. 59:2; Jer. 5:25). By obedience we obtain precious and intimate manifestations of Christ unto the soul (John 14:21). As we tread the path of wisdom (complete subjection to God) we discover that “her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace” (Prov. 3:17). “His commandments are not grievous” (1 John 5:3), and “in keeping of them there is great reward” (Ps. 19:11).

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THE SCRIPTURES AND OBEDIENCE

All professing Christians are agreed, in theory at least, that it is the bounden duty of those who bear His name to honor and glorify Christ in this world. But as to how this is to be done, as to what He requires from us to this end, there is wide difference of opinion. Many suppose that honoring Christ simply means to join some “church,” take part in and support its various activities. Others think that honoring Christ means to speak of Him to others and be diligently engaged in “personal work.” Others seem to imagine that honoring Christ signifies little more than making liberal financial contributions to His cause. Few indeed realize that Christ is honored only as we live holily unto Him, and that, by walking in subjection to His revealed will. Few indeed really believe that word, “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams” (1 Sam. 15:22).

We are not Christians at all unless we have fully surrendered to and “received Christ Jesus the Lord” (Col. 2:6). We would plead with you to ponder that statement diligently. Satan is deceiving many today by leading them to suppose that they are savingly trusting in “the finished work” of Christ while their hearts remain unchanged and self still rules their lives. Listen to God’s Word: “Salvation is far from the wicked; for they seek not your statutes” (Ps. 119:155). Do you really seek His statutes”? Do you diligently search His Word to discover what He has commanded? “He that says, I know Him, and keeps not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:4). What could be plainer than that?

“And why call you me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46). Obedience to the Lord in life, not merely glowing words from the lips, is what Christ requires. What a searching and solemn word is that in James 1:22: “Be you doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves”! There are many “hearers” of the Word, regular hearers, reverent hearers, interested hearers; but alas, what they hear is not incorporated into the life: it does not regulate their way. And God says that they who are not doers of the Word are deceiving their own selves!

Alas, how many such there are in Christendom today! They are not downright hypocrites, but deluded. They suppose that because they are so clear upon salvation by grace alone they are saved. They suppose that because they sit under the ministry of a man who has “made the Bible a new book” to them they have grown in grace. They suppose that because their store of biblical knowledge has increased they are more spiritual. They suppose that the mere listening to a servant of God or reading his writings is feeding on the Word. Not so! We “feed” on the Word only when we personally appropriate, masticate and assimilate into our lives what we hear or read. Where there is not an increasing conformity of heart and life to God’s Word, then increased knowledge will only bring increased condemnation. “And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes” (Luke 12:47).

“Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim 3:7). This is one of the prominent characteristics of the “perilous times” in which we are now living. People hear one preacher after another, attend this conference and that conference, read book after book on biblical subjects, and yet never attain unto a vital and practical acquaintance with the truth, so as to have an impression of its power and efficacy on the soul. There is such a thing as spiritual dropsy, and multitudes are suffering from it. The more they hear, the more they want to hear: they drink in sermons and addresses with avidity, but their lives are unchanged. They are puffed up with their knowledge, not humbled into the dust before God. The faith of God’s elect is “the acknowledging [in the life] of the truth which is after godliness” (Titus 1:1), but to this the vast majority are total strangers.

God has given us His Word not only with the design of instructing us, but for the purpose of directing us: to make known what He requires us to do. The first thing we need is a clear and distinct knowledge of our duty; and the first thing God demands of us is a conscientious practice of it, corresponding to our knowledge. “What does the Lord require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8). “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man (Eccles. 12:13). The Lord Jesus affirmed the same thing when He said, “You are my friends, if you do whatever I command you” (John 15:14).

1. A man profits from the Word as he discovers God’s demands upon him; His undeviating demands, for He changes not. It is a great and grievous mistake to suppose that in this present dispensation God has lowered His demands, for that would necessarily imply that His previous demand was a harsh and unrighteous one. Not so! “The law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good” (Rom. 7:12). The sum of God’s demands is, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might” (Deut. 6:5); and the Lord Jesus repeated it in Matthew 22:37. The apostle Paul enforced the same when he wrote, “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ let him be Anathema” (1 Cor. 16:22).

2. A man profits from the Word when he discovers how entirely and how sinfully he has failed to meet God’s demands. And let us point out for the benefit of any who may take issue with the last paragraph that no man can see what a sinner he is, how infinitely short he has fallen of measuring up to God’s standard, until he has a clear sight of the exalted demands of God upon him! Just in proportion as preachers lower God’s standard of what He requires from every human being, to that extent will their hearers obtain an inadequate and faulty conception of their sinfulness, and the less will they perceive their need of an almighty Savior. But once a soul really perceives what are God’s demands upon him, and how completely and constantly he has failed to render Him His due, then does he recognize what a desperate situation he is in. The law must be preached before any are ready for the Gospel.

3. A man profits from the Word when he is taught therefrom that God, in His infinite grace, has fully provided for His people’s meeting His own demands. At this point, too, much present-day preaching is seriously defective. There is being given forth what may loosely be termed a “half Gospel,” but which in reality is virtually a denial of the true Gospel. Christ is brought in, yet only as a sort of make-weight. That Christ has vicariously met every demand of God upon all who believe upon Him is blessedly true, yet it is only a part of the truth. The Lord Jesus has not only vicariously satisfied for His people the requirements of God’s righteousness, but He has also secured that they shall personally satisfy them too. Christ has procured the Holy Spirit to make good in them what the Redeemer wrought for them.

The grand and glorious miracle of salvation is that the saved are regenerated. A transforming work is wrought within them. Their understandings are illuminated, their hearts are changed, their wills are renewed. They are made “new creatures in Christ Jesus” (2 Cor. 5:17). God refers to this miracle of grace thus: “I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts” (Heb. 8:10). The heart is now inclined to God’s law: a disposition has been communicated to it which answers to its demands; there is a sincere desire to perform it. And thus the quickened soul is able to say, “When you said, Seek you my face; my heart said unto you, your face, Lord, will I seek” (Ps. 27:8).

Christ not only rendered a perfect obedience unto the Law for the justification of His believing people, but He also merited for them those supplies of His Spirit which were essential unto their sanctification, and which alone could transform carnal creatures and enable them to render acceptable obedience unto God. Though Christ died for the “ungodly” (Rom. 5:6), though He finds them ungodly (Rom. 4:5) when He justifies them, yet He does not leave them in that abominable state. On the contrary, He effectually teaches them by His Spirit to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts (Titus 2:12). Just as weight cannot be separated from a stone, or heat from a fire, so cannot justification from sanctification.

When God really pardons a sinner in the court of his Conscience, under the sense of that amazing grace the heart is purified, the life is rectified, and the whole man is sanctified. Christ “gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people [not “careless about” but], zealous of good works” (Titus 2:14). Just as a substance and its properties, causes and their necessary effects are inseparably connected, so are a saving faith and conscientious obedience unto God. Hence we read of “the obedience of faith” (Rom. 16:26).

Said the Lord Jesus, “He that has my commandments, and keeps them, he it is that loves me” (John 14:21). Not in the Old Testament, the Gospels or the Epistles does God own anyone as a lover of Him save the one who keeps His commandments. Love is something more than sentiment or emotion; it is a principle of action, and it expresses itself in something more than honeyed expressions, namely, by deeds which please the object loved. “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments” (1 John 5:3). Oh, my reader, you are deceiving yourself if you do you think love God and yet have no deep desire and make no real effort to walk obediently before Him.

But what is obedience to God? It is far more than a mechanical performance of certain duties. I may have been brought up by Christian parents, and under them acquired certain moral habits, and yet my abstaining from taking the Lord’s name in vain, and being guiltless of stealing, may be no obedience to the third and eighth commandments. Again, obedience to God is far more than conforming to the conduct of His people. I may board in a home where the Sabbath is strictly observed, and out of respect for them, or because I think it is a good and wise course to rest one day in seven, I may refrain from all unnecessary labor on that day, and yet not keep the fourth commandment at all! Obedience is not only subjection to an external law, but it is the surrendering of my will to the authority of another. Thus, obedience to God is the heart’s recognition of His lordship: of His right to command, and my duty to comply. It is the complete subjection of the soul to the blessed yoke of Christ.

That obedience which God requires can proceed only from a heart which loves Him. “Whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord” (Col. 3:23). That obedience which springs from a dread of punishment is servile. That obedience which is performed in order to procure favors from God is selfish and carnal. But spiritual and acceptable obedience is cheerfully given: it is the heart’s free response to and gratitude for the unmerited regard and love of God for us.

Why Read the Puritans

I found this article interesting because I understand where the author is coming from. It might sound a little bit dorky but I can only attribute my love for the Puritan for the past eight years as a work of God. It sounds dorky because when you consider that their work can be found all over the internet, so it does not make much sense to say it was the work of God. The reality is, the people I had around me did not care much for the Puritans. If they did, they did a great job at hiding it. So, when God started teaching me true Christianity and the higher life, I found myself with a spiritual vocabulary that was not available to me before. So as I learned deeper truths from God, at times He would leave me wanting more with a craving to know Him deeper. This is something that God wires in us when we are getting to know Him personally. You find yourself wanting to know Him more and more in spite of circumstances.

 Anyway, whenever my meditation and vision would come to an end, I used to go to the internet and put in those key words that I just learned from God. He has always been faithful to me in leading me to the right Puritan, because each one of them had different strength. It was as if God taught each one of them separately on different doctrine. Through them, I learned to see how Christianity is like a university. But the way it works is that there is a “MAJOR” that every one calling themselves Christians have to go through. This major is a big chunk, kind of like the meat of true Christianity. Then God branch us out and give each of us our own assignment on what our minor should be.

Over time, Google started customizing my search for me and kept suggesting those Puritan items and sites, hence how I found the name Puritans.

 This is not to say that God does not have any awesome pastors out there that I could learn from, but I always find it strange that He constantly led me to the Puritans. This introduction is my way of saying that I agree with all that is contained in Brian G. Hedges Post. If you read the Puritans and you cannot find it in your heart the desire to change your life and reach higher for Him, then you have been short changed when it comes to God’s grace.

 Well, with no further ado, I leave you with Brian’s article.

 

Why Read the Puritans?

by Brian G. Hedges

The Puritans were the 16th century English Protestants and their successors in 16th and 17th century New England, and it was their concern for church reform and spiritual renewal that earned them the originally derogatory epithet puritan. Unfortunately, most people associate the term with legalism, self-righteousness, hypocrisy, and witch hunts, thanks to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter.

 Of course, the Puritans weren’t perfect; yet despite their imperfections, there is much we can learn from them. J. I. Packer once compared the Puritans to California’s gigantic Redwood trees, saying:

As Redwoods attract the eye, because they overtop other trees, so the mature holiness and seasoned fortitude of the great Puritans shine before us as a kind of beacon light, overtopping the stature of the majority of Christians in most eras, and certainly so in this age … when Western Christians sometimes feel and often look like ants in an anthill.

 In my own sampling of Puritan writings, my heart has been greatly helped and my soul stimulated. Following are several reasons I believe pastors should give renewed attention to the Puritans’ writings.

 1. They lift our gaze to the greatness and gladness of GOD.

We are innately man-centered in our thinking about God. As someone once said, “God made man in his own image, and man returned the compliment.”

 The Puritans, unlike many others, lift our gaze to see God’s soul-satisfying transcendence. I’ll never forget my awe of God after spending significant time reading Stephen Charnock’s The Existence and Attributes of God, or the depth of joy in God that I discovered in the writings of Thomas Brooks and Jonathan Edwards. For example, Edwards wrote:

 The enjoyment of [God] is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied. To go to heaven, to fully enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here. Fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, or children, or the company of earthly friends, are but shadows; but the enjoyment of God is the substance. These are but scattered beams, but God is the sun. These are but streams. But God is the fountain. These are but drops; but God is the ocean.

 2. They open our eyes to the beauty and loveliness of CHRIST.

The Puritans were as Christ-centered as they were God-centered. They loved Christ passionately and sought His glory tirelessly. Thomas Goodwin said, “If I were to go to heaven, and find that Christ was not there, I would leave immediately; for heaven without Christ would be hell to me.”

 The Puritans saw Christ on virtually every page of Scripture. Thomas Adams wrote: “Christ is the sum of the whole Bible, prophesied, typified, prefigured, exhibited, demonstrated, to be found in every leaf, almost in every line, the Scriptures being but as it were the swaddling bands of the child Jesus.”  We might occasionally question the accuracy of Puritan exegesis, but surely we can find no fault with their passion for Christ-centeredness.

They especially gloried in the sufficiency of Christ’s atoning work. Jonathan Edwards, in a sermon on Isaiah 32:2, said:

Christ by his obedience, by that obedience which he undertook for our sakes, has honored God abundantly more than the sins of any of us have dishonored him, how many soever, how great soever…. God hates our sins, but not more than he delights in Christ’s obedience which he performed on our account. This is a sweet savor to him, a savor of rest. God is abundantly compensated, he desires no more; Christ’s righteousness is of infinite worthiness and merit.

 3. They prick our consciences with the subtlety and sinfulness of SIN.

There are not many Christian book titles today that include the word sin, but the Puritans were serious about sin and wrote about it often, as just a few of their titles reveal (Ralph Venning’s The Sinfulness of Sin, Jeremiah Burroughs’ The Evil of Evils, Thomas Watson’s The Mischief of Sin).

 Perhaps the most helpful books to me have been John Owen’s classics on the mortification and temptation of sin. To read Owen is to allow a doctor of the soul to do surgery. Owen said, “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.” His counsel on how to kill sin and avoid temptation is the best I’ve ever read.

 4. They ravish and relish the soul with the power and glory of GRACE.

Sometimes Puritans get a bad rap for being legalistic, and perhaps the accusation would occasionally stick—there was, after all, imperfect theology in the 16th century, too! But the Puritans understood grace’s transforming power and glory in dimensions often foreign to us.

 Many contemporary books dealing with sin simply give us lists to live by—things to do and not do. Even a focus on the spiritual disciplines can sometimes be bereft of any real dependence on grace. Contrast that with Owen’s words,

There is no death of sin without the death of Christ…. Set faith at work on Christ–for the killing of your sin…. By faith fill your soul with a due consideration of that provision which is laid up in Jesus Christ for this end and purpose, that all your lusts, this very lust wherewith you are entangled, may be mortified.

Owen does not fail to point the sin-fighting believer to Christ. He clearly shows us that we can only overcome sin by depending on Christ and His cross.

 5. They plumb the depths of the soul with profound biblical, PRACTICAL and psychological insight.

The Puritans were not just theologians; they were pastors, physicians of the soul, and exceptionally good counselors. My wife, who has occasionally read Puritan writing, has commented that the Puritans understood people and how they think.

 One of the most practical Puritan writings is Richard Baxter’s A Christian Directory, called by Tim Keller “the greatest manual on biblical counseling ever produced.” This 900-page tome is divided into four sections: Christian Ethics, Christian Economics, Christian Ecclesiastics, and Christian Politics. In layman’s terms, these deal with the Christian’s personal/spiritual life, home life, church life, and social life.

Here are some of the practical matters Baxter addresses and the pastoral advice he gives.

Under Christian Ethics:

     20 directions “to weak Christians for their establishment and growth”

    5 directions for “redeeming as well as improving time” (including “thieves or time wasters to be watched against,” of which Baxter lists 12)

    10 “directions for the government of the passions”

Under Christian Economics are similar directions for husbands, wives, parents, and children in their specific duties toward one another. I surveyed 10 directions for helping husbands and wives “live in quietness and peace, and avoid all occasions of wrath and discord,” and have never seen anything more practical in a contemporary book on marriage.

 6. They sustain and strengthen the soul through suffering with the SOVEREIGNTY of God.

Because the Puritans were descendants of the English martyrs and were persecuted themselves (thousands of Puritan pastors were ejected from their pulpits in 1662), they were well acquainted with suffering; yet they trusted God’s good providence in and over suffering. For the Puritans, suffering was purposeful.

Thomas Watson said, “God’s rod is a pencil to draw Christ’s image more lively on us,” while John Flavel wrote, “Let a Christian … be but two or three years without an affliction, and he is almost good for nothing.”

 In another volume, Flavel said, “Oh, what owe I to the file, and to the hammer, and to the furnace of my Lord Jesus! who has now let me see how good the wheat of Christ is, that goes through his mill, and his oven, to be made bread for his own table. Grace tried is better than grace, and more than grace. It is glory in its infancy.”

 Few books could be more helpful for all Christians than John Flavel’s The Mystery of Providence, Thomas Watson’s All Things for Good, Thomas Brooks’ A Mute Christian Under the Rod, or Thomas Boston’s The Crook in the Lot.

 7. They set our sights and focus our affections on ETERNAL REALITIES.

The Puritans lived with heaven and hell in view, and the aroma of the world to come pervades their writings. Richard Baxter, in The Saints’ Everlasting Rest, shows that the reason so many Christians are cold in their love for Christ is that they live with heaven out of sight and mind. Baxter wrote,

If you would have light and heat, why are you not more in the sunshine? For lack of this recourse to heaven, your soul is as a lamp not lighted, and your duties as a sacrifice without fire. Fetch one coal daily from this altar, and see if your offering will not burn. Light your lamp at this flame, and feed it daily with oil from hence, and see if it will not gloriously shine. Keep close to this reviving fire, and see if your affections will not be warm.

 Most of us are familiar with Jonathan Edwards’ frightening descriptions of hell from “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” but his vision of heaven’s glory is as attractive as his description of hell is repulsive. In his Miscellanies, Edwards wrote of glorified saints,

Their knowledge will increase to eternity; and if their knowledge, their holiness; for as they increase in the knowledge of God, and of the works of God, the more they will see of his excellency, and the more they see of his excellency … the more will they love him, and the more they love God, the more delight and happiness will they have in him.

 The Puritans remind us that heaven is not living in disembodied bliss and plucking harps in a cloud-filled, ethereal environment, but rather an ever-expanding knowledge of God and an ever-increasing joy in God.

 Conclusion

 The Puritans saw God, loved Christ, and feared sin; they were transformed by grace, practical in counsel, enduring in suffering, and living for eternity. When I read them, I almost always find my soul’s palate cleansed and my ability enhanced to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8). Brothers, read the Puritans! Your heart will be helped and your soul stimulated.

The Call of Christ -Whom Did Christ Call? – Part 6 0f 6

Arthur Pink

We must now inquire, what did our Lord signify when He bade all the weary and heavy laden “come unto Me”?

First, it is quite evident that something more than a physical act or local coming to hear Him preach was intended, for these words were first addressed to those who were already in His presence: there were many who attended His ministry and witnessed His Miracles—who never came to Him in the sense here intended. The same holds good today: something more than a bare approach through the ordinances —listening to preaching, submitting to baptism, partaking of the Lord’s Supper—is involved in a saving coming to Christ, for such acts as those may be performed without the performer being any gainer thereby. Coming to Christ in the sense He here invited—is a going out of the soul after Him, a desire for Him, a seeking after Him, a personal embracing of and trusting in Him.

A saving coming to Christ suggests first and negatively—a leaving of something, for the Divine promise is, “He who covers his sins shall not prosper: but whoever confesses and forsakes them shall have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13). Coming to Christ, then, denotes a turning our backs upon the world—and turning our hearts unto Him as our only Hope and Portion. It is the abandoning of every idol and the surrendering of ourselves to His Lordship. It is the repudiation of our own righteousness and every dependency, and the heart going out to Him in loving submission and trustful confidence. It is in entire going out of SELF with all its resolutions and performances, to cast ourselves upon His grace and mercy. It is the will yielding itself up to His authority to be molded by Him and to follow Him wherever He may lead. In short, it is the whole soul of a guilty and self-condemned sinner—turning unto a whole Christ, in the exercise of all our facilities, responding to His claims upon us, prepared to unreservedly trust, sincerely love, and devotedly serve Him.

We have said that coming to Christ is the turning of the whole soul unto Him. Perhaps this calls for some amplification, though we trust we shall not confuse the reader by multiplying words and entering into detail. There are three principal facilities in the soul: the understanding, the affections, and the will—and as each of these were operative and were affected by our original departure from God, so they are and must be active in our return to Him in Christ.

Of Eve it is recorded, “when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof” (Genesis 3:6).

First, she “saw that the tree was good for food,” that is, she perceived the fact mentally—it was a conclusion drawn by her understanding.

Second, “and that it was pleasant to the eyes”: that was the response and going out of her affections unto it.

Third, “and a tree to be desired to make one wise”: there was the moving of her will.

“And took of the fruit thereof and did eat”: there was the completed action.

Thus it is in the sinner’s coming to Christ.

There is first apprehension by the understanding: the mind is enlightened and brought to see our deep need of Christ and His perfect suitability to meet our needs: the intelligence perceives that He is “good for food,” the Bread of life which God has graciously provided for the nourishment of our souls.

Second, there is the moving of the affections: hitherto we discerned no beauty in Christ that we should desire Him—but now He is “pleasant to the eyes” of our souls: it is the heart turning from the love of sin to the love of holiness, from self to the Savior—it is for this reason that backsliding or spiritual declension is termed a leaving of our “first love” (Revelation 2:4).

Third, in coming to Christ there is an exercise of the will, for said He to those who received Him not, “you will not come to Me that you might have life” (John 5:40). This exercise of the will consists of a yielding of ourselves to His authority to be ruled by Him.

None will come to Christ—while they remain in ignorance of Him. The understanding must perceive His suitability for sinners, before the mind can turn intelligently and consciously unto Him as He is revealed in the Gospel. Neither can the heart come to Christ while it hates Him or is wedded to the things of time and sense: the affections must be drawn out to Him, “If anyone does not love the Lord—that person is cursed!” (1 Corinthians 16:22). Equally evident is it that no man will come to Christ while his will is opposed to Him: it is the enlightening of his understanding and the firing of his affections, which subdues his enmity and makes the sinner willing in the day of God’s power (Psalm 110:3). It is helpful to observe that these exercises of the three faculties of the soul correspond in character to the threefold office of Christ:

the understanding being enlightened by Him as Prophet,

the affections being moved by His work as Priest, and

the will bowing to His authority as King over Zion.

In the days of His flesh, the Lord Jesus condescended to minister unto the ailments and needs of men’s bodies, and many came unto Him and were healed: in that we may see a foreshadowing of Him as the great Physician of souls, and what is required from sinners if they are to receive spiritual healing at His hands. Those who sought out Christ in order to obtain bodily relief, were persuaded of His mighty power, His gracious willingness, and of their own dire need of healing. But let it be noted that then, as now, this persuasion in the Lord’s sufficiency and readiness to support varied in degree in different cases. The centurion spoke with full assurance: “Only speak the word—and my servant shall be healed” (Matthew 8:8). The leper expressed himself more dubiously, “Lord, if You will—You can make me clean” (Matthew 8:2). Another used still fainter language, “If You can do anything—have compassion and help us” (Mark 9:22). Yet even there the Redeemer did not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax—but graciously wrought a miracle on his behalf.

But let it be carefully observed that in each of the above cases there was a personal and actual application unto Christ, and it was this very application (or approach unto and appeal to Him) which made manifest their faith, even though that faith was as small as a grain of mustard seed. They did not rest content with having heard of His fame—but improved it: they actually sought Him out for themselves, acquainted Him with their case, and implored His compassion. So it must be with those troubled about soul concerns: saving faith is not passive—but operative. Moreover, the faith of those who sought unto Christ for physical relief was one which refused to be deterred by difficulties and discouragements. In vain the multitudes charged the blind man to be quiet (Mark 10:48): knowing that Christ was able to give sight, he cried so much the more. Even when Christ appeared to manifest a great reserve—the woman refused to leave until her request was granted (Matthew 15:27).

 

 

The Call of Christ -Whom Did Christ Call? – Part 5

While we are far from affirming that everything modern is evil—or that everything ancient was excellent—yet there is no doubt whatever in our own mind, that by far the greater part of the boasted “progress” of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries was a progress downward and not upward, away from God and not toward Him, into the darkness and not the light. And therefore it behooves us to examine with double care and caution, any religious views or ways which deviated from the common teachings and practices of the godly Reformers and Puritans. This writer sincerely trusts that he is not a worshiper of antiquity as such, nor does he desire to call any man “father,” yet in view of the awful corruption of the Truth and departure from vital godliness, we are compelled to regard with suspicion those “broader” interpretations of God’s Word which have become so popular in recent times.

It behooves us now to point out one or two of the reasons we do not believe that Christ was here making a broadcast invitation, issued promiscuously to the light-headed, gay-hearted, pleasure-crazy, masses which have no appetite for the Gospel and no concern for their eternal interests: that this call was not addressed to the godless, careless, giddy and worldly multitudes—but rather unto those who were burdened with a sense of sin and longed for relief of conscience.

First because the Lord Jesus had received no commission from Heaven to bestow rest of soul upon all and sundry—but only upon the elect of God. Said He, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of Him who sent Me: that I should lose none of those He has given Me but should raise them up on the last day” (John 6:38, 39), and that, necessarily, regulated all His ministry.

Second, because the Lord Jesus ever practiced what He preached. Unto His disciples He said, “Don’t give what is holy to dogs or toss your pearls before pigs, or they will trample them with their feet, turn, and tear you to pieces” (Matthew 7:6). Can we, then, conceive of our holy Lord inviting the unconcerned to come unto Him—for that which their hearts abhorred? Has He set His ministers such an example? Surely, the word He would have them press upon the pleasure-intoxicated members of our rising generation is, “Rejoice, young man, while you are young, and let your heart be glad in the days of your youth. And walk in the ways of your heart and in the sights of your eyes; but know that for all of these things God will bring you to judgment!” (Eccl. 11:9).

Third, because the immediate context is entirely out of harmony with the wider interpretation. There we find Christ pronouncing most solemn “woes” upon those who despised and rejected Him (Matthew 11:20-24), drawing consolation from the sovereignty of God and thanking Him because He had hidden from the wise and prudent, those things which belonged unto their eternal peace—but had revealed them unto babes (vv. 25, 26), and it is these “babes” He here invites unto Himself; and there we find Him presented as the One commissioned by the Father and as the Revealer of Him. (v. 27).

It must not be concluded from anything said above, that the writer does not believe in an unfettered Gospel or that he is opposed to the general offer of Christ to all who hear it. Not so! His marching orders are far too plain for any misunderstanding: his Master has bidden him “preach the Gospel to every creature” so far as Divine providence admits, and the substance of the Gospel message, is that Christ died for sinners and stands ready to welcome every sinner who is willing to receive Him on His prescribed terms. Though His mission was the saving of God’s elect (Matthew 1:21), the Lord Jesus announced the design of His incarnation in sufficiently general terms, as to warrant any man truly desiring salvation to believe in Him. “I have not come to call the righteous—but sinners to repentance” (Matthew 9:13). Many are called—even though but few are chosen (Matthew 20:16). The way in which we spell out our election, is in coming to Christ as lost sinners, trusting in His blood for pardon and acceptance with God.

In his excellent sermon on the words before us, John Newton pointed out that, when David was driven into the wilderness by the rage of Saul that “everyone that was in distress, and everyone that was in debt, and everyone that was discontented, gathered themselves unto him; and he became a captain over them” (1 Samuel 22:2). But David was despised by those who, like Nabal (1 Samuel 25:10), lived at their ease: they believed not that he should be a king over Israel, and therefore they preferred the favor of Saul whom God had rejected. Thus it was with the Lord Jesus: though a Divine Person, invested with all authority, grace and blessings, and declaring that He would be the King of all who obeyed His voice and that they should be His happy people—yet the majority saw no beauty that they should desire Him, felt no need of Him, and so rejected Him. Only a few, who were consciously wretched and burdened, believed His Word and came to Him for rest.

 

The Call of Christ -Whom Did Christ Call? – Part 4

Arthur Pink

“Come unto Me all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

Having examined at some length the context of these words, that we might the better perceive their connection and the particular characters in which Christ is there portrayed, we turn now to consider the people here addressed, the ones who were invited to come to the Rest-Giver. On this point, there has been some difference among the commentators, some giving a narrower scope to this call of Christ—and some a wider. It is to be noted however, that all of the leading men among the earlier expositors united inrestricting this particular call to a special class. Let us quote several of the principal ones:

“He now kindly invites to Himself those whom He acknowledges to be fit for becoming His disciples. Though He is ready to reveal the Father to all—yet the great part are careless about coming to Him, because they are not affected by a conviction of their necessities. Hypocrites give themselves no concern about Christ because they are intoxicated with their own righteousness, and neither hunger nor thirst after His grace. Those who are devoted to the world set no value on a heavenly life. It would be vain therefore for Christ to invite either of these classes, and therefore He turns to the wretched and afflicted. He speaks of them as ‘laboring’ or being under a ‘burden,’ and does not mean generally those who are oppressed with griefs and vexations—but those who are overwhelmed by their sins, who are filled with alarm at the wrath of God and are ready to sink under so weighty a burden” (John Calvin)

“The character of the people invited: all that labor and are heavy laden. This is a word in season to him that is weary (Isaiah 50:4). Those who complain of the burden of the ceremonial law, which was an intolerable yoke, and was made much more so by the tradition of the elders (Luke 11:46); let them come to Christ and they shall be made easy . . . this is to be understood of the burden of sin, both the guilt and the power of it. All those, and those only, are invited to rest in Christ—who are sensible of sin as a burden and groan under it, who are not only convicted of the evil of sin—their own sin—but are contrite in soul for it; who are really sick of sin, weary of the service of the world and the flesh, who see their state sad and dangerous by reason of sin, and are in pain and fear about it: as Ephraim (Jer. 31:18-20), the prodigal (Luke 15:17), the publican (Luke 18:13), Peter’s hearers (Acts 2:37), Paul (Acts 9), the jailer (Acts 16:29, 30). This is a necessary preparative for pardon and peace” (Matthew Henry).

“Who are the people here invited? They are those who ‘labor’ (the Greek expresses toil with weariness) and are ‘heavy laden.’ This must here be limited to spiritual concerns, otherwise it will take in all mankind, even the most hardened and obstinate opposers of Christ and the Gospel.” Referring to the self-righteous religionists, this writer went on to say, “You avoid gross sins, you have perhaps a form of godliness. The worst you think that can be said of you is, that you employ all your thoughts and every means that will not bring you under the lash of the law—to heap up money, to join house to house and field to field; or you spend your days in a complete indolence, walking in the way of your own hearts and looking no further: and here you will say you find pleasure, and insist on it, that you are neither weary nor heavy laden . . . then it is plain that you are not the people whom Christ here invites to partake of His rest” (John Newton).

“The people invited are not ‘all’ the inhabitants of mankind—but with a restriction: ‘all you who labor and are heavy laden,’ meaning not those who labor in the service of sin and Satan, are laden with iniquity and insensible of it: those are not weary of sin nor burdened with it, nor do they want or desire any rest for their souls; but only such who groan, being burdened with the guilt of sin on their consciences and are pressed down with the unsupportable yoke of the Law and the load of their trespasses, and have been laboring until they are weary, in order to obtain peace of conscience and rest for their soul by the observance of these things—but in vain. These are encouraged to come to Him, lay down their burdens at His feet and look to Him, and lay hold by faith on His person, blood and righteousness” (John Gill).

In more recent times the majority of preachers have dealt with our text as though the Lord Jesus was issuing an indefiniteinvitation, regarding His terms as being sufficiently general and wide in their scope as to include sinners of every grade and type. They supposed that the words, “you who labor and are heavy laden” refer to the misery and bondage which the Fall has brought upon the whole human race, as its unhappy subjects vainly seek satisfaction in the things of time and sense, endeavoring to find happiness in the pleasures of sin. They are laboring for contentment by gratifying their lusts, only to add to their miseries by becoming more and more the burdened slaves of sin.

It is quite true that the unregenerate “labor in the very fire” and that they “weary themselves for the very vanity” (Hab. 2:13). It is quite true that they “labor in vain” (Jer. 51:58), and “what profit has he who has labored for the wind?” (Eccl. 5:16). It is quite true that they “spend money for that which is not bread” and “labor for that which satisfies not” (Isaiah 55:2), for “the eye is not satisfied with seeing nor the ear with hearing” (Eccl. 1:8). It is equally true that the unregenerate are heavy laden, “a people laden with iniquity” (Isaiah 1:4)—yet are they totally insensible of their dreadful state: “the labor of the foolish wearies them” (Eccl. 10:15). Moreover, “The wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace, says my God, to the wicked” (Isaiah 57:20, 21). That is, they have neither peace of conscience nor rest of heart.

But it is quite another matter to affirm that these are the characters which Christ invited to come unto Him for rest. Personally we much prefer the view taken by the older writers, for with rare exceptions their expositions are much sounder than those furnished in more recent days. As far back as a century ago a latitudinarian spirit had begun to creep in, and even the most orthodox were often, unconsciously, to some degree affected thereby. The pew was more and more inclined to chafe against what they regarded as the “rigidity” and “narrowness” of their fathers, and those in the pulpit had to tone down those aspects of the Truth which were most repellent to the carnal mind if they were to retain their popularity. Side by side with modern discoveries and inventions, the increased means for travel and the dissemination of news, came in what was termed “a broader outlook” and “a more charitable spirit,” and posing as an angel of light Satan succeeded in Arminianising many places of Truth, and even where this was not accomplished, high Calvinism was whittled down to moderate Calvinism.

That to which we have just alluded, is no distorted conception of ours, issuing from an extreme theology—but a solemn fact which no honest student of church history can deny. Christendom, my reader, has not got into the unspeakably dreadful condition it is now in, all of a sudden: rather is its present state the outcome of a steady and long deterioration. The deadly poison of error was introduced here a little and there a little, the quantity being increased as less opposition was made against it. As “missionary” activities absorbed more and more the attention and strength of the Church, the standard of doctrine was lowered, sentiment displaced biblical convictions, fleshly methods were introduced, until in a comparatively short time nine tenths of those sent out to “the foreign field” were rank Arminians, preaching “another Gospel.” This reacted upon the homelands and soon the interpretations of Scripture given out by its pulpits were brought into line with the “new spirit” which had captivated Christendom.

The Call Of Christ – Part 3

Arthur Pink

The honorable Capernaum is then compared with the dishonorable Sodom, which, because of its enormities, God had destroyed with fire and brimstone. It was in Capernaum that the Lord Jesus had chiefly resided upon entry into His public ministry, and where so many of His miracles of healing had been wrought. Yet so obdurate were its inhabitants, so wedded to their sins—that they refused to apply unto Him for the healing of their souls. Had such mighty works been done by Him in Sodom—its people would have been duly affected thereby and their city would have remained as a lasting monument of Divine mercy.

“But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you” (v. 24). Yes, my reader, though you may hear nothing about it from the flesh-pleasing pulpit of this degenerate age, nevertheless there is a “Day of judgment” awaiting the whole world. It is “the Day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to every man according to his deeds; it is the Day “when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my Gospel” (Romans 2:6, 7, 16). “For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good—or whether it be evil” (Eccl. 12:14). “The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptation, and to reserve the unjust unto the Day of judgment to be punished” (2 Peter 2:9). The punishment which shall then be meted out—will be proportioned to the opportunities given and despised, the privileges vouchsafed and scorned, the light granted and quenched. Most intolerable of all—will be the doom of those who have abused the greatest advancements Heavenwards.

“At that time Jesus said—I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children” (Matthew 11:25). The connection between this and the preceding verses, is most blessed and instructive. There the Lord Jesus intimates that the majority of His mighty works had produced no good effect upon those who saw them, that their beholders remained impenitent—so little influence had His holy and gracious presence exerted upon Capernaum, wherein He spent much of His time, that its fate would be worse than that of Sodom. But here Christ looks away from earth to Heaven—and finds consolation in the high sovereignty of God and the absolute security of His covenant. From upbraiding the impenitence of men, Christ turned to the rendering of thanks unto the Father.

A word of warning is needed, perhaps, at this point, for we are such creatures of extremes. In earlier paragraphs we referred to those who have substituted a sentimental Christ for the true Christ—yet the reader must not infer from this that the writer believes in a stoical Christ—hard, cold, devoid of feeling. Not so, the Christ of Scripture is perfect Man as well as God the Son, possessed therefore of human sensibilities, yes, capable of much deeper feeling than any of us, whose faculties are corrupted and blunted by sin. It must not be thought, then, that the Lord Jesus was unaffected by grief, when He pronounced the doom of those cities—or that He viewed them with fatalistic indifference as He found comfort in the sovereignty of God. Scripture must be compared with Scripture: He who wept over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41) would not be unmoved as He foresaw the intolerable portion awaiting Capernaum—the very fact that He was “the Man of sorrows” utterly precludes any such concept.

A similar warning is needed by hyper-Calvinists with fatalistic stoicism. “It seems plain then, that those who are indifferent about the spreading of the Gospel, who satisfy themselves with this thought, that the elect shall be saved, and feel no concern for unawakened sinners, make a wrong inference from a true doctrine, and know not what spirit they are of. Jesus wept for those who perished in their sins. Paul had great grief and sorrow of heart for the Jews, though he gave them this character, ‘that they pleased not God, and were contrary to all men.’ It well befits us, while we admire distinguishing grace to ourselves, to mourn over others. And inasmuch as secret things belong to the Lord, and we know not but some of whom we have at present but little hopes, may at last be brought to the knowledge of the Truth, we should be patient and forbearing after the pattern of our heavenly Father, and endeavor by every proper and prudent means, to stir them up to repentance, remembering that they cannot be more distant from God than by nature—than we were once ourselves” (John Newton.)

As perfect Man, the Lord Jesus felt acutely any lack of response to and the little measure of success which attended His gracious and arduous efforts: this is clear from His lament: “I have labored to no purpose; I have spent my strength in vain and for nothing” (Isaiah 49:4). Striking it is to observe how Christ comforted Himself: “Yet I leave it all in the Lord’s hand; I will trust God for my reward” (Isaiah 49:4). Thus, both in the language of prophecy and here in Matthew 11:25, 26, we find the Lord Jesus seeking relief from the discouragements and disappointments of the Gospel—by retreating into the Divine sovereignty. “We may take great encouragement in looking upward to God, when round about us we see nothing but what is discouraging. It is sad to see how heedless most men are of their own happiness, it is comfortable to think that the wise and faithful God will, however, effectually secure the interests of His own glory” (Matthew Henry).

Christ alluded here to the sovereignty of God under three details:

First, by owning His Father as “Lord of Heaven and earth,” that is, as sole Proprietor and Disposer thereof. It is well for us to remember, especially in seasons when it appears as though Satan is complete master of this lower sphere, that God not only “does as he pleases with the powers of heaven,” but also “among the inhabitants of the earth,” so that “none can stay His hand” (Dan. 4:35).

Second, by affirming, “You have hid these things from the wise and prudent”: that is, the things pertaining to salvation are concealed from the apprehension of the self-sufficient and self-complacent, God leaving them in nature’s darkness.

Third, by declaring, “and have revealed them unto babes”—by the effectual operations of the Holy Spirit a Divine discovery is made to the hearts of those who are made little and helpless in their own esteem. “Even so, Father; for so it seemed good in Your sight” expressed the Savior’s perfect acquiescence in the whole.

“All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Matthew 11:27). This verse supplies the immediate connecting link between the sovereignty of Divine grace mentioned in verses 25 and 26—and the offer and communication of that grace through Christ in verses 28-30. The settlements of Divine grace were made and secured in the Everlasting Covenant: the communication of the same is by and through Christ as the Mediator of that covenant.

First, we have here the grand commission which the Mediator received from the Father: all things necessary to the administration of the covenant were delivered unto Christ (compare Matthew 28:18, John 5:22, 17:2).

Second, we have here the inconceivable dignity of the Son: lest a false inference be drawn from the preceding clause, the essential and absolute Deity of Christ is affirmed. Inferior in office, Christ’s nature and dignity is the same as the Father’s. As Mediator Christ receives all from the Father—but as God the Son He is, in every way, equal to the Father in His incomprehensible and glorious Person.

Third, the work of the Mediator is here summed up in one grand item: that of revealing the Father unto those given to Him.

Thus the context of Matthew 11:28 reveals Christ in the following characters:
as the Upbraider of the impenitent; 
as the Pronouncer of solemn “woe” upon those who were unaffected by His mighty works; 
as the Announcer of the Day of judgment, declaring that the punishment awaiting those who scorned Gospel mercies should be more intolerable than that meted out to Sodom;
as the Affirmer of the high sovereignty of God who conceals and reveals the things pertaining to salvation as seems good in His sight; 
as the Mediator of the covenant; 
as the Son co-equal with the Father, and 
as the Revealer of the Father.

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