"By one man sin entered the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned. (Romans 5:12)
The Church of the Firstborn whose names are written in heaven, and who according to God's purpose have been and will be written among the living in Jerusalem by regenerating grace, are all, according to natural generation, born in sin and shapen in iniquity; in sin they are conceived, and the Scriptures declare that they go astray from the womb speaking lies--a most humbling testimony, and an awful maul upon the head of human pride and ambition. It is sadly true that by original sin all have come short of the glory of God. But not one of the Church can come short of that grace which is treasured up for them in their covenant Head, the Lord Jesus Christ. And seeing that it is God that speaks in the Scriptures, and sets forth our base original and the actual transgressions of fallen sinners, the carnal mind in man fights against the solemn testimony; and multitudes of preachers and teachers are continually making God a liar by denying that man is thus fallen, and declaring that man is not so bad, but what, by a little effort on his part, he might reform himself, and find acceptance with God. But this is a bed too short to lie down on, only in everlasting burnings, to those who reject the declaration of the Almighty on this solemn matter, and we are sure that it is a covering which is not of God's Spirit.
This witness is true, and they are daring rebels that deny it, be they preachers or professors, and it is an awful thing to be thus found fighting against God. Now it is evident that, as the Scriptures declare all are born sinners in their first birth, the election of grace were born so too; they all fell in Adam the first, but they did not fall out of the covenant of grace; they all had an eternal standing in Christ, their new covenant and communicable Head by the decree of election; they were all chosen in Christ unto that godliness which hath the promise of the life that now is and that which is to come.
All through God's blessed book, the Bible, the sinful and shameful condition of mankind in their natural state is declared; and it is everywhere proved that men, left to the bent of their own wicked hearts, go blindly on, pursuing the lusts of the flesh and of the mind, and thus, where grace prevents not, they treasure up wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgments of God, who will render to all finally impenitent sinners according to their works. Looking into the Word of God, and seeing the beginning of evil, we will endeavor to show its corrupt workings as it is there set forth, and how very soon blood began to touch blood, in the sinful state of Adam's children as they were born in his sinful image.
Abel and Cain were both "born in sin and shapen in iniquity," but Abel, being a vessel of mercy whom God had before ordained unto glory, was blessed with renewing grace, and, as led by the Spirit of God, he offered unto God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, for he offered a lamb, and offered it in faith--the faith of God's elect; but Cain was of that Wicked One and slew his brother. Thus we see in Abel the first martyr of the Church, and Cain the representative of the world that lies in the arms of the Wicked One; and as the posterity of Adam increased on the earth so they increased in sinful pleasures and pursuits until they had all corrupted their way, and the only exception recorded in the Scriptures among the antediluvian sinners was Noah, who had found grace--yea, was a regenerated soul, in whose heart God had put His holy fear. How terrible must have been the condition of the inhabitants of the old world that their conduct should have provoked the Almighty to sweep them away with the overreaching and wrathful waters of the flood! Jehovah's own righteous verdict of them was, that they had utterly corrupted their way, and that the thoughts of their heart and their imaginations were evil--only evil, and that continually; and while the Lord made these corrupt, and corrupting, sinners an awful example of His wrath and fiery indignation as revealed in His holy law, Noah and his family were a marvelous illustration of His grace and mercy, and a bright display of His Divine sovereignty wherein He doeth His will in the armies of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth. Sin, original, and awful in its workings, was the cause of the destruction of the inhabitants of the old world; while grace, distinguishing and free, was the cause of the salvation of Noah and his family in the ark, where God shut them in safety while He emptied His fury on the rest. The ark--the type of Christ in whom the Church is saved with an everlasting salvation--was designed by the Lord, and built by Noah at God's command; and what solemn warnings there must have been to those wretched sinners as the ark was in building; and yet, no doubt dear old Noah had to endure the cruel mockings of those wicked transgressors, even as now the faithful preaching and possessors, only provoke the contempt and hatred of the ungodly. But like as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be in the days of the coming of the Son of man to all finally impenitent sinners. The old world inhabitants sinned and sinned; they eat, they drank, they married, and were given in marriage, but in the same day that Noah entered the ark, the Lord began to pour out His wrathful flood upon the world of the ungodly, and these things are written as awful examples and warnings to sinners to flee from the wrath to come.
In tracing the history of the sinful race, as given us in the Scriptures, how clearly it is proved that the posterity of Noah were no better by nature and practice than those who had been drowned by the wrathful flood of the Almighty. We must pass over many a sad relation of the sinfulness of the race as they sinned with high hands and outstretched arms against God, and come to notice the cities of the plain, and how plainly and solemnly the inhabitants of these cities are set forth as being most abominably wicked; and the inhabitants of the world around them, it is to be supposed, were not much better in their practice. But these cities are selected by God, who had rejected them because of their sins, as examples of His awful fury against sin and sinners, apart from His distinguishing grace. Just Lot is the only exception to the utter wickedness of these people; his righteous soul, we read, was vexed continually at the filthy conversation of the wicked, and no doubt this was as they rehearsed in his hearing their filthy and most abominable crimes. Alas, such is man without renewing grace, ever glorying in that which constitutes his shame. Such was the awful provokings of these sinful creatures, that essential holiness could not bear with it any longer, and when Lot, the subject of Divine grace, was removed from the doomed cities, the Lord rained fire and brimstone from heaven upon these wicked and impenitent sinners, and consumed them all in a deluge of fire; and the Dead Sea, that covers the dead cities of the plain, is to this day a witness of the solemn judgments of the Almighty when He manifests His burning and vindictive wrath. And what a sad story is related by the sacred historian concerning the wife of just Lot. Her heart was on an earthly treasure, and when she was escaping from the destructive fire descending upon the cities we read that she looked back, and God turned her into a pillar of salt. What a monument we have here of awful warning to those who are seeking their portion in this life, and wholly bent on its pleasures and pursuits, to the utter neglect of the welfare of their never-dying souls; and yet multitudes who live like this have vain hopes that it will be well with them when they come to die.
But I must hasten on and record a little of the leadings and dealings of the Almighty with that people whom, in His sovereignty, He singled out to make of them a nation; in and by whom He would, and did, show His signs and wonders, even in and from Egypt, through the Red Sea, and through the wilderness for forty years. Surely if it were possible for human nature to improve of itself its corrupt condition, these people who were so wondrously dealt with had abundant scope to do so. God was manifest in their camp in the pillar of fire by night and the cloudy pillar by day; they were fenced around in such a way as no people had been before and as no people since they took their journey and left the land of their bondage for the land flowing with milk and honey. But were they the better because of this? Not a whit, for as we read the rehearsal of their wanderings so we read the story of their awful rebellion and base provokings of the Most High in the wilderness; and the whole history of this people sets forth the awful fact that where God does not put forth His restraints, either in His providence or His grace, corrupt nature is ever breaking forth in sinful corruption. And so desperately wicked were these Israelites that but few of them who left Egypt were permitted to enter the promised land; and was it not because of the abominable sinfulness of the people of the land that those who remained of the Israelites were sent to exterminate them root and branch? Yes, God made those of His chosen who were favored to cross the Jordan the executors of His just judgments upon the guilty people; and is it not to be rightly supposed that if the children of Israel were so bad with all the advantages they had to improve their moral condition, that the nations with which they were surrounded, and who had no restraints put upon their lusts, were to an awful degree fearfully corrupt? We believe it was so bad as to be unnamable. As one generation passed away and another came the conduct of the people, when left without renewing grace, proved again and again that they were born in sin and shapen in iniquity; and this the king in Jeshurun was made honestly to confess after his shameful fall into those sins which brought such afflictions on himself and his house, proving that God does chastise His people for their iniquity; but, for ever bless His dear name, it is not with the rod of His wrath, this the Scriptures and the experience of the saints everywhere prove.
The prophet Isaiah tells an awful and woeful story of that people whom God had nourished and brought up. He testifies that they were worse than the ox or the ass, for these dumb creatures knew their owners and their master's crib; but Israel, the people that God had done so much for in His providence, ah! They were indeed a sinful people, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, and awful revolters from all those conditional covenants which God had made with them; and but for the covenant of free and sovereign grace, they would have been all made as Sodom, and overwhelmed in the wrath of the Almighty as Gomorrah.
Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and all the rest of the minor prophets, all tell the same story of man's utterly degenerate condition through the fall, and they also tell the story of God's elect people, whom He foreknew would fall by Adam's transgression, but in the riches of His grace He made provision for their recovery before they fell, in a covenant ordered in all things and sure, and in the fullness of time He sent forth His Son--His well beloved Son. And when He brought His only begotten into the world, His incarnate Son, in all His public ministry, testified that the deeds of the people were evil, and the first act of His ministry was to cleanse the temple of those dens of thieves that had infested its sacred portals, and He declared that they had made His Father's house a den of robbers, and if the temple was so desecrated and the priests for the most part so polluted, what must have been the condition of the people at large? John the Baptist, in his fiery zeal for the honor of his God, when the multitude of them came to his baptism, styled them a "generation of vipers," and he wanted to know who had warned them to flee from the wrath to come; and it is evident that he saw no fruit that was the evidence of true repentance. While he exhorted them to repentance he also told them of the One in whose hand was the fan by which He would thoroughly purge His floor and gather His wheat into His garner, while He would burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. Alas for the religious zealots of every age, who have had a name in religion to love, while they have been dead in trespasses and sins. They have always from the days of Abel to the days of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, who perished between the altar and the temple, and even to this day they are the first and foremost in persecuting the saints of the most high God; and how did the blind zeal of both priest and people, as they were urged on by the god of this world, hunt to death both Christ and His forerunner, and all because of their faithfulness in denouncing the sins and hypocrisy of both priest and people.
When we turn to the Gospels of the Evangelists, as they have recorded the ministry, the suffering life and sacrificial death of God's dear Son, and the way the people had filled up the measure of their iniquity, their envenomed hatred of Him who was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners, and turn to the inspired Epistles, we find the volume of indictments most woefully increase. The Apostle Paul goes a little into detail in the first chapter of his Epistle to the Romans in enumerating those sins which the people in all ages had been guilty of; and in the third chapter of this epistle he asks this question, "Are we any better than they?" And himself gives the answer in a most positive and convincing way in the following manner, with a "Nay, in no wise!" For as the Scriptures and observation ever prove, that both Jews and Gentiles by nature are all under sin. Yes, they have all sold themselves to work iniquity, either in the lusts of the flesh or the mind, and the solemn declaration is that by nature, as born in Adam's fallen image, there is none that doeth good, no, not one; all have become guilty through the fall. In this third chapter the Apostle, as the penman of the Holy Ghost, writes out the indictment of God's holy law, which to this day stands against every unrepenting and unrenewed sinner, for "what the law saith it saith to them that are under the law," (Rom. 3:19) and this is every soul of Adam's sinful race, and the elect only are reprieved from its condemning sentence by the grace of the Gospel.
As we have before from the Scriptures stated, the law is spiritual, holy, just, and good; but man in his natural state is carnal, sold under and unto sin, and therefore in that state they have no power to obey the solemn demands and commands of God's holy law; and if they could God never ordained salvation for lost sinners by the deeds of the law, for it is written, that by the deeds of the law no flesh living can be justified. (Rom. 3:20) Alas then for those poor mortals who are dead in sin and dead in a profession of religion, seeking to be justified by that law, under the sentence of which they are already condemned; for the sentence of God's broken law has been passed upon all, and nothing can remove that sentence or the curse of it but the great and terrible Judge who passed it, and He does this for His people through the infinite merit and sacrifice of His Son. What is it that proves the condemned state of all unrepenting sinners? Is it not the solemn and awful fact declared by the Son of God in the days of His flesh: "Men love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil?" (John 3:19)
And now, in concluding this chapter on the fall of man, and the fall of the Church as it fell in Adam (for as we before have stated, the Church was formed in the covenant of grace before it fell with the rest of mankind into sin,) and having noticed a little of what the Scriptures say about it, does not profane history and the present conduct of the people confirm the same? Is mankind by nature growing any better? Is human nature any bettered since the days of old? Alas, alas! Who shall say it is? Men have grown wiser in the wisdom of this world we readily grant, and this the Scriptures confirm, as they testify that men should run to and fro and that knowledge should increase. But the increased knowledge of the wisdom of this world's affairs brings the revolting sinner no nearer that God against whom he so grievously revolts, both by original and actual transgressions; nor does that religion which thousands in the present day are so zealous for, which rests entirely on the will of the creature. This may, and no doubt does, please those who are engaged in it, but it is not pleasing to God; nay, it is a stench in His holy nostrils, a fire that burns all the day long; and sinners who die with no better religion than nature can produce, will find the burning wrath of God to burn up all their false hopes and expectations. Let me in measure repeat myself here, for I know it is in harmony with the solemn warnings of God's Word. Those sinners who pride themselves upon their fleshly attainments in religion, if when death overtakes them they have nothing better than corrupt nature can produce, they will soon find all their fancied comeliness to be turned into corruption. There is a lot said about charity in the days in which we live, but God will not own that charity in religion that He is not the Author of; and it is evident from Scripture that man by nature is altogether destitute of that charity which the law's command solemnly demands, and being wrong here he must be wrong everywhere; and seeing this is a solemn truth expressed in Scripture, a man must be born again before he can love God, and when he is brought to love Him that begat, he will also love those who are begotten; and most certain it is that all in religion which is acceptable unto God comes through a new birth unto righteousness, of which we have to write in another chapter. We conclude this one by the scriptural declarations--"That which is born of the flesh is flesh," and is corrupt according to its deceitful lusts, while "that which is born of the Spirit is spirit," and cometh forth from the Lord of hosts, who is ever wonderful in counsel and most excellent in working, and worketh everything in the new creation, which is His Church, after the counsel of His own uncontrollable will.
Election, what a word! But it is God's word, and yet how offensive it is to proud and haughty sinners. While they contend they have a right to choose what they like in the affairs of this life, they deny the Almighty the sovereignty of His choice in electing the Church and saving it from the ruin of the fall. Thousands of those who call themselves Christians in this and other lands would, if they could, erase the word from God's blessed book, the Bible; and seeing they cannot do this, the envenomed enmity of their carnal hearts continues to rebel against the light which shines so brightly throughout the inspired Scriptures. But why do these people rage and imagine such vain things? The kings and counselors of the earth, and multitudes beside, take counsel together against the Lord and against His anointed One, in whom He hath chosen His people before the foundation of the world. Oh sorrowful fact, when this is the burden of their counsel: "Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us." (Ps. 2:3) These bands and cords which they fain would break are the bands and cords of Jehovah's sovereign decrees of election and predestination, by which the Almighty hath, in an eternal covenant ordered in all things and sure, secured the salvation of His Church and people; and also, blessed be His holy name, so secured the glory of it to Himself that neither men nor devils can rob Him of it, and He Himself has declared that He "will not give His glory to another, nor His praise to graven images."
But let me--yea, the Lord help me--to gather from His holy Word, and write, as He shall enable me, in the defense of this most blessed and comfortable doctrine. I know full well that it was the Lord's choice of me that caused me to choose "rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season;" and I trust He has led me to respect the recompense of the reward that flows to His dear people through the grace, sufferings, and blood of Immanuel. It is evident that in the Scriptures, where the Lord is speaking of His Church and people, that, if their election is not expressly stated, it is implied. The Lord appeared of old to His chosen, saying, "Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee." (Jer. 31:3) Surely it is God's everlasting love of His people that caused Him to enroll their names in the Lamb's book of life; the foundation of election is the everlasting love and absolute will of an unchanging God. "If our Gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost, in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them that believe not;" (2 Cor. 4:3,4) but these are not the lost that Jesus came to save. His very name, Saviour, was given Him because He would save His people from their sins, (Matt. 1:21) and from all their penal consequences; and if any of His people could be lost, as false teachers, preachers, and professors say, then Jesus would lose His name; but this can never, no never be, for His name must endure for ever, and His throne as the days of heaven. May the Lord in His rich mercy condescend to use this little work to enlighten the dark minds and perverted understandings of many who might be led to read it, and then they would willingly acknowledge that salvation and all that accompanies it is wholly of God's free, electing grace, and stands wholly in His power, and must be for His own most worthy praise.
It is evident when comparing spiritual things with spiritual that Abel, the first martyr of the Church, was elected and that Cain was rejected. There was nothing in them by nature to make them to differ; Abel had imparted to him a new covenant blessing, and the grace bestowed upon him enabled him to offer a sacrifice pleasing and acceptable to God. Abel in his sacrificial lamb saw by the faith which God gave him the Lamb slain in purpose before the foundation of the world. Cain brought of the offerings of the earth, the toil of his own hands, which every free-will religionist does, and all such is rejected of God. Cain was left under the old covenant in and under which he was born, and therefore under the curse of the broken law. Is God unrighteous when He taketh vengeance, or when He sheweth mercy? Is the Almighty unrighteous when He enrolls the names of an innumerable number of Adam's fallen race in the Lamb's book of life, and decrees them as objects of His everlasting love to the adoption of children by Jesus Christ, the Son of His love, by whom and for whom all things were made? "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" (Gen. 18:25) Yes, He does, both in election and rejection; and the time is coming when He will vindicate His right in such a manner as will stop the mouths of all gainsayers once and for ever.
Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, were all manifested as chosen of God, and of Abraham it is written that God called him alone, and blessed him, and increased him; but his election was before his calling, or he never would have been called. All through the Scriptures Abraham is held up as an example of that faith which is of the operation of God, and which in Scripture is styled the faith of God's elect. What a marvelous illustration of the absolute will of the uncontrollable Jehovah is set forth in the election of Jacob and the rejection of Esau before they were born, and before either of them had done either good or evil! Before they were separated from their mother's womb, the decree had gone forth to accept the one and reject the other.
Election and rejection are very offensive words in the ears of free-will religionists; but the language of Scripture is even stronger than this, and, mark it, reader, it is God that speaks, and if thou object thou repliest against God when He says, "Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated." (Rom. 9:13) There was no difference in them by nature, it was grace, and grace alone, and that in the grace of election the one was chosen and the other left. Do not quarrel with me, reader, because I so often use the word "election" in this chapter of the book.
Those who are taught of God, and all His elect people are, can see as they read their Bible, and are instructed in the things that pertain to that kingdom which is all of grace, that the choice of Abraham's seed by God, and the formation of them into a nation, is typical of the election of His people into a church; and while they were not all manifested as being spiritual Israelites who were the natural descendants of Abraham according to natural generation, yet throughout the Scriptures we read of a remnant of them according to the election of grace; and though they are as a people for the most part held now in unbelief, and are scattered among the nations because of the sins of their forefathers, yet shall a remnant of them return to the land that God gave to Abraham and his posterity for an earthly everlasting possession; and when the fullness of the elect Gentiles have come in, then all the elect of Israel shall be called by grace, for there shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and He shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob. The Lord has never disannulled His gift to Abraham and his seed, the land of Palestine belongs to them by deed of gift from God, and He that scattered Israel among the nations because of their sins will, because of His free election, His grace and mercy, gather them again, and they shall possess the land in their own borders.
The Scriptures are full of this teaching, but it is sadly neglected by those who profess to be teachers sent of God. Yes, there were a small remnant among them in their passage through the wilderness in days of old that found grace because of the grace of election, they were a part of that spiritual Church of the Firstborn, and thus they were born again of the Spirit. It is very remarkable that when David rehearses the judgments of the Almighty on those rebels that had provoked Him to wrath, so that He overthrew them in the wilderness and consumed them in the desert, the Psalmist declares that when He slew them then they sought Him. Yes, when the judgments of the vessels of mercy sought mercy of the Lord, lest they too should fall under the judgments of the Almighty, which had been executed in their sight upon their kindred according to the flesh.
The Lord has been known in all ages of the earth's history as a God of judgment and mercy, and He is the same today, and His fiery judgments are often manifest in such a way as strikes terror into the hearts of rebellious sinners. But where the Lord withholds His renewing grace, they still go on in their sins, and by their conduct they vow that they will not have God to reign over them; but He does reign all the same, and will, and by and by His enemies shall become His footstool. When the Almighty Jehovah descended in the cloud and fire upon the mount to proclaim His name to Moses, He proclaimed Himself as a God "merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth," or justice; and that He is abundant in longsuffering is proved by the objects of His wrath, but not in the same way as it is to the vessels of His mercy; and the reasons given may be read in Paul's Epistle to the Romans, for what writes he? "If God, willing to show His wrath, and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: and that He might make known the riches of His glory" (Rom. 9:22,23)--or grace--"on the vessels of mercy, which He had afore prepared unto glory?" It is sin, original and actual, that fits the vessels of wrath for destruction; and it is grace, and grace alone, flowing from the decree of election, that prepares the people of God for glory. Oh how wonderfully is the longsuffering of God manifested as He bears day by day with the horrid blasphemy and filthy conversation of the wicked! And it is evident from Scripture that the cause is because the Lord has a set time to manifest His judgments, as well as His mercy. Was it not the longsuffering of God that waited in the days of Noah when the ark was in building? But when God shut Noah and his family in the ark in safety, then His wrath fell in a deluge upon the world of the ungodly.
And what a state of rebellion those are in who are continually arraigning the Almighty at the bar of their corrupt reason, and condemning Him who is most just because of His choice in election. Does not the Lord declare in the 33rd chapter of the book of Exodus that He will be gracious to whom He will be gracious, and be merciful to whom He will be merciful? And herein He displays His Divine sovereignty, and this is His glory which He showed to Moses in answer to His importunate power: "I beseech Thee, shew me Thy glory." Is not the election of God's Church and people taught by the way in which He dealt with the people whom the Israelites were sent to exterminate? The Almighty rooted them out of the land where they had dwelt in their generations for ages. The Lord, we read, gave Egypt as a ransom for the Israelites, but He gave no ransom for the Egyptians; nor did He for the inhabitants of Canaan. The people of Jehovah's choice were sent to overthrow them, and burn up their cities and throw down their strongholds. Was it not the Lord's choice that made the difference between the lot of the harlot Rahab and her father's house? She and her kindred were saved when the city of Jericho was thrown down and its inhabitants put to the sword, and Paul in his epistle to the Hebrews (the eleventh chapter) declares that it was by faith she received the spies with peace; and this must have been the faith which is of the operation of God. Again, we have the histories of Gideon, Barak, Samson, and others of the prophets; these all set forth the doctrine of the Church's election, for they were all chosen, or elected, to their offices because they were of the household of faith.
In the wonderful preservation of the Jews, as recorded in the book of Esther, election is clearly set forth. God's choice of Esther and her kindred was the only reason that cast the balance against their enemies, and so it has been, and will be to the end of the ages. Those who fight against God's people fight against Him, and in this battle there is no question as to who is to be the victor. Brittle clay will strive against the will of the Potter, but O the folly, seeing the strife is against Omnipotence; and where electing, redeeming, and regenerating grace does not rescue the rebels, nothing can prevent their reaping the just reward of their deeds.
Again, what an example of Jehovah's electing love and grace is His dear old servant Job! In his manifold afflictions and distresses he was supported by Divine grace because he was the subject of it, and Satan knew very well that he was hedged about with the sovereign bands of election and predestination. Although he accused poor Job as serving the Almighty for "loaves and fishes" (to use a homely and scriptural phrase), the great Adversary of souls defeated himself, as he was permitted to destroy the offspring and the substance of God's dear servant. Satan desired Job's overthrow, but God designed in a covenant "ordered in all things and sure," that all things that overtook His servant should all work together for his spiritual and everlasting profit, and that the story of his sufferings and his wonderful deliverance should be a comfort to His Church and people throughout all the ages. Yes, the invincible grace of God brought him through all fires and floods through which he passed, out into a wealthy place; and even in the midst of his distress the faith of God's elect so exercised his soul that he broke forth and testified of his living Redeemer, whom in faith he saw at the latter day standing upon the earth, and in the confidence of this faith he believed he should one day behold with his eyes his Incarnate God and Saviour. Sure we are that the truth of election is taught in that wonderful text found in the twenty-eighth chapter of his most wonderful book, as it sets forth the path which no fowl knoweth, and which the vulture's eyes have not seen; and on which the lion's whelps have not trodden, nor the fierce lion passed that way. This is a path on which the ransomed of the Lord alone are called to walk, which is a path of tribulation and sorrow, of which I hope to write further on.
The Book of Psalms, what a grand rehearsal this blessed book is of God's electing and distinguishing grace! How its sacred teachings separate the precious from the vile! And herein, in its experimental lines, the children of God, under the sacred unction of the holy One, have their spiritual features drawn, from the babes in grace to the fathers and mothers in Israel. We have also the judgments of the Almighty upon His and His people's enemies set forth in solemn songs, which to this days are sung at times in the assemblies of God's people. Judgment and mercy are the themes of the Psalmist's songs, as he sets forth the dealings of the Almighty with the children of men; and so it will be to all the ages, till the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our God and His Christ, in a far different way from what they are now.
Isaiah, the wonderful evangelical prophet, writes in his sacred book of the Wonderful, Counsellor, the Child born, and the Son given to Jehovah's Church. (Isa.9) As the Father's co-equal Son, Christ is His first elect in the covenant of grace, for He is elected and given to be the Head over all things to His Church, and His Church was given to Him that He might redeem it from all iniquity. On His blessed shoulders is placed the government of it; His Church and people are brethren, and He the Master of all their service in all their assemblies. Yes, He is the one upon whom is poured the sevenfold gifts of the Spirit, that of His fullness His people might receive grace for grace. All through this blessed book of the prophet Isaiah he is led by the Spirit in his writings to separate the Church from the world of the ungodly that perish in their sin. Let my reader search it out for himself or herself; if I were to quote all the portions, or note them all, in this blessed book where the election of the Church is expressed or implied, it would fill mine to overflowing, so I must leave it, and notice the fact that Jeremiah was a prophet elected of God not only to be a member of His Church, of Christ's body mystical, but to fill an important office in it; and to this he was chosen before he was born into the world, as expressed in the first chapter of his book. Oh how the weeping prophet weeps over sins and awful rebellions of that people whose sins he was sent to denounce; and such was the burden of his grief that he wished his head to be waters and his eyes a fountain of tears, that he might weep day and night over the slain of the daughters of his people. All through his book we have here and there an elect people set forth, and the God that forms them, who is the Former of all things, and of Israel, "the rod of His inheritance."
Ezekiel, in the vision God gave him, sees the elect Church in the valley of dry bones, and God's wonderful grace towards them, and His grace manifested to them in quickening them and making them a spiritually living people, of which we hope to write further on, when we write of the Church regenerated. (Ezek. 37) Deep, very deep, are the mysteries that are wrapped up in the vision of this prophet, which will be unfolded in due time; but through all which is so dark and obscure in the writings of this prophet, there is a glimmer of light here and there by which those who are enlightened with renewing grace can see that it is the elect Church that he writes of when he writes that God would come and make the place around His hill a blessing, and that there shall be showers of blessing.
But the time would fail me to write of all the testimonies of Scripture concerning this foundation doctrine of the Church's election. Daniel, the man greatly beloved of his God, who had chosen him to be His witness before the kings of Babylon, had to suffer reproach for his solemn testimony and faithfulness; and in his book he separates the goats from the sheep, the latter, through grace, rising to everlasting life, and the former to everlasting shame and contempt. Daniel was greatly beloved of his God, but those with whom he had to do in the vocation to which he was called gave, for the most part, no evidence that they were alike beloved, so that electing, distinguishing grace was that which made him to differ from the rest.
In studying the writings of the other prophets the same truth is declared: Hosea writes of the Church that God had betrothed unto Himself in righteousness, in lovingkindnesses, and in mercies. God by this prophet speaks to His elect people--all of which shall know Him and fear Him--even to the latter days, and shows that it is His elect people that are redeemed from death and ransomed from the grave. (Hosea 2) Amos was taken from following the flocks to prophesy unto God's people, and to show that not one grain of the elect seed should be lost. Obadiah writes of Mount Zion, which is the elect Church, wherein there is to be deliverance and holiness, and declares that the house of Jacob, which is another name for the Church, shall possess their possessions. Jonah, the fretful and rebellious prophet, it is true, writes but little of the Church elect; but on his sea voyage, and from the depths of the ocean, he had to learn more fully that "Salvation is of the Lord," and that those who observe lying vanities forsake their own mercies, which all the elect of God do in some way or another until, like Jonah, they are rescued from their dreadful state by regenerating grace. Micah writes of God's heritage, which receives His pardon, and of the ones to whom He delights to show mercy. Habakkuk proclaims how God went forth for the salvation of His people with His anointed, and while the Lord thrashes the heathen in His anger, He brings His servant, as He does all His dear people in measure, to rejoice and glory in the God of their salvation. Zephaniah sings of the salvation of Zion, which is the Church, and of God who is in the midst of her, resting in His love. Haggai writes of the building of the temple, which is typical of the building of the Church to all generations, and while other kingdoms are overthrown, the kingdom of grace is safe. Zechariah shows us Zerubbabel building the Church after laying the foundation, and his own hands finishing the same, and putting the headstone upon it with shoutings of "Grace, grace to it." (Zech. 4) Malachi, the last of the prophets, tells us of God's love to Jacob, who is the type of the Church, and the rejection of Esau, who is the type of the ungodly world that go on in their sin; but upon the Church, the people of God's choice, the Sun of Righteousness arises with healing beneath His wings.
And now, having gone through the Old Testament and written a little of the Church's election as set forth therein, we will now turn to the New Testament, and herein we find the evidences stronger and brighter. Yes, when the Sun of Righteousness appeared, we see in the glass of the Gospel that it was the Church elect which He came to redeem, which constituted the burden of His ministry. In His sacred and blessed testimony He outshines all the other prophets, as He speaks of His Church and people whom the Father gave to Him in covenant of old. Yes, He opened His blessed mouth in parables, and uttered things that had been kept secret from the foundation of the world. To His chosen ones in the days of His flesh, He spake and said, that unto them was given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of Heaven (the kingdom of grace), and for this He thanked His Father, because He had hid these things from the wise and prudent and had revealed them unto babes, that is, to those who are born of the Spirit; and it was of His elect people that He spoke when He said that God would "avenge His own elect, which cry day and night unto Him." (Luke 18:7) It is His Church and people that the angels will be sent to gather at the last great day from the four quarters of the earth; and of His elect people He declared that it was impossible that they should be deceived--no, not by all the delusions of earth and hell. In His ministry He spake of the sheep that were given Him of His Father, and for whom He would--and did--lay down His life. Christ is the true Vine, His elect people are the branches, and the union between the branches and this blessed Vine is first eternal, by the decree of election, virtual by the work of redemption, and vital by regenerating grace, and when this takes place it will be an experimental union by Divine revelation and communion, for none can savingly say that Jesus is the Christ, but by the revelation of the Holy Ghost.
In the book of the Acts of the Apostles it is declared that those who were ordained to eternal life believed, (Acts 13:48) and as it is with the heart that man believes unto righteousness--that is, with the new heart which God gives in regeneration--so with the mouth confession is made of that salvation which can be only known by the remission of sins; it is evident by the testimony of the apostles all through this book that they were sent to be the instrumental means of gathering an elect people whom the Lord their God would call out of darkness into His marvellous light. And when we turn to the epistles written by the apostles under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, no stronger proof is to be found in the Holy Bible than we find in these writings of the truth of election. The eighth, ninth, and tenth chapters of Paul's Epistle to the Romans is to the point here. We have this glorious doctrine of the Gospel of the blessed God set forth with no uncertain sound; and while thousands of blind guides around us are preaching a yea and nay Gospel, which is no Gospel, the apostles write in most forcible language of that Gospel which is yea and amen, (2 Cor. 1:20) and which is all the praise and glory of that grace which has chosen God's people and makes them "accepted in the Beloved." (Eph. 1:6) Peter, in his first epistle, confirms what his beloved brother Paul had written, and he writes to the elect who were elected "according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the precious blood of Christ." (1 Pet. 1:2) The holy Trinity, in personality, is brought into the text, to confirm what the wise and prudent of this religious age are trying to overthrow; but the God whom we are called to worship and whom we adore will, according to His own most blessed Word, and by His almighty power, overthrow them, and all the false constructions and interpretations which they in their blind zeal put upon His holy Word. The god they worship in their freewill service is as mutable as themselves, but our God, the God of Israel, is of one mind and none can turn Him. (Job 23:13) No sinner can turn from the error of his ways till God by His invincible grace turn him, and in this matter what His soul desireth that He doeth, in His own time and in His own way. O how provoking it must be to His holy Majesty to see this and other lands flooded with hirelings and blind guides sounding forth from time to time their abominable errors, which make His elect people sad--whom God alone can comfort--and who make their wicked hearers glad, by telling them of their ability to perform spiritual acts when they are dead in trespasses and sins. O these sewers of pillows under all armholes, these daubers with untempered mortar, what will be their temper when in that great day they shall knock at the door, and hope to enter because of the wonderful religious feats which they had performed, which all began and ended in the flesh? Many will come to Him in that day and say, "Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name, and in Thy name have done wonderful works?" Ah! Then He will profess unto them, "I never knew you; depart from Me, ye workers of iniquity." (Matt. 7:22,23)
John, the loved and loving disciple, writes of the elect lady and her children, (2 John 1) and to Jude to those who were sanctified by God the Father, which is in the decree of election. For this is the first part of the sanctification of God's people, and they were virtually sanctified by God the Son when He suffered without the gate; and all these have been, and are now, and shall be, sanctified by God the Spirit in regenerating grace. In the book of Revelation we read that it is those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life that shall enter the new Jerusalem, for without are dogs and sorcerers, and all who love and make lies.
"Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will." (Ephesians 1:5)
PREDESTINATION, another Scriptural word which is so offensive to free-will religionists, but it is the word of the King who has infinite wisdom and power to perform all the purpose of it, and He will to the shame and everlasting confusion of all who live and die rebelling against His Word. Predestination is declared to be according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by which foreknowledge He saw His people whom He loved with an everlasting love, and whom He made choice of in His Son, ruined in and by Adam's transgression; and it is evident from the Scriptures that God hath from all eternity predestinated to save His people from the state of ruin in which they all fell by original transgression; yea, and hath according to His eternal purpose predestinated them to a much higher and a more exalted state in their chosen Head, the Lord Jesus Christ, than that which they lost through Adam's sin. The end of predestination, according to the teaching of Scripture, is full conformity to the glorified image of the Incarnate Son of God. Christ in His incarnation is the Firstborn of every creature in the new creation; (Col. 1:15) He is the pattern set up in the covenant of free and sovereign grace, and all His dear people, when born of the Spirit, are born to be like Him and to see Him as He is in His glorified humanity.
It is also evident from the Scriptures that the way of God's people through the wilderness has been predestinated, as well whether the journey be long or short, and whatever the people of God are called to suffer here below was all ordained above. There is a lot here below for those whom God did foreknow, and whom He did predestinate, and this lot is cast into the lap of Jehovah's sovereign decrees, and there can be no passing over the bounds which He has set. I know this solemn truth is woefully denied by those who profess to be sent of God to preach His holy truth, but their enmity to it, and denial of it, does not alter it; while they, who boast of their ability to care for themselves, both in providence and grace, are dependent upon the Almighty for every step they take, and every breath they breathe. Do we not read in the Scriptures that the steps of a good man--that is, a subject of Divine grace, for there are none good by nature--are ordered by the Lord? We also read in the Scriptures that the bounds of our habitation are fixed, (Acts 17:26) and that here we have no continuing city, (Heb. 13:14) no certain dwelling-place; and, "Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain;" (Ps. 127:1) and again, it is written: "It is vain for you to rise up early, or to eat the bread of sorrows." (Ps. 127:2) If the Lord does not send prosperity it will most surely tarry. If preachers and teachers had all learnt these solemn truths, as I have, in the fire and through the flood, they would preach them, and not preach up creature ability to do this and to do the other, when it is clearly written that "without Him we can do nothing."
Predestination is implied in all the above scriptures. We read, what few professors of religion believe, that God doeth "His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth." (Dan. 4:35) I often think it would be a solemn lesson to some preachers and professors if they had to learn the truth as the haughty king of Babylon learnt it. He lost his kingdom and His reason for seven long years, and by this he learnt that the Most High ruleth, and that those who walk in pride He is able to abase. What shall we say to these things? Ah, what better can we say than that which we read in the Scriptures of truth: "If God be for us, who can be against us?" (Rom. 8:31) Of course we do not find the word "predestinate" in the Old Testament Scriptures, but the doctrine is set forth most clearly by the dealings of the Almighty with the ancient world. It did not depend on chance that Abel was accepted of God and Cain rejected, because the decree of predestination had settled that before they were born. Is it not an awful truth, taught everywhere throughout God's holy Word, and by His sovereign dealings with nations and people, that it is His purpose to permit them to go on in their rebellion and sin? Not without solemn warnings; no, no; His fiery judgments are continually taking place on the earth, but unrenewed sinners, if humbling grace prevent not, stiffen their necks, and harden themselves in their sins and iniquities; and of such we read: "He that has been often reproved and hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy."
A truly awful circumstance in proof of the above solemn scripture happened shortly after I left the sea. I was associated with sailors and pilots at the Bethel Union chapel, Cardiff, and one night at our prayer meeting, two of my townsmen, who were sailors, came into the meeting, and after it was over I went and spoke to one of them, and as I knew that they both were living profligate lives, I warned him of the solemn state he was in. He left Cardiff and went round to Liverpool in a steamboat, and there he went ashore drinking one night with his shipmates, and they got quarrelling and fighting, and some man threw a stone at the head of the man of whom I write and fractured his skull. His shipmates took him up and carried him on board their ship, and early in the morning they left for Port Talbot, in the Bristol Channel. When they arrived there they sent to Cardiff for the boarding-house keeper where he had lodged in Cardiff to come down to fetch their wounded shipmate, which he did, and a man whom I knew came to me and asked me to go with him to see him, which I did, and found him unconscious, but shortly after I arrived at his bedside he opened his eyes and recognized me, and called me by name, and then he fell unconscious again; but oh, I shall never forget the feelings of my soul as those solemn words dropped into my mind: "The wicked are driven away in their wickedness, but the righteous hath hope in his death." (Prov. 14:32) And--oh solemn truth to relate--the man who was with me at that solemn scene shortly after this went to bed after a drunken carousal, and he never awakened again in this life--he died in a drunken fit. O reader, if thou art a careless sinner this is a solemn warning to thee, and reader, if thou be a godly person, bless God with me that He hath opened our eyes to see, and hath given us hearts to feel what we are by nature, and has made us willing in the day of His power to flee from the wrath to come. (Ps. 110:3; Matt. 3:7)
Alas, alas! Sinners in their natural state, as we have before stated, are all engaged in fulfilling the lusts of the flesh and of the mind. All are by nature the children of wrath, (Eph. 2:3) but God hath not appointed His people to wrath, but to obtain salvation. (1 Thess. 5:9) In this wilderness of sin where they wander, their way is hedged up by the decree of the Watchers. Jehovah, in the sovereignty of His will and by the exercise of His omnipotence, sets bounds to the swelling, raging torrents of their iniquities; they are held in with bit and bridle. In this solemn matter He speaks, "Hitherto shalt thou come and no farther, and here shall thy proud waves be stayed;" (Job 38:11) and had not the Almighty set a hedge for sin and Satan, there had not been a living soul on the face of the earth at this time. Sin if left without bounds, and Satan left without restraint, together would have depopulated the earth long before now. This might seem a strange and extravagant statement to those who have been brought up under moral restraints, but it is proved again and again that sin in its actual working is to be destruction of the race. The wicked, God says in His Word, shall not live out half their days, and this because of their wicked practices and vicious habits. And as human nature is all alike through the fall, and the seeds of every evil are lodged in corrupt nature, who have we to thank for that righteousness which exalteth a nation or a people, but that God who, for the elect's sake, hath in the decree of predestination set bounds to the practical workings of sin, more especially among that people where the most of His elect are found? May we not in all truth look at our beloved nation as an example? Where is the nation that is more moral than this? Notwithstanding the awful transgressions of lots of the people. We do believe, from what we have seen and heard in our travels in many lands, that this is the most moral nation on the face of the earth; and this is proved by the way in which the people of this country people the waste places of the earth. Other nations do not increase like this, and the reason is plain to those who have eyes to see the signs of the times, for it is evident that God hath raised up this nation to colonize the waste places of the earth, and to be His instrument in spreading abroad the blessings of civil government among the savage tribes of the earth; and not only so, but uses this nation to spread abroad His holy Word in the many languages of the earth, so that the elect, the predestinated ones of the different tribes and peoples of the earth, might be gathered into the fold of the great Shepherd of the sheep.
The predestination of God's people is clearly set forth by the leadings and dealings of the Almighty with Abraham and his seed. God declared to him, who in Scripture is styled the father of the faithful, concerning his seed, that they in after years should be in bondage in a strange land. The time of their sojourn there and the time of their deliverance were both alike predestinated by God, according to His eternal purpose who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will. (Eph. 1:11) It is true the predestination of the Church of God is hidden in the Old Testament under the types and shadows of good things to come, yet the wayfaring men who are taught of God see here and there through the dark glass that, though it be not expressly stated, it is implied by the way the Almighty wrought for His people and against His enemies.
All the plot concerning the selling of Joseph into Egypt was permitted of God by the decree of predestination, and it is evident that Joseph's affliction and advancement in the court of the king of the Egyptians is the type, as he is seen to be the deliverer of his kindred, of the Lord Jesus in His humiliation and in His exaltation for the salvation of His dear people. God saw the afflictions of His people who were in Egypt--yes, He foreknew them from eternity--but predestinated to bring them out of it with a high and outstretched arm, and so it will be spiritually in the experience of His Church and people.
I know there are men standing very high among the general profession of this age, who with a bold front and carriage denounce the doctrines that are set forth in this little book; but with all their learning and supposed ability to overthrow the testimony of Scripture by their erroneous interpretations, they are ignorant of the God against whom they fight, and most awful is the condition of those who are willingly ignorant, and who willfully fight against the truth with the envenomed enmity of their carnal minds. They will most surely find the Lord is too strong for them in this battle, and it is a sweet mercy for a poor sinner like me to know that, while I seek to establish the doctrine of the Divine decrees of election and predestination by my feeble pen and voice, the battle is not mine but the Lord's, and we can well believe on which side victory will be secured in the end of this great controversy--yes, this great controversy, for this is the sum and substance of all controversies in religion that God hath with the nations of the earth. God in His holy Word sets forth His Divine sovereignty in the election and predestination of His Church and people, but the world by its wisdom knows not this God, and will not have Him to reign over them, but He does reign all the same, and will until he hath put all His enemies under His footstool. Be wise, therefore, ye kings of the earth; kiss the son, lest He be angry, and thou perish from the way (Ps. 2:12)--that is, from the way of salvation. Blessed indeed are all they who by His invincible grace are brought to acknowledge His scepter and who are led to trust in Him, seeing, as the prophet Isaiah declares in the 44th chapter and 7th verse of his book, that it is God who appoints the ancient people and the things that are coming and shall come; yea, God declares in His holy Word the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, but which must be done to fulfill His just decrees, for His counsel must stand, and He will do all His pleasure. He hath purposed it, and none can disannul it. All through the holy book wherein is recorded the history of the Church on earth the appointment of its members is set forth, and the things appointed for them. Dear old Job knew this and testified of the same amidst his distress, that what had happened to him was by Divine appointment, and thus he declares, "When He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold."
The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, telling him that before he was born God had ordained him to be a prophet unto the nations, and the burden of his prophecy was for the most part against the awful conduct of that people whom God had chosen to illustrate His judgments and mercy; and the prophet declares that, notwithstanding the state of captivity of Jacob's tents and the fretting leprosy of their sins, God had purposed to bring them health and cure. The predestination of the people of God was clearly taught by His incarnate Son in His ministry on earth, for He declared all that the Father gave Him should come unto Him; (John 6:37) the decree of predestination had eternally fixed the time and place, for, as one of our poets sings, so is it in the Divine purpose:--
"There is a period known to God
When all the sheep, redeemed by blood,
Must leave the hateful ways of sin,
Turn to the fold, and enter in."
"The appointed time rolls on apace
Not to propose, but call by grace;
To change the heart, renew the will,
And turn the feet to Zion's hill."
But Divine appointments have no place in the creed of those who preach and teach that the salvation of sinners depends upon their own wills, but the Scriptures declare that "it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy." (Rom. 9:16) God has a set time to call His people from darkness to light--"the vision is for an appointed time," (Habak. 2:3) and when the time appointed arrives none can resist the will of Him concerning the times and seasons, which He keeps in His own power. In the 15th chapter of John's Gospel and the 16th verse, it reads: "Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain;" and surely if the fruit be ordained, much more the root; and it is evident from the Scriptures that the root of fruit-bearing is the eternal purpose of God in predestination, for it is declared by the Apostle Paul in his Epistle to the Romans--the eighth chapter and 29th verse--"For whom He did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed unto the image of His dear Son, that He might be the Firstborn among many brethren. Moreover, whom He did predestinate, them He also called," so it is evident here that the true basis of the calling or quickening of poor sinners into life--the true conversion of sinners to God--is predestination; though there are thousands of blind guides calling upon dead sinners to do this and to do that, which only those that are born again of the Spirit can do, and that by His Divine operation. "It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing;" (John 6:63) and He quickens whom He will, and quickens none but those who are found in the covenant, for this is "ordered in all things and sure." In the 15th chapter of Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians and the 22nd verse, it reads: "As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." This, of course, refers to the resurrection at the last day, but it is only those who are first in a new birth unto righteousness and who are created in Christ Jesus new creatures, and who die in the Lord, that shall rise to life everlasting, and this by Divine appointment. For as the Church died in Adam by the permissive decree of the Almighty, so it will live in Christ by His active decree to all eternity. Paul, writing to the Galatians, tells them it was because they were sons--that is, in the Divine purpose--God had sent forth the Spirit of His Son into their hearts teaching them to call God their Father; and none can truly do this but those who are taught of God. And surely it is on a account of the Divine decree in predestination that the prophet Isaiah declares--or rather it is God the Father that speaks to His Son by the prophet--and says: "All thy children shall be taught of the Lord," (Isa. 54:13) that is, of God the Spirit, for He is the efficient Teacher in the Church; and great indeed is the peace those whom He condescends to teach, and make known to them that peace which has been procured by the blood of the Redeemer's cross.
In Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians and the first chapter, it is declared that God's dear people are predestinated "unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will," and to the praise and glory of that grace which makes them accepted in the Beloved; and is also declared in the same chapter that in Christ God's people obtain an inheritance, to which they are predestinated "according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will;" (Eph. 1:11) and oh! How earnestly the Apostle prayed that these Christians to whom he wrote might be enlightened, and have the eyes of their understanding opened, so that they might know what was the hope of their calling, and the glory that would redound to God for their, or through their, salvation, which is according to the riches of His grace. This prayer is for the Church of God throughout all time, and we may be sure of this, that whoever receives the revelation of these mysteries in a spiritual mind, they will be sure to contend for them, whether men will hear or forbear; they all in their measure speak that which they do know, and testify of that which they have seen, tasted, handled, and felt of the good Word of life.
The end of predestination is conformity to the glorified image of God's dear Son, and the way to that end is predestinated as well. There is the suffering image of Christ to which every vessel of mercy must, in their measure, be conformed. Our predestinated lot here in the wilderness is a lot of tribulation. God has not got two heavens for His people--here and hereafter. Their portion here below is one of suffering, either in mind, body, or estate, of which we hope to write more fully in the sixth chapter of this little work. "There is a way that seemeth right unto a man," the wise king wrote in the book of Proverbs, "but the end thereof is death," as we do believe that this means death in all its latitude. This is the way of transgression, and it is evident to a spiritual mind that the bulk of the human race are, and have been in all ages, running in this way to an awful end. Yes, it is true--so sadly true, "Broad is the road that leads to destruction;" and my prayer and my hope is that God in His divine sovereignty will condescend to use this little work, poor and imperfect as it is, for the rescue of some of His predestinated ones from the path of the destroyer.
And when and where He does this, and opens the eyes of their understandings that they might understand the Scriptures, they learn, mark, and inwardly digest the truth, and are found among that people whom the Lord forms for Himself to show forth His praise.
And thus it is written: "Christ loved the Church, and gave Himself for it; that He might cleanse it by the washing of water through the Word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious Church without spot, wrinkle, or any such thing." (Eph. 5:25-27) It is not any one so-called church that is to be found in the world, called by a variety of names to suit the thoughts and feelings of men, that is meant in the Scriptures of truth, that we have set forth at the head of this chapter. It is the Church that was lost in Adam, and of this Church the Incarnate Son of God spake in the days of His flesh when He said, "The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost." (Luke 19:10) It is a number that no man can number, redeemed out of every nation, kindred, tribe, and tongue. Redemption is not universal, as thousands of blind guides preach and teach to please men, but special and particular. Redemption is limited to the Church of the Firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. The Church is God the Father's gift to His dear Son, that He might redeem them from sin and death, for thus Christ Himself spake of it, "Thine they were, and Thou hast given them to Me." (John 17:6) Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins; this was taught the people of God in all the bloody sacrifices in days of old, and all God's children under the typical sacrifices of blood were led by faith to behold the Lamb of God, who should, in the days to come, bear the sins of His people in His own body on the tree. It was not possible for the blood of bulls and of goats to take away sin; the blood of beasts that was shed pointed to the blood of the everlasting covenant, and all those who were spiritual in the days of the ceremonial law looked through the type to the great Antitype that was to come. Abraham rejoiced to see Christ's day by that faith which is of the operation of God, and all the faithful before him saw it too, but Abraham had a more blessed view of it than all the rest of the Old Testament saints, as is evident by the way his faith is held up and set forth in the Scriptures. He had this faith on that mount where he had taken his son, his only son Isaac, at the command of God, to offer him up as a burnt offering. "My father," said Isaac, when all was ready for the sacrifice, "here is the wood and the fire, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?" "My son," said Abraham, "God will provide Himself a lamb for a burnt offering," and in the ram caught in the thicket Abraham caught sight by faith of God's substitutionary Lamb which He had provided, and who in the fullness of time should die, the Just One, for His people, who were unjust by original and actual transgression, that He might bring them to God.
There is no sight so blessed as the sight by faith of Jesus crucified for me, and this sight shall all the elect of God have, agreeable to the testimony of the prophet Zechariah, and when God fulfills it, and pours upon His people the Spirit of grace and supplication, and leads them by faith to look upon Him whom their sins have pierced, these are never to be forgotten moments in the experience of those who are written among the living in Jerusalem. (Zech. 12:10) As we have before written, the types and shadows of the ceremonial law all testified to the necessity of a sacrifice for sin, and as God, in the covenant of His free and sovereign grace, had engaged to send His people a Saviour, and a great one, to send redemption to His people by the hand of a fit Man, in the fullness of time He sent His Son to take the human nature of His people, (Gal. 4:4) without sin, and thus He was enabled to accomplish by His death the redemption of His people, who were all transgressors under the law. This, as we have before stated, was all prophesied by the sacrifices as set forth in the Old Testament, and the prophetic testimonies are some of them so clear as to the suffering life and sacrificial death of God's Incarnate Son that when we read them, and compare them with the testimony of the Evangelists, we see then how clear a faith the prophets had of the redemptive work of God's dear Son. In the twenty-second Psalm David, in the spirit of prophecy, sets forth that which did actually take place at the crucifixion of our Lord, for as we read they parted His garments among them, and for His vesture they cast lots. (Ps. 22:18) These were the things that the soldiers did, and this was declared in prophecy hundreds of years before it took place.
Isaiah saw by faith the Incarnate Son of God, and knew that it was for the redemption of the Church that He thus would appear in the flesh, and he writes of His advent in the ninth chapter of his book and the sixth verse, "Unto us a Child is born;" the us is the Church, and unto the Church the Son is given, the government of which is upon His shoulder, and there is none other that could bear the burden of it but the Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace, who hath made peace for His people by the blood of His cross. He is the rod that came out of the stem of Jesse, and the branch out of his roots; upon Him rest the sevenfold gifts of the Spirit, to fit Him for that glorious work, the redemption of His people. Yes, He is both the branch and root of Jesse, the root of Jesse through His Deity, and the branch of Jesse through His humanity; and today, and every day until the days flee away, He stands as an ensign for His people, and those of them among the Gentiles are, through His grace, seeking His rest which is glorious; and when the fulness of the Gentiles shall have come into His fold, then all the elect of the seed of Abraham shall come in, for that scripture will then be fulfilled, "There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and he shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob. (Rom. 11:25,26) For the Lord will have mercy on Jacob, and will yet choose Israel, and set them in their own land: and the strangers shall be saved with them." For so writes the prophet Isaiah, which the reader will see if he turns to the ninth to the fourteenth chapters of his wonderful book; and oh how clear is the testimony of this prophet as he wrote in the fifty-third chapter of the solemn passion of our Lord! It is of the Church he writes and of her Redeemer; it was His people's grief that He bore; for their sins was He stricken and smitten; for their transgressions He was bruised; all of them like sheep have gone astray, but the Lord--that is, His Father--laid upon Him the iniquities of them all, and He shall see of the travail of His soul. By the sufferings and blood of the Father's righteous Servant He shall justify many--the Church--for their Surety shall bear their iniquities. He was numbered with the transgressors; He bare the sin of many--the Church; and for His people, as transgressors, He makes intercession. He shall see His seed, and the pleasure of His Father shall prosper in His hands; yea, He always saw them before He became incarnate; He saw them in the counsels of old, which are faithfulness and truth, and in that council He stood up as the Surety of His people, engaged to be their Redeemer. "Whom shall I send?" Said the Father, and "Who will go for us?" Said the Holy Ghost?" "Here am I," said the Son, "send Me, (Isa. 6:8) and if I bring them not back to Thee let Me bear the blame for ever." And bring them back He will. They have all revolted in the first Adam, but in the second Adam, the Lord from heaven, they are redeemed--brought back--and shall be brought back, and not a hoof shall be left behind. O the wonderful vision this favored prophet Isaiah had of Him who would and did magnify the law and made it honorable! (Isa. 42:21) His work is honorable and glorious, and the righteousness He wrought by His obedience to the law endures for ever for the justification of His people. The prophet saw Him coming from the battlefield, where He had engaged the host of hell and overthrew them, with His garments dyed in blood--the mighty One to save. (Isa. 63:1) Again, he sees Him anointed to preach good tidings to the meek, binding up the brokenhearted, proclaiming liberty to the captives, comforting the mourners in Zion, and giving them beauty for their ashes, and the oil of joy for their mourning, and the garment of praise for their spirit of heaviness. (Isa. 61:1-3)
Jeremiah sees Him as the Branch of righteousness which shall grow up unto David, and His name is, The Lord our righteousness. David is the type of the Church. (Jer. 23:5,6) Daniel sees Him in vision bringing in everlasting righteousness and making reconciliation for iniquity. He sees the Messiah cut off, not for His own sins, but for the sins of His people, and the restoration set forth is the restoration of the whole Church of God. (Dan. 9:24) Hosea sees Him ransoming His people from the grave and redeeming them from death. (Hos. 13:14) Joel sees Him as He roared out of Zion and uttered His voice from Jerusalem, and sees Him as the hope of His people and the strength of His children. (Joel 3:16) Micah sees Him in His birth and in His kingdom and conquests, and proclaims His goings to be of old, even everlasting. (Micah 5:2) Zechariah sees Him as the Shepherd of His sheep, with the sword of Divine justice plunged into Him as He dies for His people on the accursed tree. (Zech. 13:7) Malachi sees Him and His messenger going before Him, and sees Him in the Temple as the refiner to purify the sons of Levi, which is His Church and people. (Mal. 3:1-3)
In the first chapter of the gospel by the evangelist Luke we have the testimony of Zacharias, as he sets forth the visit of the Dayspring from on high, and of the knowledge that is given to His people of their salvation by the remission of their sins; the knowledge of salvation, and who wrought it, and how it is wrought, is meant, and only the elect receive this knowledge, for God teaches none but those who are interested in it, those whose names were written in the Lamb's book of life before the foundation of the world. Oh, how evident it is that the rest live without hope and without God in the world! What a sad darkening of counsel without knowledge there is in this land today among the different sects of religion; preachers and teachers telling poor dead sinners who are dead in trespasses and sins that Christ died for them, and they have only to give their assent and consent, and they are saved--not a word about their awful state in the fall and the absolute necessity of repentance; no word about the need of a new birth unto righteousness before they can see or enter the kingdom of heaven--the kingdom of grace; no, but a turning of things upside down, a preaching of peace where there is no peace, for "There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked." (Isa. 48:22; Isa. 57:21) Solemn truth, yet how little proclaimed! Christ died for sheep, not for goats. It is His sheep that hear His voice through regenerating grace. It is His sheep that follow Him--yea, and every one of them in their measure through evil and good report; for His sheep He laid down His precious life. This He was commanded to do of His Father; this He willingly did, for in the volume of the book it is written of Him, "I delight to do Thy will, O My God: Thy law is within My heart." (Ps. 40:8) The redemption of His Church and people is precious: so precious that nothing could redeem them but the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. (1 Pet. 1:19) Wonder, O heavens! And be astonished, O earth! For enemies to God, traitors to His throne, rebels to His authority, a number that none can number but Himself, each and every one that constitute the number of His elect, are redeemed from going down to the pit of hell. Sing, O ye heavens! And be joyful, O earth! For the Lord hath done it; He hath redeemed Jacob--His Church--and glorified Himself in the salvation of His people. Oh awful libel on that one sacrifice that perfects the salvation of Jehovah's sanctified ones which says that there are thousands in hell for whom Christ died!
As one with the Father and the Holy Ghost the Son of God could not die, but as the Son of man He could; therefore He took into union with His Divine person the humanity of His people, and was found in fashion as a man, agreeable to the text in the second chapter of Paul's epistle to the Hebrews, fourteenth verse: "Forasmuch as the children were partakers of flesh and blood, He also likewise took part of the same." The children partook of sinful flesh and blood, corrupt fresh, mortal flesh and blood, but the part which the eternal Son of God took into union with His Divine person was a sinless part, an uncorruptible part, an immortal part, and thus in His complex person as the God-man He was able to, and did, accomplish the redemption of His people. And when the Father brought His only begotten Son in to the world, He said, "And let all the angels of God worship Him;" and if He had not been co-equal with the Father and the Holy Ghost, in every perfection of Deity, would the angels have been commanded to worship Him? No, no. Alas for those who deny the personality of His Godhead; if they believe not on Him they must die in their sins. It is from His complex person as the God-man that the virtue of redemption flows to His dear people, and is sure to all His seed, (Rom. 4:16) for no man can redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom. (Psalm 49:7)
God gave Egypt for the ransom of His ancient people, (Isa. 43:3) but He gave no ransom for the Egyptians. It is true they essayed to go through the Red sea, but they had no faith which God gives His elect, and so they were drowned. There are thousands in these days of loose profession who essay to go to heaven, and they would be enraged with me if I questioned as to their being on the road, but they have not the faith of God's elect, and without it it is impossible for any sinner to go to heaven. For we are saved experimentally by faith, "and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast." (Eph. 2:8,9)
What will it avail those professors, who have a name to live while they are dead in trespasses and sins, when they come to the swellings of Jordan? How can they cross the dread river in safety without faith? It was the blood of the Paschal lamb upon the doorposts and lintels of the houses of the children of Israel that screened them from the hand of the destroying angel. The blood, said Jehovah, shall be to you for a token that I will not destroy you, when I pass over to smite the land of Egypt; (Exo. 12:12,13) and the blood of Jesus sprinkled upon the conscience, in the virtue of it, is the token to God's people that they shall not be destroyed in the error of the wicked. There is no blood for the Egyptians; no Paschal lamb for them. The Egyptians are a type of God's enemies, and the Israelites are a type of the Church. Therefore, redemption is limited to God's people, and these only will enjoy the benefit of it, and these only are brought to feel their need of it. God forbid that we should limit the Holy One of Israel, only where He limits Himself, and in redemption He does to the Church.
Paul to the Hebrews writes, "Though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered; and being made perfect, He became the author of eternal salvation to all that obey Him;" (Heb. 5:8,9) and none do or can obey Him until they are born again of the Spirit. The obedience in the text is the obedience of faith, and this is God's gift, and He gives it to none but regenerated souls. It is the seed of Israel, the Church, that are justified, and who glory in the way in which the Lord justifies the ungodly.
Balaam, the false prophet, was constrained to prophesy that God does not behold iniquity in Jacob nor perverseness in Israel Num. 23:21) --that is, His Church; and this is because He beholds them in His Son, clothed in His righteousness and washed in His sin-cleansing blood. "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?" (Rom. 8:33) Let them bring in their bills; Christ will answer them all, and God will justify all His people, freely and graciously, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus. What can separate the people of Jehovah's choice from His love? It is eternal and unchangeable. This is the river of which the Psalmist so sweetly sings, "The streams whereof make glad the city of God" (Ps. 46:4) --the Church, God's holy place, His tabernacle where He delights to dwell. God is ever in the midst of His people; this is where He rests for ever, and rests from wrath and rests in His love. "He sent redemption unto His people: holy and reverend is His name."
Thus "Salvation is of the Lord." His blessing is upon His people, and fixed upon them by an irrevocable decree, and all His people must be brought to the knowledge of it, and to acknowledge it, even if like Jonah they go down to the bottom of the sea to learn it. None can teach the Lord's people to profit but Himself. He is pleased to use frail instruments, and puts the treasure of spiritual knowledge in earthen vessels, but the excellency of the power is from Himself, and for His own most worthy praise.
But we are trespassing on that which must constitute the burden of the next chapter. Redemption is the theme of this one--the redemption of the Church and people of God; not the whole of the human race as poor blind guides assert, though they have no foundation for their assertions in the Scriptures, and it is a solemn truth uttered by the Son of God in the days of His flesh, "If the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch." (Matt. 15:14) Alas for the leaders of the people which cause them to walk in the ways of death! But, blessed be God! They cannot finally deceive the elect. To the church at Corinth the Apostle wrote of Him who was rich, yet for their sakes became poor, that they through His poverty might be rich; (2 Cor. 8:9) and in the Scriptures we have set forth the poverty of His birth, the poverty of His life, the poverty of His death, and the poverty of His burial; and we are assured that all the dear Son of God endured must be effectual for all for whom He endured it. The Apostle declares that it was for the joy set before Him that He endured the cross. Yes, the joy of saving His people, the Church. Where would be His joy if, as erroneous preachers and teachers say, thousands go to hell for whom He died? O horrid thought and blasphemy against the Son of God, who endured the stroke of wrath that was His people's due, that they might go free! What is it but a trampling upon the precious blood of Christ, and accounting the all-sufficient sacrifice which He offered for the sins of His people when He offered up Himself, as an insufficient thing? Blessed be God! We have not so learned at the feet of our dear Immanuel, and at times under the sweet unction of the Holy One we can sing with dear Gadsby the hymn which we insert:
"The ransomed of the Lord
Shall unto Zion come;
A faithful, loving God
Will surely bring them home;
He gave His life a ransom price,
And Zion shall in Him rejoice.
The promise of the Lord
Shall stand for ever good,
And Zion shall record
The wonders of His love,
Redemption's glorious work is done;
The ransomed shall to Zion come.
The Holy, Wise, and Just
His Well-beloved gave;
And shall the man be cursed
That Jesus came to save?
Shall sin and Satan Jesus cheat,
Or prove the ransom incomplete?
O vanity extreme!
And base that heart must be,
Whose tongue can dare proclaim
The ransomed damn'd shall be.
The debt is paid; the victory won;
The ransom'd shall to Zion come.
They shall rejoice in Him,
And in Him they shall boast;
He saves from wrath and sin,
From guilt, law, and the curse.
To Zion they shall all be led,
And joy shall rest upon their head.
'Tis no uncertain sound
The Gospel trumpet gives;
The Church in Christ is found,
And by and in Him lives:
While Jesus lives to bring them home,
The ransomed shall to Zion come."
A sweet and blessed song of praise to the glory of God for the redemption of His people, and when the whole of the redeemed Church are gathered into the heavenly garner, their united song will be unto Him that loved them, and washed them from their sins in His own most precious blood. Much more might be written from the Scriptures to confirm the definite nature of redemption. Paul, writing to the Church at Galatia, declares that the children of the promise are counted for the seed, and all the redeemed are children of promise. Christ's death is the death of the Testator, and by the will of the covenant it is expressly stated who it is that benefits by the will. Christ was offered to bear the sins of many, that is, of the many whom He will, as the Captain of their salvation, bring to glory. By His one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified, that is, those who are sanctified in the decree of election. He hath perfected the salvation of all these by the merit of His life and His sacrifice in death. It is a faithful saying, and worthy of all the credence that we can give it, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. (1 Tim. 1:15) But how could it be a faithful saying if the sinners were lost that He came to save? It is vessels of mercy that were before ordained to glory, and for these Christ died, and the mercy flows to them through His rich atoning blood; and all these are brought to feel their need of mercy, and to sue for mercy from that God who is rich in mercy, and for the great love wherewith He loves His people, even when they are dead in sin, He quickens them, (Eph. 2:4,5) and makes them willing in the day of His power (Ps. 110:3) to flee from the wrath to come.
Peter, writing to the elect, tells them that they were redeemed, not with corruptible things such as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ; (1 Pet. 1:18,19) and those to whom he writes were born again, not of corruptible seed, but "by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever;" (1 Pet. 1:23) and these are the ones who are instructed in redemption. None feel their need of it but these, and to them is the word of this salvation sent. All the invitations, exhortations, precepts, and promises of the Gospel are to the living, not to the dead. The dead know not anything, nor do they want to know. The language of the heart of sinners dead in trespasses and sins is, Depart from us, we desire not the knowledge of Thy ways. (Job 21:14) But is there nothing in the Bible addressed to them? Aye, there is, and here they are left without excuse, for the Bible contains most fearful warnings to unrepenting sinners. Yea, it tells them that the whole artillery of God's wrath is lodged against them; and those whom God quickens see their danger, fear the awful threatenings of His fiery law, and thus are they inwardly warned to escape the wrath of a sin-avenging God, and flee to that Saviour who is able to, and will, save all His dear people as they come to God by Him.
"Ye must be born again." (John 3:7)
"Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." (John 1:13)
The evangelist John writes in the last chapter of his first Epistle of the three Persons in the Godhead, a deep and profound mystery which is revealed to faith; and these three Persons in the personality of the Godhead "bear record in heaven," (1 John 5:7) and the record which they bear in heaven concerns the part which each Person of the Deity takes in the salvation of the Church; the Father in election and predestination, the Son in redemption, and the Holy Ghost in regeneration. The Three that bear record in heaven are one in every perfection of the Godhead. The Father chose His people out of the ruins of the fall; the Son was made flesh, and in the flesh perfected the work of redemption, and to make redemption sure in the virtue of it to all the seed; the Holy Ghost works effectually in the regeneration of His people, convincing them of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment to come, (John 16:8) and this makes them feel their need of redemption; yea, of salvation, and all that accompanies it. "It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing," (John 6:63) though a thousand false tongues are proclaiming day by day that man must do his part. If this were true, then salvation would be of works, and not of grace; but "Let God be true and every man a liar," (Rom. 3:4) when He declares that "It is not of works, lest any man should boast." (Eph. 2:9) "Behold," said God, when He saw the ruin that sin had wrought, "I stand, and make all things new;" (Rev. 21:5) and Paul writes and says, "If any man be in Christ Jesus"--manifestly, he means--"he is a new creature;" (2 Cor. 5:17) yes, a new creature, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God before ordained that His people should walk in them. (Eph. 2:10)
There are three special and particular views given us in the Word of God on the regeneration of God's people. The first is the necessity of it, the second is the nature of it, and then the certainty of it in the experience of all the elect of God. The necessity of it is proved from the solemn state and condition that all are in by nature, for in our natural condition we are all as unclean things, and all our righteousness are as filthy rags, and, in and of ourselves considered, we all do fade as a leaf, and our iniquities like the wind carry us away, (Isa. 64:6) and to eternal perdition it would have carried the whole of Adam's fallen race, but for Jehovah's preventing grace in the decrees of salvation. The depraved will of fallen sinners ever carries them in opposition to the will of God, either in open profanity in the lusts of the flesh, or in pride and ambition in the lusts of the mind; and it is a solemn consideration for all self-righteous persons that all their fancied goodness and Pharisaic zeal in religion upon which they pride themselves--no matter what name is given to it by those who practice it--are the lusts of the mind, and as such are a stench in God's nostrils, a fire that burns all the day long; and those who die in that state will soon find the burning wrath of God to burn up all their creature goodness and false hopes that they built upon it. There is a fearful amount of this kind of religion among the professors of the Christian religion in these days of loose profession, but it is a bed too short and a covering too narrow to cover themselves from the wrath of a sin-avenging God. The necessity of regeneration is from the fact that heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people; there must be a capacity wrought for its sacred enjoyments, or they could not be enjoyed. It is evident, both from Scripture and observation, that unregenerate sinners, as such, could not enjoy the paradise of God. Why, they loathe the company of the godly down here, where they are compassed with many infirmities, both of flesh and sense; how could they bear their company when they are made meet for the inheritance of the saints in light? Paul, in the second chapter of his First Epistle to the Corinthians, declares that "the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned;" (1 Cor. 2:14) and in the first chapter he writes, "We preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling-block, and unto the Greeks foolishness," (1 Cor. 1:23) while, of course, they are in an unregenerate state. O sinner, sinner! Marvel not at this, "Ye must be born again," before you can go to heaven, and before you could enjoy it.
But now let me write a little on the nature of regeneration. This is a point which every truly regenerated soul is more or less exercised about, and it is right they should be, for God's people are exhorted in His Word to examine themselves to see whether Jesus Christ be in them or no, that is, formed in them as the hope of glory. When the ruler of the Jews came to Jesus by night, and the Lord told him that he must be born again, his answer was, "How can these things be?" And the Lord in reply said: "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and so is every one that is born of the Spirit." (John 3:8,9) It is the Spirit that quickeneth, and He does it sovereignly, when and where He will; and His wonderful operation in renewing the souls of His dear people is set forth in the Scriptures in a variety of ways. It is called in one place "conversion." "Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye can in no wise enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matt. 18:3) In another place it is called a passing from death unto life; and again it is called a translation into the kingdom of God's dear Son, a deliverance from the powers of darkness, and from the power of sin and Satan, and a turning from darkness to light. Jehovah the Spirit passes by the vessels of mercy while in their blood, that is, dead in trespasses and sins, and He breathes life into their souls--spiritual life to feel their need, and to feel after spiritual things. God, by His servant the prophet, speaks of this wonderful transaction in the following manner: "I passed by thee, and I saw thee in thy blood, and I said unto thee, Live; yea, I said unto thee, Live." (Ezek. 16:6)
The Psalmist declares that "the law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul." (Ps. 19:7) This is the instrument with which He lays "judgment to the line, and righteousness to the plummet," (Isa. 28:17) in the sinner's conscience, and thus brings him to His holy bar. Thus judgment begins at the house of God, as Peter sets it forth in one of his Epistles. God hath set up His judgment seat here in this world, and brings His people to it here in this life, and passes sentence in their consciences, which makes them sue for His mercy, and then He most graciously reprieves the poor guilty sinner, and sends him on his way rejoicing in a free pardon, and in the enjoyment of that peace which has been procured by the blood of the cross; and thus, being justified by faith in the court of conscience, he has "peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ," (Rom. 5:1) that is, through the finished work of redemption.
Paul, to the Ephesians, sets forth the work of the Spirit on the souls of the regenerate after the following manner. They first heard the truth; then they believed; then they were "sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise;" (Eph. 1:13) that is, sealed by the Spirit with the earnest of the full fruition of their eternal redemption. And this earnest is first pardon, peace, reconciliation, and the Spirit of adoption, and a blessed earnest it is; and those who through grace long for it, and those who prize it, shall, by and by, obtain the full fruition.
When we read the story of the calling of the ancient saints, as they were separated by grace from the world of the ungodly, we see a great variety in the manner of their calling. There was a diversity of operations and administrations, as the Lord called them out of darkness into His light, and even so it is under what is called the "new dispensation." What a diversity of operations is manifested in the experiences of those who are called by grace; but it all amounts to the same thing, in giving the elect of God to see, and feel, an end of all perfection in the flesh, and a making them willing, in the day of God's power, (Ps. 110:3) to flee from the wrath to come, (Matt. 3:7) and to obtain that salvation which is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.
As the Saviour, the Redeemer of His people, likened the work of the Holy Ghost in regenerating grace to the wind, the wind in its operations does not always and everywhere blow to the same degree. There is the mighty tempest, which brings down the proud oaks and cedars with a stroke. So it is in the experience of some of those who are wrought on by the Spirit. He comes upon them with such convincing energy that humbles them in the dust of self-abasement and self-abhorrence in a moment. The plough share of the law enters their reins and hearts, and makes such a deep furrow that all confidence in themselves or the creature is rooted up; and the agonizing cry of these poor distressed souls is, "Lord, save, or I perish." They smite upon their breast, as did the poor publican, and cry, "God be merciful to me a sinner."
But we must not set this up as a standard for all truly converted souls to measure themselves by. What a lot of distress is brought from time to time into the souls of some of the regenerated ones, because they have not had such a deep law-work upon their hearts and consciences as others. They fear that their spot is not the spot of God's children, and that the root of the matter is not in them, because they have not been rooted up as others have. Well, true exercises of soul will do them no harm in the end, and the exhortation to them is not to cast away their little confidence, which has a great recompense of reward, and to be truly diligent in seeking to make their calling and election sure. Well, the wind does not always blow with tempestuous fury, and so the operation of the Spirit upon renewed souls at times is more like a moderate gale, and this in the energy of it teaches them here a little and there a little; it is as it were line upon line, precept upon precept, but they come to the same spot in the end--that is, to see and feel their lost and hell-deserving condition, and to make the salvation of their souls the one thing needful above all that they feel to need.
Again, the wind blows in a gentle breath, causing only a ripple upon the face of the waters, and just making the foliage of the trees to tremble and shake. So it is with many whom the blessed Spirit breathes upon. They are gradually awakened to see the vanity of earth, and the death which rests upon all creature things. They begin to feel that they too must die, and death and eternity so fills them with distress that it spoils to them all earthly pleasures. Sin in its corrupt workings is discovered, and guilt is brought upon the conscience; and then they try and secrete themselves from their former companions, and for fear of the Lord and the glory of His majesty. The law of the Lord, in its spirituality, on the conscience acts as a schoolmaster. It sets different lessons to learn for different pupils, but the end of Divine instruction is the same in all, in its measure. They all have to come to the knowledge of sin, both original and actual; and when they are made truly sin-sick, they seek the hand of the Good Physician to bring them health and cure. Then they learn what this meaneth: "I will have mercy, and not sacrifice. For I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." (Matt. 9:13) Upon them is poured the Spirit of grace and supplication, and they look upon Him whom they have pierced, and they mourn. (Zech. 12:10)
In Psalm 89, the people of God are pronounced blessed, because they know the joyful sound, and that is the sound of redeeming mercy through the Redeemer's blood. These are the people that walk in the light of God's countenance, and rejoice in His name--that is, in His perfections, which harmonize in their salvation--and in God's righteousness His people are exalted; not in His essential righteousness, but in that righteousness which the dear Son of God wrought for them under the law; and it is also that righteousness which is wrought in them by the work of the Holy Ghost in regenerating grace, for in the Lord are all the springs of His people's godly life here, and from Him all their fruit is found. So that His people have nothing to glory in, but what comes from Him. In the Lord His people have righteousness and strength, and in the Lord they are all justified, and in the Lord they all glory, (Isa. 45:24,25) and herein they have ample scope to glory; for as the Apostle Paul declares in the 11th verse, "Of Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things;" that is, all things that pertain to the salvation of His people, and in that godliness which hath the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. Yes, to the one undivided of Jehovah, who in personality is Three, is all the glory both in creation, in providence, and in grace. "O Israel, thou art My people, in whom I will be glorified." (Isa. 49:3) Blessed people! They shall all be satisfied with favor, and full with the blessing of the Lord.
Having then briefly written on the necessity of regeneration, and the nature of it, we will now try and write a little on the certainty of it in the experience of God's elect. The foundation of this blessed truth is the absolute will of Jehovah in His covenant of free and sovereign grace, wherein we have the immutability of His counsel and oath; (Heb. 6:17 God hath said it, and who shall disannul it? (Isa. 14:27) And not only said it but sworn to it, and because He could not swear by any greater He hath sworn by Himself. (Heb. 6:13) God hath said, "I will be their God, and they shall be My people." (Jer. 31:33) We have quoted John's testimony already in the last chapter of his first epistle about the Three that bear record in heaven; the next verse runs thus: "And there are three that bear witness in earth, the spirit, and the water, and the blood." The spirit is the spirit of God's children as regenerated and led by the Spirit of God, the water is the Word of God, and the blood is the blood of the everlasting covenant--the blood of Jesus Christ, the sacrificial Lamb of His people, and these three agree in one; that is, in the one Church, in all that are taught of God. In the Word of God we have it declared what God has done, and what He will do in and for His people, and be sure He will do all that He has promised to do. Hath He not said, speaking of His people, "I will put My fear in their hearts, and they shall not depart from Me?" (Jer. 32:40) This is the first active grace in the experience of a regenerated soul. Again, God hath said, "This is the covenant that I will make with them: I will put My laws in their minds, and in their hearts will I write them." (Heb. 10:16) Heaven, as we have before written, is a prepared place for a people whom God will by His grace prepare for the enjoyment of it. The Lord Jesus in the days of His flesh in addressing His disciples said, "Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid," (John 14:27) and then declared that "In His Father's house there were many mansions," (John 14:2) and that He was going "to prepare a place for them;" and in His wonderful prayer, as recorded in the 17th chapter of John's Gospel, He said, "Father, I will that those whom Thou hast given Me be with Me where I am; that they may behold My glory," (John 17:24) and as the preparation for this glory in the beholding of it must be of grace and not of works, God prepares His people and makes them meet subjects for His heavenly kingdom. David, in one of his psalms, declares his confidence on this blessed matter, and says, "Thou wilt perfect that which concerneth me." (Ps. 138:8) James, the favored apostle of all who hold the free-will heresy, writing of the new birth unto righteousness, writes thus: "Of His own will begat He us, that we might be the firstfruits of His creatures," (James 1:18) that is, of the new creation in the beginning of what is termed the Gospel dispensation. Many exceeding great and precious promises there are in the Bible to set forth the certainty of God's people being gathered out of the world by regenerating grace, and Paul tells us that these promises are all yea and amen in Christ Jesus (2 Cor. 1:20)--that is, they are certain of being fulfilled. Poor blind guides--both teachers and preachers, and all who exhort in the freewill line--tell their hearers to go and mend their pitchers and then come to the well, but the new wine of that kingdom which is all of grace must have a new bottle for its reception, and so the Lord hath promised to give His people a new heart, and to put a right spirit within them. The Church of God is set forth in Scripture as a building, and the workmanship of God, and we know very well that no earthly building ever reared itself. It is God who takes the stones and fits them in the building, and when He has finished it, it will stand as an eternal monument of praise to the all-wise Master Builder.
Again, the Church and people of God are called His husbandry, and it is God who plants them and causes them to bring forth fruit. What should we say of an earthly husbandman going out to his field and saying, "I shall not plough you, nor put seed into you, but when the time of harvest draws on, I shall expect you to bring me forth a good crop of corn?" Thousands of blind guides act like this in their preaching and teaching, but with all their freewill exhortations the strong man armed, which is the devil, keeps possession of his goods, but when a stronger than he comes, he spoils him of his armour and takes the prey from the mighty and delivers the lawful captive, and sets the poor prisoner free. Solomon, the wise king in Jerusalem, said there is a time to be born and a time to die, and there is a time appointed for each one of the chosen of God to be born again of the Spirit, and there is a time when each one of these die to all hope in themselves or the creature, that they might enjoy a good hope through grace in their Creator Redeemer, God over all, blessed for evermore. (2 Thess. 2:16) Yes, there is a time appointed when all who are brought to hunger and thirst after righteousness shall be filled. How God can be just, and yet the justifier of the ungodly, is a mystery to any vessel of mercy until the Lord is pleased to reveal it to them. This vision of faith is for an appointed time, and though it tarry, the waiting, coming sinner shall not be disappointed. It is good for a man to both hope and quietly wait upon God for the sealing testimony which seals them heirs of that inheritance which is all of grace. The thief on the cross, by the side of his ever loving and dying Redeemer, had not long to wait either for pardon or heaven; in the same day that he was born of the Spirit he was pardoned and sealed, and his blood-redeemed soul was in the Paradise of God, absent from the body and present with his redeeming Lord.
I have before written that the first active grace in regenerated souls is the true fear of God; this is a most distinguishing grace, that none possess who are not born again; all others, both professors and profane, have no fear of God before their eyes. The features of this fear are many in the experience of the children of God, according to the measure of Divine teaching, but these features which we name are most blessed, for in the first place the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom that shall last for ever. Whatever wisdom poor sinners may derive by dint of study on the things of time and sense, they must leave it all when they come to die, but not so with the children of God, for in the ages to come God will be showing unto them the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness towards them through Christ Jesus. (Eph. 2:7) Their begun wisdom on earth will be the earnest of that which will be ever filling them with Divine knowledge, and which will never be exhausted. Again, the true fear of God is to depart from evil of every shade and grade, for the grace of God that brings salvation into the souls of the saved teaches them to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live righteously, soberly, and godly in this present evil world. (Titus 2:12) The fear of the Lord is also set forth in Scripture as a fountain of life to depart from the snare of death beneath; that is, through grace the godly escape those snares which the devil spreads for the elect of the ungodly, and which drown them in everlasting perdition; and though a child of God might be caught--and is often--in the snares of Satan, yet he is not left there to perish in his sins, as we hope to show in the next chapter of this little work.
"Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." (Philippians 1:6)
The final perseverance of God's people in faith, in hope, and charity is most blessedly set forth in the Word of the living God. Grace is given them to endure to the end; they must and shall over come by the blood of the Lamb and the Word of His testimony. (Rev. 12:11) There are many exceeding great and precious promises to this end, and they are all "yea and amen." It is sadly true that the people of God have many enemies to contend with, and manifold infirmities, both felt and feared. They have the world, the flesh, and the devil, a threefold host, to combat with day by day. They are often like Gad in their experience, and feel to be overcome by a troop, but like Gad they all overcome at the last, and are brought off more than conquerors through Him who loves them too well, and hath bought them too dear, to lose them. God allures His people into the wilderness that He may speak comfortably unto them, and He gives them their vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope. (Hosea 2:15) When we read the history of God's people, as given in His holy Book, we see that all of them, more or less, were compassed with trials and conflicts by the way. Some of them, it is true, made most sorrowful slips and falls, but not one of them was left to fall into hell, nor were they left in the hand of the enemy, who had by his wiles ensnared their feet; no, they were all rescued and raised up by invincible grace, and were enabled to sing to its praise, "Rejoice not over me, O thou mine enemy; for though I fall I shall arise again, and when I sit in darkness the Lord will be a light unto me." The children of God are often sorely wounded in the place of dragons and covered with the shadow of death; death seems to rest upon everything they do or say, and then the enemy roars upon them and says, "Where is now thy God?" God often hides His face from His people, and they are troubled; He seems to take away their spiritual breath, and in their feelings they die. "In my wrath"--or what appears to poor souls to be wrath--"have I hid My face from thee," but in a comparative sense it is only for a moment; yet, says God, "with everlasting kindness will I have mercy upon thee." (Isa. 54:8) God knew that His people would be backsliders from the womb of their spiritual birth, and in the covenant of free and sovereign grace He has made provision for their restoration, and His promise runs after the following manner: "I will heal their backslidings, I will love them freely: for Mine anger is turned away from him. He shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon." (Hosea 14:4,5) In the world tribulation must be experienced by all the heirs of promise more or less to conform them to the suffering image of their Elder Brother, who was "a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief." There must be the trial of every grace the blessed Spirit is pleased to impart to the renewed soul, and when they are tried they shall come forth as gold, to the praise and glory of Him who tries His people as gold is tried, and purifies them as silver is purified, and through this they are led to offer unto God an offering in His own righteousness, even that He is pleased to work within them. God has His fire in Zion and His furnace in Jerusalem, and in all ages His people have had to pass through the fire and the flood before He brings them into the wealthy place. The sore trials and conflicts of the Old Testament saints and their gracious deliverances are rehearsed in the volume of God's blessed Book, and they are recorded there for the encouragement of those who are following in the footsteps of those ancient worthies who are now, as far as their redeemed souls can do so, inheriting the promises. The world that lies in the arms of the Wicked One does not embrace the people of God in its affections. The mistake of a great many in all ages, and never more than at the present time among those who profess to be the people of God, has been, and still is, in going down to Egypt for help; but the mammon of unrighteousness finds no acceptance with God. The world in their wisdom know not God, and therefore do not acknowledge Him; nor do they know or acknowledge His living people. Christ was despised and rejected by the men of the world in His day, and the offence of His cross has not ceased, and the preaching of it to them that perish is still foolishness, because the carnal mind is enmity to God, and cannot be subject to Him; and it opposes all who are the subjects of His sin-pardoning and sin-subduing grace. But, notwithstanding all the envenomed malice of earth and hell, the righteous shall hold on their way, and those whose hands are cleaned, and kept clean, by grace, shall wax stronger and stronger.
We could no doubt fill this chapter with precious promises from the Word of God to prove the final perseverance of the saints to immortal glory. God's dear people often fear where no fear is, and that they are a poor fearing and an afflicted people is proved both by the Word and by experience; and there are many, very many, precious "Fear nots" written in the holy Book, and all to encourage God's heritage. And how sweet it is when in the midst of trouble and distress, to have one of these precious "Fear nots" dropped into the heart, and made spirit and life to the soul. Then hope springs upon her throne, and faith stretches its wings and flies to the sheltering wings of Immanuel; and then for a season the soul is favored to sit under His shadow with great delight, while it finds the fruits of His redeeming love sweet to the taste. I hope and pray that I may, through this little work, be favored to be the instrument in the hands of an ever gracious and ever merciful God of comforting some of His dear people, and building them up on their most holy faith. Sin, Satan, and the world of the ungodly cause them a lot of distress. Each heart knows its own bitterness, and sweet, very sweet, is a little of the joy of God's salvation when He is pleased to pour it into the cup, and enables them to drink of the same. God gives commission to His ministers to go and comfort His people, and the tenor of it is found in the first and second verses of the 40th chapter of the book of the prophet Isaiah: "Comfort ye, comfort ye, My people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord's hand double for all her sins." Blessed portion, the fruits of which the husbandmen must be first partakers, so that from heartfelt experience they might go and proclaim it in the hearing of others; and what a most remarkable message to take to poor souls that are in daily conflict with the world, the flesh, and the devil. How contrary to their experience, to tell them that their warfare is accomplished, when the fight is desperate, and the victory, according to their feelings, hangs in doubtful scale. Yet there is not a shadow of a doubt about it in the mind of God, for He hath purposed it, and none can disannul it, and therefore the words run according to His eternal purpose, and thus He speaks of things that are not as though they were. Thy warfare, poor tried, tempted, hunted soul, is accomplished in the gracious purpose of thine ever gracious God, and so it will be in thy experience, sooner or later, as it shall please Him who hath called thee to the war, and who provides the weapons, and strength to fight and endure until victory shall release thee for ever from the conflict and the strife. God will not, cannot, cast away His people whom He foreknew, whom He hath chosen, whom He hath redeemed, and whom He regenerates, and brings into the bond of the covenant. No; for they are kept by his power, through faith, unto the full fruition of their salvation. Dear Paul was persuaded of this, and so am I in measure, and so are all whom God sends to preach His blessed Gospel, or to write of those glorious things touching the faithfulness of the ever faithful God.
If there had been any in the place of torment for whom Christ died, we should have heard of it before now; this would have made the hosts of the bottomless pit so jubilant, and have been such a weapon in their malicious hands to assault the people of God with, as to drive them to black despair; but our God, who is faithful and true, speaks to and of His people by His servant Isaiah, saying, "No weapon formed against thee shall prosper, and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of Me, saith the Lord." (Isa. 54:17) It is evident, both from Scripture and experience, that God's people, who are renewed in the spirit of their mind by regenerating grace, have to groan day by day with a body of sin and death; indwelling sin wars against the indwelling spirit. "We which are in this tabernacle," said Paul, "do groan, being burdened," (2 Cor. 5:4) and all the children of God do the same in their measure; they each and all have a nature that is corrupt according to its deceitful lusts--a nature that is evil, only evil, and that continually. This is a painful and sorrowful fact, though there are thousands of proud, self-righteous religionists in these days who deny the truth of it. God's people suffer from the plague of the heart, and they well know that there is no cure for it until their fleshly heart shall cease to beat. There have been thousands of quack doctors in all ages who have professed to have found an infallible cure for this sad and sore complaint, but they have all proved physicians of no value, and the only thing that God hath promised to do for His people in this most grievous matter is to subdue it, and, writing from my own experience, one of the sweetest promises of our promise-making and promise-fulfilling God runs thus: "He will subdue their iniquities." (Micah 7:19) Yes, He will, bless His holy name, for He hath decreed it and declared it, that sin shall not have the dominion over His people, for they are not under the law but under grace, (Rom. 6:14) and grace shall reign through righteousness unto eternal life through Jesus Christ, (Rom. 5:21) their ever living, loving Lord and Master. The Church of God has been pestered in all ages--and never more than now--with pious toadies who have woven a sanctimonious garment for themselves, and a lash to thrash the people of God with, and to try and bring them under their rule of what they are pleased to call obedience, but there never was, and there never will be, any obedience acceptable to God, but the obedience of faith, and we are most assured of this, that if faith, which is of the operation of God, give a cup of cold water to a disciple in the name of a disciple, it shall not lose its reward, for grace is to be rewarded with grace, and thus God's dear children receive grace for grace.
But I fancy some will be ready to say, What about the invitations, the expostulations and exhortations, and the precepts of the Gospel? Have they no meaning? Oh yes, they have, and God means what He says in them, and it is He who supplies the motive power to obey them. God's people have to work out in their life, conduct, and conversation the evidences of their salvation, but it is God who worketh in them to will and to do of His own good pleasure that which is pleasing in His holy sight. "Ye are My witnesses," saith God, "that I have done it."
Yes, it will reign throughout all time and throughout all eternity in the experience of God's dear people, or in the ages to come, the eternal ages, He will be still showing unto them the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness towards them through Christ Jesus.
It is even so in the begotten of God; there is a company of two armies--one flesh, the other spirit; and so the war must go on until the flesh goes to corruption and the spirit to God, who in the riches of His grace gave it a new life, to know Him whom to know is life eternal. But, alas, there is the world that lies in the arms of the Wicked One. These are often in arms against God's people, and there are two sorts of these opposers, the professors and the profane, and of these two the former have always been the worst in persecuting and opposing the saints of God; and there are today shoals--yea, whole tribes--of scribes, Pharisees, and lawyers, or law workers, who try to lade men with burdens grievous to be borne, and they themselves touch not one thing that is acceptable to God. How these fleshly zealots stagger the poor Little Faiths of God's household and bring them to their wits' end, as they see them encompassing sea and land to make proselytes, and bringing such shoals of fish into their net, to which they sacrifice, and burn incense to their drag. Poor Little Faith! He looks around and can only see one here and another there who seem to be marked like him, and he concludes that he must be wrong, seeing there are so few running with him in the narrow way, whilst there are so many in that broad road where so many have gone in all ages. Yes, God's children often lose sight of the truth that the Church on earth have always been a little flock, and that it is their Father's good pleasure to give them the kingdom.
Then there is not only the bitter hostility of the professing world, but the sad and woeful allurements of the profane. Oh the temptations this enchanting world makes for the people of God! They have a nature no better than the most wicked of mankind; they know it and feel it, and if they were left to fulfill the desires of the flesh and the mind, they would be the same in practice. This testimony, I know, would be as gravel stones in the mouth of the moralist, and as gall to his stomach, but it is true all the same.
It is indeed conflict here below from one quarter or another, and, as Peter so solemnly puts it in his epistle, "If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?" (1 Pet. 4:18) To me it is evident that the ungodly are the openly profane, and the sinners are those who profess, but do not possess, the root of the matter, and so they are sinners still dead in sin and dead in a profession, and then, oh then, what fears and fearful forebodings lest after all the poor tempest-tossed soul should make shipwreck of faith and of a good conscience and prove at last a castaway! What a searching word we have before written: "If the righteous scarcely be saved." What can it mean? Is there any scarcity in God's love? No. Is there any scarcity in His grace? No. Is there any scarcity in His mercy? No. Is there any scarcity in the blood of the everlasting covenant? Hath the fountain opened for sin and uncleanness lost its virtue to cleanse from sin? Has the covenant of free and sovereign grace run dry? No, no, no! For it ordered in all things and sure, and herein is prepared for every blood-bought child, and all the scarcity is in the apprehensions of the poor child of God, tossed with tempest and not comforted. But the Lord shall comfort Zion, He will comfort all her waste places, and these waste places are the hearts of God's poor fearing people.
But there is another foe that opposes the people of God in their march through the wilderness to the possession of their grace-given inheritance, and that is the devil, and it is he who marshals all the rest. He has legions at his back, and though he cannot destroy one--no, not one--of God's little ones, yet he worries them with the very malice of hell. "Your adversary the devil goeth about seeking whom he may devour," (1 Pet. 5:8) and though he is permitted often to devour the comforts of God's children, devour them he cannot, because of the bit and the bridle which an omnipotent Jehovah holds. Oh the mercy for the Church, that though Satan be mighty, he is not almighty! Yes, the ransomed of the Lord are attacked more or less by the devil and his hellish powers through all their pilgrimage, and often most fiercely when they are about to lay down their armour and enter into the joy of their redeeming Lord; and yet, before they dip their feet in the Jordan, their glorious Leader and Commander appears and routs their most malicious foes, and though they might not be able to speak with an audible voice to tell of their begun glory, their countenances bespeak the blessed fact that they pass the river through Jesus and His blood.
Peter in his first epistle, and thirteenth verse, exhorts the saints of God by the following exhortation: "Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ." "The loins of the mind"--this must mean a spiritual mind, and none have this mind but those who are born of the Spirit, and the Word declares that the carnal mind is enmity against God, and therefore needs not this girdle which girds up the loins of the minds of the children of God.
Now as God does not send His people to war without weapons, so He does not set them to work without tools; and therefore He hath provided a girdle for the loins of the spiritual minds of His spiritual children, and rickety and wavering they all are without this blessed support for their minds. There are seven links to this girdle, which make it complete for the purpose designed. It is a girdle of truth--"Let your loins be girt about with truth" (Eph. 6:14)--and the seven links of this girdle of truth are the seven doctrines set forth in the seven chapters of this book. Every one of them constitutes sound doctrine, and all are joined in God's blessed Book, and it is impossible to reconcile Scripture if you remove one link of this girdle; but what the Lord hath joined together in His holy Word none can sunder, nor can they alter the purpose of His sovereign decrees.
Let us see then the effect this girdle has on those who are favored to have it on their spiritual minds. In the first place it makes them sober, the meaning of which is proved by experience; it makes them steady in front of the foe. Who need fear to fight who knows he has victory secured to him by Omnipotent grace? If ye know and love the truth, the truth shall make you free from quakes and qualms. Has God ever been defeated in battle? The battle is not yours, poor soul, it is the Lord's, and He will fight for you, and your enemies shall soon be seen no more. O for more of that faith which made the people of God in days of old wax valiant in fight, so that they by grace turned to flight the armies of the aliens! But the girdle of truth also make those who are favored to have it on by faith hopeful, and hopeful to the end, for the grace that is to be brought unto them at the revelation of Jesus Christ--that is, hopeful to the end of their journey through this waste wilderness when grace shall deliver them from every fiber of corruption. The wise King in his Proverbs says that the day of a man's death is better than the day of his birth, but this must mean a man who has been born again of the Spirit, for this cannot be said of impenitent sinners dying in their sins, and everywhere the Scriptures show that the day when the children of God leave this world of sin and sorrow is, though their last day, their best. At their new birth unto righteousness they are called to a war in which there is no discharge but by death--the death of their poor frail bodies. God's dear people are blessed before they die; they were blessed by the Father of their spirits with all spiritual blessings in the Son of His love; they are blessed in life, they are blessed in death, for God hath said it: "Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord; for they rest from their labours," (Rev. 14:13) and all their works of faith and patience, of hope and love, do follow them.
In concluding this chapter I would draw the attention of the reader to the features of a regenerated child of God as drawn by the Master of all His assemblies in His wonderful sermon on the mount, and as He has pronounced those whose features He has set forth there in so marked a manner to be blessed, it will be well for the reader to examine himself or herself, and see if you have any of these marks as being a living child--the poor in spirit, the mourners, the meek, that is, the humble in soul, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, those who are persecuted for righteousness sake--all these are marks of a new-born soul, and seeing that such are brought into the kingdom of grace, the kingdom of glory must be theirs, for He gives grace and glory to every one of the objects of His everlasting love; and as we have before written, the invitations of the Gospel are all to certain characters described in the Word of God: "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters." (Isa. 55:1) "When the poor and needy seek water, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the Lord will hear them, I the Lord will not forsake them." (Isa. 41:7) "I will give to them that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely." (Rev. 21:6) "The needy shall not alway be forgotten; the expectation of the poor shall not perish for ever." (Ps. 9:18) "He will regard the prayer of the destitute, and not despise their prayer." (Ps. 102:17) This has been expressly written for the generations of His people, and all of them in the new creation praise the Lord. O the wonders of grace to be found among that people who are saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation! They shall never be confounded, for they are all built upon Him who is the rock, and whose work is perfect; who begins and carries on the work of grace in the souls of His people until it issues in immortal glory, for He preserveth the souls of His saints, and keeps their feet in the narrow way that leads to life everlasting.
"And there shall be no more curse; but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and His servants shall serve Him: and they shall see His face; and His name shall be in their foreheads. And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever." (Revelation 22:3-5)
The glorification of the saints, the rest that remaineth, the eternal inheritance (Heb. 9:15) of the heirs of promise, is the subject matter of this chapter, and while I dip my pen in the ink and seek to write a little on this sublime subject, I could wish--yea, would pray--that my feet might be dipped in oil, and that it might be made acceptable to the brethren, for it is only those who are born from above who have real desires for those things which are at God's right hand and those pleasures which are for evermore. That there is a heavenly inheritance for every blood-redeemed sinner who was sanctified by God the Father in the decree of election, who was sanctified by God the Son when He suffered without the gate, and who are sanctified by God the Spirit in regenerating grace, is proved throughout God's most holy Word; and all regenerated souls must in their measure be found from time to time looking for the fulfillment of the blessed hope in the appearing of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, (Titus 2:13) for He is coming to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired in all them that believe.
Abraham, who is held up in the Scriptures as the representative of all true believers, looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God--yes, a city which hath immovable foundations, eternal foundations, and such as is never subject to change. The children of God are set forth in God's holy Word as being His heirs and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ, (Rom. 8:17) and the Lord Jesus is said to be heir of all things; (Heb. 1:2) and if this be so--and we know it is--then all His people are heirs of all things with Him. But as this subject is too big for our poor finite minds in this time state, we shall write so that we might be able instrumentally to convey to others what we are led--we hope by Divine teaching--to think and meditate about it.
And, first, the inheritance of the saints is an incorruptible one, which cannot be said of the very best of earthly inheritances; they are all corruptible in their nature, the moth eats them up like wool; but the Lord draws a contrast in His holy Word, and says, "But My inheritance shall be for ever, and My righteousness shall never be abolished"--that is, His righteousness in giving to His dear people what He hath promised them in His covenant of free and sovereign grace. Again, it is called an undefiled inheritance, and this cannot be said of any earthly inheritance. Sin is mixed with all of earth; it is all more or less polluted and defiled through the inherent depravity of the owners; a blight is upon all of earth, and a worm at the root of all that earth calls good or great through original sin, and we are sure that actual transgressions add no virtue to earthly inheritances. But not so the heavenly inheritance of the saints: it is undefiled, and cannot be defiled; no moth can corrupt it, and no thieves can steal it. Again, it is said to be unfading, and this cannot be said of the earthly inheritance; it all perishes with the using. Riches, earthly treasures, take to themselves wings and fly away, and before they are on the wing how their owners cling to them, and when they take the wing and fly away, many who owned them take their life as if they would fly after them. O the folly of doting on an earthly inheritance!
"O how great is Thy goodness which Thou hast wrought for them that fear Thee, which Thou hast laid up for them that trust in Thee!" (Ps. 31:19) So writes the psalmist David; and again, in the sixty-fourth chapter of Isaiah and the fourth verse it reads, "For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside Thee, what He hath prepared for him that waiteth for Him." No, it does not yet appear what we shall be, writes John, but we know that when He shall appear we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. (1 John 3:2)
I have often thought, and have at times spoken my thoughts, that the glory, the blessedness of the saints might be illustrated by the bud, the blossom, and the fruit of a tree. What a grace here, as one has said, but the glory in the bud? And in the buddings of grace what exercises there are to break forth and blossom, and bear fruit to the praise and glory of Him whom gracious souls are called to love, and now abideth in the people of God while they are in the wilderness! Faith, hope, charity, these three, which are the principal graces which exercise the souls of the living in Jerusalem, and every other grace are exercised; and is it not the experience of the children of God when they are favored in the means of grace to feel something like Peter and his fellow-disciples felt? And they are ready to say with Peter, "Master, it is good for us to be here." Again, when in secret we are favored to pour out our hearts to God, and the Lord is pleased to visit us with His great salvation, and we see the good of His chosen and rejoice in the gladness of His nation, what is this but the budding of grace for to blossom in glory?
What a cheerless world this appears to the people of God without these revivings in the midst of their bondage; and does not every fresh visit of the Dayspring from on high, to warm and cheer the souls of His people, give them fresh desires to press forward towards the mark for the prize of their high calling in Christ Jesus? Yes, it is with them in measure as it was with dear Paul; they want to know more of Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, knowing and feeling that it is only those who have fellowship with Him in His sufferings that shall have fellowship with Him in glory.
Yes, any fresh token, any refreshing and reviving in our poor souls, is the earnest of the full fruition. The people of God taste a little of the milk and honey before they reach the goodly land; they drink now from those streams that flow from that river which makes glad the city of God, (Ps. 46:4) but by and by they will all drink at the fountain head, and sing for ever to the praise of Him who is head over all things to His Church, which is to be filled with the fullness of His glory.
And what is the blossom but the entrance of the souls of the redeemed into the paradise of God, there to wait their full redemption, to wit, the redemption of their bodies at the resurrection morn? It is evident from Scripture that the Church and people of God cannot be fully satisfied until they awake in the full likeness of their redeeming Lord. It is true, and blessedly true, that the souls of God's people, when absent from the body, are present with the Lord; and we have no doubt but that the spirits of the just ones, who are justified freely by grace, are perfectly happy, and as one dear old saint and servant of God whom we know lay a dying, when he was asked how he felt from time to time, he said, "Happy! Happy!" His precious soul was drinking into the happiness of heaven before it left its tenement of clay. O the wondrous grace that enables God's poor fearing people to triumph in the valley and shadow of death. Yes, those who through all their spiritual life were subject to bondage through the fear of death have all their fears removed, and they pass the river with such an experience that proves the virtue of the blood, and the wonderful grace of Him who freely poured it out to ransom them from the grave; and oh! The longings and desires of God's dear children that, as they have been enabled to prove and speak of God's faithfulness in life, so they might be enabled to do so in death, and in that solemn moment find shelter beneath the sheltering wings of Immanuel. "Lo," said Jesus to His disciples, "I am with you alway, even to the end of their time state, and like His type in days of old He sees His people all safe over the Jordan. What a wonderful story it would be if the dying testimony to the faithfulness of God by the saints in all ages could be put together. Oh the wonders of grace as they have been proved even in this solemn place of the drawing of water, and have there rehearsed the righteous acts of the Lord!
And now I would write a little on the full fruition of redemption, on the glories of the resurrection of the bodies of the saints. There are many precious Scriptures setting forth this blessed truth. It is true that not all the bodies of the saints will sleep in the dust, for some of them will be alive on the earth at the coming of the Lord, and they shall be changed in a moment, "in the twinkling of an eye." The trumpet shall sound, and the dead in Christ shall be raised, and the others changed so as to bear the same image as the raised. Yes, Jesus hath ransomed His people from the grave, He hath redeemed them from death, and He will be the destroyer of the graves of all His redeemed ones. The covenant language of the Holy Trinity on this most blessed subject is found in the 26th chapter of the book of the prophet Isaiah and the 19th verse, and it reads thus: "Thy dead men shall live, together with My dead body shall arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in the dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead." Here we have the seal of the three Persons in the Personality of the Godhead to the resurrection of every member of the mystical body of Christ, the Church. The Father speaks first in this most remarkable Scripture, and gives the blessed promise to His dear Son, and there is a double meaning in it; for as they are all born by natural generation that were given to Christ in covenant, in a state of death in trespasses and sins through original sin, so they must all live by regenerating grace; and as they die corporeally and are laid in the grave, so shall they all be raised at the resurrection morn, apart from those who will be alive on the earth at Christ's second coming. A most blessed promise of the Father to His well-beloved Son, and the Son receives the promise as knowing it would be fulfilled in every jot and tittle, and therefore He speaks and says, "Together with My dead body shall they arise;" and so they did mystically at His resurrection, and virtually too; for the virtue of the resurrection of the Church lies in her resurrection Head, and just as sure as they all rose with Christ in His resurrection, mystically and virtually, so they shall all arise vitally at the last great day. Yes, when the Lord Jesus ascended on high after His resurrection, He carried every member of His Church and people with Him in the virtue of all His triumph over sin, death, and hell. Christ hath redeemed the bodies of His elect as well as their souls, and as the Holy Spirit speaks in the text, so shall it be at the last great day. His quickening word will go forth: "Awake, ye that dwell in the dust," and the earth shall cast out its dead. A glorious morning for the saints of the Most High God, when their bodies shall have put off all the sackcloth of corruption, and shall be clothed with incorruption.
What a grand and blessed argument we have in the fifteenth chapter of Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians! It is true that in Adam the first all God's elect die in a death of trespasses and sins, but in Christ they are all made alive spiritually, created in Him new creatures, and they shall all be made alive corporeally at His coming. Christ is the firstfruits from the dead, and a glorious harvest is to follow; yes, He will present them all to His dear Father by and by in His own image, saying, "Here am I and the children whom Thou hast given Me." (Heb. 2:13) God's people all bear the image of the earthly man by their first birth, and in their second birth they are called to bear the image of the heavenly Man; and it is evident that flesh and blood in its sinful, corrupt state cannot inherit the heavenly kingdom.
Behold the full consummation of the mystery of godliness, the full realization of that to which all the children of God are predestinated in Him who is the great mystery of godliness, as God manifest in the flesh. All the elect, redeemed, regenerated family of God learn while in the body of sin, as God is pleased to teach them, the mystery of iniquity, and this must be learnt before they come to the knowledge of the mystery of godliness; but the full fruition of their redemption will come to them when the corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and the mortal shall have put on immortality. But there have been those who deny the resurrection of the dead in all ages, and Paul by the Spirit argues with them, and to the comfort of God's people writes of it in most blessed and soul-inspiring strains, and the saints, as they are led by the Spirit, all unite in thanksgivings to God, who giveth them the victory over every part and parcel of corruption through the Lord Jesus Christ. Oh for the comfort of faith in looking forward to that great and glorious morning which will be ushered in when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, which shall gather His elect from the four quarters of the earth, and when He will say unto them, "Come, ye blessed of My Father; inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." (Matt. 25:34)
The whole redeemed Church and people of God in their glorified state are most blessedly set forth in the book of Revelation, where they are represented as singing a new song, saying, "Thou art worthy to take the book and loose the seals thereof; for Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood out of every kindred and tongue and people and nation." (Rev. 5:9) In the twenty-first chapter John tells us that he saw the city, New Jerusalem coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And he heard a great voice out of heaven, saying, "Behold the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away." These sayings are faithful and true; the Alpha and Omega hath said it, and He is the beginning and ending of everything in creation, in providence, and in grace and glory. Glorious things are spoken of thee, thou heavenly city of our God. There is no temple therein, "for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it; and the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it. And there shall be no night there"--no night of temptation, no night of weeping, no night of pain, no night of death, for there shall be no sinful night. And there the glorious Lord will be unto all His dear people as a place of broad rivers and streams, whereon shall go no galley with oars, neither shall gallant ship pass that way. There, in that peaceful--that blessed abode, flows a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and the Lamb. There is the tree of life, which is for the healing of the nations--yea, for the nations that are saved. Christ is the Tree of life, and of His fulness all His dear people receive all they need both of grace and glory, and so the triumphant, the gracious, and heartfelt experience of the people of God is expressed for them in the wonderful language of the Apostle: "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Cor. 15:55-57) Oh to have the eyes of our faith and of our understanding directed to Him by whom His people obtain the victory over sin, death, hell, and the grave! Yes, it all flows to them through His incarnation, through His suffering life, wherein He suffered temptations, privations, and accusations, and an awful contradiction of sinners and the woeful assaults of the powers of hell; through His sacrificial death, when He poured out His holy soul under the sin-avenging wrath of a just and holy God, and thus made a full atonement for the sins of His people; through His burial--yes, He must lie in the grave and sanctify it by His incorruptible and holy body, and make it a sweet resting-place for the dust of His saints; through His resurrection He went down into the grave, but He was not left there; God's Holy One saw no corruption; He rose the third day in resurrection might.
O bless our God, ye people, and make the voice of His praise to be heard; who holdeth our souls in life," and suffereth not the pit to shut its mouth upon us; and through the resurrection of our glorious and ever living Head hath secured ours. Yes, through His ascension, as He ascended on high, and led captivity captive; and through His intercession at God's right hand, where He now sits to receive, and give, His gifts, even to His poor rebellious people, that the Lord God might dwell among them.
Thus I have written a little, a very little, a very little, on this wondrous subject of the saints' glorification, and very imperfect I feel it to be; but there is no imperfection in what the Lord does, either in creation, in providence, in grace, or glory. And if He should be pleased to own it, and by it lead some poor straying sheep to the fold, or casting one ray of light upon the course of some poor vessel of mercy bound for glory, my reward will not be of works, but of grace. And when the mystery of God shall be finished, it will be then seen, in brighter blaze than it can be seen now, that in making the Captain of His people's salvation perfect through suffering to bring His many sons to glory, every perfection of the unchangeable Jehovah is glorified in His people's glorification.