NOTE: This will be an ongoing project as I put in all the letters, keep checking back for new ones to be added.
Bognor, August 19th, 1853
My dear Sir,--....I go to Chichester tomorrow evening, and return on Monday morning, if the Lord permit. I am deeply sensible of the solemn importance of speaking to poor sinners of those things which accompany salvation. The work appears to be so great that I am constrained to say with an apostle, "Who is sufficient for these things?" but when I am in my right mind, I am brought to know that the work is not mine, but the Lord's. So that if I could possess all the united gifts and abilities in the world, they could not aid in performing the Lord's work; and, on the other hand, it is impossible that any deficiency in the poor instrument should hinder it. Though I had all knowledge, so that I understood all mysteries and all prophecies, if I had not God's love in my heart, if God the Holy Ghost was not pleased to speak by my mouth, it would be nothing.
I have often thought that if our poor little cause at Staining Lane had been merely man's affair, it must have been overthrown long ago; but because it is the Lord's cause, He has been pleased to take care of it. How futile are all human efforts to do the Lord's work in any other way, or by any other instruments than such as He is pleased to make use of.
My love be with you all in Christ Jesus.
Yours affectionately in Him, John Hobbs
Bognor, August 26th, 1853
My dear Sir,--I thank you for your kind letter; and I bless God that both you and the brethren have continued remembrance of me, as I also have of you. I love you all in the Lord. I believe that the many afflictions through which I have been called to pass have been a means of endearing His people to me. If we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation. Each member in the mystical body of the Saviour has its own personal and peculiar union with the Head; they that are joined to the Lord are one spirit. It is this joining which is the foundation, yea, which is the sum and substance of that oneness which we have in Christ: spiritual life from His fullness is communicated to us by the quickening operation of His Spirit, by which operation we receive Himself, in the gifts of faith, of hope, and of love; for He is our life, our joy, our peace, our righteousness, and our whole salvation. Now where this saving work is wrought in the hearts of many persons, they are all united to Christ, and must and shall be united to each other; and "I am perusaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall" ever "be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
With our united Christian love, I remain, my dear Sir, your companion in the path of tribulation, and in hope of eternal life.
Bognor, September 1st, 1853
My dear Sir,--Mercy and truth be with you.
I still prove the truth of the Saviour's words, 'If any man will come after me, let him take up his cross daily and follow me.' There is no state or place that can exempt us from this.
I have been thinking much of that grief, that sore, with which I have been exercised for many years--it is a subject in which my dear friend will sympathize with me. It is a sort of indefinable agitation, concern, or fear. It is not that slavish fear which is engendered by an application of the law to a sinner's conscience, by which sin is discovered; it is not a servile fear of God the Father, for I have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but the Spirit of adoption; it is not a dread of the Saviour, for I love His presence; nor is it a fear of God the Holy Ghost, for
"His sweet communion charms my soul,
And gives true peace and joy;
nor can I say that it is the fear of death, for the guilt of sin is purged from my conscience, and death has no other sting. I am not afraid of the elect angels, nor of the saints, for I know that they love me, because I feel that I love them; it is not either Satan or the world that I dread, for nothing shall separate us from the love of Christ.
You will say, 'What is it then?' First, it is a sinful fear, derived from and mixed up with unbelief. It questions the truth and faithfulness of God. It is a rebellious fear, as it opposes His will,--and yet it is not an opposition of my will against Him for to will is present with me, the spirit indeed is willing,--but it is the rebellion of my sinful nature, it is an undue anxiety, it is the feeling of all natural occurrences too deeply. Desponding thoughts are injected by Satan into the mind,--I say the mind, not the will, for I would reject them; not the heart, for they have no place there, for I love the Lord, and would love Him more. I believe, also, that these trying feelings are much promoted by a derangement of the nervous system, which puts the whole bodily frame out of order. The only remedy for all this is the Saviour's presence, and that 'Fear not, it is I,' continually repeated with a Divine power to the heart by Himself. The means is, constant, fervent, and effectual prayer.
With our united love to yourself and all the brethren, I remain yours affectionately,
Brighton, October 15th, 1858
To my dear Friend, Mr. H., and to all those whom I love in the Lord at Staining Lane, to them that call upon God out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned; 'elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ, grace unto you and peace be multiplied.' Amen.
All who have been favored to taste that the Lord is gracious, must have a continued desire, more or less, for an increase, for a multiplying of grace, not only toward them, but in them. Grace includes the everlasting, free, sovereign, discriminating, and immutable love and favor of a Triune Jehovah to all the objects of His eternal choice, His delight in them, His approbation of them in Christ Jesus, as also His secret thoughts concerning them, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give them an expected end. But all this grace flows from Jehovah; it is treasured up in Christ; it lies hid in His secret purpose; and it is secured, and made sure to all who are interested in it, by an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and which can never be broken. But grace, that it may be grace indeed, must be openly displayed; and so it is, in the unspeakable gift of Christ to poor needy sinners. Now, one of the most distinguished acts of grace is its application to each unworthy recipient of it. You and I could never have had any saving knowledge of Divine grace, had it not pleased the God of all grace to reveal it in our hearts by the Spirit of grace.
The first saving act of God's grace in us, stands in our being quickened into life from a death in trespasses and sins, and this springs from God's everlasting love to us in Christ Jesus. 'God who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ. By grace ye hare saved.' God's secret care and His watchful eye are indeed over the objects of His choice, while they are sunk in the ruins of the fall. They are preserved in Jesus Christ. There may be, and there often is, much inward working. They are not suffered to remain at ease in the flesh; they are unsettled in their minds, law and conscience accuse and condemn; but they have no desires after Christ, after union to Him, and an interest in Him, until they are quickened into life. This then, I say, is the first manifest act of Divine grace in a poor sinner's experience, proving it to be grace indeed; and in whomsoever this grace is thus truly wrought, there is, there must be, a desire after more grace.
Grace is multiplied when God opens the door of faith, by which the promise enters into the heart; the ear of faith hears the Saviour's voice, and the eye of faith perceives Him; which perception attracts the heart to Him in its desires after Him, in its thoughts concerning Him, and in its longings to be cleansed from sin by a manifestation of His atonement to faith. Such long to know that their sins are forgiven for His name's sake; they earnestly desire to lay hold upon Him, by the hand of faith, as their salvation, and to go to Him, by the foot of faith, with all their wants, troubles, fears, and desires. This is the multiplying of Divine grace in them. Yes, every secret motion of the heart, every secret cry, every wish, all that hungering and thirsting, watching and waiting, longing and seeking for an interest in Christ; the desire to know Him, to trust Him, to love Him, to be conformed to Him, to follow Him, and to be with Him--all this flows from Himself, from that inexhaustible fullness of Divine grace which is treasured up in Him, and of which Himself is the glorious fountain, the All and in all.
And you and I, my dear friends, do need, shall need, that this grace may be multiplied in our experience more and more, until it is fully consummated in eternal glory. That every covenant blessing, temporal, spiritual, and eternal, may be richly imparted to you according to His wisdom, love and power, is, my dear friends, the constant prayer of yours affectionately in Him,
Brighton, September 30th, 1859
To my dear Friend, Mr. H., and to all others whom the Master loves, and who love me for His sake at Staining Lane, grace and peace be multiplied.
In my last letter I mentioned a few things connected with the trials and afflictions of the Lord's people, as they have been discovered in my own experience. As far as my memory serves me, I noticed the use that God makes of a purging furnace, to bring to light the dross and tin of our poor fallen nature. But this is not all. It is written, 'It became Him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.' (Heb. 2:10) The Saviour Himself is both our way and our forerunner. Now, it is chiefly by afflictions that we are made conformable unto Him in this world. 'That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death.' (Phil. 3:10) A daily cross, a purging furnace, a chastening rod, and the path of tribulation, must and shall attend us all our days; but 'he that endureth to the end shall be saved.'
'Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you.' (1 Pet. 4:12) God hath been pleased to convince us of the sin of unbelief; then think it not strange that it should continue to work in us, that Satan tempts, and that fears often abound that we shall not endure unto the end.
Ah! say some, if I could be assured that the work which I sometimes hope, yea, even believe, to be begun in me, is God's work, I think I could trust His faithfulness to carry it on unto the end; but I often fear lest I should have been deceived.
Now, my beloved, you and I know that the written word, the preached word, and conscience give the lie to these fears. 'Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us:' (Rom. 8:37) and 'I am persuaded, that neither these things nor any other shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.'
Another end for which God hath appointed all our afflictions in number, weight, and measure is, that He may make known the riches of His glory, in His kindness towards us through Christ Jesus. It is not only our being first brought into such a state as to feel that we need an almighty and as all-sufficient Saviour; but it is the continual, daily discovery thereof, that so endears Him to us. Where there is spiritual life, there will be more or less of an abiding sense of our need of this never-failing Friend. Fresh circumstances are ever arising in the saints' path of tribulation, to bring them to feel their need of Jesus, as a Saviour, Counsellor, Guide, Refuge, Shepherd, Husband, Brother; as strength, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. Yes, He brings us to feel our need of Him in all the glorious fullness of His adorable person, characters, and relations; and here indeed He gives us to prove His truth and faithfulness: 'I will not leave thee until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.' (Gen. 28:15) He does exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.
Now, I am persuaded that we never could know experimentally these blessed realities, did not our path to the kingdom above lie through much tribulation; in short, it is the suitableness of Christ to all the wants and necessities, both temporal and spiritual, of a poor needy sinner, the timely aid that He affords, the watchful care that He displays, and the seasonable manifestations of Himself in His wisdom, love, and power, that exalt Him in our esteem infinitely above all others in heaven or in earth.
The whole Word of God, together with the experience of His family in all ages, proclaims that if we endure chastening, God dealeth with us as with children. It is the family feature. It pleased Him to put His only-begotten Son, His dear Son, the Son of His love, to grief; and all His adopted sons must and shall suffer with Him. There are blessed seasons, when we can, and do, glory in tribulations, in infirmities, in afflictions, in weakness, that the power of Christ may rest upon us, and be displayed in us: 'For when I am weak, then am I strong' (2 Cor. 12:10)--strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might, strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus, strong in faith, giving glory to God, out of weakness made strong. Therefore, let the weak say, I am strong.
Brethren, if we were strangers to the weakness, what could we know about the strength? if strangers to our own emptiness, what could we know of His fullness? and if we were not helpless sinners, what could we know of Jesus as an Almighty Saviour?
These things will suit some of you, if it should please the Almighty to accompany them with His own power to your souls. Without this, mere words can do no good: for the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power. And now, brethren beloved, I commend you to God and the word of His grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you inheritance among them that are sanctified through faith that is in Christ Jesus.--
Yours affectionately in Him, John Hobbs
Cambridge Terrace, January 6th, 1871
My dear Brethren and Sisters in Christ,--As I know not what may be the will of my ever-gracious God and Father concerning my present sickness, whether it may be long or short, whether He will condescend to glorify His grace by raising me up again to proclaim what He has done for my soul, or whether He will take me home to Himself, to be for ever with Him, my thoughts are frequently employed about the ground of my hope; for if the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?
Now, I might say something to you, my dear friends, about the glorious fundamental doctrines of the everlasting gospel--for those professors who do not embrace these, can have no scriptural ground to build their hope upon--but I must forbear. Many indeed receive the truth notionally, who will never enter the kingdom of heaven; but all who embrace the truth experimentally, shall find that the truth shall make them free. And if the Son shall make them free, they shall be free indeed. (John 8:36)
The coming of a poor sinner to the Lord Jesus Christ is the all-important matter; for He says, 'Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.' (John 6:37) We find that there are some who will come to Him in the last day, saying, 'Lord, Lord, open unto us;' to whom He will say, 'Depart from me; I never knew you:'(Matt. 7:21-23) by which it appears that there is a twofold coming to Christ; and I want to be continually assured that I come to Him rightly.
When the Lord was pleased to call me out from this profane world, from the Unitarians, the Free-willers, from my own natural friends and relations, and from my own sinful self--for there must be a putting off of self, if we ever put on the Lord Jesus Christ--it was the Saviour who first came to me, and sought me out, or I should never have sought after Him. He says, 'I will both search my sheep, and seek them out.' (Ezek. 34:11)
But, it may be replied, does not the Saviour call sinners to come to Him?--Yes, bless His precious name! He certainly does; but they never obey that call until He condescends to visit them. His own word spoken by another, without Himself, leaves the sinner in his natural state; but when the word reaches and quickens the soul, the Saviour Himself comes in it, with it, and by it. Such a soul now hears the Saviour's voice; and this it is that communicates life, and is the foundation of all spiritual obedience. And thus you see that when poor sinners come to Christ as a Saviour, they come as sinners, empty, bare, poor, needy, yea, totally destitute. They have nothing, and are nothing, but sin.
Now, my dear friends, to this day I am in no better condition, as in and of myself, than I was the first day when He brought me to seek His face. You will find, if the Lord is graciously pleased to bless the reading of His Word to your souls, that all who have made a profession of coming to Christ while left in a state of nature, are distinguished from those whom He condescends to draw to Himself, by their always bringing something with them to recommend them, or in some way to procure His favor. Adam and Eve at first appeared in their fig-leaf aprons. When Balaam wanted Divine information, he sought to enchantments. When Saul could not get any answer from God, he went to the witch of Endor. Judas confessed his sin to the chief priests. And the foolish virgins, when they found that they had no oil, were persuaded to go to those who professed to sell it. Thus it has been Satan's work in all ages to keep poor sinners at a distance from the Saviour, by filling their hearts and heads with notions about their own fitness, suitableness, and the like, to come to Him. One is too great a sinner to come; he can never expect to find mercy; though the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses from all sin. Another has never felt, seen, and known enough of the evil of sin; he has never sunk low enough under the sentence of the law, and therefore it is of no use for him to come; though conscience bears witness that he feels himself a sinner in everything he says and does. To another it is represented that he has not enough spiritual life, faith, hope, or love to come to Christ with; and that he will be turned back, until his condition is improved, until he becomes more earnest, more diligent, more like the children of God; whereas it is God alone who can make us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.
A legal conscience is never satisfied with that which has rendered full satisfaction to the law and justice of God, namely, the precious atoning blood and spotless righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is continually calling for some addition to these. The sinner must grow better, he must improve his condition in some way or other: and thus this inward striving between flesh and spirit, between faith and unbelief, between light and darkness, between life and death, goes on, until the Lord is graciously pleased to remove every refuge of lies, and to make the lost, ruined, undone sinner not only poor and needy in spirit, but perfectly destitute of all that is good. It is in this condition that the Lord brings all His dear people to seek His face. To this we must be brought, and in this we shall continue, and be kept, if, like Enoch and Noah, we are favored to walk with God.
I am sure that the grand, the great secret of real religion, that secret of the Lord which is with them that fear Him, consists in this--that I am nothing, while the Lord is all and in all. And this, my dear brethren, must be applied to every branch of Bible theology, whether historical, prophetical, doctrinal, experimental, or practical. Yes, Christ is all in everything, and the sinner is nothing.
If any of my dear friends should object to the matter contained in this scrap, let them bring their objections to Him who is the Wonderful Counsellor; and I am fully persuaded that if they are enabled to listen to His voice, they will be all removed.
Dearly beloved, may you and I seek more and more to be nothing, that Christ may be all and all.
I am still confined to my room, almost to my bed. Brethren, pray for me.
Yours affectionately in the Lord, John Hobbs
P. S. Do not forget that the sinner merits nothing by coming to Christ.---------------------------------------------------------------------
Cambridge Terrace, April 7th, 1871
My dear Friends,--I have been meditating a little on what Paul says in Colossians 3:4, 'When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory.'
First, about Christ our life. It is God, and only God, who can say: 'I lift up my hand to heaven, and say, I live for ever.' It is His peculiar prerogative to be underived, self-existent, and independent. With Him is the fountain of life; therefore all living (elect) beings derive their life and existence from Him. Christ is the true God, and eternal life; therefore He is said in the text to be our life, that is, the life of His saints, in a peculiar and special sense.
At the creation, all things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made. He gave to every living creature a life suitable to it; but of man it is said that the Lord God formed him of the dust of the ground, and breathed into him the breath of life, and he became a living soul. Life was given him in a threefold sense: first, the life of the outward man, possessed by its union with the soul, which soul is an immortal principle, and then that spiritual life which was a chief feature of the image of God, in which Adam was created. He was told by God Himself that in the day he ate of the forbidden fruit, he should surely die. Now, though Adam by transgression became legally subject to death, the sentence was not literally executed upon him the same day in which he sinned; nor does the soul of man cease to exist, or die in a literal sense. But, as God's word cannot be broken, it necessarily follows that Adam died in a spiritual sense. He became dead to God; and as all the children of Adam were in him as their covenant head, and all derived their being from him, all are born dead in trespasses and sins.
If it is inquired, how this spiritual death is manifested, I answer, We trace it in Adam, who, before he had sinned, enjoyed perfect familiarity with his Maker, and had a clear and spiritual apprehension of God, of himself, and of the world in which God had placed him. He knew God as his God, gave proper names to all the creatures, and at once recognized Eve when God brought her to him, and predicted that a man and his wife should be one flesh. He had no dread or slavish fear of his Maker, nor of anything else. Fear never possessed his mind, until he had sinned; and then that glorious Being by whom he was created, and with whom he was in spiritual union, became the first and chief object of his dread. For when God called to him: 'Adam, where art thou?' he said, 'I heard Thy voice, and was afraid, and I hid myself, because I was naked.' And ever since, all the human family have been subject to this fear, whenever God has been subject to this fear, whenever God has been pleased to make a display of Himself, of His almighty power, holiness, justice, righteousness, and immutability, to them. Witness this in the case of Israel. When God descended in fire upon Mount Sinai, they stood afar off, were afraid of His presence, and intreated that they might never hear the same terrible voice of the law again. When the Lord Jesus manifested Himself to Saul on his way to Damascus, he fell to the ground, trembled, and was astonished. And who is there amongst us, who has not trembled at the apprehension of death? This proves that all are by nature estranged from God, dead to Him, unacquainted with Him, and far from Him by wicked works; nor can any ever live to God, but in, through, and by, the Lord Jesus Christ, who is our life.
As He is the true God, all life is His. But He says, 'As the Father hath life in Himself, so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself.' (John 5:26) This cannot respect His Divine Person absolutely, for as God He can receive nothing; but as God-man, Mediator, Emmanuel, God with us, or God in our nature, it pleased the Father that in Him should dwell all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. As the eternal God, He could lose nothing by taking the children's flesh and blood into union with Himself. Thus He has life in Himself; for His Godhead and manhood together is Himself.
Now, it is by union with Him as a living Head, that we all partake of His life, or live in Him, and He in us. Being made flesh of His flesh, and bone of His bone, we can no more die again to God than He can; for He says: 'Because I live, ye shall live also.' (John 14:19) As He lives for ever, (which living does not intend mere existence, but a spiritual living to God,) so also shall all His covenant family live for ever with Him. Thus, He not only gives us life, but is Himself our life, which life is neither the natural life of the body, nor the immortality of the soul. For those who go out of this world dead in trespasses and sins possess this. Devils and wicked men must be turned into hell, and must live for ever, but in a state of final separation from God, and are consequently dead to Him for ever. But that life of which we are treating, of which it is said, Christ is our life, is perfectly distinct from every quality, principle, and faculty possessed by man in his natural state.
We will now, the Lord enabling us, humbly inquire how Christ is our life. It is, first, by the appointment of God. 'I will keep Thee, and give Thee for a covenant of the people:' (Isa. 42:6) which covenant is a covenant of life and peace. Eternal life is the chief blessing of the covenant; and Christ is both the one and the other, as He is the sum and substance of the covenant, the true God and eternal life.
Secondly, He is our life, by His removing and taking away the meritorious cause of death, that is, sin: 'For the wages of sin is death.' This He did, when He bore our sins in His own body on the tree, and died, the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God.
The sentence of the law against the transgressors of it, was death, eternal death. Now, the blood is the life of man: and when the Saviour shed His precious blood on Calvary, He made a full atonement for sin, satisfied Divine justice, and for ever appeased the vindictive wrath of the justly-offended Majesty of heaven. The Saviour poured out His soul unto death. He made His soul an offering for sin. He gave body for body, soul for soul, and life for life.
Thirdly, He is our life, by His own resurrection from the dead. As He was delivered for our offences, so was He raised again for our justification. (Rom. 4:25) It was impossible that His pure and spotless nature could be holden of death, or see corruption. When He said, 'It is finished!' bowed His sacred head, and gave up the ghost, He freed us as debtors, and Himself as our Surety, from all future demands of law and justice. He put away sin, so that it shall never be imputed to those of whom it is said that Christ is their life.
Fourthly, He is our life, inasmuch as He is gone into heaven, there to appear in the presence of God for us. God beholds all His family as represented by Him, the living Head; and has determined that they shall all be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren; that He might have all the honor, praise, and glory, of reconciling and bringing together a just and holy God, and poor, lost, ruined, undone sinners.
I now proceed to show the method by which God teaches us that Christ is our life. This is by giving us a saving knowledge of the Father and the Son: 'This is life eternal, that they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent.' (John 17:3) This knowledge is far above that which Adam possessed in his state of innocence. He was created in the image of his Maker, knew Him as his Creator, had communion and fellowship with Him, was spiritually-minded, and possessed of righteousness and true holiness; but he did not know Him as a Saviour and Redeemer. This knowledge is peculiar to His blood-bought family; as Paul says: 'That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death.' (Phil. 3:10)
This knowledge is conveyed to us by the display of a quickening or life-giving power; which quickening is ascribed in Scripture to Father, Son, and Spirit: 'As the Father raiseth up the dead and quickeneth them, even so the Son quickeneth whom He will.' (John 5:21) And: 'It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing.' (John 6:63) The means through which this power is usually exerted, is the Word: 'Of His own will begat He us with the word of truth.' (James 1:18) It is the Saviour's voice that is heard by His lost sheep: 'Behold, I stand at the door and knock.' And the Church says: 'It is the voice of my Beloved that knocketh.' By this knocking is intended the first calls heard by the poor sinner; that secret engaging of his attention, expressed by 'Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear,' accompanied by some deep concern about his eternal state. This he usually endeavors to put away from him, if he can. He is unwilling to have his carnal peace of mind interrupted by such gloomy meditations. But the Saviour goes on knocking, until, as in the case of Lydia, He opens the heart, so that the hearer is constrained to attend to the things that are spoken. This is hearing the Shepherd's voice. The power that accompanies it enables the seeking soul to distinguish it from every other voice; and as the good Lord condescends to carry on this His own saving work in the heart, by applying the promises and revealing Himself little by little as a Saviour, this voice becomes more and more sweet, until, as the Church says, His voice is found to be most sweet. Nothing so precious to a seeking soul as an encouraging word spoken by the Saviour to him.
Christ is our life, by virtue of our union to Him. Paul tells us how Christ was his life experimentally. He says: 'I am crucified with Christ;' that is, when Christ died for him, he also died with Him in a legal and covenant sense: and by experimental conformity to Christ, he died daily; for, 'They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.' But though thus dead, he says: 'I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.' (Gal. 2:20) Now, if Christ lived in Paul, Christ was his life. Christ dwelt in his heart by faith. Through believing in Christ, (of which faith the Saviour is both the author and finisher.) Paul experienced such a realization of the presence of Christ, as swallowed up everything else. Faith was the substance of things hoped for; the evidence, ground, or confidence, of things not seen. Christ was his All in all.
This is God's mystery among the Gentiles, Christ in them, the hope of glory. (Col. 1:27) Hope, as well as faith, affords a present realization of Christ. He is the substance, the very essence of every grace, or fruit, of the Spirit, produced in our hearts; so that there is no spiritual life separate from Christ.
This life is a hidden life: 'Your life is hid with Christ in God.' (Col. 3:3) Hidden, as to the production of it. It is often begun in a poor sinner's soul before he is aware of what God is doing in him and for him. An unsettled state of mind, conviction of sin, dissatisfaction with everything around him, and more especially with himself, all this, he thinks, must end in eternal ruin; and that more particularly when the sentence of the law is applied to his conscience, guilt stares him in the face, and the wrath of God against sin works within him. Now he begins to think that his doom is finally sealed, that there is, and can be, no hope for such a sinner. Frequently his natural spirits flag altogether, his bodily health sinks, and he supposes himself to be the most miserable of beings. Yet there is life in all this. 'Reproofs of instruction are the way of life.' But this is a secret, until God condescends to reveal it, by raising the poor sinner to a little hope in His mercy, and by drawing out the desires of the soul to Himself. Now the poor creature begins to pour out his heart in secret before the Lord, and is quite astonished to find that his prayer is not rejected. He gets encouragement and relief, and is really enabled at times to cast his burden upon the Lord. Thus, that which he thought must end in eternal death, he finds to be the moving of spiritual life in his soul. All this may for a long time be hid from those in whom it is produced; and it is not understood till God is pleased to shine upon His own work. This is what Solomon means when he says: 'Get wisdom,' that is, Christ; 'and with all thy getting get understanding;' by which is intended a spiritual knowledge of what God has done for the soul.
Again: 'Your life is hid with Christ in God.' A Trinity of Persons in the Unity of one God is the greatest of all mysteries ever proclaimed from heaven. 'There are Three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these Three are One.' (1 John 5:7) To understand this, surpasses the utmost stretch of human comprehension. It is matter of faith. We know it is true: God hath said it.
When Christ appeared on the earth, all who were without Divine teaching saw nothing but the manhood in His glorious Person; but John, being taught of God, could say: 'We beheld His glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.' As Christ was unknown to those who beheld Him only with their natural sight, so is He unknown as He dwells in His people, as He is their life and the length of their days. Every spiritual motion, sensation, operation, and experience, enjoyed in the souls of His redeemed family, is produced by Himself, who is their life, and is altogether unknown to, and hidden from, all others.
It is a secret life of which we speak, with respect to the means by which it is sustained. The Saviour told His disciples: 'I have meat to eat that ye know not of.' And, bless His precious name! we also have meat and drink which the unregenerate world do not, cannot, partake of. He says: 'My flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.' This is not received, as the Papists will have it, in a carnal sense, neither does it stand in receiving bread and wine only. These are the signs, but Himself is the substance. We receive Him, feed upon Him, live in Him, and He in us, by a true and lively faith. 'He that cometh to me shall never hunger, and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.' This living in Christ, and Christ in us, as Paul says, 'I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me,' is a hidden life. It is part of that secret of the Lord which is with them that fear Him, and with them only. May He condescend, my dear friends, to bless you and me with an increase of it.
Yours affectionately in Him, John Hobbs
Cambridge Terrace, April 21st, 1871
To all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, may grace, mercy, and peace be multiplied, through the knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ our Lord.
This is a day in which most persons are seeking after knowledge; and this is very well, as far as it goes. But all human knowledge, whatever may be its measure and extent, must soon vanish away. It seems to me that there are two branches of Divine knowledge, which are essential to all who have any concern about their future and immortal state. The first is, that we should know ourselves as sinners, and the second, that we should know Christ as a Saviour. Perhaps some may be ready to say, According to this description, real, true knowledge is contained in a very small compass.--So it may appear to those who are not taught of God; but I believe it will be found at last that they, and only they, are truly wise, who know themselves as sinners, and Christ as a Saviour.
But are not these facts admitted by all who make any profession of religion? yea, few are so judicially hardened as to deny at least the first of these propositions. Most persons will admit that they are not so good as they should be, and therefore that they are necessarily sinners. But for one to know himself as a sinner, and Christ as his Saviour, in a scriptural sense, is far beyond that natural knowledge which has been already described.
Paul tells us that he was alive without the law once, and sin was dead; but that when the commandment came, sin revived, and he died: and further, that the law entered, first into the world, and then into his conscience personally, that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful. When the law is thus applied to a sinner, and his conscience is made honest to receive it, he discovers that many acts which he is accustomed to perform, many things that he does, and much, very much, that he says, is sinful, that is, contrary to the commandments of God. This is a discovery made of outward transgression. But as the law is spiritual, and we are carnal, sold under sin, its light and power penetrate still deeper. It reaches to the thoughts and intents of the heart; and by little and little shows us that all outward sin is the result of a corrupt and polluted nature. This we derive from our common ancestor, Adam, who, through sinning himself, has communicated the universal taint or corruption to all mankind.
Now, all who are thus taught of God out of His righteous law are compelled to acknowledge with David: 'Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.' They find by sad experience that they cannot speak a word, think a good thought, conceive a good desire, or perform a good act. The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint; from the crown of the head to the sole of the foot, all is wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores. The plague of leprosy is within. Yet such persons may do many things gladly, according to the letter of Scripture; but they find what Job expressed to be true: 'If I wash myself with snow water, and make my hands never so clean; yet shalt Thou plunge me in the ditch, and mine own clothes shall abhor me.'
Many have been the remedies invented by man to help himself and his fellow-men in this utterly lost and undone condition; such as legal repentance, natural faith in the Scriptures, the performance of religious duties, reading, prayer, meditation, and attending the ordinances of God's house; also using every endeavor to be serviceable to men, to be useful in the world at large. But all these, and every other human invention, have been, and must ever be, found insufficient to help a poor ruined sinner. He can never be acquitted at God's righteous bar, nor in the court of his own conscience; because he is destitute of true spiritual obedience. He knows nothing of the weighty matters of the law, as judgment, mercy, faith, and the love of God. He labors hard to obey the precept, and is sincere in his endeavors; but by no human effort can he ever get the smallest particle of the love of God into his heart. For as the law condemns all his performances, they not springing from the love of God in his heart, he finds himself to be a hater of God, of His people, and of that full, free, sovereign grace, by which alone poor sinners can be saved. The wrath of God is revealed in the law from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. This naturally stirs up the carnal enmity of the sinner's heart against God, and thus the law worketh wrath.
But some will be ready to say, May not a sinner be saved, without passing through such a fiery ordeal?--It is quite certain that all the Lord's dear people do not experience the same depth of conviction, that they cannot all trace the various effects of the law, as above described, in their own hearts. But of one thing we are sure, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; that He is called Jesus, because He shall save His people from their sins. The discovery of sin is more gradual in the experience of some than of others of His people; though all must know through Divine teaching, sooner or later, in a greater or less degree, that they are sinners in the sight of God.
The doctrine of the universal defilement of mankind, of original sin, and of actual transgression as its necessary consequence, is clearly revealed in the Scriptures; and it may be, and often is, learned as matter of fact, when there is no experience of its soul-distressing effects. Saul could say, 'I have sinned, my son David;' and Pharaoh to Moses, 'I have sinned against the Lord, and against you.' Also Judas, 'I have sinned, in that I have betrayed the innocent blood.' But none of these felt compunction of spirit, loathing of self, on account of sin; there was no real repentance. They feared the consequences of sin, as to the punishment thereof, but never loathed themselves in their own sight on account of it. It is not the depth of conviction that always imparts to a sinner a true, feeling sense of his being a sinner. Much knowledge of the doctrines of the Bible, and among them the universal depravity of man, may be obtained by study, and by the outward means of grace; and yet there may be no humbling sight and sense of the evil of personal sin communicated.
When a sinner's mouth is stopped by the righteous sentence of God's Word, and he has no plea to urge in arrest of judgment, why the sentence should not be executed upon him, the Saviour will appear, standing at the right hand of the poor, to save him from all that would condemn his soul. This is often done by some gracious word of encouragement spoken home by Divine power to the distressed soul, or by some exceeding great and precious promise dropped, as it were, into the heart, or by the shining of a ray of light upon the Word of God, upon the sinner's experience and path, whereby some discovery is made of the willingness, suitableness, and all-sufficiency of the Saviour. Now the poor sinner begins to see that, though in such a wretched condition, his case is not beyond the reach of mercy; that it is not altogether impossible for him to be saved; and perhaps one of the first petitions he is enabled to offer up in faith may be something like the poor leper's, 'Lord, if Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean.' And, as Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever, He will condescend to make a similar reply: 'I will, be thou clean.' Now the doors of faith and hope are opened, and the seeking soul earnestly desires to be favored with further discoveries of this wonderful Saviour and His great salvation. And thus the Lord is pleased to carry on His own work.
The more the sinner knows of Christ as a Saviour, the more will he know of himself as a sinner. Though the pardon of sin purges the conscience from its guilt, subdues the reigning power of sin in the will, and casts out the love of it from the affections, yet it still remains within. Indwelling sin continues to distress the pardoned sinner all his days; as Paul declares at large in Rom. 7. And thus we find that a sight and sense of sin deepens, as the Lord is pleased to lead us on in His way. If sin is pardoned, we can never forget that we are sinners. When the Lord turned the captivity of Job, when, as he said, his eye saw God, then he was constrained to abhor himself, and repent in dust and ashes. So every gracious manifestation that the Lord condescends to favor us with, of His pardoning love, pity, and compassion, leads us into a deeper sense of our own unworthiness.
When under the law, all our sin was committed against a just and holy God; but when sin is pardoned, and we are raised to a hope in His mercy, when we have been indulged with communion and fellowship with Himself, when He has made known His secret love to us, and we have been enabled to lay open our whole heart before Him; and yet we still find that in us, that is, in our flesh, dwelleth no good thing, that sin continues to work in us, this makes sin appear exceeding sinful indeed, because it is sinning against light and love; it is dishonoring to the Saviour, it grieves the Holy Spirit of God, whereby we are sealed to the day of redemption, suspends communion, separates between God and our souls, and often produces hard thoughts of God, who is our best and only Friend, nourishes unbelief, and, in a word, makes us as miserable in ourselves as can be.
I think Paul's experience had been much like this when he said: 'This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.' If I may so express it, it is gospel sinners, or those who sin under the gospel, that is, those who have experienced its saving efficacy, who are the chief of sinners.
Now, my dear friends, in this sense I know myself to be a sinner, and I dare say many of you can say the same. Should the contents of this paper ever be made known to any who have not felt the evil of sin, nor the plague of their own heart, and consequently have never been grieved on account of their own sin, or the sin of others, let them know that they are alike unacquainted with Christ as a Saviour. Such may admit the general fact that all are sinners, because it is written that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, but they are unacquainted with personal sin. They know not that the thought of foolishness is sin; nor that a proud, covetous, impenitent heart, a self-righteous spirit, a stubborn will, a lying tongue, and an evil eye,--that all these are sin. These have not yet known the Saviour, so as to be touched with compunction for His sorrow, or to grieve over His sufferings or the afflictions of His tried people. Depend upon it, a knowledge of personal sin, more or less, always precedes the true knowledge of Christ as a Saviour.
It is possible to know Christ as a Saviour in theory only; but for a sinner to know Christ as his Saviour differs from this altogether. Do all sinners know Christ as a Saviour? I answer, They do not; because there are some who perish in their sins. Judas knew in theory that Christ was a Saviour, but he never knew Him as his Saviour.
How then are those sinners distinguished in Scripture, from others, who are in just judgment suffered to die in their sins? I answer that they were given by the Father in the covenant of grace from all eternity to His dear Son, to be saved by Him; as Himself says: 'Thine they were, and Thou gavest them me.' But then, this is a secret transaction: how is it made manifest in time? According to Scripture, all that were thus given to Christ shall come to Him; as it is written: 'All that the Father giveth me shall come to me'--not, may come, but, shall come. God makes them willing in the day of His power. As the Bridegroom betrothed the church to Himself from everlasting, so in time every member of that church is constrained to come to Christ, to give himself to Christ, as a woman gives herself to her husband, and to follow Him. So that whatever fears, or doubts, or misgivings of heart may at any time distress a poor sinner, who is thus enabled to come to Christ for the pardon of sin, such a poor sinner never was, and never shall be, cast out by Him.
The Saviour said to the poor paralytic who was brought by others, and laid before Him: 'Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.' Yes, some poor sinner may be ready to reply, if I could hear the Saviour speak such a word to me, then I should know indeed that my sins were forgiven me: this is what I have been long looking for, watching at Wisdom's gates, and waiting at the posts of her doors.--You may never hear such words spoken to you by the Saviour in an articulate manner; but remember that where the word of a King is, there is power. It is that power which attends the Saviour's word, that must assure your heart and mine that our sins are forgiven us for His name's sake. This is often a very gradual work. We sometimes rise in hope, then sink in fear; almost believe, then call it in question again. Sometimes the Saviour shines upon us, and in our hearts, as the Sun of righteousness, then again withholds the light of His countenance. He hides His face, and we are troubled.
This knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of sins, or knowledge of Christ as our Saviour, differs from all other kinds of knowledge. If we attain to the knowledge of anything that is temporal, say, of science, or mechanics, or anything else that is common to the intellect of man, such attainment is permanent; there is no going back: what a man knows, he does know. But the knowledge of which we are treating differs from all other knowledge, in this respect, that it stands not in the wisdom of man, but in the power of God. Those who are favored with it may not be left to call in question any truth contained in the Bible, and yet they may be deeply exercised about their own interest in God's salvation. When the Saviour condescends to show a smiling face, to speak a gracious and encouraging word, to admit us to near communion with Himself, we can indeed believe that our sins are forgiven us. According to John, even little children in Divine grace may know this, as he says: 'I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name's sake.'
Perhaps some may be ready to say that this is trusting to frames and feelings; that we should rather trust the Saviour when and where we cannot trace Him. Well, I desire to be favored with such a confiding faith; and yet I would rather, if it were the Lord's gracious will, be blessed with a faith that can so pierce through any dark cloud that separates between me and Him, as to behold Him; such a faith as can bring distant things near, being the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen. To trust the Saviour at a distance is a great favor; but so to believe in Him as to bring Him into our very heart, soul, and affections, is a greater. I know that I cannot attain to this myself, any more than I could at first believe, until the Saviour was pleased to say: 'Stretch forth thine hand of faith;' and I know that He who began this good work has power sufficient to perfect it, and therefore I labor in spirit after it.
Our spiritual life is a complete riddle. We can of ourselves do nothing, and yet we are laborers together with Him. Faith is His gift, but we believe. He circumcises our hearts to love Him, yea, He sheds abroad His own love in your hearts, and the result is that we love Him.
To know the Saviour as ours, is to be known of Him. He says: 'I know my sheep, and am known of mine.' We know His voice, and He knows our cry. He seeks after His sheep, that is, after poor, lost, ruined, undone sinners, by the word of the gospel; and they seek to know Him as their Saviour. Paul knew the Lord already when he said: 'That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death.' You and I, my dear friends, must, through Divine teaching, possess this knowledge in some small measure, or we shall never have any right ideas about it, or value it. It often seems to human reason to be a complete contradiction--to know, and not to know; that is, to hope and believe that Christ is indeed our Saviour, and that our sins are, and shall be, forgiven for His name's sake, and yet to tremble, fear, and quake, lest it should not be so. A natural man, whatever may be his attainments in human knowledge, can never receive or understand this. It is hid from the wise and prudent of this world, and yet it is revealed even to babes in Divine grace.
Do not fear, poor, miserable, uncomfortable, dissatisfied soul; if you want something, and you do not at present know exactly what, wait upon God, both in private and public, and He will in His own time be found of you; for He says: 'Those that seek me early shall find me.' And when He condescends to come, He will make all right, and show you that He has been emptying you, as to all creature comforts and enjoyments, in order to make way for a true discovery of your real state as a sinner. And depend upon it, if He leads you to feel, and know, and mourn over this, He will in His own time reveal Himself in your heart as your Saviour. This is real personal religion.
It is thus that thousands of Adam's fallen race have been, and are brought, each one to know himself as a sinner, and also to know Christ as his Saviour, who says: 'This is life eternal, that they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent.' All Zion's children are taught of the Lord; and the Saviour says: 'Every man that hath heard and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me;' and, 'Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out.' Therefore if you are a coming sinner, you shall surely be a saved sinner. This going and coming, that is, Christ's coming to us, and our going to Him, is truly wonderful. Those who are favored to know something about it, will at times be lost and absorbed in admiration, wonder, and delight, at God's unspeakable mercy.
But, blessed be God! there is a state before us, in which all who know themselves as sinners, and Christ as a Saviour, shall for ever cease to experience any of the effects of sin. It shall not only be swallowed up, but for ever blotted out. Sin and death shall be swallowed up in victory; but Christ and His great salvation shall eternally fill every faculty of the soul, heart, affections, mind, and memory. Nothing will or shall be known but Christ, in all His fullness of covenant relation as a Saviour. We shall be filled with Him, so as to be like Him, body, soul, and spirit. I believe we shall know ourselves only as we are in Christ. If the saints could remember sin in heaven, it seems to me as if it would, as it were, cast a shade over that glorious view which will admit nothing to be seen but itself, and that is Christ. Christ will be not only all, but in all, in such an unspeakable sense as to shut out for ever everything but Himself.
And this, my dear friends, is what we want, and are seeking after here in some small measure, that we may have such a view of Christ in our salvation, as to see and know nothing of ourselves, nothing else.
Yours affectionately in the Lord, John Hobbs