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Duty of Gratitude for Divine Grace: Conclusion- Book Seventh- Chapter 4

Book Seventh

CHAPTER IV.

CONCLUSION.

Our Saviour frequently rebuked those who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others. This self-righteous temper prevailed in the sect of the Pharisees; and Paul, who was a Pharisee, was obliged to renounce it, when he became a follower of Christ. He then prayed to be found, not having his own righteousness, but the righteousness which is of God by faith. In his strong desire and earnest prayer for the salvation of his countrymen, the Jews, he regarded it as their great and fatal error, that, “being ignorant of God’s righteousness, they went about to establish their own righteousness.”

Self-righteousness is offensive to God. The king, in the parable, was displeased, because one of the guests appeared at the marriage, not having on a wedding garment. But when we array ourselves in our own righteousness of filthy rags, and present ourselves in the assembly of the saints, before the God of holiness, and claim his approbation and smile, because we are thus arrayed, we offer insult to the King Supreme. We evince that we have no right appreciation of his holiness and justice: and while we profess to honor him as God, we so degrade his moral perfections as to make him altogether such an one as ourselves. This temper of mind rejects the mediation and righteousness of Christ, and thereby sets at nought the counsel of God, in the great scheme of salvation. The Father is well pleased with the Son, for his righteousness’ sake; and he cannot be well pleased with those who despise that righteousness, and choose to appear in their own.

Self-righteousness is ruinous to the soul. It may be highly esteemed among men; for the Pharisees, who loved the praise of men more than the praise of God, obtained their reward, in being honored for their great sanctity. But God searches the heart, and in his view the outward sanctity avails nothing, while all within is rottenness. Yet the disguise cheats mankind, and cheats him who wears it. Blindly and stupidly trusting to his own righteousness, he is at ease, and cries Peace, Peace, until sudden destruction comes upon him. It is one of Satan’s most successful artifices, to lull men to sleep in their own righteousness. Many who have been alarmed by a view of their outward sins, have reformed their lives; and, relying on their morality, have, without any heart-religion, without any true faith in Christ, fatally dreamed their life away in the vain hope that all will be well at last. So difficult is it to rouse men from this delusion, that publicans and harlots entered into the kingdom of heaven before the self-righteous Pharisees.[1]

The doctrine of grace is the remedy for self-righteousness. It is a remedy which the unholy heart greatly dislikes, but if once received, it proves an effectual antidote to the evil. It slays all self-dependence, and lays the guilty sinner prostrate at the feet of mercy. He turns from his own righteousness, as from his sins, with loathing and abhorrence, and pleads, and trusts, and hopes for mercy only for the sake of Christ. In this method of salvation there is not compromise with the self-righteous spirit; no reliance is admitted either on absolute merit, or on comparative merit. Every one is required to come to Christ, as most guilty and vile, and to seek mercy as the chief of sinners. He must bring no plea that he is more worthy, or less worthy than his neighbor. So long as he relies on such a plea, the door of mercy is shut against him. He is taught to receive salvation as a free gift, absolutely free, without money and without price.

The doctrine of grace completely excludes all human boasting. This was Paul’s view of it. “Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Works? Nay, but by the law of faith.”[2] Its tendency to humble men before God, and teach them to glory in the Lord alone, is an excellence which the inspired apostle highly prized. This endeared the doctrine to him, and should endear it to us. We are prone to think of ourselves above what we ought to think: but we have the means at hand for humbling our pride, in the interrogatory, “Who made thee to differ from another? and what hast thou, that thou didst not receive?”[3]

This doctrine presents the strongest motive to holiness. It has been charged against it, that it leads to licentiousness; and this charge is as old as the days of the apostles. It was then asked, “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?”[4] and it was falsely asserted that they taught, “Let us do evil, that good may come.”[5] If, in advocating this doctrine, we meet with similar charges, we may rejoice in the proof thus furnished, that we stand on apostolic ground. But the whole charge is without foundation. Men may be self-righteous Pharisees, and, at the same time, live in sin; but when self-righteousness is destroyed by the Spirit of grace, the man becomes dead, not only to the law, but also to sin, and, being dead to sin, he can live no longer therein. Men may, in a self-righteous spirit, abstain from sin, while they love it. But the doctrine of grace, when received into the heart, destroys the very love of sin. A sense of obligation for free and unmerited mercy, occupies the heart, and constrains to holy obedience.

This doctrine is honorable to God. All flesh is humbled before him, and he alone is exalted. The cross of Christ is elevated; and men are attracted to it, and taught to glory in it alone. The full salvation, as it comes forth from the triune God, in its completeness, and perfect adaptedness to our wretched and lost condition, becomes the object of our admiring delight, and calls forth our joyful ascriptions of praise.

This doctrine unites the people of God. All come to Christ on the same level. The rich, the poor, the learned, the unlearned, the bond, the free; all come to him, without distinction of rank, or of merit. All melt before him into penitence and love, and their hearts become one. Under the full influence of this doctrine, no man can glory in men, or treat with contempt a fellow member of Christ, a weak brother whom Christ has received.

This doctrine prepares us to join the song of the redeemed in heaven. Even here we learn to sing, “Not unto us, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory.”[6] And the same shall be our song, when we stand before the throne. “Salvation, and glory, and honor, and power, unto the Lord our God.”[7] The celestial harps cannot sound a self-righteous note, It would disturb the heavenly harmony. Every heart feels, and every song declares, that “Salvation is of the Lord.”[8]

[1] Matt. xxi. 31.

[2] Rom. iii. 27.

[3] 1 Cor. iv. 7.

[4] Rom. vi. 1

[5] Rom. iii. 8.

[6] Ps. cxv. 1.

[7] Rev. xix. 1

[8] Jonah ii. 9.

John L. Dagg- Manual of Theology

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Duty of Repentance: Man’s Present State: Conclusion- Book Fourth

Book Fourth

CONCLUSION.

A careless admission that men are sinners is often made by persons who give themselves little concern about religion; and even acrimonious complaints may be freely vented by them against the iniquities of others. But such is the stupefying effect of human depravity, that men have very little complaint to make against themselves; and their condition, as sinners against God, awakens very little uneasiness. Occasionally conscience may be aroused, and produce alarm; but, through the deceitfulness of sin, its rebukes and warnings become unheeded, and men are again lulled to sleep in carnal security. Until this fatal slumber is broken, and a thorough, deep-rooted conviction of sin seizes the mind, and allows the man no quiet, his spiritual state exhibits no favorable indications.

Conviction of sin has sometimes produced very disquieting effects in the minds of heathen men, destitute of the true knowledge of God. Costly sacrifices and painful austerities have been resorted to for the purpose of appeasing their offended deities. Nature teaches men their danger, but cannot show them the way of escape. In these circumstances, how welcome is the light which the Bible throws on our path! It gives a far clearer discovery of our danger, and, at the same time, opens before us the door of hope.

Conviction of sin may at first respect merely our overt acts of wickedness; but, if thorough and effectual, it will extend to the depraved heart, from which evil actions proceed. It will open to our view this fountain of corruption, this deep sea casting up mire and dirt. To explore the deep windings of depravity, dark and filthy, we need the torch of revelation. Its use in making us acquainted with ourselves, demonstrates the divinity of its origin. The woman of Samaria said of Jesus, “Come see a man which told me all things that ever I did; is not this the Christ?”[1] And the Bible, which tells us so exactly all that is in our hearts, must be from God, the Searcher of hearts. The world of iniquity within us was formerly to us a land unknown; but we have now explored it in part, and we can testify that the only correct map of it is in the Holy Scriptures. As we make progress in the knowledge of ourselves, throughout our course of religious experience, what we read in our own hearts and what we read in the Bible agree perfectly, and we ever carry with us a proof that the doctrine of the Bible is the truth of God.

Many who profess to regard the Bible as a revelation from heaven, do not receive its doctrine concerning the present state of man. They cannot conceive the human heart to be so deceitful and desperately wicked as the Bible declares it to be; and especially they do not so conceive of their own hearts. We hence know that such men could not have written the Bible. When the light of truth has produced in us a thorough conviction of sin, we read the Bible with new eyes, and we discover in it the handwriting of him who said, “I the Lord search the heart.”[2]

The exceeding sinfulness of sin appears when it is viewed as committed against God. David said, “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned.”[3] While under genuine conviction of sin, a view of God’s perfections renders the conviction overwhelming. To have sinned against so glorious and excellent a being; to have rebelled against the rightful Sovereign of the universe, and aimed at dethroning him; to have violated his law, holy, just, and good; to have trampled his authority under our feet, insulted his majesty, despised the riches of his forbearance and goodness; to have persevered in our course, notwithstanding the calls of his mercy; and, in spite of all his warnings and threatening, to have, feeble worms as we are, defied his omnipotent vengeance; when such views of sin are presented, in the light of God’s word, our souls are filled with anguish, and in the depth of sorrow and self-condemnation we adopt the publican’s prayer, “God be merciful to me a sinner.”[4]

The word of God, which pierces to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart,[5] often gives pain by its probing, but their tendency is salutary. They are unwelcome to hypocrites and false professors; but the man of sincere piety prays, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me into the way everlasting.”[6] The Bible tears the mask from the hypocrite, and shows to the Pharisee that all his righteousnesses are but filthy rags;[7] but, humiliating as these wholesome instructions are, the true penitent rejoices to receive them. He fears to be deceived; and he blesses God for the light of truth, by which his true character is revealed.

When men’s eyes are opened to see their spiritual danger, they generally attempt, in their own strength, to work out their salvation. These efforts prove unavailing; and they learn, by experience, that they have no help in themselves. This truth, though clearly taught in the Bible, they never really believed until it was thus learned. Here arises, in the heart of Christian experience, another confirmation of Bible doctrine. A truth which no man sincerely believes until the Spirit of God has taught him, by inward experience, must have proceeded from God. In the whole progress of our spiritual life we become increasingly convinced of our utter helplessness and entire dependence on strength divine; and the Bible doctrine on this subject acquires perpetually increasing confirmation.

Genuine Christian experience commences with conviction of sin; but, blessed be God, it does not end here. The knowledge of our depravity, condemnation, and helplessness, would fill us with despair, were it not that salvation, precisely adapted to our necessities, has been provided by the mercy of God, and revealed in the gospel of his Son. The very truth, which would otherwise fill us with anguish and despair, prepares for the joyful acceptance of salvation by Christ. He who rejects this truth does not feel the need of Christ; and, therefore, does not come to him for life. They that be whole need not a physician.[8] Let the truth of this chapter be received deep in the heart, and we shall be prepared for the profitable study of the next subject.

[1] John iv. 29.

[2] Jer. xvii. 10.

[3] Ps. li. 4.

[4] Luke xviii. 13.

[5] Heb. iv. 12.

[6] Ps. cxxxix. 23, 24.

[7] Is. lxiv. 6.

[8] Matt. ix. 12.

John L. Dagg- Manual of Theology

The Glory of a True Church- The Conclusion

November 25, 2016 Leave a comment

The Conclusion

Know my Brethren, That God loves the Gates of Sion more than all the dwelling places of Jacob.141 Therefore the publick Worship of God ought to be preferred before private.

1. This supposeth there must be a visible Church.

2. And that they frequently meet together to worship God.

3. That they have an orderly Ministry and one ordained Elder, at least, to administer all Publick Ordinances.

4. Moreover, that all Persons have free liberty to assemble with the Church, and to partake of all Ordinances, save those which peculiarly belong to the Church; as the Lord’s Supper, holy Discipline, and days of Prayer and Fasting. Then the Church of Old separated themselves from all Strangers.142

Yet others may attend on all other publick Ordinances with the Church; as publick Prayer, Reading, and Preaching the Word and in Singing God’s Praises, as hath formerly been proved. May others my Brethren, join in Prayer with us, and not praise God with us?

But, O my Brethren! Let me beseech you to shew your high Value, and Estimation for the publick Worship of God.

[Motives hereunto.]

1. Since God prefers it thus: Or has so great Esteem of his publick Worship.

2. Because he is said to dwell in Sion; It is his Habitation for ever. The place, where his Honour dwells.143

3. Here God is most Glorified. In his Temple every one speaks of his Glory; My Praise shall be in the great Congregation.144

4. Here is most of God’s gracious presence (as one observes it.)

(1.) His effectual Presence, in all Places; Where I record my Name, thither will I come; and there will I bless thee.145

(2.) Here is More of his intimate presence: Where two or three are gathered together in my Name, there am I in the midst of them.146

(3.)He walks in the midst of the seven Golden Candlesticks.147

5. Here are the clearest manifestations of God’s Beauty, which made holy David desire to dwell there for ever.148 See the appearance of Christ to the Churches, Rev. 2. cap. 3.

6. In that it is said, that those that should be Saved, in the Apostles days, God added unto the Church.149

7. Here is most Spiritual Advantage to be got: Here the Dews of Hermon fall, they descend upon the Mountain of Sion. Here God commands the Blessing, even Life for evermore, I will abundantly bless her Provision, and satisfie her Poor with Bread. Here David’s Doubt was resolved.150

8. Here you received your first spiritual Breath, or Life, many Souls are daily Born to Christ. That good which is most Diffusive, is to be Preferred; but that good which most partake of, is most Diffusive; O magnifie the Lord with me! Let us exalt his Name together.151 Live Coals separated, soon die.

9. Brethren (as a worthy Divine observes) the Church in her publick Worship is the nearest Resemblance of Heaven, especially in Singing God’s Praises. What Esteem also had God’s Worthies of old, for God’s publick Worship? My Soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the Courts of the Lord. How amiable are thy Tabernacles, O Lord of Hosts!152

10. See how the Promises of God run to Sion, or to his Church.153 He will bless thee out of Sion. O let nothing discourage you in your waiting at the Posts of Christ’s Door.154 David desired Rather to be a Door-Keeper in the House of God, than to Dwell in the Tents of Wickedness.155 Yet nevertheless do not neglect, for the Lord’s sake, private Devotion; viz. Secret, and Family Prayer: O pray to be fitted for publick Worship! Come out of your Closets to the Church:156 What signifies all you do in Publick, if you are not such that keep up the Worship of God in your own Families?

O neglect not Prayer, Reading, and Meditation! And take care also to Educate and Catechise your Children; and live as Men and Women that are dead to this World; and walk for the Lord’s Sake as becomes the Gospel.157

See that Zeal and Knowledge go together; a good Conversation and a good Doctrine go together. These Two together, are better than One.

Brethren, he that makes the Word of God his Rule, in whatsoever he doth, and the Glory of God his end in what he doth shall have the Spirit of God to be his strength. This is like Solomon’s Three-fold Cord, that will be One, or it will be Three; it can’t be Two; nor can it be broken.158

Benjamin Keach- The Glory of a True Church, And its Discipline Displayed (1697)

Attributes of God: Conclusion- Book 2

Book Second

CONCLUSION.

The doctrine concerning God harmonizes with the affections of the pious heart, and tends to cherish them. The moral nature of those who do not love God, demonstrates his existence and their obligation to love him and consequently, their nature is at war with itself. There is a conflict within, between conscience and the depraved affections. The moral principle is in the unrenewed heart, overrun with unholy passions; and it cannot be duly developed, until the affections are sanctified. When, by this change, harmony has been produced in the inner man, all that is within will harmonize with the doctrine concerning God. The mind, in its proper and healthy action, joyfully receives the doctrine, and finds in God the object of its highest love. The pious man rejoices that God exists, and that his attributes are what nature and revelation proclaim them to be. “Whom have I in heaven but thee? And there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.”[1]

The doctrine concerning God not only harmonizes with inward piety, but tends to cherish it. If love to God exists when he is but partially known, it will increase as our knowledge of him increases. As the pious man studies the character of God, the beauty and glory of that character open to his view, and his heart is drawn out towards it with more intense affection. With such soul-ravishing views the Psalmist had been favored, when he exclaimed, ” O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; to see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary.”[2]

The love of God, which is increased by a true knowledge of him, is not a mere feeling of gratitude for blessings received. Many persons talk of God’s goodness, and profess to love him, who have no pleasure in contemplating his holiness and justice, and to whom these are unwelcome attributes. When such persons stand before him in the last judgment, there is reason to fear that they will find him to be a different God from that which they loved and praised on earth. Love to the true God is love to the God of holiness and justice, the God in whom every moral perfection is united; and if our love is of this kind, we shall delight to survey the glories of the divine character, and, apart from all views of the benefits received from him, shall be enamored of his essential loveliness.

The love to God which increases by a true knowledge of him, is pervaded with a deep-felt reverence for his character. The familiar levity with which he is sometimes approached and addressed, by no means comports with the awful exhibitions of himself which he has made in his works and in his word. They who, while they profess to love him, have no solemn sense of his infinite grandeur and holiness, have yet to learn the fear of God, which is the beginning of wisdom. The true knowledge of God will rectify this evil in the heart.

The true love of God is accompanied with humility. When we are absorbed in the contemplation of the human mind, we may well be filled with admiration of its powers and capacities. But lately, it rose into being, from the darkness of nonentity, a spark so feebly glimmering, that an omniscient eye only could perceive its light. In the short period which has intervened, it has gradually increased in splendor, and has probably astonished the world by its brilliance. What was once the feeblest ray of intellect, has become a Newton, a Locke, a Howard, or a Napoleon. And when we conceive of this immortal mind, as continuing to expand its powers throughout a boundless future, we are ready to form a high estimate of human greatness. But when we remember that man, whatever he is, and whatever he is capable of, is a creature formed by the hand of God, and endowed by him with all these noble faculties; when we consider that, with all his advancement through eternal ages, he will forever be as nothing, compared with the infinitude of God; and when we look back into past eternity, and contemplate God as existing with all this boundlessness of perfection, ages of ages before our feeble existence commenced; we may well turn away from all admiration of human greatness, and exclaim, “Lord, what is man, that thou art mindful of him?”

But the strongest incentive to humility is found in contrasting our depravity with God’s holiness. Noble as the human intellect is, it is ruined by its apostasy from God. Every depraved son of Adam, who has studied the attributes of God, and has attained to some knowledge of his immaculate holiness, may well exclaim in deep humility, “Woe is me! A man of unclean lips; for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.”[3]

The true knowledge of God gives confidence in him. In view of his truth, we learn to put unwavering trust in the manifestations of himself which he has made, and the promises which he has given, for the foundation of our hope. There are times when the good man loses his sensible enjoyment of the divine favor, and when the sword of justice appears pointed at his breast; but even then, with the true knowledge and love of God in his heart, he can say, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.”

The doctrine concerning God which the Bible teaches, confirms its claim to be regarded as the word of God.

This doctrine, as we have seen, is precisely adapted to man’s moral nature, and calls forth the moral and religious principles with which his Creator has endowed him, into their best and noblest exercise. If viewed apart from his relation to God, man, the creature so wonderfully endowed, is an enigma in the universe; but the doctrine concerning God solves the mystery. The tendency of this doctrine to exert a sanctifying influence, at the very origin of all human feeling and action, demonstrates that it comes from God. He who experiences its sanctifying power on his heart, has a proof of its truth that noting else can give. For this doctrine, we are chiefly indebted to the Bible. Here God, who has dimly exhibited himself in his works, comes forth in a direct communication, and like the sun in the heavens, makes himself visible by his own light. If the religious principle within us acted as it ought, the doctrine of the Bible would be as precisely adapted to us as the light of the sun is to the eye; and we should have as thorough conviction that the God of the Bible exists, as we have that the sun exists, when we see him shining forth with all his splendor in the mid-heavens.

The proof that the Bible is the word of God, will accumulate as we make progress in our investigation of religious truth. We have advanced one step, by our inquiries into the existence and attributes of God; and the glory of the Bible-doctrine concerning God, has shone on our path with dazzling brightness. Let us continue to prosecute our studies, guided by this holy book; and if we open our hearts to the sanctifying power of its truth, we shall have increasing proof, in its influence on our souls, that it comes from the God of holiness.

[1] Ps. lxxiii. 25.

[2] Ps. lxiii. 1, 2.

[3] Isaiah vi. 5.

John L. Dagg- Manual of Theology

The Conclusion

November 20, 2013 1 comment

Published in 1646

The Text used: There has been some updating of Old English words but otherwise no changes have been made to the original texts.

CONFESSION OF FAITH of seven congregations or churches of Christ in London. which are commonly, but unjustly, called Anabaptists; published for the vindication of the truth and information of the ignorant; likewise for the taking off those aspersions which are frequently, both in pulpit and print, unjustly cast upon them. Printed in London, Anno 1646.

 

The Conclusion

THUS we desire to give unto Christ that which is His; and unto all lawful authority that which is their due; and to owe nothing to any man but love; to live quietly and peaceably, as it becometh saints, endeavouring in all things to keep a good conscience, and to do unto every man (of what judgment soever) as we would they should do unto us, that as our practice is, so it may prove us to be a conscientious, quiet, and harmless people (no ways dangerous or troublesome to human society) and to labour and work with our hands that we may not be chargeable to any, but to give to him that needeth, both friends and enemies, accounting it more excellent to give than to receive.

Also we confess, that we know but in part, and that we are ignorant of many things which we desire and seek to know; and if any shall do us that friendly part to show us from the word of God what we see not, we shall have cause to be thankful to God and them; but if any man shall impose upon us anything that we see not to be commanded by our Lord Jesus Christ, we should in His strength rather embrace all reproaches and tortures of men, to be stripped of all outward comforts, and if it were possible, to die a thousand deaths, rather than to do anything against the least tittle of the truth of God or against the light of our own consciences. And if any shall call what we have said heresy, then do we with the Apostle acknowledge, that after the way they call heresy, worship we the God of our fathers, disclaiming all heresies (rightly so called) because they are against Christ, and to be steadfast and unmovable, always abounding in obedience to Christ, as knowing our labour shall not be in vain in the Lord.

Psalm 74:21,22

ARISE, O God, plead thine own cause; remember how the foolish man blasphemeth Thee daily. O let not the oppressed return ashamed, but let the poor and needy praise Thy name.

Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly.

The First London Baptist Confession 1644/46