Faith In The Blood Of Jesus The Spring Of Holiness
Topics In This Chapter:
- Living By The Faith Of The Son Of God
- Assurance Essential To Holiness
- The Blood Of Jesus Our Only Plea In Prayer
- Pleading The Blood Of Jesus Insures Revival
IT IS NOTEWORTHY THAT the apostle Paul, who most strenuously upholds justification by faith in Jesus, always connects it with holy living, and frequently shews that it is the firm belief of the truth of the doctrine that leads to new obedience in the life. In his Epistle to Titus, after speaking of "Jesus Christ our Saviour," and "being justified by His grace," and "made heirs according to the hope of eternal life," he directs that the doctrine of salvation by free grace alone should be affirmed constantly in order that believers might maintain good works, (Titus 3:4-8). And there can never be "good" works but on the principle of being "justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law" (Gal. 2:16). We never do good works until we do them because we are saved, not in order to be so. A lively sense of many sins forgiven will make us love much and shew it practically, (Luke 7:47). And we should have such a vital connexion with Christ, and such intimate fellowship with Him, as will exclude all surmisings as to our acceptance. If we are to render Paul-like service, we must exercise Paul-like faith, and enjoy Paul-like experience. And this is a record of how he believed and lived: "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ Iivetli in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gavel himself for me," (Gal 2:20).
We must be well assured of the love of God in Christ Jesus, to our own souls in particular, before we will be able to say, "This one thing, I do: I strive to be holy as God is holy." One of the best of the old writers has said:
Saving faith," has always a sanctifying and comforting influence. The true believer does not divide righteousness from sanctification, nor pardon from purity. Yea, he comes to Christ for the remission of sins for the right end; and that is, that being freed from the guilt of sin, we may be freed from the dominion of it. Knowing that there is forgiveness with Him that He might be feared, he does not believe in remission of sin that he may indulge himself in the commission of sin. No, no; the blood of Christ, that purges the conscience from the guilt of sin, does also purge the conscience from dead works, to serve the living God. They that come to Christ in a scriptural way come to Him for righteousness, that they may have him also for sanctification; otherwise, the man does not really desire the favour and enjoyment of God, or to be in friendship with Him who is a holy God. The true believer employs Christ for making him holy as well as happy, and hence draws virtue from Him for killing sin, and quickening him in the way of duty. The faith that can never keep you from sin will never keep you out of hell; and the faith that cannot carry you to your duty will not carry you to heaven. Justifying faith is a sanctifying grace. It is true, as it sanctifies it does not justify; but that faith that justifies does also sanctify. As the sun that enlighteneth hath heat with it; but it is not the heat of the sun that enlightens, but the light thereof: so that faith that justifies hath love and sanctity with it; but it is not the love and sanctity that justify, but faith as closing with Christ.
"If a man hath no faith in the Lord's goodness, no hope of His favour in Christ, where is his purity and holiness? Nay, it is he that hath this hope that purifies himself as God is pure. I know not what experience you have, but some of us know, that when our souls are most comforted and enlarged with the faith of God's favour through Christ, and with the hope of His goodness, then we have most heart to our duties; and when, through unbelief, we have harsh thoughts of God as an angry judge, then we have no heart to duties and religious exercises; and I persuade myself this is the experience of the saints in all ages.
There is thus an inseparable connection between our believing the love of God to us in Christ Jesus, holiness, and spiritual comfort. Unless we "draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith," we cannot expect to have "our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water," (Heb. 10:22).
And as the blood of Jesus is our ground of confidence in coming to God at the first for forgiveness of our sins, our mainstay in trouble, and the spring of all worthy obedience, so must it be our only plea in approaching our heavenly Father for all needed spiritual blessings. If we wish to have our own souls quickened and revived, or a great work of the Spirit achieved throughout the land, and millions of souls converted, the name of Jesus must be our only plea, as we come to plead for these blessings at the throne of grace. Another says:
In all true prayer, great stress should be laid on the blood of Jesus: perhaps no evidence distinguishes a declension in the power and spirituality of prayer more strongly than an overlooking of this. Where the atoning blood is kept out of view, not recognised, not pleaded, not made the grand plea, there is a deficiency of power in prayer. Words are nothing, fluency of expression nothing, niceties of language and brilliancy of thought nothing, where the blood of Christ - the new and living way of access to God, the grand plea that moves Omnipotence, that gives, admission within the holy of holies - is slighted, undervalued, and not made the groundwork of every petition. Oh, how much is this overlooked in our prayers - how is the atoning blood of Immanuel slighted! How little mention we hear of it in the sanctuary, in the pulpit, in the social circle! Whereas it is this that makes prayer what it is with God. All prayer is acceptable with God, and only so, as it comes up perfumed with the blood of Christ; all prayer is answered as it urges the blood of Christ as its plea; it is the blood of Christ that satisfies justice, and meets all the demands of the law against us; it is the blood of Christ that purchases and brings down every blessing into the soul; it is the blood of Christ that sues for the fulfilment of His last will and testament, every precious legacy of which comes to us solely on account of His death; this it is too that gives us boldness at the throne of grace. How can a poor sinner approach without this? How can he look up - how can he ask - how can he present himself before a holy God, - but as he brings in the hand of faith the precious blood of Jesus? Out of Christ, God can hold no communication with us; - all intercourse is suspended - every avenue of approach is closed - all blessing is withheld. God has crowned His dearly beloved Son, and He will have us crown Him too; and never do we place a brighter crown upon His blessed head than when we plead His finished righteousness as the ground of our acceptance, and His atoning blood as our great argument for the bestowment of all blessing with God. If, then, dear reader, you feel yourself to be a poor, vile, unholy sinner -if a backslider, whose feet have wandered from the Lord, in whose soul the spirit of prayer has declined, and yet still feel some secret longing to return, and dare not, because so vile, so unholy, so backsliding; yet you may return, 'having boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, (Heb. 10:19). Come, for the blood of Jesus pleads; return, for the blood of Jesus gives you welcome.
"If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous," (1 John 2:1). And if you are stirred in spirit for the souls of the perishing around you that they may be saved, and for the work of God that it may be revived, make mention of THE BLOOD OF JESUS, and you may rest satisfied that you "have the petitions, that you "desired of Him," (1 John 5:15). Jesus has passed His word, that on doing this you shall obtain the desires of your heart; for He says, "If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you, "(John 15:7). "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give, it you... Ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full," (John 16: 23, 24). If, then, there be no great revival of God's work, no great awakening and conversion of perishing souls, may it not be because this sin lieth at our door, that we have not used the blood of Jesus as our all-prevailing plea in prayer? Oh! let us no longer employ that "'precious blood "so sparingly in our pleadings for revival, but let us urge it as our only and our constant plea, and prove God herewith, whether He will not open to us the windows of heaven, and pour us out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it, (Mal. 3:10).
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The Blood Of Jesus The Essence Of The Gospel
Topics In This Chapter:
- The Most Effective Revival Preaching
- The Substratum Of Christianity
- The Spirits Order Of Truth To Be Observed
- Christ And The Grand Theme Of Our Preaching
OUR MATURED CONVICTION IS that the great thing needed at present is not so much revival sermons, or revival prayer-meetings, as REVIVAL TRUTH; and as the very essence of that truth is " the gospel of God concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord," (Rom.1:1,2) or, in other words, the testimony of the Holy Ghost (externally in the preaching of the Word, and internally in its spiritual application) to the all-sufficiency and infallible efficacy of "THE PRECIOUS BLOOD OF CHRIST," (1 Pet. 1:19), that which is pre-eminently required in order to the general revival of religion is a full, clear, intelligent, and earnest utterance of the grand leading doctrines of " the gospel of the grace of God," (Acts 20:24). True revival is not obtainable by merely preaching about revival, but by the constant proclamation of that all-important truth which is employed by the Holy Ghost to produce it,-that "Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God," (1 Pet. 3:18). He will prove the most effective preacher in bringing about a holy, deep, spiritual revival, who gives the greatest prominence to these three great facts :-" That CHRIST DIED for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that HE WAS BURIED; and that He ROSE AGAIN the third day according to the Scriptures," (I Cor. 15:3, 4). And I am convinced that the reason why so many ministers exhaust nearly all their converting power (I mean instrumentally) during the first few years of their ministry, while some continue to possess it, and finish their course with joy, is greatly owing to the former leaving the simplicity that is in Christ and betaking themselves to sermon-writing about secondary matters, while the latter make CHRIST CRUCIFIED their "Alpha and Omega." Oh that all the ministers of Jesus Christ would return, for a few months at least every year, to all the common texts from which they preached discourses which seemed to be so much blessed to awaken and save souls in the early days of their ministry! Were they to take a series of such texts as Matt. 11:28; John 3:16; Rom. 1:16; 1 Cor. 2:2; 1 Tim. 1:12-17; 1 John 1:7; and, after restudying them, and bringing all the light of their reading, spiritual insight, and experience to bear upon the exposition and enforcement of them, to preach from them with the Holy Ghost, and with a lively faith, that, by the grace of the Holy Spirit accompanying their preaching, the unconverted among their people would be immediately converted, there might be a great and general awakening, and tens of thousands might be added to the Lord.
It is also of vast importance to present "the truth of the gospel" as the Holy Ghost himself has presented it to us in "the word of Christ," (Col. 3:16). It has been well said that "the derangement of God's order of truth is quite as dangerous and far more subtle than the denial of the truth itself. In fact, to reverse the order is to deny the truth. We are not merely to maintain both Christ's work and the Spirit's work in their individual integrity, but in their exact scriptural order." We believe that the refreshing truth, that "the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin," (1 John 1:7), is the great central sun which sheds a flood of light on the whole system of divine revelation. Atonement by the blood-shedding of Christ is the substratum of Christianity; for the sole ground of a sinner's peace with God is " THE BLOOD OF JESUS." We who were at one time "far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ ; for he is our peace," (Eph. 2:13, 14), " in whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins," (Eph. 1:7 ); and so, " being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood," (Rom. 3:24, 25), " we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ; by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God," (Rom. 5: 1, 2).
In the Westminster Assembly's "Shorter Catechism," which is considered by all orthodox people to be an excellent summary of Christian doctrine, you will find the very same truth stated which we have advanced and confirmed by the above quotations, and which we have been writing for publication almost daily for the last ten years.
The answer to the question in that Catechism, "What doth God require of us that we may escape His wrath and curse due to us for sin?" commences with, "God requireth of us faith in Jesus Christ, repentance unto life," &c. Now, this shews that the framers of that symbol of sound doctrine were accurate in their conceptions, and precise in their statement of the order and position of this great scriptural truth. They suppose an anxious inquirer desirous of knowing how he is to escape the wrath and curse of God due to him for sin; and do they say that the first thing he is to do is to pray for the Holy Spirit, and get his mind changed, and his unholy heart sanctified, previously to his believing in Jesus? No. The very first thing they teach the awakened sinner to do is, to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved. Now this is all the more remarkable, considering that, when laying down the system of divine truth theologically, they had placed effectual calling by the Divine Spirit before justification by faith. There they speak to the intellect of the converted man and instructed Christian; but here the matter is reversed when an anxious sinner is to be guided as to what he is to do to be saved, and we have faith in Jesus Christ placed before repentance unto life; shewing us that they held, that while we must ever acknowledge the necessity of the Holy Spirit's work in order to the creation and exercise of saving faith, we should never direct an anxious sinner to look to the Spirit as his Saviour, but to Christ alone; never direct an inquirer to seek first an inward change, but an outward one - a justified state in order to enjoying a sanctified heart - the former being the necessary precursor of the latter.
Repentance is, properly speaking, a change of mind, or a new mind about God; regeneration is a change of heart, or a new heart towards God; conversion is a change of life, or a new life for God; adoption is a change of family, or a new relationship to God; sanctification is a change of employment, or a consecration of all to God; glorification is a change of place, or a new condition with God; but justification, which is a change of state, or a new standing before God, must be presented to the anxious inquirer as going before all, for being "accepted in the Beloved" is the foundation and cause of all, or, more properly speaking, the "precious seed" from which all the rest spring, blossom, and bear fruit: and, consequently, the first and great duty of those who have to deal with awakened souls is to make this very clear, and to keep them incessantly in contact with the blessed evangelical truth, "That a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ," (Gal 2:16).
From all this you will observe, dear reader, that I am not settling the position which a doctrine in theology ought to hold, but simply dealing with the practical necessities of an anxious inquirer. Were I called upon to state my views theoretically, I would say, they are described by what another has termed Jehovahism, "for of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever," (Rom. 11:36); but I am not contemplating the sinner as standing before the throne of glory, but before the throne of grace; and I am not endeavouring to settle a subtle question in theology, but to give the practical solution of an urgent question of salvation. I am not attempting to lay down a system of divinity, but to discover the kind and order of truth divinely appointed and fitted to bring immediate peace to awakened and inquiring souls. And hoping to accomplish this most important end, I present "JESUS ONLY," "for He is our peace," who "having made peace through the blood of His cross," (Col. 1:20), has come "and preached peace," (Eph. 2:17), by His "everlasting gospel," to them "who were afar off, and to them that were nigh."
The first practical step towards realising and acknowledging the sovereignty of God, is to "let the peace of God rule in your hearts," (Col. 3:15). You may hold a sound creed with a proud, unbroken heart, and be more deeply damned on that very account. But if you wish to know God in all the glory of His being and attributes, you must grasp the manifestation of that glory as it is embodied and manifested in the person of Jesus Christ. You can know the glory of God as a sovereign only by realising His grace as a Saviour. For "God was manifest in the flesh," (1 Tim. 3:16). "The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth," (John 1:14). " Neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him," (Matt. 11:27).
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The Holy Spirit's Testimony To The Blood Of Jesus
Topics In This Chapter:
- What We Should Say To An Anxious Inquirer
- Jesus Still The Saviour
- Nature And Grace
THE GREAT WORK WHICH THE Holy Spirit is now occupied in performing, is that of directing sinners to Jesus, and inclining and enabling them to come to Him, that they may be saved; and since this is the case, I am a fellow worker with God the Holy Spirit only in so far as I tell anxious sinners TO LOOK TO JESUS ONLY, and have "redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins," as their first and great business; and "this one, thing I do."
The question is not, whether do we think it scriptural for an awakened sinner to desire the secret and power-giving presence of the Holy Spirit to open the eyes of his understanding, and shew him the all-sufficiency of Christ. That is what neither we nor any other true Christian would for a moment think of forbidding. Nor is it the question, whether the work of the Holy Spirit be necessary in order to salvation. The very fact of writing as we have done on regeneration in a previous chapter, as well as writing to encourage our brethren to meet together, and also meeting ourselves, to pray for the Holy Spirit to put forth His reviving, sanctifying, convincing, and converting power, will satisfy all ingenuous minds that we hold the absolute necessity of the work of the Holy Spirit in order to the regeneration and conversion of perishing souls.
The only question, then, which falls to be considered is, What am I to say to an awakened and anxious sinner? Am I to say simply, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved," (Acts 16:31), as said the apostle of the Gentiles to the trembling jailor of Philippi? or am I, as the first thing I do, to exhort him to pray for the Holy Spirit to convince him more deeply of his sin, enlighten his darkened understanding, renew his perverse will, and can able him to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ to the saving of his soul? Am I to direct him, as the grand thing he has to do, to believe in Jesus, and accept His blood-shedding as the only foundation of his peace with God; or to seek the work of the Spirit as an addition to Christ's work, in order that he may be justified ? The former leads to justification by faith alone, the true Apostolic doctrine of the Churches of the first age ; the latter leads to justification by sanctification, the pernicious doctrine of a later era, by embracing which a man can never reach any satisfactory assurance that his sins are pardoned, even after a lifetime's religious experience and devout and sincere performance of religious duties; whereas, by teaching salvation by the blood of Christ alone, a man may, like the Philippian jailor, "rejoice, believing in God with all his house," (Acts 16:34), "in the same hour" in which Christ is presented as the alone object of personal faith and consequent reconciliation.
There is, we regret to think, a large class of professing Christians who seem to have the unfounded notion engrained in their minds, that Christ came as a Saviour in the fulness of time, and on being rejected and received up into glory, the Holy Spirit came down to be the Saviour of sinners in His stead, and that whether men are now to be saved or lost depends entirely on the work of the Holy Spirit in them, and not on the work of Christ done for them; whereas the Holy Spirit was given as the crowning evidence that JESUS IS STILL THE SAVIOUR, even now that He is in heaven; and the great work of the Spirit is not to assume the place of Jesus as our Saviour, but to bear witness to Christ Jesus as the only Saviour, and by His quickening grace bring lost sinners to Him, that they may become "the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus," (Gal 3:26). This He did on the blessed day of Pentecost, when thousands of divinely quickened souls received His testimony, believed "in the name of Jesus," and obtained " remission of sins," (Acts 2:38). The Holy Ghost is not the Saviour, and He never professed to be so, but His great work, in so far as the unconverted are concerned, is to direct sinners to the Saviour, and to get them persuaded to embrace Him and rely upon Him. When speaking of the Holy Spirit, Jesus said distinctly to His disciples, "He shall not speak of himself. .... HE SHALL GLORIFY ME," (John 16:13, 14). If to glorify Christ be the grand aim and peculiar work of the Holy Spirit, should it not also be the grand aim and constant work of those who believe in Him, and more especially of the ministers of His gospel?
The whole drift of the Holy Spirit's inspired oracles, as we have them in the Bible, is to glorify Christ; and the gospel ministry has been granted by Him, (Eph. 4:11, 12), to keep the purport of those Scriptures incessantly before the minds of men, and in so doing to beseech sinners to be reconciled to God. Now, Holy Scripture throughout clearly teaches that, simply on account of the one, finished and all-sufficient and eternally efficacious work of Christ, sinners who believe in Him are "justified from all things;" that we are "justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood," (Rom. 3:24, 25); and we are justified as "sinners," as "ungodly," (Rom. 5:6, 8), and not as having an incipient personal righteousness wrought in us by the Holy Ghost. Few men, with the Word of God in their hands, would subscribe to such a doctrine; and yet it is the latent creed of the great majority of professing Christians. It is, in fact, the universal creed of the natural heart. Fallen human nature, when under terror, says, Get into a better state by all means; feel better, pray better, do better; become holier, and reform your life and conduct, and God will have mercy upon you! But grace says, "Behold, God is my salvation!" (Isa. 12:2). To give God some equivalent for His mercy, either in the shape of an inward work of sanctification, or of an outward work of reformation, the natural man can comprehend and approve of; but to be justified by faith alone, on the ground of the finished work of Christ, irrespective of both, is quite beyond his comprehension. But "the foolishness of God is wiser than men," (1 Cor. 1:25); for, instead of preaching holiness as a ground of peace with God, "we preach Christ crucified," (1 Cor. 1:23), "for other foundation can no man lay" -either for justification or sanctification-"than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ," (1 Cor. 3:11); and, whatever others may do, I am "determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ and him crucified," (1 Cor. 2:2).
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