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Only the blood can wash out these spots

cropped-thomas-brooks-header-2

Those spots which a Christian finds in his own heart can only be washed out in the blood of the Lamb.

‘Oh,’ says such a poor soul, ‘I pray—and yet I sin; I resolve against sin—and yet I sin; I combat against sin—and yet I am carried captive by sin; I have left no outward means unattempted—and yet after all, my sins are too hard for me; after all my sweating, striving, and weeping—I am carried down the stream.’

It is not our strong resolutions or purposes which will be able to overmaster these enemies.

There is nothing now but the actings of faith upon a crucified Christ, which will take off this burden from the soul of man. You must make use of your graces to draw virtue from Christ; now faith must touch the hem of Christ’s garment—or you will never be healed.

— Thomas Brooks The Unsearchable Riches of Christ

(HT: Of First Importance)

Godly Sorrow and Delight in God

From Puritan Richard Baxter, Practical Works (London, 1830), 2:420-21:

200px-Richard_Baxter_by_RileyPenitent sorrow is only a purge to cast out those corruptions which hinder you from relishing your spiritual delights. Use it therefore as physic [medicine], only when there is need; and not for itself, but only to this end; and turn it not into your ordinary food. Delight in God is the health of your souls. … So take up no sorrow against your delight in God, or instead of it, but for it, and so much as promoteth it.

(HT: Tony Reinke)

 

 

Resurrection Life

The Puritan John Howe, in a series of 13 sermons on regeneration, said this:

“You see by this what a Christian is. And all will agree (no doubt) in the common notion, a Christian is one that believeth that Jesus is the Christ. But you see who are reckoned to believe to this purpose, such as are born thereupon another sort of creatures from what they were, and so continue as long as they live: and such as are heaven born, born of God by immediate divine operation and influence, a mighty power from God coming upon their souls, conforming them to God, addicting them to God, uniting them with God, making them to centre in God, taking them off from all this world.”

“The Spirit that is from God suits us to God and to divine things and makes us savor the things of God and take delight in them.  It seasons us more and more, so that God is all in all with us.  We become dead to this world.  In this sense, to be born again is to die.  Everyone reborn in this way dies at the same time.  When one is reborn to God and made alive to God through Jesus Christ, one is dead and crucified to the world; it becomes a despicable thing.  This is why a born again person can be content to stay here a while longer to serve God, but he cannot endure to be without God in this world.  And he hopes not to be in it long either, but to be with God immediately, who is to us our all in all.”

Edmund Calamy, editor, The Works of the Rev. John Howe (New York, 1838), II:896.  Edited, updated.

(HT: Dane and Ray Ortlund)

John Flavel on the Importance of Gospel Delight

From Scotty Smith:

John Flavel (English Puritan – 1630-1691), was one of the main influences in Charles Spurgeon’s spiritual formation in the gospel. This quote will let you know why.

“Ecstasy and delight are essential to the believer’s soul and they promote sanctification. We were not meant to live without spiritual exhilaration, and the Christian who goes for a long time without the experience of heart-warming will soon find himself tempted to have his emotions satisfied from earthly things and not, as he ought, from the Spirit of God. The soul is so constituted that it craves fulfillment from things outside itself and will embrace earthly joys for satisfaction when it cannot reach spiritual ones. The believer is in spiritual danger if he allows himself to go for any length of time without tasting the love of Christ and savoring the felt comforts of a Savior’s presence. When Christ ceases to fill the heart with satisfaction, our souls will go in silent search of other lovers. By the enjoyment of the love of Christ in the heart of a believer, we mean an experience of the “love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given to us” (Rom. 5:5). Because the Lord has made himself accessible to us in the means of grace, it is our duty and privilege to seek this experience from Him in these means till we are made the joyful partakers of it.”

Evangelistic Preaching = Christ-Centred Preaching

J. I. Packer:

The Puritans did not regard evangelistic sermons as a special class of sermons, having their own peculiar style and conventions; the Puritan position was, rather, that, since all Scripture bears witness to Christ, and all sermons should aim to expound and apply what is in the Bible, all proper sermons would of necessity declare Christ and so be to some extent evangelistic.

–’The Puritan Vision of Preaching the Gospel,’ in A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life (Crossway, 2010; repr.), 165-66

(HT: Dane Ortlund)

“that will do it”

Pilgrim’s Progress and Defeating Sin:

Prudence asked further, ‘Do you not still carry some of the baggage from the place you escaped?’

[Christian:] ‘Yes, but against my will. I still have within me some of the carnal thoughts that all my countrymen, as well as myself, were delighted with. Now all those things cause me to grieve. If I could master my own heart, I would choose never to think of those things again, but when I try only to think about those things that are best, those things that are worst creep back into my mind and behavior.’

‘Don’t you find that sometimes you can defeat those evil things that at other times seem to defeat you?’ Prudence suggested.

Christian answered, ‘Yes, it happens occasionally. They are golden hours that I treasure.’

‘Can you remember the means by which you’re able occasionally to defeat the evil desires and thoughts that assail you?’

Christian said, ‘Yes. When I think about what I experienced at the cross, that will do it.’

(HT: Dane Ortlund)

The Focus of Puritan Preaching

preaching

“Puritan preaching revolved around ‘Christ, and him crucified’ – for this is the hub of the Bible. The preachers’ commission is to declare the whole counsel of God; but the cross is the center of that counsel, and the Puritans knew that the traveler through the Bible landscape misses the way as soon as he loses sight of the hill called Calvary.”

– J.I. Packer

(HT: Erik Kowalker)

The Glory of Christ – seen by revelation not imagination

John Owen The Glory of Christ

CHAPTER VII

THE GLORY OF CHRIST IN HIS EXALTATION AFTER THE ACCOMPLISHMENT OF THE WORK OF MEDIATION IN THIS WORLD

“This is that glory which our Lord Jesus Christ in a special manner prayed that His disciples might behold. This is that of which we ought to endeavor a prospect by faith; by faith, I say, and not by imagination. Vain and foolish men, having general notions of this glory of Christ, knowing nothing of the real nature of it, have endeavored to represent it in pictures and images, with all that luster and beauty which the art of painting, with the ornaments of gold and jewels, can give to them. This is that representation of the present glory of Christ, which, being made and proposed to the imagination and carnal affections of superstitious persons, carries such a show of devotion and veneration in the Papal Church. But they err, not knowing the Scripture nor the eternal glory of the Son of God.

This is the sole foundation of all our meditations herein. The glory that the Lord Jesus Christ actually possesses in heaven can be no otherwise seen or apprehended in this world but in the light of faith fixing itself on divine revelation. To behold this glory of Christ is not an act of fancy or imagination. It does not consist in framing to ourselves the shape of a glorious person in heaven. But the steady exercise of faith on the revelation and description made of this glory of Christ in the Scripture is the ground, rule, and measure of all divine meditations thereon.

j-owen1So our duty is to call ourselves to account as to our endeavor after a gracious view of this glory of Christ: When did we steadfastly behold it? When had we such a view of it that our souls have been satisfied and refreshed? It is declared and represented to us as one of the chief props of our faith, as a help of our joy, as an object of our hope, as a ground of our consolation, as our greatest encouragement to obedience and suffering. Are our minds every day conversant with thoughts of it? or do we think ourselves not much concerned with it? Do we look upon it as that which is external to us and above us, as that which we shall have time enough to consider when we come to heaven?

So it is with many. They care neither where Christ is nor what He is, so that one way or other they may be saved by Him. They hope, as they pretend, that they shall see Him and His glory in heaven, and that they suppose to be time enough; but in vain do they pretend a desire thereof; in vain are their expectations of any such thing. They who do not endeavor to behold the glory of Christ in this world, as has been often said, shall never behold Him in glory hereafter to their satisfaction; nor do they desire so to do, only they suppose it a part of that relief which they would have when they are gone out of this world. For what should beget such a desire in them? Nothing can do it but some view of it here by faith, which they despise or totally neglect. Every pretense of a desire of heaven and of the presence of Christ therein that does not arise from, that is not resolved into, that prospect which we have of the glory of Christ in this world by faith, is mere fancy and imagination.

Our constant exercise in meditation on this glory of Christ will fill us with joy on His account, which is an effectual motive to the duty itself. We are for the most part selfish, and look no farther than our own concerns. Just so we may be pardoned and saved by Him, we care not much how it is with Himself, but only presume it is well enough. We find not any concern of our own therein. But this fame is directly opposite to the genius of divine faith and love. For their principal actings consist in preferring Christ above ourselves, and our concerns in Him above all our own. Let this, then, stir us up to the contemplation of this glory. Who is it that is thus exalted over all? Who is thus encompassed with glory, majesty, and power? Who is it who sits down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, all His enemies being made His footstool? Is it not He who in this world was poor, despised, persecuted, and slain—all for our sakes? Is it not the same Jesus who loved us, and gave Himself for us, and washed us in His own blood?

So the apostle told the Jews that the same “Jesus whom they slew and hanged on a tree, God had exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and Saviour to give repentance unto Israel, and the forgiveness of sins” (Acts 5:30,31). If we have any valuation of His love, if we have any concern in what He has done and suffered for the Church, we cannot but rejoice in His present state and glory.

Let the world rage while it pleases; let it set itself with all its power and craft against everything of Christ that is in it, which, though some pretend otherwise, proceeds from a hatred of His person; let men make themselves drunk with the blood of His saints; we have this to oppose to all their attempts, and to our support—what He says of Himself: “Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive forevermore, and have the keys of hell and of death” (Rev. 1:17,18).

Blessed Jesus! we can add nothing to Thee, nothing to Thy glory; but it is a joy of heart to us that Thou art what Thou art, that Thou art so gloriously exalted at the right hand of God; and we long more fully and clearly to behold that glory, according to Thy prayer and promise.”

(HT: Recover the Gospel)

John Owen on The Glory of Christ

An excerpt from Owen’s most excellent, The Glory of Christ, ch.2. My thanks to Recover the Gospel.

j-owenIt is a promise concerning the days of the New Testament that our “eyes shall see the King in his beauty” (Isa. 33:17). We shall behold the glory of Christ in its luster and excellency. What is this beauty of the King of saints? Is it not that God is in Him and He is the great representative of His glory to us? Wherefore, in the contemplation of this glory consists the principal exercise of faith. And who can declare the glory of this privilege that we, who are born in darkness and deserved to be cast out into utter darkness, should be translated into this marvelous “light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ”?

What are all the stained glories, the fading beauties of this world? of all that the Devil showed our Saviour from the mount (Matt. 4:8)? What are they in comparison to one view of the glory of God represented in Christ and of the glory of Christ as His great representative?

The most pernicious effect of unbelief under the preaching of the gospel is that, together with an influence of power from Satan, “it blinds the eyes of men’s minds, that they should not see this glory of Christ”; whereon they perish eternally (II Cor. 4:3, 4).

But the most of those who at this day are called Christians are strangers to this duty. Our Lord Jesus Christ told the Pharisees, that notwithstanding all their boasting of the knowledge of God, they had not “heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape” (John 5:37); that is, as Moses did. They had no real acquaintance with Him, they had no spiritual view of His glory. And so it is among ourselves; notwithstanding the general profession there is of the knowledge of Christ, there are few who thus behold His glory, and therefore few who are transformed into His image and likeness.

Some men speak much of the imitation of Christ and following His example; and it were well if we could see more of it really in effect. But no man shall ever become “like unto him” by bare imitation of His actions, without that view or intuition of His glory which alone is accompanied with a transforming power to change them into the same image.

The truth is, the best of us all are woefully defective in this duty, and many are discouraged from it because a pretense of it in some has degenerated into superstition; but we are loath at any time to engage in it seriously and come with an unwilling kind of willingness to exercise our minds in it.

Thoughts of this glory of Christ are too high for us, or too hard for us, such as we cannot long delight in; we turn away from them with a kind of weariness. Yet they are of the same nature in general with our beholding the glory of Christ in heaven, wherein there shall be no weariness, or satiety, unto eternity. Is not the cause of it that we are unspiritual or carnal, having our thoughts and affections accustomed to give entertainment to other things? For this is the principal cause of our unreadiness and incapacity to exercise our minds in and about the great mysteries of the gospel (I Cor. 3:1—3).

And it is so with us, moreover, because we do not stir up ourselves with watchfulness and diligence in continual actings of faith on this blessed object. This keeps many of us at so low an ebb as to the powers of a heavenly life and spiritual joys.

If we abounded in this duty, in this exercise of faith, our life in walking before God would be more sweet and pleasant to us, and our spiritual light and strength would have a daily increase; we should more represent the glory of Christ in our ways and walking than usually we do, and death itself would be most welcome to us.

The angels themselves desire to look into the things of the glory of Christ (I Peter 1:12). There is in them matter of inquiry and instruction for the most high and holy spirits in heaven. The manifold wisdom of God in them is made known to “principalities and powers in heavenly places by the church” (Eph. 3:10). And shall we neglect that which is the object of angelic diligence to inquire into, especially considering that we are more concerned in it than they?

Is Christ, then, thus glorious in our eyes? Do we see the Father in Him, or by seeing of Him? Do we sedulously, daily contemplate the wisdom, love, grace, goodness, holiness, and righteousness of God as revealing and manifesting themselves in Him? Do we sufficiently consider that the immediate vision of this glory in heaven will be our everlasting blessedness? Does the imperfect view which we have of it here increase our desires after the perfect sight of it above?

Signs of Forgiveness

Thomas Watson“Whenever God pardons sin, He subdues it, Micah 7:19. Then is the condemning power of sin taken away, when the commanding power of it is taken away. If a malefactor be in prison, how shall he know that his prince hath pardoned him? If a jailer come and knock off his chains and fetters, and lets him out of prison, then he may know he is pardoned; so, how shall we know God hath pardoned us? If the fetters of sin be broken off, and we walk at liberty in the ways of God, this is a blessed sign we are pardoned.”
-Thomas Watson

(HT: Reformed Voices)

The Kiss and The Blood

After years of struggling, doubting, and searching, the darkness lifted for John Bunyan. Here is how he states it:

“I remember that one day, as I was travelling into the country and musing on the wickedness and blasphemy of my heart, and considering of the enmity that was in me to God, that scripture came into my mind, He hath, ‘made peace through the blood of his cross.’ Col. 1:20. By which I was made to see, both again, and again, and again, that day, that God and my soul were friends by this blood; yea, I saw that the justice of God and my sinful soul could embrace and kiss each other through this blood. This was a good day to me; I hope I shall not forget it.”

Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, pages 19-20 of volume 1 of Bunyan’s Works.

Notice 2 things:
-Bunyan was pondering the weight of his wickedness (when is the last time you did that?).
-Bunyan had previously meditated on this verse (otherwise how would it have come into his mind?).

(HT: CROSS-eyed)

The Enjoyment of God

Jonathan Edwards:

The enjoyment of God is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied. To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here. Fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, or children, or the company of earthly friends, are but shadows; but God is the substance. These are but scattered beams, but God is the sun. These are but streams. But God is the ocean. Therefore it becomes us to spend this life only as a journey toward heaven, as it becomes us to make the seeking of our highest end and proper good, the whole work of our lives; to which we should subordinate all other concerns of life. Why should we labor for, or set our hearts on, anything else, but that which is our proper end, and true happiness?

Jonathan Edwards, “The Christian Pilgrim,” in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, 2:244

(HT: The Perichoresis)

Quote of the week!

From John Calvin’s Commentary on John:

“Whoever is not satisfied with Christ alone, strives after something beyond absolute perfection”

( Vol. 18, p. 84).

(HT: Of First Importance)

A New Year’s Prayer

Length of days does not profit me except the days are passed in thy presence, in thy service to thy glory.

Give me a grace that precedes, follows, guides, sustains,
sanctifies, aids every hour,
that I may not be one moment apart from thee,
but may rely on thy Spirit
to supply every thought,
speak every word,
direct every step,
prosper every work,
build up every mote of faith,
and give me a desire
to show forth thy praise,
testify thy love,
advance thy kingdom.

I launch my bark on the unknown waters of this year,
with thee, O Father, as my harbor,
(with) thee, O Son, at my helm,
(with) thee, O Holy Spirit, filling my sails.

Guide me to heaven with my loins girt,
my lamp burning,
my ear open to thy calls,
my heart full of love, my soul free.

Give me thy grace to sanctify me,
they comforts to cheer me,
thy wisdom to teach,
they right hand to guide,
thy counsel to instruct,
thy law to judge,
thy presence to stabilize.

May thy fear by my awe, thy triumphs my joy.

(Valley of Vision, p.112)

(HT: Irish Calvinist)

Storms on Edwards’ Religious Affections

The Resurgence has a great interview (approx. 30 mins.) with Sam Storms on his book, ‘Signs of the Spirit’ – an accessible understanding of ‘The Religious Affections’ by Jonathan Edwards. Storms speaks knowledgeably and passionately about Edwards’ unique discernment concerning the workings of the Spirit. Or true Biblical spirituality. You can listen here.

Owen on more of the Spirit!

“. . . when Owen unpacks the work of the Spirit, he makes a distinction between the Spirit being received in terms of “sanctification” and the Spirit’s work of “consolation.” 15 When he refers to sanctification in this context he means the work whereby the Spirit sets us apart, uniting us to Christ and making us alive. This is “a mere passive reception, as a vessel receives water.” 16 This is the movement from being outside the kingdom of God to becoming a child of the King.

When Owen speaks of the Spirit’s work of consolation, he has in mind the comforting activity of the Spirit in the life of the believer. Christians need not be passive in the hope that the Spirit will bring comfort; rather, they should (1) seek his comfort by focusing on the promises of God realized in the Spirit, (2) call out to the Spirit of supplication to bring consolation, and (3) attend “to his motions,” which take us to the Father and Son. In all of this we rightly and actively receive him who freely comes to bring comfort and grace. Again, our union with God in Christ is never in jeopardy, but our sense of fellowship with God does necessitate appropriate human agency and response.

Keeping in mind Owen’s distinction between union and communion, one is better able to make sense of his conclusion: “The Spirit as a sanctifier comes with power, to conquer an unbelieving heart; the Spirit as a comforter comes with sweetness, to be received in a believing heart.” 20 Though the Spirit will never abandon a believer, it should not surprise us that neglecting such receptivity to the Spirit’s movement compromises our sense of intimacy. For Owen, grace must be understood as the ground of this relationship, from first to last, from justification to preservation of the saints, from God’s acceptance of us to his glorifying the saints—grace is the bottom of the entire understanding of the saints’ security and privilege before God. 21 This grace, however, demands rather than denies human response”

Communion with The Triune God (page 22-23).

(HT: Adrian Warnock)

Behold the Glory!

More than anyone else, in the last couple of years, John Owen has helped me contemplate the Glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Here’s a great quote:

“One view of Christ’s glory by faith will scatter all the fears, answer all the objections and disperse all the depressions of the poor, tempted, doubting souls. To all believers it is an anchor which they may cast within the veil, to hold them firm and steadfast in all trials, storms and temptations, both in life and in death.”

(HT: Gospel Muse)

Jonathan Edwards: The Proportions of Grace

“The redeemed have all from the grace of God. It was of mere grace that God gave us his only-begotten Son. The grace is great in proportion to the excellency of what is given. The gift was infinitely precious, because it was of a person infinitely worthy, a person of infinite glory; and also because it was of a person infinitely near and dear to God.

The grace is great in proportion to the benefit we have given us in him. The benefit is doubly infinite, in that in him we have deliverance from an infinite, because an eternal, misery, and do also receive eternal joy and glory.

The grace in bestowing this gift is great in proportion to our unworthiness to whom it is given; instead of deserving such a gift, we merited infinitely ill of God’s hands.

The grace is great according to the manner of giving, or in proportion to the humiliation and expense of the method and means by which a way is made for our having the gift. He gave him to dwell amongst us; he gave him to us incarnate, or in our nature; and in the like though sinless infirmities. He gave him to us in a low and afflicted state; and not only so, but as slain, that he might be a feast for our souls.”

- Jonathan Edwards, On Knowing Christ (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1993), 36-37.

(HT: Of First Importance)

Communion with the Triune God

Adrian Warnock is blogging through Owen’s Communion with the Triune God. Here are the posts thus far:

(HT: Justin Taylor)

I particularly love this last piece:

“While Owen’s theological approach is unapologetically Trinitarian, he is not shy about being Christ-centered—Jesus Christ is the mediator between God and man who grounds our knowledge and communion in God. To know God, we are called to look to Christ. We are often tempted to formulate views of God without reference to Christ, and in this way we run the risk of constructing a philosophical rather than biblical conception of the divine. In truth, Scripture in general and Christ in particular must govern our notion of God.

To Know God, Look to the Son

Divine attributes, or truths about God, should always be viewed through the lens of Christ. Owen argues that we will never understand “some of the most eminent and glorious properties of God” unless we see them as revealed in “the Lord Christ, but only by and in him.”

. . . For the Son is the great revelation of the Father (Hebrews 1:3), and the Spirit always draws believers to the Son, who is the perfect image of God. By Jesus Christ “alone we have our understanding to know him that is true.” Elsewhere he writes: “There is no acquaintance with God, as love, and full of kindness, patience, grace, and pardoning mercy . . . but only in Christ.”

To appreciate Owen’s Christ-centered approach we must recognize that for him, the incarnate Lord is the “medium of all communication between God and us. In him we meet, in him we walk . . .

By emphasizing Christ, Owen is not meaning to pit the divine persons against one another, but is aiming to maintain the biblical pattern and method for framing our communion with God. We come to the Father through the Son in the Spirit . . .

So discussions about the attributes of God are best viewed, not vaguely, but clearly through a christological lens. To speak of these attributes as philosophical abstractions, and not in light of the incarnation, is to risk opening up all kinds of sub-Christian conceptions of God.

On the other hand, Owen argues that discussing God’s attributes in light of Christ yields not just greater understanding but also strong comfort for God’s people. These attributes apart from Christ bring only feelings of terror, misery, and uncertainty. “There is no saving knowledge of any property of God, nor such as brings consolation, but what alone is to be had in Christ Jesus, being laid up in him, and manifested by him” (pages 32-33).

A suitable mercy!

“Jesus Christ is a suitable mercy, suited in every respect to all our needs and wants. “Ye are complete in him.” (Col. 2: 20)

Are we enemies? He is reconciliation. Are we sold to sin and Satan? He is redemption. Are we condemned by the law? He is the Lord our righteousness. Has sin polluted us? He is a fountain opened for sin, and for uncleanness. Are we lost by departing from God? He is the way to the Father.

Rest is not so suitable to the weary, nor bread to the hungry, as Christ is to the wants of the sinner.”

- John Flavel, The Method of Grace

(HT: Of First Importance)

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