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THE GOSPEL

AND ITS MINISTRY

BY

SIR ROBERT ANDERSON

CHAPTER 2

GRACE

“The Gospel of the glory of the blessed God!”

(<540111>1 Timothy 1:11; not “the glorious gospel.”)

“Show me Thy glory, I beseech Thee,” was the prayer of Moses; and God

answered, “I will make all My goodness pass before thee, and I will

proclaim the name of Jehovah before thee, and will be gracious to whom I

will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.”

(<023318>Exodus 33:18, 19) God’s highest glory displays itself in sovereign

grace, therefore it is that the gospel of His grace is the gospel of His glory.

Let us take heed then that we preach grace. He who preaches a mixed

gospel robs God of His glory, and the sinner of his hope. They for whom

these pages are intended, need not be told that salvation is only by the

blood; but many there are who preach the death of Christ, without ever

rising to the truth of grace. “Dispensational truth,” as it is commonly

called, is deliberately rejected by not a few; and yet without understanding

the change which the death of Christ has made in God’s relationships with

men, race cannot be apprehended.

It is not that God can ever change, or that the righteous ground of blessing

can ever alter, but that the standard of man’s responsibility depends on the

measure and character of the revelation God has given of Himself. God’s

judgments are according to pure equity. They must have strange thoughts

of Him who think it could be otherwise. In the Epistle to the Romans we

have the great principle of His dealings with mankind. “He will render to

every man according to his deeds; to them who, by patient continuance in

well-doing, seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life”; but to

the rest, indignation and wrath; tribulation and anguish upon evil-doers,

but upon well-doers, glory, honor, and peace; and this for all without

distinction, whether Jews or Gentiles, under law or without law, for God

is no respecter of persons?

But is the standard of well-doing the same for all? Shall the same fruit be

looked for from the wild olive as from the cultured tree; from the mountain

side in its native barrenness, as from the vineyard on the fruitful hill? Far

from it. The first two chapters of the Epistle to the Romans are

unmistakable in this respect. The Gentile will be judged according to the

light of nature, and of conscience neglected and resisted; the Jew, by the

revelation God entrusted to him. Paul’s sermon at Athens is no less clear

as regards the condition of the heathen.

As he said at Lystra, they were not

left without a witness, in that God did good, and gave rain and fruitful

seasons, filling their hearts with food and gladness. By such things, he

declares again in another place (<450120>Romans 1:20), God’s eternal power and

Godhead are clearly seen, so that they are without excuse. And so here

(<441722>Acts 17:22-31),God left the heathen to themselves, not that they

should forget Him, but that they should seek Him, even though it were in

utter darkness, so that they should need to grope for Him — “to feel after

Him, and find Him.” And, though there was ignorance of God, He could

wink at the ignorance and give blessing notwithstanding, for “He is a

rewarder of diligent seekers.” (<581106>Hebrews 11:6) Moreover, this is still the

case with all whom the witness of the Holy Ghost has not yet reached. If

it be asked whether any have, in fact, been saved thus, I turn from the

question, though I have no doubt as to the answer (See <441034>Acts 10:34, 35).

There is no profit in speculations about the fate of the heathen; their

judgment is with God. But there is profit and blessing untold in searching

into His ways and thoughts toward men, that we may be brought in

adoration to exclaim, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and

knowledge of God!”

But to resume: “The times of this ignorance God winked at; but now

commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day

in the which He will judge the world in righteousness.” (<441730>Acts 17:30, 31)

And the change depends on this, that God has now revealed Himself in

Christ, and therefore ignorance of Him is a sin that shuts men up to

judgment. See the Lord’s sad utterance in <431504>John 15:4, as a kindred truth.

Indeed, the whole Gospel of John is a commentary on it. Darkness had

reigned, but God did not hold men accountable for darkness; it was their

misfortune, not their fault. But He did hold them accountable to value and

obey the little light they had, “the candle set up within them,” and the

stars above their head — those gleams of heavenly light, which, though

they failed to illumine the way, might at least suffice to direct their course.

But now, a new era dawned upon the world, “The Word was made flesh

and dwelt among us.” (<430114>John 1:14) The Light had entered in; the darkness

was past. the true Light was shining. To turn now to conscience or to law

was like men who, with the sun in the zenith, nurse their scanty rushlight,

with shutters barred and curtains drawn; like men who cast their anchor

because the daylight has eclipsed the stars. The principle of God’s dealings

was the same, but the measure of man’s conduct was entirely changed. It

was no longer a question of conscience or of law, but of the Only-begotten

in their midst.

It was in words of solemn, earnest truth that the blessed Lord replied to

the inquiry, “What shall we do that we might work the works of God?”

“This (said He) is the work of God, that you believe on Him whom He has

sent.” (<430628>John 6:28,29) The question was a right one, and the answer

enforced the unchanging principle, that the light they had was the measure

of their responsibility. The same great truth is no less plainly stated in the

Nicodemus sermon. This was the condemnation, not that men’s deeds

were evil, though for these too there shall be wrath in the day of wrath, but

that, because their deeds were evil, they had brought upon themselves a

still direr doom; light had come into the world, but they had turned from it

and loved the darkness (<430319>John 3:19).

But this is not all; even yet the reign of grace had not begun. Grace was

there truly, for “grace came by Jesus Christ”; but, like Himself, it was in

humiliation; it had yet to be enthroned. Grace was there. No adverse

principle came in to influence His ways and words; but though pure and

unmixed, as it must ever be, it was restrained. He had a baptism to be

baptized with, and how was He straightened till it was accomplished!

While there was a single claim outstanding, a single tie unbroken, grace was

hindered, though it could not be alloyed.

But now was about to come the world’s great crisis — the most

stupendous event in the history of man, the only event in the history of

God! He had laid aside His glory, and came down into the scene. At His

own doorsfb1 He had stood and knocked, but only to find it shut in His

face. Turning thence, He had wandered an outcast into the world which

His power had made, but He wandered there unknown. “His own received

Him not”: “the world knew Him not.” As He had laid aside His glory, He

now restrained His power, and yielded Himself to their guilty will. In

return for pity He earned but scorn. Sowing kindnesses and benefits with a

lavish hand He reaped but cruelty and outrage. Manifesting grace He was

given up to impious law without show of mercy or pretense of justice.

Unfolding the boundless love of the mighty heart of God He gained no

response but bitterest hate from the hearts of men.

THE SON OF GOD HAS DIED AT THE HANDS OF MEN! This astounding fact is

the moral center of all things. A bygone eternity knew no other future.

(<600120>1 Peter 1:20; <661308>Revelation 13:8) An eternity to come shall know no

other past. That death was this world’s crisis.fb2 For long ages, despite

conscience outraged, the light of nature quenched, law broken, promises

despised, and prophets cast out and slain, the world had been on terms

with God. But now a mighty change ensued. Once for all the world had

taken sides. In the midst stood that cross in its lonely majesty. God on one

side, with averted face; on the other, Satan, exulting in his triumph. The

world took sides with Satan His darling was in the power of the dog

(<192220>Psalm 22:20), and there was none to help, none to pity.

There, we see every claim which the creature had on God forever forfeited,

every tie forever broken. Promises there had been, and covenants; but

Christ was to be the One who would fulfill them all. If a single blessing

now descend on the ancient people of His choice, it must come to them in

grace.fb3 Life, and breath, and fruitful seasons freely given, had testified of

the great Giver’s hand, and declared His goodness; but if “seedtime, and

harvest, and the changing year, come on in sweet succession” still, in a

world blood-stained by the murder of the Son, it is no longer now to

creation claims we owe it, nor yet to Noah’s covenant (<010911>Genesis 9:11-

17), but wholly to the grace of God in Christ.

In proof of this I might cite prophecies and parables, and appeal to the

great principles of God that are the basis of gospel doctrine, as above both

parable and prophecy. Nay, I might leave it to men themselves, as Christ

did, to decide between themselves and God (<402140>Matthew 21:40). But I

rather turn again to that solemn utterance of the Lord, in view of His lifting

up upon the tree: “Now is the judgment of this world.”

“These things the angels desire to look into.” (<600112>1 Peter 1:12) And if

angels were our judges, what would be our doom! For ages they had both

witnessed and ministered the goodness of God to men. But yesterday the

heavens had rung with their songs of praise, as they heralded the Savior’s

birth in Bethlehem: “Peace on earth, goodwill to men.” Goodwill! and this

was what had come of it! Peace! and this was what men turned it to! What

thoughts were theirs as, terror-struck, they beheld that scene on Calvary!

Crucified amid heartless jeers, and cruel taunts, and shouts of mingled hate

and triumph! Buried in silence and by stealth; buried in sorrow, but in

silence. He who hears in secret, heard the stifled cry from the broken

hearts of Mary and the rest, and the smothered sobs that tore the breasts

of strong men bowed with grief — the last sad tribute of love from the

little flock now scattered. But as for the world, no man’s lamentation, no

woman’s wail was heard! They had cried, “Away with Him, away with

Him!” and now they had made good their cry: the world was rid of Him,

and that was all they wanted.

Angels were witnesses to these things. They pondered the awful mystery

of those hours when death held fast the Prince of Life. The forty days

wherein He lingered in the scenes of His rejection and His death — was it

not to make provision for the little company that owned His name, to

gather them into some ark of refuge from the judgment fire. so soon to

engulf this ruined world? And now, the gates lift up their heads, the

everlasting doors are lifted up, and with all the majesty of God the King of

Glory enters in (<192407>Psalm 24:7-10). The Crucified of Calvary has come to

fill the vacant throne, the Nazarene has been proclaimed the Lord of

Hosts!

But, mystery on mystery! the greatest mystery of all is now — the

mystery of grace. That throne is vacant still. Those gates and doors that

lifted up their heads for Him are standing open wide. Judgment waits. The

sea of fire which one day shall close in upon this world to wipe out its

memory forever, is tided back by the word of Him who sits upon the

Father’s throne in grace. When the Son of Man returns for judgment, “then

shall He sit upon His glorious throne.”fb4 And how unutterably terrible

will be that judgment! Half measures are impossible in view of the cross of

Christ. The day is past when God could plead with men about their

sins.fb5 The controversy now is not about a broken law, but about a

rejected Christ. If judgment, therefore, be the sinner’s portion, it must be

measured by God’s estimate of the murder of His Son; a cup of vengeance,

brimful, unmixed, from the treading of the “winepress of the fierceness and

wrath of Almighty God.” (<661915>Revelation 19:15)

But if grace be on the throne, what limits can be set to it? If that sin

committed upon Calvary has not shut the door of mercy, all other sins

together shall not avail to close it. If God can bless in spite of the death of

Christ, who may not be blest? Innocence lost, conscience disobeyed and

stifled, covenants and promises despised and forfeited, law trampled under

foot, prophets persecuted, and last and unutterably terrible, the Onlybegotten

slain. And yet there is mercy still! What a gospel that would be!

But “the gospel of the glory of the blessed God” is something infinitely

higher still. It is not that Calvary has failed to quench the love of God to

men, but that it is the proof and measure of that love. Not that the death of

Christ has failed to shut heaven against the sinner, but that heaven is open

to the sinner by virtue of that death. The everlasting doors that lifted up

their heads for Him are open for the guiltiest of men, and the blood by

which the Lord of glory entered there is their title to approach. The way to

heaven is as free as the way to hell. In hell there is an accuser, but in

heaven there is no one to condemn. The only being in the universe of God

who has a right to judge the sinner is now exalted to be a Savior.fb6 Amid

the wonders and terrors of that throne, He is a Savior, and He is sitting

there in grace.

The Savior shall yet become the Judge; but judgment waits on grace. Sin

has reigned, and death can boast its victories’ shall grace not have its

triumphs too? As surely as the sin of man brought death, the grace of God

shall bring eternal life to every sinner who believe. One sin brought death,

but grace masters all sin. If sin abounded, grace abounds far more. Grace is

conqueror. GRACE REIGNS. Not at the expense of righteousness, but in

virtue of it. Not that righteousness requires the sinner’s death, and yet

grace has intervened to give him life. Righteousness itself has set grace

upon the throne in order that the sinner may have life: “That as sin has

reigned unto death, even so might grace reign, through righteousness, unto

eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.”fb7 Such is the triumph of the

cross. It has made it possible for God to bless us in perfect harmony with

everything He is, and everything He has ever declared Himself to be, and in

spite of all that we are, and of all that He has ever said we ought to be.

I have already referred to Paul’s allusion to the ancient military triumphs,

when writing to the Corinthians. The word there used occurs again in his

Epistle to the Colossians (<510215>Colossians 2:15): “Having spoiled

principalities and powers, He made a show of them openly, leading them

in triumph in Him.” In the hour of His weakness, our enemies became His

own, and fastened upon Him to drag Him down to death; but, leading

captivity captive, He chained them to the chariot-wheels of His triumph,

and made a public show of them. Just as Israel stood on the wilderness

side of the sea, and saw Pharaoh and his hosts in death upon the shore, it

is ours to gaze upon the triumphs of the cross. God there has mastered sin,

abolished death, and destroyed him who had the power of death.

God has become our Savior. Our trust is not in His mercy, but in Himself.

Not in divine attributes, but in the living God. “GOD is for us”; the Father

is for us; the Son is for us; the Holy Ghost is for us. It is God who

justifies; it is Christ that died; and the Holy Ghost has come down to be a

witness to us of the work of Christ, and of the place that work has given

us as sons in the Father’s house.

“Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid for the Lord

JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; He also is become my salvation.”
 

CHAPTER 4

FAITH
 

FAITH is a mystery to many, a stumbling-block to not a few. By some it

seems to be regarded as the condition upon which God compounds with

men who ought to have righteousness, but have it not: with others it is the

last mite added to make up the price of our redemption. At times it

appears like a new barrier set up between the soul and God, when the

work of Christ had broken all the old barriers down; and not infrequently it

is represented as an operation, like the new birth itself, in which the sinner

is a passive agent in the hands of God.

There is the rationalist view of

faith, making it merely the assent of the mind to truth demonstratively

proved; there is the Romanist view of faith, which makes it a sort of good

work of a mystical and spiritual kind; and again, there is what I may term

the fatalist theory of faith, which regards it as a kind of grace imparted to

the soul by God.

But when we turn to Scripture all such subtleties and errors vanish like

mists before the sun. “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word

of God.” (<451017>Romans 10:17) What simplicity, and yet what reality and

power are here! “Faith cometh by hearing,” whether it be faith of the

gospel, or of the news of some temporal calamity or good. There are no

two ways of believing anything. And hearing comes — the true hearing —

by the Word of God: not by reasonings founded on it, it may be rightly

founded on it; not by “enticing words of man’s wisdom,” (<460204>1 Corinthians

2:4) but by the Word of God. And here is where the difference lies, not in

the character of the faith, but in the object of it. The sinner is brought into

the presence of God. He hears God, he believes God, and he is blest with

believing Abraham, and just on the same ground, for “Abraham believed

God, and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness.” (<450403>Romans 4:3,

R.V.)

In its first and simplest phase in Scripture, faith is the belief of a record or

testimony; it is, secondly, belief in a person; and it has, lastly, the

character of trust, which always points to what is future. To speak of

trust as the only true phase of gospel faith, is wholly false and wrong. In

fact, the word generally rendered “trust,” is never used in this connection

once in Scripture.

It is etymologically “hope,” and the element of hope

invariably enters into it. In what is pre-eminently the gospel book of the

Bible, it occurs but once (<430445>John 4:45), and in the sermons of the Acts we

shall seek for it in vain. “We are saved by trust,” is a statement at once

true and scriptural, if only we understand salvation in its fullest sense, as

yet to be made good to us in glory (<450824>Romans 8:24); but the salvation of

our souls (<600109>1 Peter 1:9) is not matter of trust, but of faith in its simplest

form.

The redemption of our souls is a fact to us, because we believe the

record God has given of His Son, no less so is the redemption of our

bodies, but it is because of our trust in God. As the apostle writes to

Timothy, “We trust in the having God, who is the Savior of all men,

especially of those that believe.”fd1 Trust springs from confidence in the

person trusted, and that again depends on knowledge of the person

confided in.

In this sense, faith may be great or little, weak or strong “I

write unto you, little children” (says the Apostle John), “because your

sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake.” (<620212>1 John 2:12) Here s a

testimony and a fact. Upon our state of soul may depend the realization,

the enjoyment of it, but this faith can admit of no degrees. But trust in

God has as many degrees as there are saints on earth. Some believers could

not trust Him for a single meal others can look to Him, without misgivings,

to feed a thousand hungry mouths, or to convert a thousand godless

sinners. Our faith in this sense, depends entirely on knowing God, and on

communion with Him, the faith of the gospel comes by hearing Him.fd2

At every pier along the new embankment of the Thames, there hangs a

chain that reaches to the water’s edge at its lowest ebb. But for this, some

poor creature, struggling with death, might drown with his very hand upon

the pier. An appeal to perishing sinners to trust in Christ is like calling on

a drowning wretch to climb the embankment wall. The glad tidings, the

testimony of God concerning Christ, is the chain let down for the hand of

faith to grasp.fd3 Once rescued, it is not the chain the river waif would trust

for safety, but the rock beneath his feet; yet, but for that chain, the rock

might have only mocked his struggles. And it is not the gospel message the

ransomed sinner trusts in, but the living Christ of whom the gospel speaks;

but yet it was the message that his faith at first laid hold upon, and by it

he gained an eternal standing ground upon the Rock of Ages. He who truly

hears the good news of Christ believes it just as the little child believes a

mother’s word. And none but such shall ever enter the kingdom (<421817>Luke

18:17). There is neither mystery nor virtue in the faith, in the one case any

more than in the other; the only difference is in the testimony itself. He

who believes the gospel, receives a word that is nothing less than “the

power of God unto salvation.” (<450116>Romans 1:16)

If, in fact, none can

believe apart from the work of the Holy Spirit, the difficulty depends on

no peculiarity in the faith itself. It is not a question- of metaphysics, but

of spiritual depravity and death. As far as the act of faith is concerned, the

gospel is believed in the same way as the passing news of the passing

hour. The hindrance lies in the apostasy of the natural heart of man. And,

doubtless, the reason faith is made the turning point of the Sinner’s return

to God is just because distrust was the turning point of his departure from

Him.fd4 Disobedience was not the first step in Adam’s fall; it was the last,

and it followed upon disbelief.

Faith then in its simplest character is not trust, nor even faith in a person,

but belief of a record. “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is

born of God.” “Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth

that Jesus is the Son of God?” And so, if we read through the chapter from

which these words are quoted, we find it is the witness, or testimony of

God, that is in question between the sinner and Himself. “There are three

who bear witness, the Spirit and the water and the blood; and the three

agree in one. If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is

greater; for the witness of God is this, that He hath borne witness

concerning His Son.

He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness

in himself.fd5 He that believeth not God hath made Him a liar, because he

hath not believed in the witness that God hath borne concerning His

Son.”fd6 And so also if we turn to the Gospel of John. The Book was

written that we might believe “that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God;

and that, believing, we might have life through His name (<432031>John 20:31).

Nor will this seem strange to any who understand the gospel. The gospel

is not a promise or a covenant, but a message, a proclamation.fd7 It is the

“good news of God, concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord.”

(<450101>Romans 1:1,3) And the belief of that good news is life: not indeed when

31

retailed as the word of man, to suit the whims or errors of the natural

heart, but when it comes in the power of the Holy Ghost, and, “as it is in

truth, the word of God.” “The words that I have spoken unto you, they

are spirit and they are life,” the Lord declared, when many of His disciples

were offended at His teaching. The many heard but the words of Jesus the

Nazarene, and were offended and went back. To the few, these same

words were “words of eternal life,” and called forth the confession of Him

as Christ the Son of God (<430669>John 6:69).

The tenth chapter of Romans claims notice here, confirming, as it does so

fully, what the other Scriptures already quoted amply prove. God has

brought the gospel as near to men as in the old time He brought the law.

“This commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from

thee, neither is it far off,” said Moses in his parting charge to Israel

(<053011>Deuteronomy 30:11-14) — “It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest

say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may

hear it and do it? Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say,

Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it

and do it? But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy

heart, that thou mayest do it.”

Thus spoke the righteousness of law, now, hear the righteousness of faith

“Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring

Christ down from above )or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to

bring up Christ again from the dead) But what saith it? The word is nigh

thee, even in thy mouth and in thy heart. that is, the word of faith, which

we preach, that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and

shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou

shalt be saved.” (<451006>Romans 10:6-10)

 It was for Israel to have the

commandment in their mouth, and to do it with their heart, it is ours to

have the gospel in our mouth, and to believe it with our heart. There is no

mystery in the one case any more than in the other. Metaphysical

distinctions between believing with the head and with the heart, are wholly

untenable. A Christian believes with his heart, just as a Jew obeyed with

his heart. It was the obedience of the inner man, the real man, that God

required, and so it is with faith.

In modern English “the heart” is synonymous with the affections; but not

in Scripture The Lord speaks of “the heart” as the moral being, the true

man as distinguished from the mere outward man.fd8 And so also here.

With the mouth man speaks, but the confession of the lip may or may not

be the expression of what is within, and therefore secret. The confession of

Christ by the outward man is the sequel and complement of the faith of

the inward man. A man cannot believe with his affections; indeed, all such

expressions are fanciful. Love and hope and faith and fear are not

independent entities with rival or coordinate rank in the complex being,

man. It is the man himself who loves, and hopes, and believes, and fears.

Just as he may say he loves, and never love at all, so he may say he

believes, and the profession may be a sham; but if he really believes,fd9 and

believes God, the gift of God is his. But there is no subtlety in the faith.

“Faith comes by hearing”; faith in God comes by hearing God. “Every one

that hath heard from the Father,” — said the Lord Himself, or perhaps,

making due allowance for the English idiom, the verse would be better

rendered, “Every one that hath heard the Father, and hath learned of Him,

cometh unto Me.” But as for them to whom He spoke, they could not

hear.fd10

Let us then get this great fact implanted firmly in our minds, that there is

neither merit nor virtue in faith, nor even in the letter of the truth believed;

but that to believe God is eternal life. To believe God, whether it be, as

with Abraham, the promise of a family (<011505>Genesis 15:5, 6), or, as with us,

the testimony to a Person and a fact. Faith is the opened lattice that lets in

the light of heaven to the soul, bringing gladness and blessing with it. It is

only in ophthalmic hospitals that people are always thinking of their eyes,

and it is due entirely to the prevailing errors and follies of modern teaching

that so many Christians are hypochondriacs respecting faith. In Scripture,

faith is like healthy eyesight, unheeded and forgotten in the ease and

enjoyment of its use. Nowadays it is more like the glasses of people with

failing or defective vision, sometimes lost, often dim, and constantly a

trouble.

But faith not only receives the word of Christ; it reaches on, and lays hold

upon the person of Christ. Belief of His word leads to belief in Himself.

And here, again, there is no difficulty, save such as men have made. To

receive Christ, to come to Christ, to believe in Christ for all these words

are used in Scriptures means today just what it meant when the Lord was

living upon earth. To come to Christ, was not outward contact with the

son of Mary, but submission of heart to the Son of God. “No man can

come to Me except the Father draw him,” was His word to those who had

followed Him from Capernaum to Tiberias, and back again across the sea.

Anyone might come to Jesus, and none need leave His presence without

proof of His power and grace. He fed the hungry just because they

hungered. He healed the oppressed of Satan, just because they were

oppressed, and His mission was to destroy the devil’s work. But how few

there were of those who thus came to Jesus, that ever truly came to

Christ!

“If ye believe not that I am He, ye shall die in your sins.” “That I am He”:

it was this that faith laid hold upon. They who did believe it as a divine

revelation came to believe in Himself in a further and fuller sense, and this

again led to confidence and trust, just in proportion as they were abiding in

Him, and His word in them, and, moreover, as their knowledge of Him

increased. “How is it that ye have no faith?” was the Lord’s appeal to the

terrified disciples on the Sea of Galilee, when they awoke Him with

upbraidings for neglecting them. In the gospel sense they believed on Him

then, as they ever did; and indeed their remonstrances were based on their

unchanging confidence that, being the Christ the Son of God, He had

power to deliver them, but did not. They believed on Him, but as yet they

did not know Him, and therefore their knowledge of His power only led

them to doubt His love.

“Acquaint now thyself with Him and be at peace,” (<182221>Job 22:21) is a

word for the tempest-tossed believer. The faith that “comes by hearing,”

brings us salvation and the knowledge of salvation. The faith that springs

from abiding in Him and acquainting ourselves with Him, is the secret of a

peace-ruled heart and a holy life. Like all the sons of faith, Saul of Tarsus

believed God, and so set out upon the Christian course. And the “faithful

saying” that brought life and joy to him at the starting-post, was the

strength of his heart even to the goal (<540115>1 Timothy 1:15). It is the same

gospel that is the resting. place for our feet as we lay hold upon the Rock

of Ages, which becomes the pillow of our dying hour as we pass away

from our service and our sins on earth. Whether as the converted

persecutor on the Damascus road, or as the Apostle of the Lord at the

close of that matchless life of labor and testimony, Paul’s faith in the

gospel was the same. Here it is not growth we speak of, but steadfastness

(<510205>Colossians 2:5). At the beginning, just as at the end of his race, he

“believed God,” but at the end, when looking back upon his life from his

Roman prison, he could add, “I know whom I have believed” and having

come to know Him, he had learned to trust Him.

Everybody understands what it means to believe in the claimant of a

fortune or a title. It is just to receive him for what he represents himself to

be. And believing in Christ means primarily nothing more than this. It

leads to more, doubtless, but that depends not on any peculiarity or virtue

in the faith, but on Him who is the object of faith. They who thus believe

in the Lord Jesus come to confide in Him, to trust Him, and to love Him,

but to believe on Him is simply to “receive His testimony,” and thus to

“set to our seal that God is true.”(<430333>John 3:33, 36) And yet, such faith is

impossible apart from the work of the Holy Spirit in the soul “Whosoever

believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.” Not, I repeat again, for it

needs to be repeated, that faith in Christ is a metaphysical achievement so

difficult that man is insufficient to accomplish it; but that the heart is

utterly apostate, and man’s natural condition is that of pure distrust of

God.

More than this, “the carnal mind is enmity against God.” (<450807>Romans 8:7)

Man is capable of the firmest and most implicit faith in himself and in the

world — aye, and in the devil too, as will be proved one day; but his

whole spiritual being is so utterly estranged from God that not only does

he not know Him, but, if left to himself, he is incapable of knowing Him.

Just as a warped window-pane distorts all objects seen through it, so the

human heart perverts even the very truth of God, and changes it into a lie

(<450125>Romans 1:25). A heart in fellowship with God would have found proof

in every act and word of Christ that He was divine; but men heard His

words and saw His works — sincere men, too, and good and estimable and

yet adjudged Him to be an impostor. Because He told them the truth, they

believed Him not (<430845>John 8:45). And as it was then, so is it still. It is not

the head that is at fault, but the heart; it is not that man is silly, but that he

is sinful; not that he is weak, but that he is wicked.

Indeed, if Christians were made, as certain writers upon evidences would

lead us to suppose, by reasoning out Christianity from the miracles of

Christ, the company of the Lord’s disciples would have numbered

thousands more than the little band who owned His name. Those who

believed on Him thus were not few, but many. But He who could judge the

heart refused to commit Himself to such.fd11 The true faith is not based on

“evidences,” but on the word of God; and these miracle-made believers

could not and would not hear that word (<430843>John 8:43, 47). To

acknowledge Jesus of Nazareth as the promised Son of David, on account

of the miracles He did, was one thing; to receive eternal life in Christ was

quite apart from it.

There had never risen a greater prophet than John the Baptist; and yet at

the very time this testimony was given to him, his political faith, if I may

use the expression, had broken down, and his disciples were on their way

back to his prison, to reassure him by the record of the Lord’s miracles

(<401102>Matthew 11:2-6). And so it was at the last with His most favored

saints: “We trusted that it had been He which should have redeemed

Israel,” was their sad tribute to the memory of His name. Their faith had

failed, their hope had died out, leaving only love to cling to Him; but still

they were His own. In common with the multitude around them, they had

seen His miracles, and hailed Him as their coming king. But more than this,

they had themselves been the subjects of a miracle the multitude knew

nothing of they had been born again by the word of Him whom now they

mourned. They had received the gift of life from God; and though they

knew it not, that death which seemed to them the end of all their hopes

secured to them eternal glory.

“However,” says Bishop Butler in summing up his argument on this point,

“the fact is allowed that Christianity was professed to be received into the

world upon the belief of miracles,” and “that is what its first converts

would have alleged as their reason for embracing it.”fd12 True it is that no

earnest, honest man, with the Scriptures at hand, could doubt the

Messiahship of Jesus, while witnessing the miracles He wrought; but it is

no less true that men cannot reason themselves into Christianity. How

different from Butler’s account of it, is the story the early Christians told

of their conversion! What is the testimony of those who were with Him in

the Holy Mount, and witnessed that greatest miracle of all? “Which were

born,” writes the beloved disciple, “not of blood, nor of the will of the

flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (<430113>John 1:13) “Being born

again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God,

which liveth and abideth for ever,” is the kindred witness of the Apostle

Peter (<600123>1 Peter 1:23).

Nor did Paul, as great a reasoner as Butler, strike a discordant note: “God,

who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our

hearts.” (<470406>2 Corinthians 4:6) Such was his glad but humble testimony.

The multitudes followed Him because of the loaves His power supplied:

they cared not for the bread of heaven. But His true disciples knew and

owned Him as the One who had the words of eternal life. This was the

bond that kept them at His side when the many were offended and drew

back. The works of God might convince the reason; but it was not thus the

dead got life, the troubled conscience peace. To weigh the evidences and

embrace Christianity, as the true religion, is the part of a fair and prudent

man; but salvation is God’s work altogether. The blessing is not for the apt

scholar, but for the outcast and lost. It is not for the clear head, but for the

contrite heart. Not for the clever reasoner, but for the self-judged and

guilty; not for logicians, but for sinners; not for the wise and prudent, but

for babes.

So it has been in every age. The .public revelation of God to man has

varied again and again, but His secret revelation to the soul that turns to

Him has ever been the same. “He brought me up out of a horrible pit, out

of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings,

and He hath put a new song in my mouth.” (<194002>Psalm 40:2, 3) Thus sang

His saints in the old days three thousand years ago; so sing they still. “It

pleased God to reveal His Son in me,” is the testimony of Paul;

(<480115>Galatians 1:15, 16) and if Peter owned Him as the Son of the living

God, it was not a deduction from His miracles, but a revelation from the

Father in heaven (<401617>Matthew 16:17). And so with the rest. It was not that

they saw His works, but that they heard His words.fd13

We are saved by faith; and faith is the reception, as true, of what is beyond

the range of proof, either by demonstration or by evidence. It is the

substance (or assurance) of things hoped or trusted for, the conviction of

things not seen (<581101>Hebrews 11:1). Salvation is within the reach of all, but

it is as suppliant sinners they must receive it. Grace does not place either

the Savior or the Gospel at the bar of human judgment; that is the

arrogance of infidelity. As has been already seen, grace is based upon the

cross, and assumes that man is guilty and lost. It does not place him in the

dock, but it finds him there’ it does not brand him as ruined and lost, but it

comes to him as thus branded already. And the very gospel which tells of

life and peace and pardon, is itself the power to make good this testimony.

It is not a question of God’s submitting either Himself or His revelation to

the tribunal of the creature’s judgment, but of the sinner’s waking up from

his death-sleep in sin to hear the voice of God. The hour is come of which

it is written, “The dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they

that hear shall live.” (<430525>John 5:25)

We are saved through faith, but faith is not our savior. If faith had intrinsic

virtue and could bring blessing with it, hell would be impossible; for there

are no unbelievers save on earth, and that, too, in the days of Christ’s

humiliation and His absence. The day is coming when all shall believe and

confess His name. And if faith and confession bring blessing now, it is not

because of any merit they possess, but because God is saving men in

sovereign grace. If the blessing were not by grace, it never could be gained

by such as we are. “Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace.”

(<450416>Romans 4:16) As it is written, “By grace are ye saved through faith;

and that (salvation) not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.”fd14 Salvation is

the gift of God, bestowed on the principle of grace, and received on the

principle of faith.

And how does faith come? “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the

word of God.” (<451017>Romans 10:17) This is the time of which Isaiah spoke,

when God is found of them that seek Him not (<451020>Romans 10:20); the time

in which the gospel is to be carded to the lanes and highways of the world,

and men are to be compelled to come in (<421423>Luke 14:23); when forgiveness

of sins is to be proclaimed far and wide, and all that believe are justified;

when there is salvation for the lost, life for the dead, heaven for the outcast

sinner. The cross has been set up, not half-way on the road to heaven,

where man’s unbelieving heart would place it, but right down in the market

square of the City of Destruction, that men may look and live. Such are

“the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through

Christ Jesus.”
 

CHAPTER 5

REPENTANCE AND THE SPIRIT’S WORK
 

PAGAN mythology had a three-headed monster at the door of hell, but

modern Christianity has its Cerberus at the gate of heaven. Faith,

repentance, and the Spirit’s work, by God intended to bring salvation to

our very door, are turned by men into a threefold hindrance on the way to

life. Or, to change the figure, faith is a rugged mountain on the pilgrim’s

path, and repentance a dreary slough beyond it. The mountain and the

marsh are passed in safety, only to find perplexities more hopeless still;

for the fickle phantom of the Spirit’s work must then be grasped and made

his own, before the pilgrim can cross the threshold of the pearly gate.

What a burlesque upon the gospel!

From the twilight days of prophetic testimony a divine voice still vibrates

in our air, “AS I LIVE,” saith the Lord God, “I HAVE NO PLEASURE IN THE

DEATH OF THE WICKED.” And turning to the clearer light and surer word of

Him who came to give a ghastly but most blessed proof of the deep

meaning of God’s great oath, we gaze on Calvary, and as we gaze and

worship, the words seem written there in judgment fire and redeeming

blood: “GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD THAT HE GAVE HIS ONLY-BEGOTTEN

SON.”

Every fact and testimony of the gospel assures, and is intended to

convince us, that God is on the sinner’s side, and “will have all men to be

saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” (<540204>1 Timothy 2:4) Is

the case so hopeless that man can do absolutely nothing for himself? Then

righteousness is “to him that worketh not but believeth”; “It is of faith

that it may be by grace.” (<450405>Romans 4:5, 16) Is man so utterly at enmity

that even this would not suffice? The Holy Ghost has come down from

heaven to turn our hearts to God and to secure to us every blessing Christ

has won.

But here I have spoken only of faith and the Spirit’s work: what then

about repentance? Are faith and the Spirit’s work enough? or is not

repentance no less a necessity, if men are to be saved? I meet this question

boldly and at once by denouncing it as based, not so much on ignorance as

on deep-seated and systematic error. The repentance which thus obtrudes

itself and claims notice in every sermon is not the friend of the gospel, but

an enemy. It is like the officious guide who forces himself upon the

traveler only to mislead him. Faith and repentance are not successive

stages on the road to life; they are not independent guides to direct the

pilgrim’s path; they are not separate acts to be successively accomplished

by the sinner as a condition of his salvation. But, in different phases of it,

they represent the same Godward attitude of soul, which the truth of God,

believed, produces.

Salvation there cannot be without repentance, any more than without faith;

but the soundest and fullest gospel-preaching need not include any

mention of the word. Neither as verb nor noun does it occur in the Epistle

to the Romans — God’s great doctrinal treatise on redemption and

righteousness save in the warnings of the 2nd chapter. And the Gospel of

John — preeminently the gospel book of the Bible — will be searched in

vain for a single mention of it. The beloved disciple wrote his Gospel, that

men might believe and live (<432031>John 20:31), and his Epistle followed, to

confirm believers in the simplicity and certainty of their faith (<620513>1 John

5:13); but yet, from end to end of them, the word “repent” or

“repentance” never once occurs.fe1

It is to these writings, before all others,

that men have turned in every age to find words of peace and life; and yet

some who profess to hold them as inspired will cavil at a gospel sermon

because repentance is not mentioned in it; a fault, if fault it be, that marks

the testimony of the Apostle John, and the preaching of our Lord Himself,

as recorded by the Fourth Evangelist. The repentance of the gospel is to be

found in the Nicodemus sermon, and in the gracious testimony to the

woman at the well. And, I may add, any repentance that limits or jars

upon those sacred words, is wholly against the truth.

What then is repentance? The question, bear in mind, concerns the truth of

God and our own salvation. It is not a problem in etymology.

Etymologically, metanoia in Greek, and repentance in English, have exactly

the same significance — an after-mind, the result of second thoughts or

reflection. Moreover, the word in Greek is often used in this its primary

sense. But second thoughts too often involve regret, and not infrequently

remorse; and it will not seem strange to any who have studied the history

of words that metanoia should have come to cover the entire range of

meaning, from mere change of mind to sorrow and remorse. Our task is

therefore to turn to Holy Writ, and, comparing Scripture with Scripture, to

discover what God means when He calls men to repentance.

And here we do well to bear in mind a canon of interpretation, given

specially regarding prophecy, but true of revelation as a whole. No passage

of Scripture is to be isolated, and explained apart from other Scriptures

(<610120>2 Peter 1:20). The words are to be interpreted consistently with what

the Holy Spirit has elsewhere revealed. Taking heed then to the two rival

errors, toward one or other of which our creeds are always tending, we can

clear the ground at once by deciding that repentance does not mean

penitence or sorrow, or any condition of soul or change of heart that makes

the sinner acceptable to God, or has merit of its own. The Romanist view

of repentance we reject at once, as opposed to the doctrinal teaching of the

Epistle to the Romans, and the plain testimony of the Fourth Evangelist.

Whatever repentance means, it must be something consistent with grace,

and something implied in the Gospel of John.

But while refusing to exalt repentance at the cost of grace, we must guard

against the Rationalist extreme of reducing it to a mere mental change.fe2

Much of what I have said respecting faith might well be repeated here.

God must have reality. If He demands “a change of mind,” it is not of the

intellectual faculty He speaks, but of the man himself, the real man. So the

apostle uses the word in the Epistle to the Romans and elsewhere, “I

myself, with the mind, serve the law of God.” (<450725>Romans 7:25)

Repentance is the turning of the mind or heart — the man himself.

Repentance is not faith, nor faith repentance; but yet they are inseparable.

Inseparable, that is, in connection with the gospel. Therefore it is that the

word “repent” is so seldom used in the sermons of the New Testament,

and also that it sometimes stands alone as the principle on which man

receives the blessing. “He that believeth hath,” implies repentance; “repent

and be converted,” involves faith. The hand that clutches the assassin’s

knife must open ere it can grasp the gift its intended victim proffers; and

opening that hand, though a single act, has a double aspect and purpose.

Accepting the gift implies a turning from the crime on which the heart was

bent, and it was the gift itself that worked the change. Faith is the open

hand, relatively to the gift; repentance is the same hand, relatively, not

only to the gift, but more especially to the dagger it has flung from it.

The schoolmen would explain that, chronologically, faith comes first, and

then, repentance; but that, in their logical order, repentance has precedence.

But the question of priority, though an interesting problem in

metaphysics, is a profitless study in theology. Practically, they are

simultaneous. He who truly believes in the Lord Jesus Christ may rest

assured that he has repented; and “repentance toward God” equally

implies “faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” (<442021>Acts 20:21) That is,

under the preaching of the gospel. Judgment warnings might produce

repentance, as Jonah’s preaching did at Nineveh; but in the gospel, it is not

the wrath, but the goodness of God, that leads to it (<450204>Romans 2:4).

Repentance, as I have said, has a twofold bearing. The characteristic of

gospel repentance is repentance to; under the past dispensation, it was

repentance from. John the Baptist, for instance, preached repentance in

order to faith in One then yet to come. A man is crossing a moor at night,

his eye fixed upon a light that marks, as he supposes, the homestead of a

friend. Presently he meets another traveler, belated like himself, who tells

him that the light he has been pressing towards is nothing but a gypsy’s

tent.

As for the house he seeks, the stranger only knows that it is in a

different direction altogether, but where, he cannot say; a shepherd will

soon be passing who knows it well. Convinced of his mistake, he turns

from the path he has been following, and sits down upon a stone to await

the coming of the expected guide. Such was the repentance the Baptist

preached, a repentance from dead works, in order that they should believe

in Him which should come after Him (<441404>Acts 14:4). But the full gospel of

Christ is like a friend who meets the erring wanderer, and, by the same

testimony that convinces him he is on a wrong path, turns him to the

destination which he seeks

.

According to an ingenious derivation suggested for it, the Greek word for

“man” implies a face turned upwards. And such, in a moral sense, is the

normal condition of the creature; such was Adam as he came from the hand

of God. But sin brought in estrangement; and our race springs, not from

Adam in Eden innocence, but from the fallen outcast. By nature man’s face

is now averted from his God.fe3 He needs, therefore, to be turned right

around again. There is no difficulty here save such as theology has made.

The student of Scripture finds there, in clear and simple language, what

every one who has a spiritual history has learned as plainly from his own

heart, that man by nature gravitates from God; spiritually “his

countenance is fallen,” his back is turned upon his Maker. The need,

therefore, is not that he should mend his ways, but that he should change

his course altogether.

The traveler’s gait may be slovenly, and his pace slow; yet little does it

matter, if every step is taking him further from his home. His first and

great need is to be turned right about; and this turning is conversion, the

objective phase of the change which, when considered subjectively,

Scripture calls repentance; a change, moreover, which depends upon belief

of the gospel. “To the Gentiles hath God granted repentance unto life,” we

read in the Acts of the Apostles. Referring to the same event, Paul and

Barnabas announced at Antioch, that “God had opened the door of faith

unto the Gentiles”; and elsewhere, again, it is alluded to as “the conversion

of the Gentiles.” The same event was thus described in various aspects of

it; and yet another might have been added, bringing in the fact of the new

birth.

This change then, and the need of it, are indisputable realities. Whether we

open the Scriptures, or turn to our own hearts, or look out upon the world

around us, we find clear proofs and tokens that man’s course by nature

leads downwards; that there is a controversy pending between the creature

and his God. And from first to last that controversy has been the same in

its nature and results; but, as already shown, the ground and subject of it

changed when the Son of God was manifested.

Repentance and conversion

were not less necessary in presence of a rejected Christ, than in view of a

broken law; but the whole controversy between God and man now became

centered in Christ, and therefore, acknowledging Him, believing in Him,

implied, and carried with it the great change, the turning of the man to God.

Hence the prominence which faith has in the gospel. The word “believe”

occurs about a hundred times in the Gospel of John, and, as already stated,

“repent” is not found even once. To believe in Christ involves a turning of

heart to Him, and that is the only true conversion, the only true

repentance.

I have mentioned the Spirit’s work as another hindrance to man’s efforts

after salvation, and in truth it is the crowning difficulty. Faith and

repentance, however they be regarded, seem to be within human capacity’

but if the Holy Ghost must act, before a sinner can have life, man falls

back helplessly in presence of the sovereignty of God. And here let me say

that this is precisely the value of the doctrine of the new birth in

connection with the gospel.

It is to convince man that salvation is

impossible as far as human effort is concerned, and thus to cast him

wholly upon God. He who preaches the Spirit’s work without regard to

the condition of his hearers is like a quack who, because one patient has

been cured by a certain remedy, administers it promiscuously to all. “Ye

must be born again” was addressed to Nicodemus, but not to the Samaritan

woman at the well, nor to the multitude around the pool of Bethesda (John

4 and 5). It was true, doubtless, for all, but it was not the special truth

they needed; and the more the Lord’s words are weighed and studied, the

more we shall be struck by the wisdom with which truth was ever

ministered by Him.

In this view, indeed, the third, fourth, and fifth chapters of John demand

the earnest and unceasing study of all who preach the gospel. In the fifth

chapter, the Lord’s hearers are the multitude, brought together by the

miracle He has just performed, and further interested by the opposition of

the Pharisees. And to such He gives a threefold testimony: first, to His

own personal dignity and glory; then, to life for the sinner through His

word; and lastly, to judgment coming upon those to whom that word does

not bring life.

Here we have a general testimony suited to the common need

of all; but in each of the other chapters we have special dealing with the

intricacies of a special case. In the fourth chapter we are face to face with a

sinner living in open immorality, yet without any sense of sin — a case

more common than we are apt to think, where a sinful course is not so

much the result of a depraved heart or an abandoned will, as of a

conscience wholly dead. And here He seeks, first to interest, and then to

awaken her, and finally He declares Himself.

But in Nicodemus we have a man who is ostensibly in the right path. His

coming to Christ is itself a proof that he is a seeker after God. But he

comes claiming a position that ousts grace altogether, and the Savior must

bring him to His feet before He can be a Savior to him. Supposing himself

44

already in the kingdom, he comes to the Lord as a God-sent Teacher; but

the Lord “answers” him at once by declaring the need of the Spirit’s work.

Had the Lord exposed sin in Nicodemus, he would earnestly have repented

of it. Had He unfolded to him a higher morality than he had ever learned,

he would eagerly have pursued it. But, “Ye must be born again” not only

put him outside the threshold within which he claimed a place, but seemed

withal to shut the door against him.fe4

It is no longer now “the teacher of Israel” seeking wisdom from “the

Teacher come from God,” but the sinner in the presence of his Savior,

seeking pardon and life. The declaration of the love of God and of the

lifting up of Christ, are not the answer to the difficulty, “How can these

things be?” but the answer to the need which that difficulty has awakened

in the heart of Nicodemus. The mystery which Nicodemus, “the teacher of

Israel,” could not fathom, is solved for Nicodemus the sinner, in hearing

and believing the word of Christ.

It was thus the Master preached. With the profligate Samaritan, He probed

with matchless grace and wisdom the festering but hidden wound of sin.

For the ignorant and needy multitude He flung the door of mercy open

wide, that all might enter there. But with the Pharisee, who slighted grace,

He seemed to change His purpose, and to close that door against him, yet

no sooner did he take the sinner’s place than Nicodemus found the way as

free and open as the power and love of God could make it. So was it again

when He declared Himself to be the bread of God come down from heaven

to give life unto the world. One and another may have hearkened, and to

such the blessing was as full and free as grace itself. But with the rest who

kicked against the word, the Lord withdrew behind the sovereignty of

God, and rebuked their murmurs by the truth that no one can come to Him

except the Father draw him (<430632>John 6:32-44).

Here, then, is the value of the Spirit’s work. For the humble penitent it

bridges over and conceals the gulf that separates the sinner from his God.

For the self-righteous or profane, it serves but to prove that gulf to be

impassable. To the one it testifies of sovereign grace, to the other it

testifies that grace is sovereign.fe5

The Holy Ghost has come, and now He gives a double testimony. He

bears witness against the world’s rejection of the Son, and He testifies to

the rejected One as now exalted to be a Savior. It is His mission to convict

the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment; of sin, because the Son

of God has been cast out by earth; of righteousness, because the Outcast

of earth has been welcomed by the Father in heaven; and of judgment,

because Satan, who put forth all his power against Him, has now himself

been judged (<431608>John 16:8-11). The presence of the Comforter is proof that

Christ has triumphed, and a token of judgment on the world now lying in

the wicked one.

But if God testifies to judgment in this day of mercy, it is in order thus to

turn men’s hearts to grace. And to the sinner who looks up to heaven for

pardon, the mission of the Comforter is only to speak of Christ. The Spirit

is come down to bear witness to the Savior. But His is not like the

Baptist’s testimony, telling of a greater than Himself to follow. His word

is itself the power by which dead souls are born again to God. The love of

God to man, and the cross of Christ which manifests that love, and the

inspired page which contains the record of it, would all be of no avail to

save a single sinner, were it not for the Spirit’s work.

But men draw strange inferences here. “Preaching the Spirit’s work,” as it

is usually understood, seems based upon the thought that the Holy Ghost

has interests and claims peculiar to Himself; and so the sinner must

propitiate Him by prayer or worship in order to secure His aid. But all

such thoughts are wholly false. Christianity is a great system of mediation.

The Son came down to earth, not to supplant the Father, but to reveal

Him, the words He spoke were not His own, but His that sent Him. The

Spirit has come down, not to supplant the Son, but to bear witness to

Him. He does not speak from Himself, but receives of Christ for us. “He

that hath seen Me hath seen the Father” was the word of Christ. He that

has heard the Spirit’s voice has received both the Father and the Son

(<431320>John 13:20).

We are not regenerated in order to believe. The Word of

God is itself the seed by which we are begotten (<600123>1 Peter 1:23). Faith

comes — not by prayer, for there can be no true prayer without it;fe6 nor

yet by any work of the Spirit in the soul, apart from the message which

He brings — faith comes by hearing, and it is by the hearing of faith that

the Spirit is received (<480302>Galatians 3:2).

The prayer of Philip, that Christ would reveal to him the Father (<431408>John

14:8), was not more unintelligent and wrong than a prayer for the Spirit to

reveal the Savior. Apart from the Holy Ghost no one can be saved.

Therefore He has come that no one need be lost. Christians speak too

often of His work as though it were a limitation upon grace. God intends it

as a crowning proof that grace is boundless and triumphant.

It is the sovereignty of God that makes the spirit’s work so

insurmountable a barrier on the way to life; but when the sinner comes to

know that God’s sovereignty is entirely on his side, the mountain which

seemed to close heaven against him becomes a plain, nay, rather, it rises

now behind him to bar the way to the City of Destruction.

It may be important that the theologian should define these truths; but the

work of the preacher is to set forth Christ, and it is thus alone that the

need of the true hearer can be met. The burdened sinner who came face to

face with Him in the streets of Jerusalem or the village ways of Galilee,

and heard words that revealed to him the Christ of God, received, with the

revelation, peace and life and the birthright of heaven. He might have been

unable to explain faith or to define repentance,fe7 and ignorant of the

doctrine of the Spirit; but yet he had repented, and believed, and been born

again.

And the blessing is as near to men now as in the days of the Lord’s

humiliation, and the way of life is just the same. There is blessing for the

sinner as freely, and on the same ground. If then some reader of these

pages should be kept from Christ by misgivings based on false thoughts of

repentance or the Spirit’s work, let him turn away to Him who now

speaks from heaven the words which once He uttered upon earth, and,

hearing and believing, receive the blessing which the testimony brings:

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that heareth My word and believeth on

Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment,

but is passed from death into life” (<430524>John 5:24).