THE SCRIPTURALNESS OF THIS LIFE
When I approach this subject of the true Christian life, that life which is hid
with Christ in God, so many thoughts struggle for utterance that I am almost
speechless. Where shall I begin? What is the most important thing to say? How
shall I make people read and believe? The subject is so glorious, and human
words seem so powerless!
But something I am impelled to say. The secret must be told. For it is one
concerning that victory which overcometh the world, that promised deliverance
from all our enemies, for which every child of God longs and prays, but which
seems so often and so generally to elude their grasp. May God grant me so to
tell it, that every believer to whom this book shall come, may have his eyes
opened to see the truth as it is in Jesus, and may be enabled to enter into
possession of this glorious life for himself.
For sure I am that every converted soul longs
for victory and rest, and nearly every one feels instinctively, at times, that
they are his birthright. Can you not remember, some of you, the shout of
triumph your souls gave when you first became acquainted with the Lord Jesus,
and had a glimpse of His mighty saving power? How sure you were of victory
then! How easy it seemed, to be more than conquerors, through Him that loved
you. Under the leadership of a Captain who had never been foiled in battle, how
could you dream of defeat? And yet, to many of you, how different has been your
real experience. The victories have been but few and fleeting, the defeats many
and disastrous. You have not lived as you feel children of God ought to live.
There has been a resting in a clear understanding of doctrinal truth, without
pressing after the power and life thereof. There has been a rejoicing in the
knowledge of things testified of in the Scriptures, without a living
realization of the things themselves, consciously felt in the soul. Christ is
believed in, talked about, and served, but He is not known as the soul's actual
and very life, abiding there forever, and revealing Himself there continually
in His beauty. You have found Jesus as your Saviour and your Master, and you
have tried to serve Him and advance the cause of His kingdom. You have
carefully studied the Holy Scriptures and have gathered much precious truth
therefrom, which you have endeavored faithfully to practise.
But notwithstanding all your knowledge and all
your activities in the service of the Lord, your souls are secretly starving,
and you cry out again and again for that bread and water of life which you saw
promised in the Scriptures to all believers. In the very depths of your hearts
you know that your experience is not a Scriptural experience; that, as an old
writer says, your religion is "but a talk to what the early Christians enjoyed,
possessed, and lived in." And your souls have sunk within you, as day after
day, and year after year, your early visions of triumph have seemed to grow
more and more dim, and you have been forced to settle down to the conviction
that the best you can expect from your religion is a life of alternate failure
and victory; one hour sinning, and the next repenting; and beginning again,
only to fail again, and again to repent.
But is this all? Had the Lord Jesus only this in
His mind when He laid down His precious life to deliver you from your sore and
cruel bondage to sin? Did He propose to Himself only this partial deliverance?
Did He intend to leave you thus struggling along under a weary consciousness of
defeat and discouragement? Did He fear that a continuous victory would dishonor
Him, and bring reproach on His name? When all those declarations were made
concerning His coming, and the work He was to accomplish, did they mean only
this that you have experienced? Was there a hidden reserve in each promise that
was meant to deprive it of its complete fulfillment? Did "delivering us out of
the hands of our enemies" mean only a few of them? Did "enabling us always to
triumph" mean only sometimes; or being "more than conquerors through Him that
love us" mean constant defeat and failure? No, no, a thousand times no! God is
able to save unto the uttermost, and He means to do it. His promise, confirmed
by His oath, was that "He would grant unto us, that we, being delivered out of
the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear, in holiness and
righteousness before Him, all the days of our life." It is a mighty work to do,
but our Deliverer is able to do it. He came to destroy the works of the devil,
and dare we dream for a moment that He is not able or not willing to accomplish
His own purposes?
In the very outset, then, settle down on this one
thing, that the Lord is able to save you fully, now, in this life, from the
power and dominion of sin, and to deliver you altogether out of the hands of
your enemies. If you do not think He is, search your Bible, and collect
together every announcement or declaration concerning the purposes and object
of His death on the cross. You will be astonished to find how full they are.
Everywhere and always His work is said to be, to deliver us from our sins, from
our bondage, from our defilement; and not a hint is given anywhere, that this
deliverance was to be only the limited and partial one with which the Church so
continually tries to be satisfied.
Let me give you a few texts on this subject. When
the angel of the Lord appeared unto Joseph in a dream, and announced the coming
birth of the Saviour, he said, "And thou shalt call His name Jesus, for He
shall save His people from their sins."
When Zacharias was "filled with the Holy Ghost"
at the birth of his son, and "prophesied," he declared that God had visited His
people in order to fulfil the promise and the oath He had made them, which
promise was, "That He would grant unto us, that we, being delivered out of the
hands of our enemies, might serve Him without fear, in holiness and
righteousness before Him, all the days of our life."
When Peter was preaching in the porch of the
Temple to the wondering Jews, he said, "Unto you first, God, having raised up
His Son Jesus, sent Him to bless you in turning away every one of you from his
When Paul was telling out to the Ephesian church
the wondrous truth that Christ had loved them so much as to give Himself for
them, he went on to declare, that His purpose in thus doing was, "that He might
sanctify and cleanse it by the washing of water by the word, that He might
present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any
such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish."
When Paul was seeking to instruct Titus, his own
son after the common faith, concerning the grace of God, he declared that the
object of that grace was to teach us "that denying ungodliness and worldly
lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world";
and adds, as the reason of this, that Christ "gave Himself for us that He might
redeem us from all iniquity, and purify us unto Himself a peculiar people,
zealous of good works."
When Peter was urging upon the Christian, to whom
he was writing, a holy and Christ-like walk, he tells them that "even hereunto
were ye called because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example that
ye should follow His steps: who did no sin, neither was guile found in His
mouth"; and adds, "who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree,
that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness; by whose stripes
ye were healed."
When Paul was contrasting in the Ephesians the
walk suitable for a Christian, with the walk of an unbeliever, he sets before
them the truth in Jesus as being this, "that ye put off concerning the former
conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts;
and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man,
which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness."
And when, in Romans 6, he was answering forever
the question as to continuing in sin, and showing how utterly foreign it was to
the whole spirit and aim of the salvation of Jesus, he brings up the fact of
our judicial death and resurrection with Christ as an unanswerable argument for
our practical deliverance from it, and says, "God forbid. How shall we, that
are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not that so many of us as
were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death? Therefore we are
buried with Him by baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised up from
the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of
life." And adds, "Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that
the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve
Dear Christians, will you receive the testimony
of Scripture on this matter? The same questions that troubled the Church in
Paul's day are troubling it now: first, "Shall we continue in sin that grace
may abound?" And second, "Do we then make void the law through faith?" Shall
not our answer to these be Paul's emphatic "God forbid"; and his triumphant
assertions that instead of making it void "we establish the law"; and that
"what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending
His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the
flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not
after the flesh, but after the Spirit"?
Can we suppose for a moment that the holy God,
who hates sin in the sinner, is willing to tolerate it in the Christian, and
that He has even arranged the plan of salvation in such a way as to make it
impossible for those who are saved from the guilt of sin to find deliverance
from its power?
As Dr. Chalmers well says, "Sin is that scandal
which must be rooted out from the great spiritual household over which the
Divinity rejoices . . . Strange administration, indeed, for sin to be so
hateful to God as to lay all who had incurred it under death, and yet when
readmitted into life that sin should be permitted; and that what was before the
object of destroying vengeance, should now become the object of an upheld and
protected toleration. Now that the penalty is taken off, think you that it is
possible the unchangeable God has so given up His antipathy to sin, as that
man, ruined and redeemed man, may now perseveringly indulge under the new
arrangement in that which under the old destroyed him? Does not the God who
loved righteousness and hated iniquity six thousand years ago, bear the same
love to righteousness and hatred to iniquity still? . . . I now breathe the air
of loving-kindness from Heaven, and can walk before God in peace and
graciousness; shall I again attempt the incompatible alliance of two principles
so adverse as that of an approving God and a persevering sinner? How shall we,
recovered from so awful a catastrophe, continue that which first involved us in
it? The cross of Christ, by the same mighty and decisive stroke wherewith it
moved the curse of sin away from us, also surely moves away the power and the
love of it from over us."
And not Dr. Chalmers only, but many other holy
men of his generation and of our own, as well as of generations long past, have
united in declaring that the redemption accomplished for us by our Lord Jesus
Christ on the cross at Calvary is a redemption from the power of sin as well as
from its guilt, and that He is able to save to the uttermost all who come unto
God by Him.
A quaint old divine of the seventeenth century
says: "There is nothing so contrary to God as sin, and God will not suffer sin
always to rule his masterpiece, man. When we consider the infiniteness of God's
power for destroying that which is contrary to Him, who can believe that the
devil must always stand and prevail? I believe it is inconsistent and
disagreeable with true faith for people to be Christians, and yet to believe
that Christ, the eternal Son of God, to whom all power in heaven and earth is
given, will suffer sin and the devil to have dominion over them.
"But you will say no man by all the power he hath
can redeem himself, and no man can live without sin. We will say, Amen, to it.
But if men tell us, that when God's power comes to help us and to redeem us out
of sin, that it cannot be effected, then this doctrine we cannot away with; nor
I hope you neither.
"Would you approve of it, if I should tell you
that God puts forth His power to do such a thing, but the devil hinders Him?
That it is impossible for God to do it because the devil does not like it? That
it is impossible that any one should be free from sin because the devil hath
got such a power in them that God cannot cast him out? This is lamentable
doctrine, yet hath not this been preached? It doth in plain terms say, though
God doth interpose His power, it is impossible, because the devil hath so
rooted sin in the nature of man. Is not man God's creature, and cannot He new
make him, and cast sin out of him? If you say sin is deeply rooted in man, I
say so, too, yet not so deeply rooted but Christ Jesus hath entered so deeply
into the root of the nature of man that He hath received power to destroy the
devil and his works, and to recover and redeem man into righteousness and
holiness. Or else it is false that `He is able to save to the uttermost all
that come unto God by Him.' We must throw away the Bible, if we say that it is
impossible for God to deliver man out of sin.
"We know," he continues, "when our friends are in
captivity, as in Turkey, or elsewhere, we pay our money for their redemption;
but we will not pay our money if they be kept in their fetters still. Would not
any one think himself cheated to pay so much money for their redemption, and
the bargain be made so that he shall be said to be redeemed, and be called a
redeemed captive, but he must wear his fetters still? How long? As long as he
hath a day to live.
"This is for bodies, but now I am speaking of
souls. Christ must be made to me redemption, and rescue me from captivity. Am I
a prisoner any where? Yes, verily, verily, he that committeth sin, saith
Christ, he is a servant of sin, he is a slave of sin. If thou hast sinned, thou
art a slave, a captive that must be redeemed out of captivity. Who will pay a
price for me? I am poor; I have nothing; I cannot redeem myself; who will pay a
price for me? There is One come who hath paid a price for me. That is well;
that is good news, then I hope I shall come out of my captivity. What is His
name, is He called a Redeemer? So, then, I do expect the benefit of my
redemption, and that I shall go out of my captivity. No, say they, you must
abide in sin as long as you live. What! must we never be delivered? Must this
crooked heart and perverse will always remain? Must I be a believer, and yet
have no faith that reacheth to sanctification and holy living? Is there no
mastery to be had, no getting victory over sin? Must it prevail over me as long
as I live? What sort of a Redeemer, then, is this, or what benefit have I in
this life, of my redemption?"
Similar extracts might be quoted from Marshall,
Romaine, and many others, to show that this doctrine is no new one in the
Church, however much it may have been lost sight of by the present generation
of believers. It is the same old story that has filled with songs of triumph
the daily lives of many saints of God throughout all ages; and is now afresh
being sounded forth to the unspeakable joy of weary and burdened souls.
Do not reject it, then, dear reader, until you
have prayerfully searched the Scriptures to see whether these things be indeed
so. Ask God to open the eyes of your understanding by His Spirit, that you may
"know what is the exceeding greatness of His power to usward who believe,
according to the working of His mighty power, which He wrought in Christ, when
He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly
places." And when you have begun to have some faint glimpses of this power,
learn to look away utterly from your own weakness, and, putting your case into
His hands, trust Him to deliver you.
In Psalms 8:6, we are told that God made man to
"have dominion over the works of His hand." The fulfillment of this is declared
in 2 Cor. 2, where the apostle cries, "Thanks be unto God which always causeth
us to triumph in Christ." If the maker of a machine should declare that he had
made it to accomplish a certain purpose, and if upon trial it should be found
incapable of accomplishing that purpose, we would all say of that maker that he
was a fraud.
Surely then we will not dare to think that it is
impossible for the creature whom God has made, to accomplish the declared
object for which he was created. Especially when the Scriptures are so full of
the assertions that Christ has made it possible.
The only thing that can hinder is the creature's
own failure to work in harmony with the plans of his Creator, and if this want
of harmony can be removed, then God can work. Christ came to bring about an
atonement between God and man, which should make it possible for God thus to
work in man to will and to do of His good pleasure. Therefore we may be of good
courage; for the work Christ has undertaken He is surely able and willing to
perform. Let us then "walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham,"
who "staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in
faith, giving glory to God; being fully persuaded that what He had promised, He
was able also to perform."