Precious Jesus

"Afresh, precious, precious Jesus, I resign this body to You, for doing or suffering, for living or dying. Will You accept it? Will You use me for Your glory more than heretofore, that You may have some little return for all the benefits You have done to me? Oh, do grant this request; my heart longs for it, my spirit pleads for it; and "if You will, You can." You know the hot temptation of which I am the subject. Bring Your glory out of it, and keep me from the evil, and it shall be well." - Ruth Bryan

Saturday, January 24, 2015

a holy violence

 And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.  Matthew 11:12

What violence is meant here - it is a holy violence. This is twofold. 1. We must be violent for the truth. Here Pilate's question will be cited, "What is truth?" Truth is either the blessed Word of God which is called the Word of truth; or those doctrines which are deduced from the Word, and agree with it as the dial with the sun or the transcript with the original; as the doctrine of the Trinity, the doctrine of the creation, the doctrine of free grace, justification by the blood of Christ, regeneration, resurrection of the dead, and the life of glory. These truths we must be violent for, which is either by being advocates for them or martyrs.
Truth is the most glorious thing; the least filing of this gold is precious: what shall we be violent for, if not for truth? Truth is ancient; its grey hairs may make it venerable; it comes from him who is the ancient of days. Truth is unerring, it is the Star which leads to Christ. Truth is pure, Psalm cxix. 140. It is compared to silver refined seven times, Psalm xii. 6. There is not the least spot on truth's face; it breathes nothing but sanctity. Truth is triumphant; it is like a great conqueror; when all his enemies lie dead, it keeps the field and sets up its trophies of victory. Truth may be opposed but never quite deposed. In the time of Dioclesian things seemed desperate and truth ran low. Soon after was the golden time of Constantine, and then truth did again lift up its head. When the water in the Thames is lowest, a high tide is ready to come in. God is on truth's side and so long as there is no fear it will prevail: The heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, 2 Peter iii. 12. but not that truth which came from Heaven, 1 Peter. i. 25.
Truth has noble effects. Truth is the seed of the new birth. God does not regenerate us by miracles or revelations, but by the word of truth, James i. 18. As truth is the breeder of grace, so it is the feeder of it, 1 Tim. iv. 6. Truth sanctifies: John xvii. 17. Sanctify them through Thy truth. Truth is the seal that leaves the print of its own holiness upon us; it is both speculum and lavacrum, a glass to show us our blemishes and a laver to wash them away. Truth makes us free, John xviii. 32. it bears off the fetters of sin and puts us into a state of Sonship, Rom. viii.11, and Kingship, Rev. i. 6. Truth is comforting; this wine cheers. When David's harp and viol could yield him no comfort, truth did, Psalm cxix. 50. 'This is my comfort in my affliction, for thy word hath quickened me.' Truth is anantidote against error. Error is the adultery of the mind; it stains the soul, as treason stains blood. Error damns as well as does vice. A man may as well die by poison as by pistol; and what can stave off error but truth? The reason so many have been tricked into error is because they either did not know, or did not love, the truth. I can never say enough in the honor of truth. Truth is basis fidei,the ground of our faith; it gives us an exact model of religion; it shows us what we are to believe. Take away truth and our faith is fancy. --Truth is the best flower in the church's crown; we have not a richer jewel to trust God with than our souls, nor He a richer jewel to trust us with than His truths. Truth is insigne honoris, an ensign of honor; it distinguishes us from the false church, as chastity distinguisheth a virtuous woman from an harlot. In short, truth is ecclesiae praesidium, that is, the bulwark a nation: 2 Chron. xi. 17. it is said, the Levites (who were the antesignani, that is, the ensignbeaners of truth) strengthened the kingdom. Truth may be compared to the capitol of Rome, which was a place of the greatest strength; or the Tower of David, on which 'there hang a thousand shields,' Cant. iv. 4. Our forts and navies do not so much strengthen us as truth. Truth is the best militia of a kingdom; if once we part with truth and espouse popery, the lock is cut where our strength lies. What then should we be violent for, if not for truth? We are bid to contend as in an agony 'for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints,' Jude verse 3. If truth once be gone, we may write this epitaph on England's tomb-stone, Thy glory is departed.
2. This holy violence is also when we are violent for our own salvation, 2 Peter i. 10. 'Give diligence to make your calling and election sure' The Greek word signifies anxious carefulness, or a serious bearing of one's thoughts about the business of eternity, such a care as sets head and heart at work. In this channel of religion all a Christian's zeal should run.
3. The third thing is, what is implied in this holy violence? It implies three things:
1. Resolution of will. 
2. Vigor of affection. 
3. Strength of endeavor.

1. Resolution of the will. Psalm cxix. 6. 'I have sworn, and I will perform it, that I will keep thy righteous judgments.' Whatever is in the way to heaven, (though there be a lion in the way) I will encounter it like a resolute commander that charges through the whole body of the army. The Christian is resolved, come what will, he will have heaven. Where there is this resolution, danger must be despised, difficulties trampled upon, terrors contemned. This is the first thing in holy violence: resolution of will; I will have heaven whatever it costs me, and this resolution must be in the strength of Christ.
Resolution is like the bias to the bowl, which carries it strongly. Where there is but half a resolution, a will to be saved and a will to follow sin, it is impossible to be violent for Heaven. If a traveller be unresolved, sometimes he will ride this way, sometimes that; he is violent for neither.
2. Vigor of the affections. The will proceeds upon reason; the judgment being informed of the excellency of a state of glory and the will being resolved upon a voyage to that holy land, now the affections follow and they are on fire in passionate longings after heaven. The affections are violent things, Psalm xlii. 2. 'My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God.' The Rabbins note here, that David saith not, My soul hungereth, but thirsteth, because naturally we are more impatient with thirst than hunger. See in what a rapid, violent motion David's affections were carried after God. Affections are like the wings of the bird which make the soul swift in its flight after glory; where the affections are stirred up, there is offering violence to heaven.
3. This violence implies strength of endeavor, when we strive for salvation as though a matter of life and death. 'Tis easy to talk of Heaven, but not to get to Heaven; we must operam navare, put forth all our strength, and call in the help of heaven to this work. - Thomas Watson

Friday, January 23, 2015

A warning to pretenders of Godliness

Here is a sharp rebuke to such as are 'glittering dross' Christians, who only make a show of godliness, like Michal, who put 'an image in the bed', and so deceived Saul's messengers (I Sam. 19:16). These our Saviour calls 'whited sepulchres (Matt 23:27) - their beauty is all paint! In ancient times a third part of the inhabitants of this island were called Picts, which signifies 'painted'. It is to be feared that they still retain their old name. How many are painted only with the vermilion of a profession, whose seeming lustre dazzles the eyes of beholders, but within there is nothing but putrefaction! Hypocrites are like the swan, which has white feathers, but a black skin; or like the lily, which has a fair colour, but a bad scent. 'Thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead' (Rev. 3:1). These the apostle Jude compares to 'clouds without water' (Jude 12). They claim to be full of the Spirit, but they are empty clouds; their goodness is but a religious cheat.
Question: But why do persons content themselves with a show of godliness?
Answer: This helps to keep up their fame: 'honour me now before the people' (I Sam. 15:36). Men are ambitious of credit, and wish to gain repute in the world, therefore they will dress themselves in the garb and mode of religion, so that others may write them down for saints. But alas, what is one the better for having others commend him, and his conscience condemn him? What good will it do a man when he is in hell that others think he has gone to heaven? Oh, beware of this! Counterfeit piety is double iniquity.
1. To have only a show of godliness is a God-enraging sin
The man who is a pretender to saintship, but whose heart tells him he has nothing but the name, carries Christ in his Bible but not in his heart. Some politic design spurs him on in the ways of God; he makes religion a lackey to his carnal interest. What is this but to abuse God to his face, and to serve the devil in Christ's livery? Hypocrisy makes the fury rise up in God's face; therefore he calls such persons 'the generation of his wrath' (Isa. 10: 6). God will send them to hell to do penance for their hypocrisy.
2. To make only a show of godliness is self-delusion
Ajax in his frenzy took sheep for men, but it is a worse mistake to take a show of grace for grace. This is to cheat yourself: 'deceiving your own souls' (Jas. 1:22). He who has counterfeit gold instead of true, wrongs himself most. The hypocrite deceives others while he lives, but deceives himself when he dies.
3. To have only a name, and make a show of godliness, is odious to God and man
The hypocrite is born under a sad planet; he is abhorred by all. Wicked men hate him because he makes a show, and God hates him because he only makes a show. The wicked hate him because he has so much as a mask of godliness, and God hates him because he has no more. 'Thou hast almost persuaded me to be a Christian' (Acts 26.28). The wicked hate the hypocrite because he is almost a Christian, and God hates him because he is only almost one.
4. To be only comets and make a show of piety is a vain thing
Hypocrites lose all they have done. Their dissembling tears drop beside God's bottle; their prayers and fasts prove abortive. 'When ye fasted and mourned, did ye at all fast unto me, even to me?' (Zech. 7:5). As God will not recompense a slothful servant, neither will he recompense a treacherous one. All the hypocrites' reward is in this life: 'They have their reward' (Matt. 6:5). A poor reward, the empty breath of men. The hypocrite may make his receipt and write, 'Received in full payment'. Augustus Caesar had great triumphs granted him, but the senate would not allow him to be consul, or sit in the senate house. Hypocrites may have the praise of men, but though these triumphs are granted them, they shall never have the privilege of sitting in the senate house of heaven. What acceptance can he look for from God, whose heart tells him he is no better than a mountebank in divinity?
5. To have only a pretence of godliness will yield no comfort at death
Will painted gold enrich a man? Will painted wine refresh him who is thirsty? Will the paint of godliness stand you in any stead? How were the foolish virgins better for their 'blazing lamps', when they had no oil? What is the lamp of profession without the oil of grace? He who has only a painted holiness shall have a painted happiness.
6. You who have nothing but a specious pretext and mask of piety expose yourself to Satan's scorn
You shall be brought forth at the last day, as was Samson, to make the devil sport (Judges 16:25). He will say, 'What has become of your vows, tears, confessions? Has all your religion come to this? Did you so often defy the devil, and have you now come to dwell with me? Could you meet with no weapon to kill you, but what was made of gospel metal? Could you not suck poison anywhere but out of ordinances? Could you find no way to hell, but by seeming godly?' What a vexation this will be, to have the devil thus reproach a man! It is sad to be crowed over in this fife. Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, when she saw she was reserved by the enemy for a triumph, put asps to her breasts, and died, so that she might avoid the infamy. What, then, will it be to have the devil triumph over a man at the last day!
Let us therefore take heed of this kind of pageantry or devout stage play. That which may make us fear our hearts the more is when we see tall cedars in the church worm-eaten with hypocrisy. Balaam a prophet, Jehu a king, Judas an apostle - all of them stand to this day on record as hypocrites.
It is true that there are the seeds of this sin in the best; but as it was with leprosy under the law, all who had swellings or spots in the skin of the flesh were not reputed unclean and put out of the camp (Lev. 13:6); so all who have the swellings of hypocrisy in them are not to be judged hypocrites, for these may be the spots of God's children (Deut. 32:5). But that which distinguishes a hypocrite is when hypocrisy is predominant and is like a spreading fluid in the body.
Question: When is a man under the dominion and power of hypocrisy?
Answer: There are two signs of its predominance: (i) A squint eye, when one serves God for sinister ends. (ii) A good eye, when there is some sin dear to a man, which he cannot part with. These two are as clear signs of a hypocrite as any I know.
Oh, let us take David's candle and lantern, and search for this leaven, and burn it before the Lord.
Christian, if you mourn for hypocrisy, yet find this sin so potent that you cannot get the mastery of it, go to Christ. Beg of him that he would exercise his kingly office in your soul, that he would subdue this sin, and put it under the yoke. Beg of Christ to exercise his spiritual surgery upon you. Desire him to lance your heart and cut out the rotten flesh, and that he would apply the medicine of his blood to heal you of your hypocrisy. Say that prayer of David often: 'Let my heart be sound in thy statutes' (Psa.119:80). 'Lord, let me be anything rather than a hypocrite.' Two hearts will exclude from one heaven.