God knows us. He knows what we are; he knows also what he meant us to be; and upon the difference between these two states he founds his testimony concerning us. He is too loving to say anything needlessly severe; too true to say anything untrue; nor can he have any motive to misrepresent us; for he loves to tell of the good, not of the evil, that may be found in any of the works of his hands. He declares, them "good", "very good", at first; and if he does not do so now, it is not because he would not, but because he cannot; for "all flesh has corrupted its way upon the earth."
I loved this book. I did. I loved it just as much as I loved God's Way of Holiness which I reviewed last week. I would definitely recommend both books to believers.
Table of Contents:
- God's Testimony Concerning Man
- Mans Own Character No Ground of Peace
- God's Character Our Resting Place
- Righteous Grace
- The Blood of Sprinkling
- The Person and Work of The Substitute
- The Word of the Truth of the Gospel
- Believe and Be Saved
- Believe Just Now
- The Want of Power to Believe
- Jesus Only
Why do I share the table of contents with you? Well, the titles of each chapter tell readers exactly what to expect. By reading the table of contents, readers know what they're getting, what to look forward to. Yes, I could say that this book is about Christ--his person and his work. I could say that this book is about God reconciling himself with sinners through his Son. But you might get a fuller picture of what it's about if I take the time to share the table of contents with you.
As I said, I loved it. I never tire of reading about the gospel, about Christ, about what he has done, what he is doing. In God's Way of Holiness, Bonar wrote, "The alphabet of gospel truth is that "Christ died for our sins" (1 Cor 15:3). By this we are saved, obtaining peace with God, and "access...into this grace wherein we stand" (Rom 5:2)." In God's Way of Peace, Bonar is teaching us this alphabet.
Man has fallen! Not this man or that man, but the whole race. In Adam all have sinned; in Adam all have died. It is not that a few leaves have faded or been shaken down, but the tree has become corrupt, root and branch.
The man that loves God with all his heart is in a right state; the man that does not love him thus is in a wrong one. He is a sinner; because his heart is not right with God. He may think his life a good one, and others may think the same; but God counts him guilty, worthy of death and hell. The outward good cannot make up for the inward evil.
God's testimony then concerning man is, that he does not love God with all his heart; nay, that he does not love him at all. Not to love our neighbor is sin; not to love a parent is greater sin; but not to love God, our divine parent, is greater sin still.
There is another and yet worse charge against him. He does not believe on the name of the Son of God, nor love the Christ of God. This is his sin of sins. That his heart is not right with God is the first charge against him. That his heart is not right with the Son of God is the second. And it is this second that is the crowning crushing sin, carrying with it more terrible damnation than all other sins together. "He that believeth not is condemned already; because he he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." "He that believeth not God, hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record which God gave of his Son." "He that believeth not shall be damned."
Conviction of sin is just the sinner seeing himself as he is, and as God has all along seen him.
The sinner's peace with God is not to come from his own character. No grounds of peace or elements of reconciliation can be extracted from himself, either directly or indirectly. His one qualification for peace is, that he needs it. It is not what he has, but what he lacks of good that draws him to God; and it is the conscienceness of his lack that bids him look elsewhere, for something both to invite and embolden him to approach. It is our sickness, not our health, that fits us for the physician, and casts us upon his skill.
The sinner's own character, in any form, and under any process of improvement, cannot furnish reasons for trusting God. However amended, it cannot speak peace to his conscience, nor afford him any warrant for reckoning on God's favor; nor can it help to heal the breach between him and God. For God can accept nothing but perfection in such a case, and the sinner has nothing but imperfection to present. Imperfect duties and devotions cannot persuade God to forgive. Besides, be it remembered that the person of the worshipper must be accepted before his services can be acceptable; so that nothing can be of any use to the sinner save that which provides for personal acceptance completely, and at the outset.
God has written a volume for the purpose of making himself known; and it is in this revelation of his character that the sinner is to find the rest that he is seeking. God himself is the fountainhead of our peace; his revealed truth is the channel through which this peace finds its way into us; and his Holy Spirit is the great interpreter of that truth.
Insufficient acquaintanceship with God lies at the root of our fears and gloom.
I know that flesh and blood cannot reveal God to you, and that the Holy Spirit alone can enable you to know either the Father or the Son. But I would not have you for a moment suppose that this Spirit is reluctant to do his work in you; nor would I encourage you in the awful thought, that you are willing while he is unwilling; or that the sovereignty of God is a hindrance to the sinner, and a restraint of the Spirit.
The whole Bible takes for granted that all this is absolutely impossible. Never can the great truths of divine sovereignty and the Spirit's work land us, as some seem to think they may do, in such a conflict between a willing sinner and an unwilling God. The whole Bible is so written by the Spirit, and the gospel was so preached by the apostles, as never to raise the question of God's willingness, nor to lead to the remotest suspicion of his readiness to furnish the sinner with all needful aid. Hence the great truths of God's eternal election, and Christ's redemption of his Church, as we read them in the Bible, are helps and encouragements to the soul.
Christ's person is a revelation of God. Christ's work is a revelation of God. Christ's words are a revelation of God. His words and works are the words and works of the Father. In the manger he showed us God. In the synagogue of Nazareth he showed us God. At Jacob's well he showed us God. At the tomb of Lazarus he showed us God. On Olivet, as he wept over Jerusalem, he showed us God. On the cross he showed us God. In the tomb he showed us God. In his resurrection he showed us God. If we say with Philip, "Show us the Father, and it sufficeth us;" he answers, "Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me? He that hath seen me hath seen the Father." This God whom Christ reveals as the God of righteous grace and gracious righteousness, is the God with whom we have to do.
In all unbelief there are these two things, - a good opinion of one's self, and a bad opinion of God. So long as these two things exist, it is impossible for an inquirer to find rest. His good opinion of himself makes him think it quite impossible to win God's favor by his own religious performances; and his bad opinion of God makes him unwilling and afraid to put his case wholly into his hands. The object of the Holy Spirit's work, in convincing of sin, is to alter the sinner's opinion of himself, and so to reduce his estimate of his own character, that he shall think of himself as God does, and so cease to suppose it possible that he can be justified by any excellency of his own. Having altered the sinner's good opinion of himself, the Spirit then alters his evil opinion of God, so as to make him see that the God with whom he has to do is really the God of all grace.
How difficult it is to make a man think of himself as God does!
The object of the Spirit's work is to make us acquainted with the true Jehovah, that in him we may rest; not to produce in us certain feelings, the consciousness of which will make us think better of ourselves, and give us confidence toward God. That which he shows us of ourselves is only evil; that which he shows us of God is only good. He does not enable us to feel or to believe, in order that we may be comforted by our feeling or our faith. Even when working in us most powerfully he turns our eyes away from his own work in us, to fix it on God, and his love in Christ Jesus our Lord. The substance of the gospel is the NAME of the great Jehovah, unfolded in and by Jesus Christ; the character of him in whom we "live and move and have our being," as the "just God, yet the Saviors," the Justifier of the ungodly.
Love led him down to the cradle; love led him up to the cross! He died as the sinner's substitute. He died to make it a righteous thing in God to cancel the sinner's guilt and annul the penalty of his everlasting death.
How shall I come before God, and stand in his presence, with happy confidence on my part, and gracious acceptance on his? This is the sinner's question; and he asks it because he knows that there is guilt between him and God. No doubt this was Adam's question when he stitched his fig leaves together for a covering. But he was soon made to feel that the fig leaves would not do. He must be wholly covered, not in part only; and that by something which even God's eye cannot see through. As God comes near, the uselessness of his fig leaves is felt, and he rushes into the thick foliage of Paradise to hide from the Divine eye. The Lord approaches the trembling man, and makes him feel that his hiding place will not do. Then he began to tell him what will do. He announces a better covering and a better hiding place. He reveals himself as the God of grace, the God who hates sin, yet who takes the sinner's side against the sinner's enemy, - the old serpent. All this through the seed of the woman - "the man" who is the true "hiding place." Adam can now leave his thicket safely; and feel that in this revealed grace, he can stand before God without fear or shame. He has heard the good tidings, and brief as they are, they have restored his confidence and removed his alarm. Let us hear the good news, and let us hear it as Adam did, - from the lips of God himself. For that which is revealed for our belief is set before us on God's authority, not on man's. We are not only to believe the truth, but we are to believe it because God has spoken it. Faith must have a divine foundation. We gather together a few of these divine announcements; asking the anxious soul to study them as divine. Nor let him say that he knows them already; but let him accept our invitation, to traverse, along with us, the field of gospel statement. It is of God himself that we must learn; and it is only by listening to the very words of God that we shall arrive at the true knowledge of what the gospel is. His own words are the truest, the simplest, and the best. They are not only the likeliest to meet our case; but they are the words which he has promised to honor and to bless.
Let no one say, - "We know all these passages; of what use is it to read and re-read words so familiar?" Much every way. Chiefly because it is in such declarations regarding the riches of God's free love that the gospel is wrapped up; and it is out of these that the Holy Spirit ministers light and peace to us.
Such are the words which he delights to honor as his messengers of joy to the soul. Hear then, in these, the voice of the Spirit's love of the Father and the Son! If you find no peace coming out of them to you, as you read them the first time, read them again. If you find nothing the second time, read them once more. If you find nothing the hundredth or thousandth time, study them yet again. "The word of God is quick and powerful;" his sayings are the lively oracles; his word liveth and abideth forever; it is like a fire, and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces. The gospel is the power of God; and it is by manifestation of the truth, that we commend ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. There are no words like those of God, in heaven or in earth. Hence it is that we are to study that which is written, for He Himself wrote it for you. Do not think it needless to read these passages again and again. They will blaze up at last; and light up that dark soul of yours with the very joy of heaven.
Just so it is with those passages which speak to you of the free love of God. You say, I have looked into them, but they contain nothing for me. Do not turn away from them, as if you knew them too well already, yet could find nothing in them. You have not seen them yet. There are wonders beyond all price hidden in each. Take them up again. Search and study them. The Holy Spirit is most willing to reveal to you the glory which they contain. It is his office, it is his delight, to be the sinner's teacher.
It is the Holy Spirit alone that can draw us to the cross and fasten us to the Saviour. He who thinks he can do without the Spirit, has yet to learn his own sinfulness and helplessness. The gospel would be no good news to the dead in sin, if it did not tell of the love and power of the divine Spirit, as explicitly as it announces the love and power of the divine Substitute.
Hence the importance of studying the divine words themselves, by which the sinner is made wise unto salvation. For they both unteach the false and imperfect, and teach the true and the perfect. Let us mark how frequently and strongly God has spoken respecting faith and believing. "Without faith it is impossible to please God." "Therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith." "The righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe." "Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood...to declare his righteousness; that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus." "He that believeth shall be saved." "As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name." "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have eternal life; for God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life, and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life." "He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life." "This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent." "He that believeth on me shall never thirst." "This is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life." "He that believeth on me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die." "I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness." "These are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing, ye might have life through his name." "By him all that believeth are justified from all things." "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." "To him gave all the prophets witness, that through his name whoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins." "To him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness." "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth." "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." "It pleased God, by the foolishness of preaching, to save them that believe." "This is his commandment, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent." "We have known and believed the love that God hath to us." "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God." "He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself; he that believeth not God, hath made him a liar, because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son." "He that believeth not shall be damned." These are some of the many texts which teach us what the link is between the sinner and the great salvation. They show that it is our belief of God's testimony, concerning his own free love, and the work of his Son, that makes us partakers of the blessings which that testimony reveals. They do not indeed ascribe any meritorious or saving virtue to our act of faith. They show us that it is the object of faith, - the person, or thing, or truth of which faith lays hold, - that is the soul's peace and consolation. But still they announce most solemnly the necessity of believing, and the greatness of the sin of unbelief.
The God connects salvation with believing, trusting, knowing, remembering. Yet the salvation is not in our act of believing, trusting, knowing, or remembering; it is in the thing or person believed on, trusted, known, remembered. Nor is salvation given as a reward for believing and knowing. The things believed and known are our salvation. Nor are we saved or comforted by thinking about our act of believing and ascertaining that it possesses all the proper ingredients and qualities which would induce God to approve of it, and of us because of it.
Believing in the Lord Jesus Christ will do everything for us; believing in our own faith, or trusting in our own trust, will do nothing.
Depravity is the hindrance; election is God's way of overcoming that hindrance.
Take all your bad motives, add them to the number of your sins, and bring them all to the altar where the great sacrifice is lying. Go to the mercy seat. Tell the High Priest there, not what you desire to be, nor what you ought to be, but what you are. Tell him the honest truth as to your condition at this moment. Confess the impurity of your motives; all the evil that you feel or that you don't feel; your hard-heartedness, your blindness, your unteachableness. Confess everything without reserve. He wants you to come to Him exactly as you are, and not to cherish the vain thought that, by a little waiting, or working, or praying, you can make yourself fit, or persuade Him to make you fit.
From first to last, God pursues the sinner as he flies from him; pursues him not in hatred, but in love; pursues him not to destroy, but to pardon and to save.
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible