Archive for the ‘Ralph Erskine’ Category

Temporary Faith – Ralph Erskine

February 20, 2010

(4.) There is a temporary faith, that goes beyond all the former, and is effected by the common operation of the Spirit of God: nor is it merely taken up with the truth of the gospel, but also hath some relish of the goodness and sweetness of it; and hence the stonyground hearers are said to receive the word with joy, Matthew xiii. 20.; yet this belief hath no root, no abiding principle: it is not the faith of the promise that takes place in the children of promise.—Here is the most subtile deceit in the matter of faith: some people may take hold of Christ, as it were, and really get some sap and virtue from him, for their refreshment, and yet never get in to him. They are like the ivy, that grows up by the tree, and clasps about the tree, and draws sap from the tree, and yet grows upon its own root, and is never one and the same with the tree: so here, some professors may receive Christ, in the promise, by a temporary faith, they clasp about him closely, and draw some sap and virtue from him; but still they are never rooted in Christ, but rooted in the old Adam; still rooted in the old covenant, were never cut off from the old root, and ingrafted into Christ, but only draw virtue from Christ to maintain their old-covenant fruit. I imagine it will be a hard chapter for some here to read, How shall I know but I am one of these that have only that faith which takes hold of Christ, like an ivy to the tree, drawing sap from him, without ever being rooted in him ? I shall offer you but one key for the opening of this difficulty, and you have need to have it opened; for it as much as your eternal salvation is worth, to mistake here. If you have no other but that temporary faith, you may believe and be damned with the devil, but cannot believe unto salvation.

The key for opening the matter, then, is this question, What know you of the difference betwixt righteousness In Christ, and righteousness From him?

Temporary faith may say, From the Lord I have righteousness and strength; but true faith says, “In the Lord have I righteousness and strength.”—Temporary faith may get many things from him, but true faith gets all things in him, and is complete in him.—Temporary faith, being without root, never rooted in him, hath nothing in him, but from him; but true faith being rooted in Christ, whatever it gets from him, it rests not there, but looks to what is in him,and glories in that: “In him shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory.” See Isa. xlv. 24, 25. 1 Cor. i. 30, 31. What think you the Popish way of believing unto salvation is? Indeed the refined of them go as far as some professed Protestants; they own there is no salvation but by Christ; and though they do not believe, with application, that they have any righteousness in him, yet they build upon a righteousness from Christ, saying, “It is he that gives a man power to do, and then sprinkles the man’s doings with his blood, upon which he merits their life and salvation.” So many such Papists amongst us, they believe that Christ only can save them, and they go to him to be saved from sin, and for grace to do better; and if they find power to do better, then- they hope they shall be saved; while yet they may be damned, and go to the devil, though they should escape all the pollutions of the world, and that even through the knowledge of Christ, not from their own strength, but from the strength and virtue of the knowledge of Christ, 2 Peter- ii. 20. But true faith comes first to Christ for righteousness, and gets a righteousness in him for justification and eternal salvation: and being rooted in Christ, grows up in him, and hath all in him; and hence can rejoice in him, even when it finds nothing but emptiness in itself; for, it is the nature of it to go out of itself to Christ in the free promise. Hence also temporary faith receives Christ conditionally, but true faith receives him freely as he is offered. Temporary believers take him for a Saviour: but, how ? even in this conditional way, if I be a servant to him, he-will be a Saviour to me; and so he serves him, and thereupon expects salvation from him: thus he bears the root, and the root bears not him. But true faith receives Christ freely for righteousness and strength both, saying, Even so I take him, both for righteousness, that he may be a Saviour to me; and for strength, that he may make me a servant to him, to serve as a son, not as a hireling. Temporary faith and legal faith believes Christ will save- me upon condition of my good behaviour for the time to come; in case I serve him, then he will save me: but gospel-faith takes Christ upon gospel-terms, as he is exhibit in the gospel promise, saying, O I dare not promise any thing to him, but I take him as promising all things to me: and, blessed be sovereign grace, that all is in the promise; for, if any thing depended upon my good behaviour and future service, I fear all would be cast loose; therefore I take a Christ for all, and a promise for all: and, O well is me, that he hath promised all, for I can promise nothing; therefore, I will rely upon the promise of salvation, 1 will rely upon the promise of sanctification. And, in this way of taking the promise freely, he comes to be furnished for a better behaviour, than all the legal and conditional believers in the world; for, as he believes the promise, so he lives upon it.

– Ralph Erskine, “The Pregnant Promise,” in The Sermons and Other Practical Works of Ralph Erskine, pp. 237-40


Gospel Poetry

November 15, 2008

The following video provides some Gospel poetry. It is in a fairly modern style – what would be considered “frestyle rap.”

I am not sure the context where this came from and I don’t even know the name of the man bearing witness to the truth of the Gospel. This is a good message, and it may be a way that message of Christ can reach people that the sort of stuffy academic arguments that I tend to present here on my blog may not.

It’s not the only gospel poetry out there. Long ago, Ralph Erskine provided this gospel poetry, which perhaps may provide some material for other folks like the rapper/evangelist in the video clip above:

But still say you power to believe I miss
You may but know you what believing is
Faith lies not in your building up a tower
Of some great action by your proper power
For Heaven well knows that by the killing fall
No power nor will remains in man at all
For acts divinely good; ‘rill sovereign grace
By powerful drawing virtue turn the chase
Hence none believe in Jesus as they ought
Till once they first believe they can do nought
Nor are sufficient even to form a thought
They’re conscious in the right believing hour
Of human weakness and of divine power
Faith acts not in the sense of strength and might
But in the sense of weakness acts outright
It is no boasting arm of power and length
But weakness acting on almighty strength
It is the powerless helpless sinner’s flight
Into the open arms of saving might
‘Tis an employing Jesus to do all
That can within salvation’s compass fall
To be the agent kind in everything
Belonging to a prophet priest and king
To teach, to pardon, sanctify, and save
And nothing to the creature’s power to leave
Faith makes us joyfully content that he
Our Head our Husband and our All should be
Our righteousness and strength our stock and store
Our fund for food and raiment, grace and glore
It makes the creature down to nothing fall
Content that Christ alone be all in all.

Praise to our King!


H.T. to Take Away the Stone (link), where I first saw this.

The Nature and Excellency of Gospel Purity (Part IX)

September 7, 2008
Gospel Purity.
(by Ralph Erskine)
“There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness.” — PROV. xxx. 12.

IT is a sad sentence when God passes it upon any, “He which is filthy, let him be filthy still:” “he that is unjust, let him be unjust still:” Rev. xxii. 11. “Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone,” Hos. ix. 17. O how sad is it when God says, concerning such a person, Let him alone! Ministers and ordinances, Let him alone; Word and Spirit, Let him alone: let no word that is preached do him good; let no threatening of the word awaken him; let no promise of the word allure him; let no precept of the word draw him: let him continue hardened against all that can be said from the word; Let him alone; let him live and die under the power and guilt of sin, under the wrath and curse of God: he is a filthy man, and she is a filthy woman, and let them be filthy still. Oh! dreadful sentence! And yet it seems to be passed against the generality of people in our day; and yet few or none are touched with it: let us think on it in sad earnest; for, as my text saith, “There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness.”

1st, Let us improve this doctrine for information. Is it so, as has been said, That purity is an excellent thing, and of absolute necessity to denominate a true saint? Then,

1. Hence see the difference between justification and sanctification. Sanctification, or purity, is necessary and excellent, in all the respects that I have formerly named: but yet it is not necessary for justification, so as to be the ground thereof. It is necessary to be the evidence of justification; but not the ground thereof: the ground of justification is only Christ’s righteousness. Many are utterly bemisted in this point; they confound justification with sanctification. Though, indeed, they be as inseparable as head and body to a living man, yet there can be nothing more different. They are most distinct. ( 1. ) Justification comes from the merit of Christ; sanctification comes from the Spirit of Christ. ( 2. ) Justification makes a relative change, by bringing us from enemies to friends, from condemnation to absolution; sanctification makes a real change, by healing our inward maladies and plagues. ( 3. ) Justification gives us a title to heaven; sauctification gives us a meetness for heaven. ( 4. ) Justification takes away the guilt of sin; sanctification takes away the filth, and power, and pollution of sin. ( 5. ) Justification is by a righteousness without us; sanctification is by a righteousness within us. ( 6. ) In justification there is the imputation of Christ’s righteousness and sanctification; but in sanctification there is the implantation of grace, and something subjectively imparted; not imputed to us, but wrought in us by the Holy Ghost. ( 7. ) Justification is but one act and once acted; sanctification is a continual action, or a progressive work. ( 8. ) Justification is perfect and absolute; sanctification is imperfect, and but begun. And hence, ( 9. ) Justification is equal, and alike in all believers; no man is more justified than another: sanctification is unequal, in some more, in some less, according to the measure of the gift of Christ: justification is perfect the first moment; sanctification is never perfect till a man die. ( 10. ) In justification we are passive, and do nothing; but in sanctification we are active; for, being acted, we act; being moved, we move and do work, being set on work by the Spirit of God: is there any thing more distinct than these two? ( 11. ) Justification answers the law, as a covenant; sanctification answers it as a rule. ( 12. ) Justification makes a man accepted; sanctification makes a man acceptable.

2. Hence see, that there is no justification by the deeds of the law. Why? because, though this purity and conformity to the law, be thus necessary and excellent for denominating a saint, and evidencing of justification; yet it is imperfect in time, and so cannot be the matter and ground of justification: no righteousness, but a perfect one, can justify us before God. Do any of the saints reckon their purity and piety to be their righteousness before God? No, by no means: David trembles at the thoughts of this; and he deprecates it with abhorrence: O Lord, “enter not into judgment with thy servant: for in thy sight shall no man living be justified,” Psal. cxliii. 2. Purity may justify us before men; but we cannot appear before an infinitely holy God, without a perfect holiness; nor before an infinitely just God, without a complete satisfaction: and these are only to be had in Christ. For, when our purity and righteousness is laid in the balance of God’s holy law, MENE TEKEL is written on it; it is found wanting: we are but unprofitable servants; and our righteousness is as filthy rags. If any poor deluded soul be expecting that God will justify him, and accept of him, and shew favour to him, because he does as well as he can, and because he performeth this and the other good duty, and hath a good heart to God, meaneth well, and the like; it is evident the man knoweth not himself, that he knoweth not the purity of God’s holy law, and the impurity of his own heart, otherwise he would fear to think of standing upon that ground before God.

3. Hence see the necessity of a law-work, in some measure and degree. No man will run to the Surety, till, by the law, he hath the knowledge of his being quite insolvent, and a bankrupt. What man will run to the fountain for cleansing, if he does not see that he is defiled and polluted. If purity be so necessary, then a law-work, discovering our impurity, is necessary also; that knowing the malady, we may apply to the remedy.

4. Hence see the reason why God treats mankind as he doth, both with judgment and mercy. Why, the world is polluted; and God hath a mind to purify it. Why doth the Lord shine upon you with the sun of a kindly providence? It is even to melt you, that you may part with sin, and that his goodness may lead you to repentance. Why doth he cast you into a furnace of affliction? It is to purge away dross; and that you may come forth as gold tried in the fire. Why was the whole earth washed with a deluge? Why, it was polluted, and needed to be cleansed. And why will he again melt it with fire? Because it must be purified before it be a new earth.

5. Hence see the necessity of the open fountain for sin and uncleanness. The blood of the Lamb is a fountain: it is not a rivulet, or a stream, that quickly dries up; no, no: it is a fountain, a never failing fountain. It is not a fountain sealed: anciently, in these hot countries, when they got a fountain, they reckoned it a precious treasure, and sealed it; people had not promiscuous access to it. Yea, but here is a fountain open; every man, every woman is welcome to come and purify themselves at it, and bathe in it, to wash till they be whiter than the driven snow. It is not only open for the house of David, for the royal family; but to the inhabitants of Jerusalem: it is tendered to the whole visible church. And it is open for sin and uncleanness; for all pollution whatever. 0 what need of this fountain among such poor polluted sinners!

6. Hence see the reason of what is a paradox to many in the world, and yet what is the experience of the saints: it lets us see, I say, why some folk long so passionately for death sometimes; yea, would choose rather to die than to live: why, the children of God know there is no perfect purification, but by death; and that death will purify them more than all the sermons ever they heard, than all the providences with which they were ever tried, than all the prayers they ever put up, and all the tears ever they shed. It is a mad fancy of the church of Rome, and it was an ignorant fancy of some mistaken divines, and Greek fathers, that there is a state of purgation between this and heaven: but we see from the Bible, that in a moment the soul, separated from the body, is made pure. The thief upon the cross, the same day that he is converted, he is glorified; “Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise.” O how will the believer, when groaning under a sense of sin, long for the day of dissolution, saying, When shall the day break, and the shadows flee away, when there shall be no more sin, no more pollution?

2dly, This doctrine may be applied for lamentation, that there is such a scarcity of this necessary and excellent thing, purity; and such a plenitude of the contrary evil, even of all manner of impurity. Oh! may we not lament that there is such a famine of piety and purity, and such a fullness of impiety and profanity? I might here tell you, 1. Somewhat of the evils of impurity, that we should lament over. 2. Some of the evidences of it.

[ 1. ] We are to acquaint you of some of the evils of impurity. It is a lamentable thing, that there should be so little purity, and so much impurity. For,

1. This impurity mars all our excellency. We lose our excellency by sin and impiety. It takes away the peace of a good conscience, which should be a continual feast: There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked, It takes away God from us; Your iniquities have separated Between you and your God. Is not this one of the reasons why God is so far from this generation? It is a filthy generation. And if our pollution take away God from us, should it not trouble us? Let a carnal man lose that which he makes his god, and see how he will be troubled for it: his heart will even die within him, as Nabal’s did; and he will be much perplexed. Oh! how heavy should it be to us, that our impurity and defilement doth us such a mischief as this!

2. It clouds all our profession. Men may profess what they will; but if they remain defiled and impure, and if they do not tight against it, wrestle against it, profess against it, their profession is but a screen to their atheism; “They profess that they know God, but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate,” Tit. i. 16.

3. It brings on the wrath of God, if it be not removed; “God is angry with the wicked every day. If he turn not, he will whet his sword,” Psalm, vii. 11, 12. O Sirs, if God begin to fire against a sinner, or a sinful and impure people, his wrath will be insupportable. It is true, God stays long before he come forth with all his indignation against a polluted people: but then it is the worse, and there is the less hope of mercy when he begins to destroy; for then he will strike them dead with the next blow, and make a full end. Is not the Lord threatening to do so with this generation, whether we see it or not? When the cup of iniquity is full to the brim, be sure that the cup of wrath is full also; full of the vials of dreadful vengeance. But death, and hell, and wrath, are matters of jest and mockery to a filthy and impure generation, whose very mind and conscience are defiled: but though their consciences be seared, and their souls be sleeping in security, yet their damnation slumbereth not; for the abominable shall have “part in the lake, which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death,” Rev. xxi. 8. Oh! is not this matter of lamentation, that we are in such danger, by reason of the defilement and impurity of the day we live in.

But, say you, how do you prove the charge? This leads to the next particular, which was,

[ 2. ] To mention some of the evidences of impurity: they, indeed, are many. May not he that runs read innumerable grounds of lamentation? What means the abominable whoredom, adultery, uncleanness, drunkenness, and all manner of wickedness; swearing, lying, cheating, stealing, Sabbath-breaking, contempt of the word and ordinances, that take place? Do not they all manifest, that the generation is not washed from their filthiness? Is not profanity, impiety, and immorality, become open, avowed, and professed, and shameless? — But I shall close at this time, by offering only these three general evidences of want of purity, that we may see matter of lamentation here.

1. The first evidence is in the impurity of our affections. Are they not carnal and impure? Surely where a man’s treasure is, there will his heart be also. What are your morning thoughts, and daily meditations? Whether are they conversant about earthly or heavenly things? It is indeed matter of exercise to a child of God, that he finds his affections carnal, and earthly, and vain: but the impure man lets the devil, and the world, and a thousand lusts, run away with his affections all the day, and all the week, and all the year; and he hath never a sore and grieved heart for it.

2. Another evidence is, the impurity of our speeches, which are the fruits of the affections: for, “Out of the abundance of the heart the month speaketh,” saith Christ: and, “A good man out of the good treasure of the heart, bringeth forth good things; and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things,” Matt. xii. 34, 35. When the heart is full of any thing, it will be ready to utter itself: as if you jog a full vessel it will run over; so the heart that is full of the world, will run over the lips, and be always speaking of that; or, if an impure man play the hypocrite, and vent his hypocrisy in some good speech, yet be is out of his element; it is not his natural dialect, or easy to him to employ his tongue for God. It is true, the godly may sometimes have their tongue tacked, as it were, to the roof of their mouth; but it is not always so.

3. The next evidence is the impurity of our actions. How do you act towards earthly things, and heavenly things? What pains are you at about earthly things? And how little pains are you at about heavenly and spiritual things? Is not that an evidence of carnality and impurity? — How do you act with reference to sin and duty? How little care do you take to avoid sin yourselves, or reprove it in others? And how little care do you take to perform the duties of religion, whether secret or social? — How do you act with regard to God and yourselves? How much time do you take for yourselves and your own things? And how little time do you allot for God and the things of God? Doth not this evidence your impurity? — How do you act towards the world and religion, when they come into competition? The world saith, there is a business must be done; God saith, there is a business must be done: they interfere; the one of them must be neglected; well, the man lets God go, lets religion go, rather than his dear worldly affairs. This discovers impurity. — How do you act with reference to the word? The impure heart doth not relish the purity of the word, or the things that are of God: for, he that is of the flesh, savours the things of the flesh; but he that is of the Spirit, savours the things of the Spirit. Now, when you hear the word, do you savour nothing but earthly and carnal things? Why, the vain man will pick out the vanity in a sermon: if he can catch at any word, that will feed his vain mind, he lays hold upon that: the curious man will notice the curiosity that is in it, and relish that; he that is learned will observe the learning in it, and applaud that: but he that is spiritual, will find out the things that are spiritual, is well pleased with, and feeds upon them. See 1 Cor. ii. 6. — In a word, how do you act with respect to conscience and interest? When the keeping of a good conscience and worldly interest come to be in competition, by our way of acting then, we may know who is our master, God or the world; for, till then, we know not who is our master: but when conscience commands one thing, and the world another, so that now the world and religion go not hand in hand, here is the trial of a pure heart. As a dog follows two men so long as they go together, and you know not who is the dog’s master, of them two: but let them come to a parting road, and one go one way, and another go another way, then shall we know which of them owns the dog. Why, Sirs, sometimes religion and the world go hand in hand: while a man may have the world, and a religious profession too; while it is so we cannot know who is the man’s master, whether God or the world: but stay till the man come to a parting road; God calls him this way, and the world calls him that way: why, if God be his master he follows religion, and lets the world go; if the world be his master, then he follows the world, and the lusts thereof, and lets God, and conscience, and religion go.

Oh is it not very lamentable that there are so many evidences of want of purity, that necessary excellent thing! And even among the children of God, O how little purity! Are they not fallen from their first love? Fallen from the heaven that sometimes they have been in, to the very centre of the earth? How far art thou grown earthly minded? How doth this declining come upon you by degrees, or ever you are aware? Like Nebuchadnezzar’s image, whose head was of gold, the arms and breast of silver, the thighs of brass, the legs of iron, and the feet of clay; so it is with many declining Christians in our day; they have had a golden head, and begun with a golden age, but now they are come down to the clay feet. How heavenly-minded have you once been? but now, how earthly-minded art thou? How pleasant were duties and ordinances formerly, perhaps? But now, how tedious, wearisome, and irksome? How zealous have you been for God’s glory, and against all sin? But now, how cold and lukewarm? — O sinner, see the necessity of more purification, and deliverance from that consumption of grace, and decay of purity, that was, and is taking place in you: and cry to God to send the Holy Ghost, whose office and function it is to sanctify, wash, and cleanse you. — Lament the impurity of the day, and your own impurity; and lay your soul at the side of the purifying fountain, and in the way of purifying means, looking to the Lord to bless the means to you.

There are two things relating to this subject that the generality of people are very great strangers to. The one is the sin of their nature; and the other is, the nature of their sin; and yet these two things should be much laid to heart by us all; namely, the sin of our nature, that we carry a dead corpse, and a body of sin and death about with us; and the nature of our sin; that it is a transgression of, and disconformity to the law of God. Though it be a misery to have a sinful heart, yet it is a mercy to see it to be so: For, conviction is the first step to conversion. And though there be many, as to their state, vile and filthy enough to be damned; yet there are few, as to their sense and conviction, vile and filthy enough to be saved: nay, they are vile in God’s eye; and yet pure in their own. “There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness.”

3[rdly]. The next use we make of the doctrine, shall be for reproof and conviction. This doctrine reproves all manner of impurity, impiety, and unholiness, that stands opposite to this purity and holiness, whereof I have shewed the necessity and excellency. It reproves all that filthiness that is opposed to this cleanness. And here is a large field, a vast theme: we know not well where to begin, or where to end; there are so many pollutions, and so much filthiness of flesh and Spirit to be reproved. We might here go through all the ten commands, and show how mainfold sins and impurities are reprovable, in opposition to every one of them. Oh! that God himself would fasten a reproof and conviction of sin upon our hearts and consciences, for carrying home this use the more closely, both upon the wicked, that are under the power, and upon the godly, that may be under the prevalency of sin and impurity. I shall, on this topic, 1. Produce some kinds of impurity and filthiness, that we should all take with, and be convinced of. 2. Produce some witnesses for proving either the total or partial want of purity and holiness; that the crime being proven, we may take with it, and condemn ourselves.

[1. ] I would tell you some sorts and kinds of impurity and filthiness, that we should all take with, and be convinced of. There are especially these three sorts. 1. The impurity and sin of our nature. 2. The impurity and filthiness of our hearts and thoughts. 3. The impurity and filthiness of our life and practice, especially living under the gospel.

(1. ) As for the pollution of our nature. This, it is evident, many never thought of, never were convinced of, never challenged themselves for; and yet it is a great predominate root-sin: and if it be not removed we are filthy still. Now, in order to fasten a conviction of the greatness pf this pollution of our nature, consider the greatness of it in these particulars.

1. That when the leprosy and contagion is universal and overspreading, then it must be great: but so it is here; the pollution, and defilement, and sin of our nature, is an universal leprosy, it overspreads all our faculties; our understanding, will, affections, reason, conscience, memory, and all are defiled; become altogether filthy: we, being conceived in sin, and brough forth in iniquity, are nothing by nature, but a body of sin and death.

2. When the leprosy and contagion is so great, in an house, that nothing will help against it, but the pulling down of the house; then the leprosy must be very great: but so it is here, the sin of our nature is such, that nothing will cure it, but the pulling down of the house. Some think to mend the house by education: but all the lime and mortar of acquired parts and accomplishments will not do, unless the nature be renewed by regeneration: and even after regenerated, his leprosy breaking out, nothing will wholly remove it but death’s pulling down the house entirely.

3. Consider, that sin which is most unwearied, and which a man is most unwearied in the pursuit of, that must needs be very great: but such is the sin of our nature, it is most unwearied, as the fountain is unwearied in sending up water. A man may be wearied in drawing up water out of the fountain; but the fountain is not wearied in bubbling up water: so, a man may be wearied in sinful actions; but sinful nature is never weary. A man may be wearied with looking to some particular object; but his eye is never wearied readily with seeing and looking; because it is natural for the eye to see: so, a man may be wearied with some particular sin; but the natural man is never weary with sinning, because, it is so natural for him to sin.

4. Consider, that this sin that is the ground of all our relapses and returns to sin, must needs be very great. Now, what is the ground of all our relapses and returns to sin, after all our repentance and reformation? Even our nature, or the sin of our nature. Suppose water be heated and warmed, it cools again; heat it again, and it cools again; why? Because coldness is its nature: and so, why do men return again and again to sin, after all their repentance and reformation? why? It is their nature.

5. That sin that is least lamented, and whereby our other sins are most excused, must be a great sin. Now, of all sins, the sin of our nature is least lamented; and thereby our other sins are most excused. Bear with me, for it is my nature; I am passionate, but it is my nature; I am so and so disposed, but it is my nature: men excuse themselves by it; and hence it is not lamented, it is not mourned over.

6. That pollution that is most predominant, must be a great pollution: now, the sin of the nature is the pollution that is most predominant. Many marks have been assigned of the predominant sin; and some actual sin may reign above other sins. But the sin of the nature is the predominant sin: it is the sin that reigns unto death, Rom. v. 21 — O then take home the conviction of this sin: and seek to have it broken in the power of it.

(2. ) The impurity and pollution of our hearts and thoughts is what we are to take with, and be convinced of. Alas! how little is the impurity of the heart bewailed! Many think their thoughts are free: but before God they are not free; but bound to obedience to his law, who searches the heart and tries the reins, to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings; and even according to the doing of his heart: for the thoughts are the deeds of the heart; and it is, indeed, deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, Jer. xvii. 9, 10. Now, the sin and pollution of the heart is great, if you consider these following particulars.

1. The sin that is most incurable, is a great sin: but the sin of the heart is a most incurable sin. As a secret, hidden wound within the body, or a disease within the bowels, is the most incurable: And such are the sins of our thoughts, and the plagues of our hearts. We need, therefore, to know the plague of our hearts and to be convinced of it.

2. The sin that is a parent to other sins, must needs be very great: now, sinful thoughts are the parents of sinful actions, both in the godly and ungodly. — In the godly: as in the case of Abraham, Gen. xx. 11, 12. “I thought surely the fear of God is not in this place;” and therefore I said, “She is my sister.” She was indeed his sister, and he lied not in saying so: but he dissembled, and hid the truth, using an unworthy shift for his preservation. And where began this evil, but in a sinful thought? I THOUGHT that the fear of God had not been in this place. — In the ungodly, it is so likewise; Psal. 1. 21; “Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself.” The wicked steal and lie, and get drunk, and commit adultery, and deceive, and slander others. And how are they led into this, but by thoughts? “Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself.”

3. By sinful thoughts our formerly committed sins, that were dead, are revived again, and have a resurrection by our bosom ones; by our contemplating the same with delight. As the witch at Endor called up Samuel that was dead; so, a delightful thought calls up a sinful action, that was dead before. Hereby our sins, that were in a manner dead before, are revived, and have a resurrection.

4. By sinful thoughts a man may sin that sin, in effect, which he never did commit in act; and so the Lord may punish him for it. As the Lord said to David in another case; Because it was in thine heart to build me an house, I will build thy house. So saith God to a man, in a way of punishment; because it was in thine heart to do this evil, though thou didst it not, I will punish thee for it. By the sins of our hearts and thoughts, a man may sin that sin, in effect, which he never did commit in act. Christ reckons the adulterous thought, adultery; the malicious thought, murder. Alas! how will the day of judgment give other views of sin than now we have, when the whorish thought will be judged whoredom; and the adulterous intention, adultery; and the malicious thoughts, murder, though it was never actually committed!

5. By sinful thoughts, a man doth repent of his repentance. A man sins, and afterwards is sorrowful for and repents thereof; and then after his repentance, he thinks on his sin with delight. What is this but to repent of his repentance? As by your repentance, you are sorrowful for your sin; so, by musing on your sin, with delight, you repent of your repentance: now, is it not a great evil for a man to repent that he repented?

6. That filthy mud, that cannot be searched to the bottom; that deep mystery of iniquity, that cannot be sounded, it is so deep, must be be very great: and so it is with the sin of the heart; It “is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Jer. xvii. 9. In a word, “Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries,” etc. Matt. xv. 18, 19.

(3. ) The impurity and pollution of our lives and practices, especially, under the gospel, is what we are to take with, and be convinced of. And sins under the gospel, are great sins. Why?

1. Sins under the gospel, are sins against the remedy: and of all sins, sins against the remedy are the greatest. The great remedy against sin, is the gospel of the grace of God; the good news of a crucified Christ, a Saviour, whose name is Jesus, because he saves his people from their sin. The promises are the remedy also: and therefore, to sin under the gospel, is to sin against the remedy; yea, it is a sinning against the greatest obligations of mercy and grace that are offered: and so, by our sinning against these, we engage the very mercy and grace of God, our greatest friends, to become our greatest adversaries.

2. The more repugnancy there is between the sin and the sinner, the greater is the sin: even as it is worse for a judge to be unjust, than another man. Now, there is here a great repugnancy between the gospel, and the man that sinncth under the gospel; for he professes the contrary.

3. Sin under the gospel, is the most hurtful and mischievous, both to ourselves and others. To ourselves: as poison that is taken in wine, or something that is warm, is the most venomous; so, sin under the gospel is the deadliest poison: why? because it is warmed with gospel heat. And to others it is hurtful; because they are the more hardened thereby.

4. Sin under the gospel is most deceitful, having specious pretences and defences; and so it is the worse. A man under the gospel hath readily many shifts for his sins; many distinctions to palliate his sin; much knowledge to cover his sin. And by this knowledge, perhaps, he is able to defend his sin, by many distinctions: as, that it is a sin of infirmity; it is an occasion for grace and mercy to abound; and many such ways may grace be abused to the encouraging of sin. Now, those bred under the gospel, are able to defend themselves by knowledge fetched from the gospel; therefore they are the worst.

5. Sins under the gospel throw contempt upon the great things of God: even the glory of God, the grace of God, offered in the gospel. And how great is that sin that casts contempt upon the greatest love, the richest mercy, the sweetest offers, and upon the great salvation!

6. Sin under the gospel is the most dangerous sin; and therefore it is great. “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?” Heb. ii. 3. He that sinneth under the gospel, cannot sin at so cheap a rate as others though he sins the very same sins that others commit, who are not under the gospel. Why? He that knoweth his master’s will, and doeth it not, shall be beaten with many stripes. — O Sirs, be convinced of these sins, and the evil of them: the sin of your nature, the sin of your heart, and the sin of your way under the gospel; for they are great sins and impurities.

[ 2. ] I would produce some witnesses, for proving of the great want of purity, whether total or partial. Many witnesses may be brought in to prove the charge.

1. The first witness is the power and prevalence of sin. Where sin is up, holiness is down. Are sins and corruptions as many and as strong with you, as they were ten, twenty, or thirty years ago, notwithstanding of all the means you have enjoyed, and sermons you have heard, and engagements you have made? The power of sin doth witness and evidence either the want or weakness of purity.

[Copy of Sermon from which TurretinFan produced this (an 1860’s printing) omits the second witness.]

3. The third witness is the easy and frequent falling before temptation and motions to sin. When temptation touches, it takes. No sooner are you tempted than you are conquered. Does not this discover the want of purity; and that it is either wholly wanting, or at a low ebb? Those that were eminent in holiness, in scripture, were eminent in resisting temptation; as Joseph, Daniel, and others. When a man needs little, or has no temptation to lead him to sin, it witnesseth against him, that he is impure.

4. The fourth witness is fears and faintings in a day of adversity; “If thou faint in the day of adversity, thy strength is small,” Prov. xxiv. 10. Do you fret under affliction, or faint under adversity? That is an evidence of the want of purity, and the weakness of grace.

5. The next witness is barrenness and soul-leanness; Isa. xxiv. 16, “I said, My leanness, my leanness; woe unto me!” Look to them that have my grace, and see what poor and lean graces they have: how little faith, how little love, how little zeal, how little repentance, how little knowledge; how much unbelief, how much ignorance, how much untenderness in their walk, how much neglect of duty, how much of a legal spirit in duty, etc.; how much laxness of principle, and levity of spirit; how much pride of duty, how much pride of preaching, pride of praying; how much apostacy, unstedfastness, and unconstancy: the goodness of many is like the morning cloud, and early dew, that passeth away.

6. Another witness is indifferency. The great indifferency that is among many professed Christians, shews their want of purity: they are indifferent whom, and what they hear; indifferent whether they perform duty or not; whether they attend ordinances or not: Galio cared for none of these things. Surely, where there is much indifferency, there is little holiness, little purity.

7. The seventh witness is gross immorality. And here, will not the gross abominations of the day and generation, and of the congregation witness against them, that they are not washed from their filthiness? — Is the drunkard washed from his drunkenness? Is the whoremonger washed from his whoredom? Is the adulterer washed from his adulteries? Is the malicious man washed from his malice? — Are not many become shameless in sinning, when the Lord is calling for mourning? “And in that day did the Lord God of hosts call to weeping and to mourning, and to baldness, and to girding with sackcloth: And, behold joy and gladness, slaying oxen, and killing sheep, eating flesh, and drinking wine: let us eat and drink; for to-morrow we shall die,” Isa. xxii. 12, 13. There were a pack that made a jest of dying, and made a mock of a future state: “Let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we shall die:” if we must have a short life, let us have a merry one. Here is atheism rampant; denial of a future state lying at the root of their brutal sensuality. — Many discover their gross immorality by mock confession: like the French king that carried a crucifix in his hat; and when he had done any thing amiss he would kiss that, as a sufficient atonement. Many who call themselves Christians, when they have committed any gross sin, they confess it, with a God forgive me; returning with the dog to the vomit. — They evidence their immorality by their unreproveableness; as is manifest from their carriage to them that admonish them: do they count them their best friends? Nay, their heart rises and rages against them. How stand they affected towards the word, when it reproves them, and rubs upon their lusts, and crosses their delights? They count it enmity and folly. — They evidence their gross immorality by their filthy communications, and filthy conversations, Col. iii. 8. 2 Pet. ii. 7.

8. The eighth witness is carelessness about, and contempt of the means of purity. Doth the neglect of the means of purity witness against you? For example, prayer is a mean; secret prayer, social prayer, family prayer, fellowship prayer: do you live in the neglect of these? Yea: then doth not this witness your impurity? — The word is a mean; hearing the word attentively, reading the word diligently, hiding the word in your heart carefully, like David; Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against thee. Now, what diligent use do you make of the word? Are you careless in hearing, especially on week-days, notwithstanding of covenient opportunity? Are you careless in reading the Bible from Sabbath to Sabbath? Why, the very dust of your Bibles will witness against you. I have read of one, that presented Antipater, the king of Macedon, with a book, that treated of happiness; he refused it, saying, I am not at leisure. Many have the book by them; yea, presented to them by Christ, that treats of everlasting happiness, but they slight the present: I am not at leisure, say they. They have opportunity of hearing the word opened on week-days, as well as Sabbath-days; but they are not at leisure. They have means of knowledge, diets of catechising, for clearing the same word; but they are not at leisure. They have many precious seasons of grace, seasons of prayer, seasons of duty; but they are not at leisure. They take leisure to their own work, their wordly work; yea, for idle conversation: but they have no leisure for God’s work, their soul’s work, eternal work.

What! are not these things so many witnesses against you, that you are impure? I might produce multitudes of more witnesses; but by the mouth of two or three witnesses, every truth shall be confirmed: and these witnesses that I have adduced at the time, are sufficient for proving the charge. O then, will you take with the reproof; and take home the conviction of your impurity and unholiness?

I shall close with two advices, in order to deliver you from this impurity that prevails.

Advice 1. Seek after the knowledge of Christ, and the things of Christ. Knowledge of Christ, in a saving way and manner, will strike at the root of all impurity: for, Beholding his glory, we are changed. And particularly, seek after the knowledge of this purity and sanctity, that I speak of, in its agreement with, and difference from justification: for, the confounding of these two, makes many legal dreams in the world. Wherein it agrees with justification, and wherein it differs, I have had occasion formerly to enlarge upon. They agree thus; 1. In their efficient; the God that justifies, is also the God that sanctifies. 2. In their end; they are both for the glory of God. 3. In their subject; the elect sinner believing : the man that is justified, is also the man that is sanctified. 4. In the instrument, namely, faith. Though in diverse respects we are justified by faith, and also sanctified by faith, or purified: yet, in justification, faith justifies as a passive instrument, as a vessel receiving the water; in sanctification, faith sanctifies and purifies as an active instrument, as a root and a spring bubbling up the water. — In justification, faith is a hand receiving, a receiving hand: in sanctification, it is a working hand. — Also, justification is first, in order of nature; sanctification is next: as the good tree is before the good fruit. — In justification a man is reckoned righteous; in sanctification, he is made righteous: in justification, he is declared righteous, by a judicial sentence; in sanctification, he is fashioned, and made righteous, and holy, by a spiritual change. — In justification, I have Christ for the Lord my righteousness; in sanctification, I have him for the Lord my strength. Our righteousness for justification is in him, as the author and worker of it: our strength for sanctification is in him, as the root and fountain of it, from whence it is communicated to us. — In justification, he works all our works for us, and we do nothing: in sanctification, he works all our work in us; and makes us do, while he worketh in us both to will and to do.

Advice 2. Having thus been brought by the knowledge of Christ and his grace, to a renewed state, then, pursue your spiritual enemies and lusts, and be daily throwing stones at them, till they be killed. I allude to 1 Sam. xvii. 40, where David, in defeating Goliath, took five smooth stones out of the brook, and cast at him. In allusion to this, I will tell you of five stones that you should daily cast at your lusts. ( 1. ) The stone of instituted means, and appointed ordinances. Is prayer a means? Is the word a means? Use these means in the Lord’s strength. ( 2. ) The stone of scriptural arguments; such as Joseph’s argument; Shall I do this great wickedness, and sin against God? David’s argument; Shall I do so and so? Then would I offend the generation of the righteous. ( 3. ) The stone of gospel promises: such as that; I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean. I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit, &c. Having these promises, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit. Plead the promises, and cry for the grace promised. ( 4. ) The stone of Christ’s mediation and prayer; John xvii. 15, 17, “Sanctify them through thy truth : thy word is truth.” While they are in the world, keep them from the evil of it. Improve the intercession of Christ. ( 5. ) The stone of Christ’s death and passion. His crucifixion is that, in the virtue whereof sin is crucified. Improve his death, and look for virtue to come from thence. — Look to the Lord for grace and skill to cast these stones into the head of Goliath.

Active Progressive Sanctification

September 7, 2008

The next post (i.e. the post that is about to be published), is a sermon from Pastor Ralph Erskine. I found it to be a convicting sermon. I hope some of my readers (perhaps those stuck away from church this Lord’s Day) will find it edifying, though I recognize that it is rather longer than a typical blog post. There is a great need to live the Christian life. Having the right doctrines is great, but Orthodoxy must walk hand in hand with Orthopraxy. Pastor Erskine’s sermon convicts the reader of his duty especially with the respect to the latter.


Cur Deus Homo? Further Response to Horne

August 10, 2008

Gene Bridges provided the following comments (link) which I have reproduced in part below:

As you noted, stating that the Covenant of Grace is in some way “conditional” or “conditioned” on faith does not lead to it being (a) meritorious or (b) pactum merit. Indeed that’s a non sequitur.

Turretin (the real one) went over this as hyper-Calvinism arose among the Supras/High Calvinists of his period. FT distinguished between faith as a meritorious condition and faith as an instrumental condition. We affirm the latter, not the former. Since the reason people believe is due to effectual calling/regeneration and that is only by way of grace that is applied by the Spirit, which comes a result of the atonement, which was accomplished by the Son in obedience to the Father (notice the Trinitarian relation-a relation the FVists often discuss), it is all of grace, as you say. Ergo, while affirming the latter (instrumental conditionality) we deny the former (that the CoG would be meritorious).

FT drew this distinction of conditions in the face of those who were seeking to collapse the decrees, and thus the conditions, into one, and therefore misconstruing the CoG. By collapsing the decrees, there were questions that arose as to the nature of conditions. In their day, they were asking if the CoG is wholly unconditional or conditional. FT’s reply was in essence that it is unconditional with respect to merit (being that it is of grace) yet conditional with respect to instrumentality. Sound like a familiar problem today…?

I answer:

Gene, there is a strong interconnect between the issue of faith’s role as condition or instrument (as well as the nature/basis of the hypothetical merit of Adam and the actual merit of the active obedience of Christ), and the issue of the atonement.

It is interesting to hear Pastor Horne turning as he does in the comments we were discussing (link) to Anselm’s “Cur Deus Homo,” which is usually thought of as a work on the atonement.

It seems that:

a) He (i.e. Pastor Horne) overlooks the role of sin in necessitating the incarnation. Contrary to Hodge et al., he seems to imagine that it is simply the fact that we are creatures that prevents us from having merit. Thus, he overlooks original sin: both in its effect of imputed guilt and in its effect of total depravity.

b) He also overlooks that Anselm states “Now it is not by any means to be supposed that the good angels were confirmed by the fall of the evil, but by their own merit. For as the good, if they had sinned with the evil, would have been condemned together with them; so the unrighteous, had they remained steadfast with the just, would have been equally confirmed in grace. For if some of them were to be confirmed only by the fall of others, either none would ever be confirmed, or it would be necessary that one should fall, who should be punished for the sake of the confirmation of the others; both of which are absurd.” (Cur Deus Homo, Book 1, Chapter XVII) While I do not fully agree with Anselm on this (I do not think confirmation in obedience was according to the merit of obedience, but according to grace) Pastor Horne’s appeal to Anselm is clearly erroneous, for Anselm does not build his argument on the theory that creatures qua creatures are unable to obtain merit of any kind.

c) He also overlooks that Anselm states: “So, therefore, when the angel had the power of depriving himself of righteousness, and did not so deprive himself, and had the power of causing himself not to be righteous, and did not so cause himself, he is rightly asserted to have given himself his own righteousness, and to have made himself righteous. In this way, therefore, has he his righteousness from himself, (for a creature can in no other way have it from himself,) and on that account is he to be praised for his righteousness; and he is righteous, not from necessity, but from free will, since that is improperly termed necessity in which there is neither
compulsion nor prohibition.” (Cur Deus Homo, Book 2, Chapter X) This, while not using the word “merit,” conveys a similar concept. As can be seen from the same chapter, a little further on, when Anselm asks the following penetrating question: “What do you say of God, who cannot sin; (and yet He did not merit this by having had the power of sinning and not sinning) is not He to be praised for His righteousness?”

Likewise, Pastor Horne appears to have the same thing in mind when he argues “Horton, if I recall, is all concerned about protecting Christ’s merit. I don’t see how that can fail to be proper merit without denying the absolute necessity of Christ’s work. There is a history of doing so among some of the Reformed, but I think it is now largely resisted and should be.” (source) But in this:

d)He overlooks that the merit of Christ’s active obedience in fulfilling the law is pactum merit. It is by the covenant of works that Christ as man deserves life on account of his obedience. That’s what makes his death significant. If he did not merit life, he would be dying for himself.

e) He also overlooks that Christ’s so-called passive obedience in suffering and dying on the cross can also be viewed pactum merit. It is not pactum merit vis-a-vis the covenant of works, but the covenant of grace. Christ’s humiliation is the condition of the covenant of grace (not our faith, as has already been distinguished in the preceding posts on this subject). It should be noted of course, that as Thomas Boston explains:

Secondly, How does the narrow way lead to life ? And,
1st. NEG. Not by way of merit, proper or improper. Proper merit is what arises from the intrinsic worth of the thing done, fully proportioned to the reward. Such is the merit of Christ’s obedience and death. But no such merit can be in our works ; for there is no proportion between our obedience and eternal life, whatever the papists pretend; Rom. viii. 18; 2 Cor. iv. 17; and whatever they be, they are due from us to God; Rom. viii. 12; Luke xvii. 10. Improper merit is what arises from paction ensuring such a reward on such a work as the condition thereof; so that the work being performed, the reward becomes a debt. So Adam’s perfect obedience would have been meritorious, namely by paction. But no such merit is in our works. Legal protestants advance this, though they do not call it merit, while they pretend that God has promised eternal life on condition of our obedience; thinking it enough to free them from the doctrine of merit, that they do not pretend to an intrinsic worth in the works, proportioned to the reward. But what more do they yield in this, than innocent Adam behoved to have yielded, had he perfected his obedience? Do they not hereby confound the two covenants? for all the difference remains only in degrees, which do not alter the kind. The scripture rejects this as well as the other;
Rom. iv. 4, and vi. 23. Paul would not lippen to it; Phil. iii. 9.

(Thomas Boston, Whole Works of the Late Reverend Thomas Boston, Volume X, p. 376 – 1851 ed.)

Thus, we acknowledge that Christ’s death, as the God-man, was (because of the dignity of his person) of infinite intrinsic merit, although we likewise acknowledge that such merit would have been completely without applicable value, if God had not condescended (as legislator) to permit substitution of the offender in the punishment of sin. In contrast, the dignity of a mere image of God is much less demanding only life for life (Genesis 9:6 Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.).

f) Indeed, he overlooks the interconnection between the covenant of works and the covenant of grace. The only way that the death of an innocent man can be pleasing to God is upon the two-fold bases that (a) the innocent man’s death is being offered on behalf of someone else and (b) that the someone else is guilty.

g) He overlooks the general impossibility of anyone meriting anything from God in the strict sense. To assert that anyone can merit (in the strict sense) anything from God would seem to be a denial of the impassivity of God. If someone will argue from Christ’s deity that impassivity is not implicated, we may likewise note that Christ did all things whatsoever he did in obedience to the will of the Father, which likewise prevents them from being acts of strict merit (though we may note that they were still deserving of glory).

At the end of the day, it is Horne who overlooks why God had to become man: the covenant of works (the law) had to be fulfilled, and so did the covenant of grace. By the merit obtained under the covenant of works, and the substitution permitted under the covenant of grace, Christ merited life for those for whom he died.

It was necessary because Christ’s righteousness is the only pure righteousness acceptable to God under the covenants. No other righteousness will do: not the righteousness of the Apostles, of the prophets, or of the greatly blessed and highly favored mother of our Lord – for they were all sinners, both by virtue of Adam’s sin (as it is written, Romans 5:19 “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.”) and their own sin (as it is written, Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;”). Only Christ’s righteousness can save, and it can and does save completely. God graciously accepts Christ’s sacrifice on behalf of those for whom it is offered by Christ. Thus, justice is satisfied while mercy is shown.

Praise be to our Loving God,


P.S. Perhaps it would of interest to some of my readers to provide a part of a poem by Ralph Erskine:

The law of works we introduce,
As if old merit were in use,
When man could life by doing won,
Ev’n though the work by grace were done.

Old Adam in his innocence
Deriv’d his power of doing hence —
As all he could was wholly due;
So all the working strength he knew,

No merit but of paction could
Of men or angels e’er be told;
The God-man only was so high
To merit by condignity.

Were life now promis’d to our act,
Or to our works by paction tack’d ;
Though God should his assistance grant,
Tis still a doing covenant.

Though Heav’n its helping grace should yield,
Yet merit’s still upon the field;
We cast the name, yet still ’tis found
Disclaim’d but with a verbal sound.

If one should borrow tools from you.
That he some famous work might do;
When once his work is well prepar’d,
He sure deserves his due reward:

Yea, justly may he claim his due,
Although he borrow’d tools from you:
Ev’n thus the borrow’d strength of grace
Can’t hinder merit to take place.

From whence soe’er we borrow pow’rs,
If life depend on works of ours;
Or if we make the gospel thus
In any sort depend on us;

We give the law the gospel-place,
Rewards of debt the room of grace;
We mix Heav’ns treasure with our trash,
And magnify corrupted flesh.

Gospel Sonnets, pp. 301-02 (1870 ed.), Ralph Erskine

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