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Knowing God

“Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” Matthew 7:22-23

Christian Experience by Edward Payson

Christian Experience

The Grateful Christian Rehearsing What God Hath Done For His Soul

On few of our race has the great Giver of every good gift, bestowed more temporal blessings than on David. He gave him, while yet a stripling, courage to attack, and strength to subdue, the lion and the bear; he rendered him victorious over the giant of Gath; he took him from the sheep-fold to be king over Israel, in his own time placed him on the throne, and crowned his reign with almost unexampled prosperity. A per­son destitute of religion, on hearing this highly favored monarch express a determination to declare what God had done for him, would naturally, therefore, have expected to hear him mention those temporal blessings as the principal favors for which he was indebted to the bounty of heaven. But such an expecta­tion would have been disappointed. So far from mentioning these things as his greatest blessings, David does not even men­tion them at all. Not that he was insensible to these favors. Not that he did not consider them as great and deserving his thanksgivings. But in comparison with his spiritual blessings, in comparison with what God had done for his soul, he regarded them, and justly regarded them as nothing. Instead, therefore, of calling men to hear of his deliverance from the lion, the bear, the Philistine, the tyrant; and his exaltation to the throne of Israel, he says, “Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what he hath done for my soul,” [Ps. 66:16].

My hearers, every real Christian, when he feels like a Chris­tian, will wish to make the language of this passage his own. However great, however numerous may be the temporal bles­sings which he has received, he will consider them as nothing in comparison with what God has done for his soul. God has done substantially the same things for the soul of every Christian which he did for the soul of David; and every Christian will wish to declare what God has done to those that fear Him. To illustrate this remark is my present design. With this view, I shall attempt to answer the three following questions:

  1. What has God done for the soul of every Christian?
  2. Why does the Christian wish to declare what God has done for his soul?
  3. Why does he wish to make this declaration to those only who fear God?

I. What has God done for the soul of every Christian? Before I answer this question, it may be proper to remind you that the Christian’s God has revealed himself as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Each of this Divine Three has done many things for his soul, and whatever is done by either of them is done by God. An answer to the question before us, must, therefore, include everything which has been done for the soul, either by the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit. The answer I shall give in the name of a Christian, or in the language which he might be supposed to adopt, while making such a declaration as that in our text.

Come then, all ye that fear God; see a Christian, meditating in deep and silent thought on the spiritual blessings which God has bestowed on him; see the expression of self-abasement, penitence, faith, hope, love, wonder, admiration and gratitude, which his countenance assumes, till at length, unable any long­er to contain or repress his emotions, he breaks forth in a hum­ble, affectionate, thankful declaration of what God has done for his soul.

Before my soul began to exist, he says, God began to provide for its salvation. He loved it with an everlasting love; he chose it to be a vessel of mercy, in which he might show forth the riches of his glory, chose it in Christ Jesus before the world began. All that he has done for me was done according to an eternal purpose, which he purposed in himself. Before I knew that I needed a Saviour, before I existed, before the foundations of the world were laid, he provided for me a Saviour, in the person of his Son, and gave me to that Saviour in the covenant of redemption, as a part of his promised reward. When in his own appointed time he called me into being, he who fixes the bounds of every human habitation, placed me in a part of the world where he knew I should have the opportunity to acquire a knowledge of himself, and to hear the gospel of salvation. He watched over my soul during the helpless years of infancy, the inexperienced season of childhood, and the dangerous peri­od of youth; and did not suffer death to bear it away to perdi­tion in an unprepared state.

While I lived without him in the world, scarcely sensible that I had a soul to lose, his guardian care shielded me from a thou­sand dangers which would have proved fatal; by the secret influence of his restraining grace, he prevented me from yield­ing to many temptations, and held me back from many sins, into which my own wicked heart, aided by the great deceiver, would have otherwise plunged me; he guided and led me along by an unseen hand, when I knew him not, and by his provi­dence ordered all my concerns in such a way as to bring me to the place where I should find salvation. Then, when I lay dead in trespasses and sins; when I was a child of wrath, justly doomed to everlasting burnings; when I was daily, by new sins, increasing my guilt and provoking him to cast me off for­ever; when the enemy of God and man kept my heart as his castle, like a strong man armed; when self-ignorance, unbelief, hardness of heart and opposition to the truth combined to chain me down in a hopeless state, and when I loved my chains too well to make any struggle for liberty;—even then he began to employ means to effect my deliverance. His Spirit came to awaken me from my lethargic state; truths which I had a thou­sand times heard in vain, were made to affect me, my con­science was awakened to reprove me, and I was led to inquire, What shall I do to be saved?

But the answer which inspiration gives to this inquiry, my darkened mind did not understand, and my proud, wicked heart would not believe. In various ways I resisted the blessed Guide who would have led me to a Saviour’s feet. When Christ knocked at the door of my heart, I refused him admission; I sought salvation by the works of the law, by my own merits; I was unwilling to repent, forsake sin and deny myself; and eagerly sought destruction, when, as I fondly imagined, I was seeking salvation. But my merciful and unchangeable God would not give me up, as I so richly deserved. He caused light to shine into my benighted mind. He led me to see the justice of my condemnation, and my inability to escape from it. He made the way of salvation appear plain to me. He subdued my proud heart and stubborn will, reconciled me to himself, gave me repentance, drew me with cords of love to a Saviour’s feet, broke my chains, delivered me from my tyrants, freely forgave my numberless offences, put his law of love in my heart, enstamped upon me his image, and came to dwell in my before disconsolate, polluted breast. He adopted me as his child, and constituted me an heir of God and a joint heir with Christ, of the heavenly inheritance. He filled me with joy and peace in believing, and taught me to abound in hope through the power of the Holy Ghost. Thus, when I was slumbering on the verge of hell, he roused me; when I was dead in sins, he raised me to life. When I was a slave, he set me free; when I was a child of disobedience, he made me a child of God; when I was an heir of perdition, he made me an heir of glory; when my heart was like a cage of unclean birds, he transformed it into the temple of the Holy Ghost. Ever since that time he has been watching over me, and carrying on his work of grace in my heart. He has taught and assisted me to pray, and has answered my prayers. He has corrected my errors and mis­takes; he has assisted me in subduing my sins and in resisting temptation; he has borne with my numberless infirmities; he has granted me ten thousand pardons; he has healed my fre­quent backslidings; he has strengthened me when weak, he has encouraged me when desponding, he has healed my soul when sick and wounded, he has consoled me when afflicted, he has wrought in me to will and to do of his own good pleasure; he has often refreshed me by his ordinances, and has sometimes caused me to rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory. No day, no hour has passed in which he did not do something for my soul.

And as if all this were not enough, he has engaged to do, and will do still more. He will strengthen me, yea he will help me, yea he will uphold me by the right hand of his righteousness. He will keep me by his power through faith unto salvation. He will be with me and comfort me when I am called to pass through the dark valley of the shadow of death, and will receive my disembodied and perfected spirit to be with himself till the resurrection. He will then bring me with him when he comes to judgment. He will raise my body immortal, incorrupt­ible and glorious, like his own; he will pronounce me blessed, and in the presence of the assembled universe, call me to inherit the kingdom prepared for me from the foundation of the world. To the possession of this kingdom I shall again ascend with him to heaven, and receive the crown and the throne which he has promised to them that overcome. Then, in the enjoyment of perfect holiness, glory and felicity, I shall be forever with the Lord.

All this he has, in effect, done for me already, since he has promised it, and with him, promise and performance are the same. For my security he has given me his eternal purpose and his solemn oath; two immutable things in which it is im­possible for him to lie. Who, then, shall lay anything to my charge? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that shall con­demn me? It is Christ that died, yea, rather that is risen again, who also maketh intercession for me. And what shall separate me from the love of Christ? Shall persecution, or distress, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Nay, in all these things I am more than a conqueror through him that loved me; and I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor the world, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate me from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus my Lord.
Such is the answer which every real Christian may give to the question, What has God done for my soul? I do not, how­ever, assert that all real Christians will venture to give this answer. Many of them may, and do doubt whether they are real Christians; whether they are not deceived by a false con­version. Hence the greater part would perhaps venture no far­ther than to say, I hope God has done these things for my soul. Their doubts do not, however, if they are Christians, affect their salvation. It is certain, whether they know it or not, that God has done, or will do everything for their souls which has now been mentioned; for he knows, if they do not, that they are Christians, and he will treat them accordingly.
II. The second question which it was proposed to answer, is, Why does the Christian, when he feels like a Christian, wish to declare what God hath done for his soul? This question has been, in part, at least, already answered. While stating what God has done, we have indirectly assigned a sufficient reason why Christians should wish to declare what he has done; for who can receive favors so great, so overwhelming, and not wish to speak of them? If we have seen or met with anything wonderful, we naturally wish to speak of it. That God should do such things for a sinful soul is beyond measure wonderful. It is by far the most wonderful of all his works. He himself represents it as such. Well then may every one for whom he has done such wonders of grace and mercy, wish to declare it.

We find that those whom our Saviour miraculously cured when he was on earth, loudly proclaimed and published every where how great things God had done for them. They could not keep silence, even when he charged them to do it. His power, his goodness, and the benefits he had bestowed on them appeared so great, so astonishing, that they could not hold their peace. Much more, then, may Christians whose spiritual mala­dies have been healed, to whom God has made far greater and more astonishing displays of his power and grace, feel unable to conceal what God has done for their souls. They must speak of them for the same reason that saints and angels in heaven sing God’s praises, because they are so full that they cannot contain themselves. They must give vent to their feelings. Gratitude constrains them to speak. It is a relief to their burst­ing hearts, burdened and overwhelmed with the weight of inestimable favors, to show what great things God has done for them, and how he has had mercy on them.

Regard for God’s glory also prompts the Christian to speak. He feels that what God has done for him is a most glorious work; that it involves a most glorious display of the divine perfections. He wishes therefore to proclaim it, that men may know how wonderfully merciful and gracious God is. Thus the Samaritan leper, when cleansed from his leprosy, turned back, and, with a loud voice, glorified God.

The Christian, farther, wishes to declare what God has done for his soul, in order that others may assist him in praising the bountiful Benefactor. His own unassisted voice is not loud enough. His own praises seem altogether insufficient. He would have his praises and thanksgivings heard through the world. He would have the whole human family, were it pos­sible, join with him in one universal chorus of praise to God; and while he tells what God has done for his soul, his desires are expressed in the words of the Psalmist, O come, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together. Such are some of the reasons why every Christian wishes to declare what God has done for his soul.

III. Why does he wish to make this declaration to those only who fear God. He does so,
First, Because they alone can understand such a declaration. He might indeed speak to others of temporal favors, or what God has done for his body; but should he begin to declare what God had done for his soul, his language would be scarcely intelligi­ble, and they would regard him as an enthusiast or a madman. Conviction, conversion, the pardon of sin, adoption into God’s family, communion with God, and a title to heaven, are expres­sions which convey almost no meaning to the mind of an irre­ligious man. Agreeably, we are told that to such the gospel is foolishness, and that they receive not the things of the spirit of God, neither can they know them because they are spiritually discerned. Hence the apostle, after exclaiming, Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed on us, that we should be called the sons of God, adds; The world knoweth us not, that is knows nothing of the blessings and privileges which we enjoy, because it knew him not. Paul, also, speaking in the name of Christians, says, now we have received not the Spirit of the world, but the spirit of God; that we may know the things that are freely given us of God; thus plainly intimat­ing that those only who have been taught by the Holy Ghost, know or understand the spiritual blessings which God bestows on his people. And in the same chapter he adds, He that is spiritual discerneth all things, but he himself is discerned of no man; that is, no man discerns or knows what he has received and what he enjoys.

The Christian wishes to make this declaration to those only who fear God, in the second place, because they alone will re­ally believe him. As those who have no fear of God, do not un­derstand what blessings he has bestowed on his people, so neith­er do they believe that such blessings are ever bestowed. Hence, should they hear a Christian declaring what God has done for him, they would either despise him as a proud boaster, or pity him as a weak, deluded fanatic, whose vain fancies had bewil­dered him into a fool’s paradise. Accordingly, the author of the book of Ecclesiastes represents the wicked as ridiculing the righteous, for calling themselves the children of the Lord, and making their boast that God is their father.

In the third place, the Christian wishes to make this declara­tion to those only who fear God, because they only will listen with interest, or join with him in praising his Benefactor. Men destitute of godly fear, would listen to an idle tale or empty dream with more interest than to his relation; and even did they understand and believe it, they would not praise God on his ac­count, but would rather murmur at God as partial, because he had not conferred similar blessings on them also. But not so they that fear God. These will listen with interest, for they love to hear of God’s wondrous works of mercy and grace. They will join with him in his joyful and grateful expressions of praise, for they know in some measure the dangers from which he has been rescued, and the number, worth, and magnitude of the blessings which he has received. They know that God has in­deed done great things for the soul of everyone who is saved; they can, like the angels, rejoice over every sinner that repenteth; nay more; they can sympathize in his joy, for they have them­selves been in the same situation, and tasted of the same deliv­erance. Hence, while the Christian exclaims, The Lord hath done great things for my soul, whereof I am glad; they can re­spond, yes, he has done great things for you, and for us also, and blessed be his name.

Thus have been answered the three questions suggested by the text. It remains only to make some improvement of the subject.
To those of us who have publicly professed ourselves the dis­ciples of Christ, this subject is peculiarly interesting. By mak­ing such a profession, we expressed a persuasion, or at least a prevailing hope, that we were Christians; and of course that God either had done, or in due time would do for us, everything which has now been mentioned. I have a right, then, my pro­fessing hearers, to address you as persons who, at least, hope that God has done these things for your souls. Permit me then to ask you, in view of this subject,

  1. Whether the returns which God requires of you in the gospel, are not most reasonable? He there tells you that you are not your own, that you are bought with a price, and requires you, therefore, to glorify him in your bodies and spirits which are his; —to feel that you are his property, to act as his servants, to consecrate yourselves and all that you possess to him. Now, is not this requisition most reasonable? Has he not a right to expect that we should comply with it? Even if he had not created us, if he were not our rightful sovereign, if he had no rights but those of a benefactor, no claims but those which are founded on what he has done for our souls, might he not still justly expect from us all that he requires, all that we can render? What, O what can be too valuable to give to him who gave his own Son to die for us? What, O what can be too difficult to do, or too painful to suffer, for him who has done and suffered so much for us? What returns may not he justly expect who, at an expense so infinite, redeemed our immortal souls from eter­nal death, and bestowed on them everlasting life? Surely we must forget what God has done for us, if we can think his re­quisitions hard or unreasonable; if we ever hesitate to perform any duty, or to make any sacrifice which he requires. And have any of you, my professing friends, been guilty of this for­getfulness? Have you hesitated to make the returns, to per­form the duties, to offer the sacrifices which your Benefactor requires. Has it ceased to be your habitual language, Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits? If so, you may,

  2. Learn from this subject how inexcusable is your ingrati­tude, how much reason you have for sorrow, shame and self-abasement. In order to this, review once more what God has done for you, and contrast it with your returns to him. Have you not, in multiplied instances, rewarded him evil for good? Do you not discover in your past conduct, innumerable proofs of unkindness, unfaithfulness and ingratitude? And O, how black, how base is ingratitude in us! Of all beings that exist on earth or in heaven, the Christian has by far the most cause to be grateful even more than the blessed angels themselves. Of course, ingratitude in a Christian is more criminal and hateful than it would be in any other being. O then, what deep, what bitter repentance ought we to feel! And can you avoid feeling it? Can any Christian be otherwise than broken-hearted when he contemplates God as his Father, Benefactor, and Redeemer, loving him with an everlasting love, promoting his happiness with unceasing care, and doing so much, so very much for his salvation? Can any Christian recollect without a pang, that he has neglected, disobeyed and grieved his Father, his Sovereign, his Benefactor, through fear of offending a fellow-worm, or to gratify some base lust, or to avoid some trifling evil, or to ob­tain some imaginary good? O, it may well wring our hearts with anguish to reflect what weak temptations, what insignifi­cant trifles have led us to sin; have had more weight with us than the wishes, the commands, the entreaties of that Friend for whom we ought to think it an honor and a privilege to shed our blood. Surely then, my brethren, we cannot but repent. Surely the overwhelming goodness of God must lead us to repentance, and constrain us to turn to him with our whole hearts, with weeping and mourning and humble confession. Surely, we must approach the table of our still forgiving, though often of­fended Lord, with feelings like those of the penitent who wash­ed the Saviour’s feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. And we shall go from his table, crying, What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits? and resolv­ing to bring forth fruits meet for repentance. By all your hopes of heaven, by all that God has done for your souls, by the dy­ing love of his Son, who is here set forth crucified before you, and of whose flesh and blood you are now to partake, I beseech and conjure you to do this; to live as becomes those for whose sakes so much has been done, and to present yourselves afresh, as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. If you refuse or neglect to do this, how can you any longer profess a hope in Christ, or come any more to his table? As often as you approach it, you publicly profess a hope that God has done, or will do for your souls, everything which has now been mentioned. And can you express such a hope as this, without living in a corresponding manner? Can you bear to say, one hour, I believe, or hope that God has done all this for my soul, and the next hour, say by your conduct, I feel no gratitude, and shall make him no returns? Can you bear that the world should have occasion to say, there is a man who professes to believe that God has done, we know not how many wonderful things for his soul, and yet he shows little more thankfulness, or religious sensibility or concern for his Master’s honor, than we do, who profess nothing? O, my brethren, we must, we must, be consistent. We must either cease to express a hope that God has done all this for us, or we must live as be­comes those for whom so much has been done. We must either love much, or cease to express a hope that much has been for­given us.

I need not tell you that nothing is more irksome than to hear a person whose life exhibits little of the power of religion, adopt the language of our text, and relate a long tale of his conver­sion and religious experience. The language of open impiety itself is not so disgusting. How inexpressibly loathsome, then, must we appear to the holy, heart-searching God, if we call him our God, style ourselves his children, address him in long prayers, and come to his table, while he sees little or no love, zeal or sin­cerity in our hearts. Well may he compare such persons to lukewarm water, and cast them from him with disgust, exclaim­ing, I would thou wert either cold or hot.
Yet even such characters he will freely forgive, if they now repent. Let none be driven away by a sense of guilt. Let us come rather and present him that sacrifice of a broken heart which he will never despise, however unworthy the hand that offers it. Do this, my brethren, and the reception of new par­don and new mercies, will give you new reason to cry, Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what he hath done for my soul.

Blessed Reciprocity by Edward Payson

The Reciprocal Interest of Christ and His People.

The most learned, judicious and pious commentators, both Jewish and Christian, have ever considered this book, as a kind of parable, or allegory, which represents in a highly figurative, but striking manner, the mutual affection which subsists between Christ and his church. The correctness of this view is confirmed by the fact, that in both the Old and New Testaments, Christ is often represented as the husband of his church, whilst the church is styled the bride, the Lamb’s wife. The apostle in­deed, intimates, that the marriage union was designed by God is exemplify the union between the Saviour and his people, —adding, this is a great mystery. And however strange or im­proper some of the figurative expressions in this book, which refer to that mystery, may appear to us, they are perfectly agreeable to the manners and language of eastern nations, and were deemed fit and proper by those in whose age and country they were written.

The persons who are introduced as speaking in this allegori­cal drama, are Christ, his church and her companions, who are called the daughters of Jerusalem. The words of our text were uttered by the church. I need not tell you to whom they refer. I need not tell you that Christ, and he alone, is emphatically the beloved of his church. He it is, whom having not seen they love; for Christ himself informs us, that he has not a real dis­ciple on earth, who does not love him more than possessions, friends or life itself. Now every such disciple, every real Christian may say, Christ is mine and I am his. To illustrate and estab­lish this assertion is my present design.

I. Every real Christian may say, Christ is mine. There are five different ways in which anything may become ours. The first is by formation, or production. In this way the arti­cles which we construct, and the fruits of the earth which our labor produces, become ours. The second is by purchase, or exchange. In this way we obtain many things which were pre­viously the property of others. The third is by inheritance. In this manner we become possessed of the property of deceased relatives. The fourth is by conquest. In this manner many things are acquired, especially by sovereign princes. The last is by gift. In this manner whatever is bestowed on us by the generosity of others, becomes our property. Among all these ways, there is only one in which Christ can become ours. He cannot become ours by formation, for he created us, and not we him. He cannot become ours by right of inheritance; for we are the offspring of a degenerate race and can inherit nothing from them but sin and misery. He cannot become ours by pur­chase; for he will not sell himself, and if he would, who is rich enough to pay the price? He cannot become ours by conquest, for who is able to overcome Omnipotence? There is but one other way in which anything can become ours, viz. by gift; and in this way Christ becomes the property of all his people.

In the first place, he is given to them by his Father. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and gave his Son that he might be a propitiation for our sins. God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son. And again, he gave him to be head over all things to his church.

In the second place, Christ gives himself to his people. He loved me, says the apostle, and gave himself for me. Christ loved the church and gave himself for it. In thus giving him­self for us, he gave himself to us; for he speaks of giving us his flesh to eat, his blood to drink, his soul to be an offering for our sins, and his Spirit to dwell in and sanctify us. Since then Christ is thus given to us by his Father, and by himself, noth­ing is necessary to make him ours but the cordial reception of this gift. But every Christian does cordially receive him, by faith, as the free, unmerited gift of God, and thus Christ be­comes his, so that he may exclaim, My beloved is mine, my Sa­viour, my Head, my Life, my everlasting portion.
II. And as Christ is the property of all true Christians, so, all Christians are his.

We have already mentioned the various ways in which the property of anything may be acquired. In all these ways Christians are the property of Christ. In the first place, they are his by creation; for by him and for him they were created. Their existence is not only given, but preserved by him; for he upholds all things by the word of his power. He it is that made us, and not we ourselves; so that we are the sheep of his pasture and the people of his hand.

In the second place, they are his by inheritance; for we are told that the Father hath appointed him heir of all things. As the first-born and only begotten Son of God, he is sole heir of all the Father’s possessions. Of this ample inheritance, the church is, in an especial manner, a part; for we read that the Lord’s portion is his people; Israel is the lot of his inheritance.
In the third place, they are his by purchase; for he has bought them, bought them with his own blood. If it be asked, how he could purchase what was already his own; I reply, though they were his by right of creation and of inheritance, yet they had fraudulently sold themselves to other masters, and by so doing had forfeited their lives into the hands of justice. The justice of God, and the law of God, had a claim upon them which must be satisfied, before the Saviour could claim them as his. This claim Christ satisfied. He gave himself a sacrifice in their stead, and thus redeemed or ransomed them from the curse of the law and from the fires of hell. Hence the language of the apostle, ye have sold yourselves for naught and ye shall be ransomed without money. They are so. Ye know, says the apostle to Christians, that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. Ye are not therefore your own ye are bought with a price.

In the fourth place, Christians are the property of Christ by right of conquest. If it be asked, how it could be necessary, that Christ should acquire the possession of them both by pur­chase and conquest, I answer, after he had paid the price of their redemption, the tyrants to whom they had sold themselves refused to give them up. They had sold themselves to sin, and thus became its slaves; for whoso committeth sin is the slave of sin, and in consequence of this, they were held as captives by the cord of their iniquities. By thus becoming slaves to sin, they had rendered themselves the captives of satan, so that they were led captive by him at his will, and he as a strong man armed, kept possession of their hearts as his castle. Being then the captives of him who has the power of death, they became subject to death, and liable to be shut up, not only in the grave, but in hell. From all these tyrants, it therefore becomes neces­sary to rescue them by force. This Christ has done. He, as the Lord of hosts, the Lord strong and mighty in battle, is strong­er than the strong man armed. By the power of his grace he saves his people from their sins, breaking the otherwise inde­structible cords in which they were bound. He has also defeat­ed and spoiled the principalities and powers of darkness, tri­umphing over them in his cross. He has entered the dominions of death, taken away his sting, and received the keys both of the grave and of hell. Hence we are told, that when he as­cended on high, he led captivity captive, that is, he led as cap­tives those enemies, who had captivated and enslaved his peo­ple. Nor was this all! It was also necessary that he should conquer his people, for they had become enemies to him, by wicked works. The language of their hearts and of their con­duct was, “We will not have this man to reign over us.” What was the state of their hearts we may learn from the impressive lan­guage of the Apostle. The weapons of our warfare, says he, are mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds, casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. From this passage, it appears that the minds of men are full of strong holds, high things, and lofty imaginations, which oppose and keep out the knowledge of God; and all these things Christ is obliged to cast down and destroy, before his people become willing to obey him. Well then may it be said that they are his by right of conquest.

Hence, lastly, they become his by gift. In the first place, they are given to him by his Father. This is asserted in places too numerous to mention. We shall quote but one. Speaking of Christians in his last intercessory prayer, he says to his Fath­er, “Thine they were, and thou gayest them to me; and all thine are mine.”

In the second place, all true Christians have voluntarily given themselves to Christ. Conquered by his grace, constrained by his love, and gratefully affected by what he has done for them, they have freely and joyfully given away themselves to him, to be his forever, and consecrated all their powers and faculties to his service. Thus a union is formed between Christ and his church, which is by the inspired writers compared to the mar­riage union, and to that which subsists between the head and the members of the human body. He becomes bound to them, and they to him, by the bonds of an everlasting covenant, which shall never be broken; and they may therefore triumphantly exclaim, Our beloved is ours and we are his, and nothing shall ever dissolve this union or separate us from him. But it may perhaps be asked, since Christ is but one and Christians are many, how can each individual Christian possess Christ, so as to say with propriety, Christ is mine? I answer, because there is a sufficiency in Christ for all. He is infinite, and Christians are finite; and all finite beings united cannot exhaust infinity. Besides, it is the nature of every blessing which God has given us to be shared in common, that each one may possess it, with­out excluding others. Take for instance the sun. God design­ed this luminary to be a common blessing. There is therefore light and heat in it sufficient for all. Each one of you my friends derives the same advantages from the sun, as if there were no person to share them with you. What if thousands and millions in other parts of the world, and in other planets around it, are at this moment possessing and rejoicing in the sun’s light and warmth? Does that at all deprive you of these blessings? Is not the sun still as much yours as your happiness requires? Could it be more perfectly yours, if you were the only being on whom it shines? Now Christ is the Sun of righteousness, and everyone who will look to him as such, may possess him as perfectly as if there were not another Christian in the world, to share in his beams. Hence, as every person who has eyes, may say, the sun is mine, God has given it to me, to warm, enligh­ten, and guide me; so every Christian may say, Christ is mine; God has given him to me, to bless, to guide and save me with an everlasting salvation.

The subject we have been considering, my friends, is to the Christian, full, not only of consolation, but of instruction. To some of the most important truths which it teaches, I propose to call your attention.
1. From this subject you may learn something of the worth and interest of the Christian’s portion. A pious man once visi­ted a friend, who had recently come into possession of a very large landed property. His friend, after some conversation, led him to the top of his house which commanded an extensive pros­pect, and directing his attention successively to a great number of valuable objects, added, after the mention of each particular, “that is mine.” After he had finished the long catalogue of his possessions, his guest asked, “Do you see yonder cottage on the waste? There lives a poor widow who can say more than you can; she can say, Christ is mine.” My friends, did the rich man or the poor widow, possess the more valuable property? But the very question is dishonorable to Christ. Could the rich man have pointed to the sun and moon, the planets, and the fixed stars, and said with truth, all these are mine; still his posses­sions, weighed against the poor widow’s treasure, would have been lighter than vanity. The Creator must be worth infinitely more than the whole creation. He can do that for those who possess him, which the whole creation cannot do. He can wash away their sins, he can sanctify their natures, he can support them under afflictions, he can prepare them for death, he can fill their souls with happiness, and he can make that happiness eternal; neither of which the whole creation could do for its pos­sessor. O how rich then, how incalculably rich is the poorest Christian! He is the only being who is not now able and who never will be able to calculate the worth of his possessions. In possessing Christ, he possesses all things, for he possesses him who created and who disposes of all things. He is a joint heir with him who is heir of all things. Well then might the Apos­tle say to Christians, all things are yours. Well may Christ say to his poorest disciple, I know thy poverty, but thou art rich. And well may every Christian, contemplating his portion, cry, Thanks, thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift!

  1. We may learn from our subject to whom this incompara­ble gift belongs; who it is that without presumption, may say, Christ is mine. Every man, my friends, may say this, who can with truth repeat the other part of our text; who can truly say, Christ is my beloved and I am his property. The relation be­tween Christ and his people, like that between a father and a son, is mutual. As no man can say respecting another, he is my father, unless he can truly add, I am his son; so no one can say of Christ, he is mine; unless he can truly add, I am his; and no one can in this sense say, I am Christ’s, unless he has freely given himself to Christ, to be his forever. Nor can anyone thus give himself to Christ, who does not love him with su­preme affection, who cannot say, he is emphatically my beloved. Can you then my friends say this? Is Christ emphatically he whom your souls love? Have you freely and joyfully given yourselves to him, in an everlasting covenant, to be his and his only? If so, he has no less freely given himself to you. He has loved you and given himself for you, for his language is, “I love them that love me.” Whenever then you can be sure that you love Christ, you may feel assured that he loves you. When you can with truth say, I am Christ’s, you may always with truth add, Christ is mine.

But those who cannot with truth utter the whole of this pas­sage cannot with truth utter any part of it; and if they attempt so to do, they will put asunder what God has joined, and final­ly perish in their own unbelief.

  1. From this subject, my Christian friends, you may learn the extent of your duty. I am Christ’s, are words easily said, but the engagements which they imply are not so easily fulfill­ed. If we are his, we are no longer our own. If we are his, then everything that we possess is his—our time, our posses­sions, our strength, our influence, our powers of body and fac­ulties of mind, all are his, and must be consecrated to his ser­vice and glory; and if we love him supremely, they will be so, for the whole man ever follows the heart. The object which possesses our hearts will possess ourselves. And if we are Christ’s, we shall make his cause our own, his interest our own, his honor our own, and shall rejoice when we are counted wor­thy to suffer pain and shame for his name. This the apostle speaks of, as a truth with which he presumed all Christians were acquainted. What, know ye not that ye are not your own, for ye are bought with a price? Glorify God therefore, in your bodies and your spirits which are God’s. For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself; for whether we live, we live unto the Lord, or whether we die, we die unto the Lord; whether we live, therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s. If this view of the obligations which are implied in saying, I am Christ’s, appears discouraging, consider for your own encourage­ment,
  2. How great are the privileges which result from an ability to say, Christ is mine. If Christ is yours, then all that he pos­sesses is yours. His power is yours to defend you, his wisdom and knowledge are yours to guide you, his righteousness is yours to justify you, his Spirit and grace are yours to sanctify you; his heaven is yours to receive you. He is as much yours as you are his, and as he requires all that you have to be given to him, so he gives all that he has to you. Come to him, then, with holy boldness and take what is your own. Remember you have al­ready received what is most precious, and what it was most dif­ficult for him to give, his body, his blood, his life. And surely he who has given them, will not refuse you smaller blessings. If when you were enemies to God, you were reconciled to him by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, you shall be saved by his life. You will never live happily or usefully, you will never highly enjoy or greatly adorn religion, until you can feel that Christ, and all that he possesses, are yours; and learn to come and take them as your own. Then you will have all and abound, and find that in possessing Christ you do in­deed possess many things.
  3. From this subject, my professing friends, you may learn what is the nature of the ordinance which you are about to cel­ebrate, and what you are about to do at the Lord’s table. In this ordinance we give ourselves to Christ, and he gives himself to us. He gives us himself in the symbols of his body and blood, and we renew the dedication of ourselves to him. He gives himself to us as a sacrifice slain for our sins, and we pre­sent ourselves as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to him. This is the language of our conduct at the Lord’s table. Is it also the language of your hearts? Are they saying, Christ, my friend, my beloved is mine, and I am his —willingly, joy­fully his? If so, come and receive Christ, for he is yours. Come and give yourself to Christ, for you are his.

One word to those who are about to depart, and I have done. You have heard, my friends, that those who will give themselves to Christ shall receive him in return. This exchange I now propose to you. I offer you Christ’s heart in exchange for yours.

Why Should You Spend Your Life Studying Christian Theology – part

Why Should You Spend Your Life Studying Christian Theology – part a

O God, You have taught me from my youth;

And to this day I declare Your wondrous works. 

Now also when I am old and grayheaded,

O God, do not forsake me,

Until I declare Your strength to this generation,

Your power to everyone who is to come.

Psalms 71:17-18


Introduction Questions:

  • How do people within the modern church view Christian theology today?
  • How big is the theology section of our local “Christian” book store?  What is the biggest section called?
  • How do people outside the church view Christian Theology?
  • Who should be concerned with Christian theology?
  • How does Ps. 71:17-18 explain how the Christian should view Christian theology?

Reymond offers 5 reasons why Christian theology deserves the church’s and the world’s highest interest and respect.  By Christian theology, we mean the study of the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments by means of the historical, grammatical and theological approach.

  1. The example of Jesus’ own theological method
  2. Christ’s mandate to the church to disciple and teach all nations
  3. The apostolic model
  4. The example and activity of the New Testament church
  5. The very nature of Holy Scripture and the revealed Word of God

1 – The Example of Jesus’ Own Theological Method

Jesus Regarded the Old Testament As Historical

Jesus regarded the old testament as historically accurate.  Just using Matthew’s gospel alone as an example, Jesus refers to the following Old Testament events.  In each case, He represents these events as historically true and accurate.

  • Matt. 19:4-5 – creation of Adam & Eve
  • Matt. 23:35 – murder of Abel
  • Matt. 24:37 – the times of Noah and the Genesis flood
  • Matt. 10:15 – the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah
  • Matt. 22:31-32 – the Word of God coming to Moses
  • Matt. 12:3-4 – David’s eating the bread of the presence
  • Matt. 23:35 – the stoning of Zechariah
  • Matt. 12:40 – the swallowing of Jonah by the great fish
  • Matt. 12:41 – Jonah’s preaching and Ninevah’s repentance
  • Matt. 8:11; 13:14; 15:7-8; 24:15 – allusions to other Old Testament characters such as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Isaiah, and Daniel

Jesus Regarded the Old Testamament  As Inspired

There are also several passages in Matthew that show that Jesus regarded the Old Testament Scriptures as the very words of God.


And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? – Matt 19:4-5

Notice that Jesus attributes the words from Genesis 2:24 as coming from “He who made them at the beginning” (God).


But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying,  “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’ ? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” – Matt. 22:31-32

In this passage, Jesus attributes the words of Exodus 3:6 as being “spoken to you by God”.  He regarded these words as being spoken to Moses and to His own contemporaries (and therefore even to us).  Moreover, Jesus even hung his argument on the present tense verb “I am”, showing that Abraham was still alive and would be resurrected someday from death.  This is amazing.  This shows that Jesus believed that the words of Scripture were so carefully superintended by the Holy Spirit that even a particular verb tense, being without error, could be trusted to support a Christian doctrine.


He said to them, “How then does David in the Spirit call Him ‘Lord,’ saying:


    ‘Sit at My right hand,

    Till I make Your enemies Your footstool’ ”?

If David then calls Him “Lord,’ how is He his Son?” – Matt. 22:43-45

In the above passage, Jesus bases His argument that He is the Son of God on Psalms 110.  He tells us that David was superintended by the Holy Spirit (“in the Spirit”).  He also hangs his entire argument on David’s use of the word ‘adon’ (lord).


We could examine many other such texts within the Gospels that show that Jesus regarded the Old Testament as inspired scripture.  But we will stop here.

Does the Old Testament Demand the Killing of Other Human Beings for Religious Reasons?

Whenever we examine Jesus’s endorsement of the historicity of the Old Testament, the following question will often arise.  Did the God of the Old Testament demand people to kill other people for religious reasons.  Examples of this can be found in Deut. 2:34 “We took all his cities at that time, and we utterly destroyed the men, women, and little ones of every city; we left none remaining.”, Deut. 3:6 “And we utterly destroyed them, as we did to Sihon king of Heshbon, utterly destroying the men, women, and children of every city.”  Also, some will quote the “imprecatory” (invoking a curse from God) Psalms in Ps. 5:10;10:15;55:15;69:22-25; 109:9-13).  Do these not show that the Old Testament condones the same kind of violence that many find repulsive in the radical Islamic terrorism of today.  There are many examples in scripture where God calls on Israel to destroy its enemies.  Would Jesus agree with such practices?


As Christian’s we must be able to provide an answer to our culture, which today often prides itself with being tolerant.  The following are reasons why God at times commanded the killing of other human beings within the Old Testament for religious reasons, and why Jesus has commanded us to “love your enemies” (Matt 5:44, Luke 6:27,35)

  • The Old Testament also forbids all forms of personal vengeance and commands us to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:17-18)
  • The Old and New Testaments are in harmony in declaring that vengeance belongs to the Lord alone.  “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.” – Romans 12:19 (also see Deut. 32:35)
  • The “imprecatory” Psalms are all prayers in which the psalmist commits His problems to God and leaves it up to God to take vengeance.  They show the psalmist’ obedient faith towards God and non-retaliatory intent toward man, expressing indignation regarding his enemies flaunting of God’s holy name.  The psalmist main concern is the vindication of God’s name and therefore an expression of a perfect hatred (Ps. 139:21-22).
  • Jesus and the apostles also pronounced curses towards their enemies (see Matt. 23:13; Gal. 1:8; Rev. 19:1-5)
  • The destruction of those who wished to harm Israel was necessary for preserving the seed of the Messiah.  For example, when Sihon the Kind of the Amorites “gathered all his people together and went out against Israel in the wilderness, and he came to Jahaz and fought against Israel.” (Num 21:23), the Amorites posed a threat to the continuation of the people of God and the fulfillment of the Abrahamic promise.
  • Deut. 9:4 is very clear that God ordered the destruction of the Canaanites because of their own wickedness, “Do not think in your heart, after the LORD your God has cast them out before you, saying, ‘Because of my righteousness the LORD has brought me in to possess this land’; but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is driving them out from before you.” – Deut. 9:4  This principle of the destruction of the wicked is also displayed in the world wide flood and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.  The new testament is in full agreement with setting forth these events as examples for us today, that if we do not turn and repent towards God, we will likewise suffer His everlasting wrath.

For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment;  and did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly;  and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly; – 2 Peter 2:4-6


But I want to remind you, though you once knew this, that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.  And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day; as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.  – Jude 5-7

What is Christian Apologetics – part b

  • What is Christian Apologetics – part b

    “The most crucial issue facing the Christian apologetist is that of method: Should the apologist in his effort to defend the faith and to persuade the unbeliever of Christianity’s truth claims reason to or from special revelation?  Said another way, Should the Christian apologist begin his defense of the faith standing within the circle of revelation or with the unbeliever outside the circle of revelation?” (Robert Reymond, Faith’s Reasons For Believing, p. 26)

    Where do we start from?

    How we answer the following questions will determine where a person starts when engaging in apologetics.

    What is the nature and function of general revelation?

    Major Apologetic Methods:

  • What is the nature and function of special revelation?
  • Are there “two books” of knowledge, specifically general and special revelation?  Or just one?
  • How does sin effect man’s ability to know God?
  • What is the character of faith?
  • What is the test of truth?
  • What kind of certainty does Christianity offer?
  • What is the value of theistic proofs?
  • What is the value of Christian evidences?
  • What is the nature of the common ground between believer and unbeliever that allows for intelligent conversation? 
  1. Evidentialism
    • all truth is discovered through sense perception 
    • asserts the ability and trustworthiness of human reason in its search for religious knowledge
    • relies on probability arguments using empirical or historically verifiable facts
    • insists that religious propositions must be subjected to the same kind of verification that scientific assertions must undergo
    • examples would be the Thomistic Roman Catholic tradition (see Thomas Aquinas), inconsistent Reformed evidentialist (i.e. R.C. Sproul and John Gerstner), and the Arminian tradition)
  2. Presuppositionalism (or Biblical Foundationalism or scripturalism)
    • fear of the Lord precedes understanding everything else (Prov. 1:7)
    • understanding follows upon and is governed by the faith commitment.  This is often expressed by the Latin expression Credo ut intelligam (“I believe in order that I may understand”).
    • believes that human depravity has made human autonomous reason incapable of understanding truth
    • the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit is necessary for Christian faith and enlightenment.
    • example would be the consistent reformed tradition
  3. Experientialism
    • stresses inward religious experience as the foundation of truth instead of evidence or written revelation
    • subjective religious experience is the ground of truth and meaning
    • insistence upon the paradoxical character of Christian teaching and that Christian truth is not capable of rational analysis
    • strong emphasis on transcendence and hiddenness of God in religious experience.
    • example would be the Neo-orthodox tradition (see Karl Barth)

Follow Up Questions:

  • Why would an arminian naturally tend towards evidentialism?
  • What does the Bible say about man’s ability to understand truth?  Read Prov. 2:6-7; John 1:4-5; 14:6,16-17; Col. 2:2; 1Cor. 1:17-20 
  • What about Romans 1:32; 2:12-16?  Seems like unbelieving man kind knows a lot without “special revelation”  Are these truths understood through sense perception?  Do they know these truths with certainty?
  • Why are presuppositionalist often labeled as “gnostic”.  What is gnosticism?  How is it different from presuppositionalism?

Related Articles:

What is Christian Apologetics – part A

What is Christian Apologetics – part A

See the Apologetics Podcasts for an mp3 download of this study.

Definition of Apologetics:

Christian apologetics is the intellectual discipline wherein the intelligent effort is made carefully to delineate and to contend for the truth claims of the Christian faith before the unbelieving world, specifically, its claims of exclusive true knowledge of the one living and true God, in a manner that is consistent with the teaching of Holy Scripture.
Comes from the Greet root “apolog” – defense or reply to a formal charge.
Nature – both defensive and offensive

The Biblical Mandate of Apologetics:

1 Pet. 3:15-16 
And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good?  14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” 15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense [pros apologian] to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;  16 having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed.  17 For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.
  1. command to “sanctify” (regard as holy) God in the face of persecution, and to be ready
  2. assumes a heart of faith “hope that is in you” that can be recognized by others
  3. implies that all Christians are capable of engaging in apologetics
  4. assumes communication with unbelievers
  5. calls on every believer to be ready on every occasion to give to anyone who asks, the reason for his faith in Christ.
  6. indicates the attitude that we should have when engaging in apologetics, “meekness and fear”
This passage does not say we can “reason” men into the kingdom of God.

The “Paraclete” is the master “Apologete”. 

Reymond – “A divinely initiated, regenerating work of almighty grace accompanying the gospel proclamation is alone capable of enabling men to enter the kingdom of heaven” (Faith’s Reasons For Believing, p. 20).

What comes first: Apologetics or Exegesis/Systematics?

If we start with apologetics and allow unaided fallen man to establish both the possibility and presuppositions of Christian theology, what must we deny?
What is necessary before anyone can engage in apologetics?

Aspects of the Task of Apologetics:

  1. To answer particular objections.  For example, resolve alleged contradictions between scripture statements.  Respond to hostile theories to biblical truths such as Christ’s bodily resurrection, His virgin birth, His miracles, etc.  Such discussions with unbelievers will naturally lead to the defense of basic Christian presuppositions (which leads us to #2).
  2. To give an account of the foundations of the Christian faith.  Such foundational issues may involve the following questions.
    • Does God exist?
    • Has he revealed himself?  If so, where and how?
    • Why do I believe these things?
    • How do I know that what I believe is true?
    • This leads us to the study of epistemology (branch of philosophy dealing with the theory of knowledge: what is knowledge, how is knowledge acquired, how do we know what we know.) 
  3. To challenge non-Christian systems.  This involves exposing the irrationality inherent within non-Christian systems of thought.
  4. To persuade men of the truth claims of the Christian faith.  Goal should be evangelistic not merely to “win an argument”.