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My next proof of a second work of grace is based upon the fact that men and women in the merely justified state do not and generally feel that they cannot live up to the Bible standard.
Thirteen years of experience, observation and conversation among faithful believers in this initial grace clearly evince to me that there is an underlying sentiment quite common that the Bible is not altogether practical; that it is a pure and perfect standard which all should aim at but no one can expect to measure up to in this life, or at least is very difficult. This semi-infidelity often crops out in expressions as follows: “I am striving to do the will of God;” “I am trying to live as near right as I can;” “I want to obey God just as far as it is possible.” These and similar expressions, very common, all betray a half suppressed conviction that the requirements of the bible are somewhat beyond our capacity in our present situation. They would revere the Bible as all right; hence ascribe their shortcomings to the peculiar circumstances with which they are surrounded.
The fretful mother thinks if she were not harassed by so many children and household cares she could live in perfect patience. The toiling poor fancy that plenty of this world’s goods would fill their hearts with constant peace, gratitude and devotion to God while the rich suppose their circumstances less compatible with a holy life than the former class. The businessman hopes to enjoy the fruition of unbroken “fellowship with the father and with the Son,” after retiring from active life. Some ascribe the vexations that interrupt their religious enjoyment to physical infirmities. Others blame their neighbors and not a few their preacher or church that they cannot get on better in religion and enjoy constantly the river of peace and fullness of God vouchsafed in the Bible.
Now, whether we attribute this discrepancy to the impracticability of the Bible or the incongeniality of our condition in life, we impeach the goodness and wisdom of God. We either cast upon Him the blasphemous reflection that He did not know the circumstances to which we are necessitated in this world or lacked the ability to give us a religion adapted thereto. But the “more grace” solves the difficulty. It shows us that the trouble is not in the Bible nor external surroundings, but a want of internal conformity to God and His holy law.
Christ says. “My commandments are not grievous.” “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” By His yoke and burden He evidently meant all the obligations imposed by the laws of His kingdom; hence, there must be a state of grace in which it is perfectly easy to fulfill all the will of God.
Have you, dear reader, reached this point? Can you pull sweetly in all the ethics of heaven laid down by the Son of God? Suppose we try His sermons, Matthew chapters 5 and 6 and Luke chapter 6. Do you feel blessed (happy) when you are persecuted? And can you “rejoice and be exceeding glad,” when “men revile you and say all manner of evil against you?” Do these joyful feelings naturally spring up in your heart under such circumstances? Should this treatment come from an unexpected source, from your own brethren and excited by jealousy, would there be no response in your heart but emotion of love and joy? No feelings of resentment nor tendency to anger?
Christ says, “Resist not evil, but whosoever shall smite thee on they right cheek, turn to him the other also.” “And if any man shall sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have they cloak also.” Again, “I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.”
Is this an easy yoke for you? Do you possess a nature that is in perfect harmony with these precepts: a heart that delights in them with no opposite inclination? If not, then regeneration has not inducted you into “this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God,” and even “glory in tribulation.”
Now there is nothing unreasonable in these precepts; in fact they, and the sermons of which they are a part, contain the sublimest moral philosophy of Jesus; the fundamental principles of his kingdom. If ourselves and all we possess be given over to God, which is our reasonable service, what concern is it of ours if aught be taken away? Shall we “want any good thing?” And if we are “made perfect in love,” or “renewed in the image of God,” who is love, it will be just as easy to love our enemies, and those that hate and despitefully use us, as our friends because there is nothing but love in the heart to flow out toward all men under all circumstances. And as “love endureth all things,” “beareth all things,” and “worketh no ill to his neighbor,” where only love dwells there is nothing that inclines to resent or requite evil.
Therefore the words of Christ hold good even in the above precepts. They are indeed “easy” and “light,” in fact spontaneous. But this glorious truth is about as incredible to the merely justified as perfect innocence is to the sinner. I have found but few in the first degree of grace that can believe Christ’s pure doctrine of non-resistance. We cannot wonder at this since Christ said to His unsanctified disciples, “I have many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now” (John 16:12). It is very difficult to receive truth that is directly opposite to our nature.
Again, I ask, have you a faith that “takes no thought for the morrow,” “what ye shall eat, wherewith ye shall be clothed?” Are not all frettings and murmurings, every dirge of complaint and all tormenting fears inconsistent with a life of perfect trust in God? Here again, old and young, in the justified state, manifest their need of elevation to the higher plane or “more excellent way,” of charity that believeth all things.”
Let us now form a yoke of another class of Scriptures and see how “easy” it sits.
“Whether, therefore, ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)
“And whatsoever ye do, in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.” (Colossians 3:17)
“Be ye holy in all manner of conversation.” (1 Peter 1:15)
I pray you, dear reader, to solemnly consider these Scriptures, for by them we must be judged. They make no unreasonable demands.
The fist simply asks you wholly and exclusively to answer the original end of man’s creation, i.e., the glory of God. But it is impossible to do this until by the Redeemer’s blood we are restored to man’s original purity.
In the redemption of our dead and lost souls, God has laid us under a thousand fold greater obligation to serve Him than Adam was. Having been bought with an infinite price, we are no more our own: therefore we have no right to do or say aught except as an agent for Christ to whom we belong; hence in His name and exclusively for His glory.
Compare with this the foolish jesting, vain conversation, and sometimes even corrupt communication among professors. Look at even preachers spending God’s money to gratify the unnatural and unholy appetite for tobacco, and thereby defile the temple of the Holy Ghost.
Behold, in the church, the great sin of pride. Why is it that converted sisters do not “dress as women professing godliness?” Why even Christian mothers waste the Lord’s means, consume precious time, starve mind and soul, and even impair the body to conform themselves and children to this corrupt world. They desire to glorify God but, by their foolish adornments, they provoke Him to His face; violate, not only the Word of God, but the dictates of good sense, and the true principles of civilization. Is this all to the glory of God?
There is the converted worldling. He feels the obligations of a consecrated life and although he is taught that in regeneration he became dead to the world, yet he finds in his heart something that strongly gravitates from God to this world. He is pained at this inbred foe and knows that he needs more perfect deliverance; but for the want of definite teaching, he does not know how to obtain it. Therefore, he either gives up the struggle or is forced to fight the devil and the world without; and at the same time carry on a civil war at home, an oppressive yoke indeed.
The timid soul is ever dreading the yoke of Christ and trembling beneath His burden. He cannot understand why the way is so hard for him when Christ represents it as “easy.” If very faithful he may in a small measure obtain by growth the “glorious liberty of the sons of God,” which it is the office of the Sanctifier to confer in and instant through faith.
The former develops power to repress indwelling evil; the latter consumes it and “strengthens with all might.” But without being made “first pure” growth is so obstructed that the faint-hearted believer seldom triumphs over the man-fearing spirit. For the want of a Joshua to lead them over into the land of “perfect love” wherein is “no fear,” many of these become weary of the yoke and turn back to Egypt . Others are goaded on through a sense of duty and fear of hell; always quailing before the cross as if about to be immolated.
We might mention the sensitive man. He knows his pardon and sincerely endeavors to fulfill all righteousness; but finds himself still beset with, and often overcome by, an unrighteous tempter. He reads this promise: “great peace have they that love thy law, and nothing shall offend them.” He knows that he loves God’s law, yet many things offend him. He wonders at this disparity not knowing that he is not yet in the promised land. He reads again that “God will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is staid on Him;” but he is unable to comply with the condition: he finds something within that makes him “prone to wander from the God he loves.” To love his enemies, “lay aside all anger and malice,” and “overcome evil with good,” he finds anything but an easy yoke and light burden.
Once more, we read in the pure law of Christ, “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus;” “Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 5:18, Ephesians 5:20)
Do these bows set easily and gracefully upon your neck? What will we do with this Scripture? Shall we assume the responsibility of saying that God’s Word does not mean what it says; or will we recognize the obligation to thank God “always,” “for all things,” and “in all things?” Yea, thank Him not only for, but in persecution; for, and in the midst of temptations, afflictions, losses and trails. Thank God “always” for prosperity and adversity; for rain in a wet time as well as in drought; when our plans succeed and when they fail. I know very well that by raising up this standard of Jesus we subject ourselves to the sneers of a sensual worldly and godless church. “For if they have done these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry.”
If Christ and the apostles were called mad and beside themselves, what may we expect if we follow them but the charge of fanaticism and insanity. For, and in these things, give thanks. Hallelujah! To those who “live in God,” and by “the faith of the Son of God,” this is sound philosophy and a blessed yoke.
But it may be objected that much which affects us in life is sin and if we thank God for that, do we not make Him the author of it? The law of Christ was given for such who are “made free from sin: themselves; and there is no inconsistency in thanking God for what we may suffer through the sins of others because it is over-ruled to our good. This, however, does not make sin right in itself. It does not in the least excuse the perpetrator nor mitigate the penalty. But who can thank God for that which to all appearance is a dire calamity!
1. Because his faith is not yet “finished;” he has not reached the “full assurance of faith,” that “believeth all things;” hence he cannot trust God independent of, and in defiance of, circumstances.
2. Because he yet possesses a nature that is opposite to his new inborn nature and not subject to the law of God; more apt to murmur at than thank God for His providences that seem adverse.
But the entirely sanctified can joyfully walk in these precepts. Their obligations are not only “easy” and “light” but the natural out-flow of a soul that is dead to self and filled with the life of God.
1. Because the Author of his faith having finished it, he looks “not at the things that are seen, but at the things that are not seen,” “judges nothing from appearance,” and when all is dark and only evil to human perception, he continues to rejoice and thank God in the sweet assurance that He who has power over all things, is infinite in love, has “numbered the very hairs of our head” and kindly guards all our steps, will cause “all things to work together for good to Him.”
2. Because the “old man,” or Adamic nature, having been destroyed, his whole being sweetly blends with the nature and will of God; hence, he delights in and thanks God for all His providence. With Archbishop Fenelon he “refers everything to God,” and with Madame Guion constantly recognizes that “whatever now is, is the will of God to me.” That is, although it emanates from sin itself; which is contrary to God’s positive will, yet so far as it affects me, it is His permissive will.
3. Being in a sense dead to every thing but God, that which Satan, the world and wicked professors throw at him, he only feels as a blessing from God into which His wonderful grace converts it before reaching him; hence he thanks the Lord for all that He bestows and for turning to our favor all that comes from wicked agents.
4. He thanks God always because always conscious of a freedom from sin through the blood of Christ; for everything because it is either directly form the Lord or made a blessing by Him. Hallelujah!
Now, as old and young in the merely regenerated state find it impossible or extremely difficult to measure up to this divine rule, we are forced to conclude that the Bible is not quite practical and Christ misrepresented it, or there is a higher state of grace that perfectly adjusts us to the yoke of Christ and makes all Christian duty easy. The latter fact is clearly established by the Word of Truth and the testimony of all who have “perfected holiness in the fear of God.”
Glory to the God of all Grace! When raised into this purer atmosphere, this holy mount of “full assurance,” we no longer view the sermons on the mount and the sublime precepts of the Epistles as a standard to be admired but never realized; but as lines along which the soul moves with the utmost ease and ecstatic delight.
To deny the higher plane of Christian experience is, therefore, to contradict Christ’s representation of His service and to impeach the wisdom and goodness of God. To acknowledge and embrace it is to vindicate the highest and purest precepts of the Lord and magnify His super-abounding grace that fulfills them all in us to the praise of His glory,
Oftimes have poets sung of rest,
Sweet rest and peace in heaven.
Must souls forever toil below?
Is there no promise given?
Can it be possible that Christ
Can only do a part,
Forgive the past, but still leave sin
And weights within the heart?
No; Jesus said ‘twas finished,
When He was crucified,
The work was all completed,
For which He lived and died.
He came to save the sinner
From guilt and all his sin,
And gives a Canaan rest, if we,
Believers, enter in.
The yoke of Christ is all delight—
Not heavy tasks for us—
Imposed by Christ to weigh us down,
He did not mean it thus,
But we must give ourselves all up,
To let Him live our lives;
And crush out self within our hearts,
Till it no more survives.
We’ll find His yoke is liberty,
When all the heart is pure,
When we, the second grace shall see,
And know the double cure.
O, glorious fountain! Precious blood!
It makes me white as snow.
His yoke is sweet; His burthen love;
A heaven here below.