True Religion Is More Than Notion
The grace of God that bringeth salvation cannot be known or enjoyed, but by supernatural and divine manifestation. It cannot be apprehended but by the faith of God’s elect.
It cannot be sweet or precious, but when bitterness and soul-trouble have been felt, and the face has been turned to the wall. As in the case of Josiah, sooner or later, the book must be found and opened, read and felt in the conscience, and he must fall down a convinced sinner, naked, unclean, and leprous before the Holy Jehovah, crying, “Unclean, unclean, unclean!” “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of Hosts.”
Such, and such only know what it is to have a tender heart, to humble themselves before God when they hear his words against sin, and to rend their clothes, and weep before God. Nakedness, soul-poverty, a being humbled under the righteous hand of God, self-loathing, trembling at the word, perfect weakness, emptiness, want, total bankruptcy, and real fervent internal desire, and rejection of all salvation save that revealed in the soul, the blood of the atonement applied and sprinkled on the conscience, and righteousness imputed put on the soul, must be experienced in such a manner as to cut him off from all hopes or trust in an arm of flesh, the law, natural or notional religion, from a name to live only, and resting in mere opinions or sayings and traditions, before he can speak with power of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost.
Grace is nothing unless felt; faith is a shadow, unless it bring “the substance of things hoped for” into the soul, and be “the evidence of things not seen.” All hope is fake but that which lays hold of God’s mercy and love, faithfulness and truth, as revealed in Christ Jesus; and is the hope of the operation of God.
Faith looks for grace only in “the new and living way which he hath consecrated for us through the veil, that is to say, his flesh.” It cannot be satisfied as to salvation unless the love of God be shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Ghost, given unto him that has the faith of God’s elect.
Such a one cannot boast or lift up himself as being any better than others, for boasting is excluded. “By what law? Of works? Nay, but by the law of faith.” He cannot be satisfied with a ready flow of language and liberty in prayer, except that liberty comes from the Great Deliverer, making him free indeed, and testifying that there is, therefore, now no condemnation for him, for he is in Christ Jesus, and walks not after the flesh but after the Spirit; for the law of the Spirit of life in Christ, Jesus hath made him free from the law of sin and death.
He cannot rejoice in Christ Jesus, unless he feels Christ rejoicing over him. He cannot cry, “Grace, grace unto it,” unless he sees the Headstone, and his own name graven on it, while his feet are held fast and established in “the foundation of God which standeth sure, having this seal, the Lord knoweth them that are his.”
He cannot feel all he receives to be mercies flowing from the grace or eternal love of God, except his heart be lying low before the throne of grace, and all the goodness of the LORD be passing before him, and Jehovah proclaiming Himself, “the LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, and transgression, and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty,” that is, those whose guilt is not atoned for and put away by Christ, who “having been made sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him,” now justifies the ungodly, and in him God can be just, and yet the justifier of them that believe in Christ Jesus (Romans 3:26).
To know what grace is savingly, is to know ourselves to be deservedly and justly damned, without an interest in Christ, and to feel that he can have mercy, and has had mercy on us who were ignorant and out of the way, and, therefore, the Spirit has glorified Him in our souls, by showing us that our sins and uncleannesses are cleansed and washed away in the fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness; and that when dead in our sins and the uncircumcision of our flesh, God quickened us together with him, having forgiven us all trespasses; blotting out the hand-writing of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and has taken it out of the way, nailing it to the cross.
Grace is in the mouth of millions, but in the heart of few; consequently, the multitude are never truly established in Christ, or receive all their consolation from him with humility, and wonder at his love, and earnestly desire to be kept free from sin, that it may not grieve them. But the few, the few men in the little city, that are delivered by the poor wise man, the followers of the Lord of Hosts, are all in due time – in the set time to favour Zion – established with grace by the Highest; and groan, being burdened with a body of sin, which they hate and feel to be their worst enemy and opposer.
These are made sensible of what Christ has done for them, have fellowship with the Father and with the Son, and rejoice in Christ Jesus; have no confidence in the flesh; look to the Lord alone for help, strength, supply, comfort, and peace, and cannot bear the thought of foolishness, which is sin; are afraid of themselves as much as of the devil, and from their hearts cry, “LORD, bold thou me up, and I shall be safe;” “Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me:” “Give me out of thy fulness grace for grace;” “Keep me as the apple of thine eye;” “Guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me into glory.”
To such gracious men nothing is sweet in religion but Christ, the full, precious, and dropping honey-comb; the mercy and consolation, love and kindness of the Father, and the soul-teaching witness and communion of the Holy Ghost the Comforter.
Works done by man, in his own strength, they hate; and count all their righteousness as filthy rags, and enter into that worthy, precious saying, “Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, but unto thy name be the praise.”
To all such, and to such only, do I say, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God the Father, and the fellowship and communion of God the Holy Ghost be with you.”
Gospel Standard – 1840