By Dr. John Kennedy
From The Life of John Kennedy, D.D. by Rev. Alexander Auld
1. That I was once "without God in the world." I did think sometimes then that I had a God; but "the living God" I neither sought nor knew. This I learned when Jehovah, as Lawgiver and Judge, presented and pressed His claims. The God who then addressed me was new to me. At first I thought Him to be a "hard Master," and I rose rebelliously against Him; and even when I was compelled to allow that He was righteous I could not venture to approach Him. When I knew Him as the God of salvation, I recognised Him as the same who spake to me from Sinai; but now I could not refrain from drawing near, assured that He was Jehovah, and in the same measure hoping that he would be gracious (Eph. ii. 10; Matt. xxv. 24; Ps. li. 4, cxxx. 3, 4).
2. That during the years of my ignorance I loved to sleep, because I disliked the care and the work to which the Lord was calling me. When He first awakened me I cried for "a little more sleep." I feared to ask to be allowed to sleep alway, and I thought it hard that He would not give me "a little more." I then asked for "a little more slumber;" but this too was sternly refused. I then requested at the least "a little more folding of the hands to sleep;" but though I twice abated my request, I sued in vain. At last I stretched out my hands, but it was to work and not to Christ I rose from the sluggard's bed to toil for self. But sin revived when I began to work. "The commandment" which aroused me stirred up sin and revived sin proved stronger than awakened me-so it slew me, and I died (Prov. xxiv. 33; Rom. vii. 9).
3. That I was as impotent before the calls of the Gospel as before the claims of the law, and that my faith, as surely as my Saviour, must be of God; that the operation of the Holy Ghost in applying was as necessary to me as the acting of the Father in providing, and the work of the Son in purchasing, redemption (John vi. 44; Eph. ii. 8).
4. That it was both vain and forbidden to search for Christ except in "the word of the truth of the Gospel;" and that there was to me no warrant of faith in Jesus but the testimony of God regarding Him to men as sinners. This I learned after vainly seeking a vision of Christ's glory, and traces of his Spirit's work in my soul, in evidence of His "goodwill" to me (John v. 39).
5. That the Person of Christ as "the Word made flesh" was the only foundation on which I might rest my soul; and that the merit of His precious blood was the only ground; even in Him the Daysman, on which I could present myself to God as a suppliant for mercy. Having strained to the utmost the power of "flesh and blood to acquire a satisfying view of His merit in the light of His personal glory," I was left in wearied weakness, utterly benighted, before the sovereign grace of the Father in heaven; and when at last I reached, and found rest in, Christ, it was because I was called, as was Lazarus, out of the grave. "Come forth," was the effectual call of the Son of God; and from among the dead I came, unconsciously quickened, but consciously lost, to Him who is "all in all" (Matt. xvi. 17, 18; Acts xx. 28; Eph. i. 7).
6. That given grace requires more grace. "More grace" is the cry of the new heart in the quickened soul, as surely as it is the promise of God in the Gospel. I thought I could keep the treasure I got when I found the Messiah; but I soon learned that He must rather keep me. I needed grace to make use of the grace which I had received. I leaned on my first experience, and my dead weight soon smothered all its joy and fervour. Fool as I was, I put Christ's gift instead of Christ Himself; He withheld His giving, and I fainted under a sense of poverty. I required to come back as a beggar again to the storehouse of grace, but I felt I could not come unless the Father drew me. I thought it hard to he compelled yet to beg, but harder still that I could not even do the begging without help from God (James iv. 6; John vi. 45; Isa. xl. 29).
7. That it is possible to sleep, but impossible to be happy, with an idol in the heart. The Lord may allow me to go to the sluggard's bed for a time; but when I am awake His anger against idolatry will cast a scaring shadow on my heart, and my flesh may be furrowed by the rod, till I resolutely cast the accursed thing away (Cant. v. 2; Josh. vii.; Hosea ii. 15).
8. That assurance not weakened by unwatchfulness is not worth the having; and that while true assurance is never enjoyed on the bed of sloth, it yet is never the mere reward of toil; that the wise course, in order to its recovery when it is lost, is to seek reviving grace in order to renewed believing, that fruits may be produced to certify my calling and election; but that, even if these are certified, I am still dependent on the Spirit's grace for my ascertaining them, and for so sealing the fruits which evidence them as to satisfy my conscience (2 Peter i. 5-11).
9. That the poverty which results from sloth hath always pride and unbelief as its companions, brings a most real dearth upon my soul, and is worse than weakness in the work of God; but that the healthiest tone of spirit and the best preparation for work or trial is willing, conscious, and trustful dependence on the grace that is m Christ (Prov. xxiv. 32, 33; 2 Cor. xii. 9, 10).
10. That the more I know the better I like Christ as a Master, and the less I think of myself as a servant; that if I had ceased to serve when I ceased to be satisfied with my performances I would have struck work long ago; and that the tasted bitterness of my iniquity in holy things makes the Master's grace all the sweeter when I come to Him for cleansing and for help.
11. That it is extremely difficult to combine the reverence and the boldness of the child in my state of feeling in drawing nigh to God. If I lose the one I become a presumptuous fool; and if I lose the other I become a cowering slave. The child's way is a narrow one between presumption on the one hand and unbelief on the other; and he can walk in it only as the everlasting arms sustain and draw him (Heb. x. 19-22; xii. 28, 29).
12. That the only death I can venture to die is death deprived of its sting on Calvary, and which is a gate of entrance to Zion-death made harmless by the cross of Christ, and made useful as a messenger to bring me to His presence. I can venture to die when I am assured that, as I part with my body for a season, I shall part with my sin for ever.
E-mail: Sean Richardson