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Christ’s Work vs. Our Work

Christ’s Work vs. Our Work

There is nothing finished that we do: all our duties are imperfect duties; they come off lamely, and defectively from our hands… O there is much impudence and vanity in the best of our duties: but here is the grand relief, and that which answers to all the grounds of our doubts and fears upon that account; Jesus Christ hath finished all His work, though we can finish none of ours: and so, though we be defective, poor, imperfect creatures, in ourselves, yet, notwithstanding, we are complete in Him (Colossians 2: 9, 10)… Christ’s complete obedience being imputed to us, makes us complete, and without fault before God.

It is true, we ought to be humbled for our defects, and troubled for every failing in obedience; but we should not be discouraged, though multitudes of weaknesses be upon us, and many infirmities compass us about, in every duty we put our hand to; though we have no righteousness of our own; yet of God, Christ is made unto us righteousness; and that righteousness of His is infinitely better than our own…

– John Flavel, Sermon XXXV, The Fountain of Life, Works, Volume 1, pages 436-437.

Thomas Manton on the Excellency of Saving Faith

Thomas Manton on the Excellency of Saving Faith

To depend upon an invisible God for a happiness that lies in an invisible world, when in the meantime He permits us to be harassed with difficulties and troubles, requires faith. It is faith that makes us row against the stream of flesh and blood, and deny its cravings, that we may eventually obtain eternal salvation.

They that are thirsty of bodily life, and the comforts and interests of it, are certainly prodigal of their salvation. The flesh importunes to be pleased. Sense says to us, “Favor yourself, spare the flesh,” but faith says, “Save your soul.”

To creatures wedded to sense and present enjoyment, it is difficult and hard to cause us to set our hearts on another world, and lay up our hopes in heaven, and to part with all things which we see and love and find comfortable to our senses, for that God and glory which we have never seen. But we undervalue God’s gracious promises, whose accomplishments must with patience be expected, while their future goodness comes in actual competition with these bodily delights which we must forego, and those grievous bodily afflictions which we must endure, out of sincere respect to Christ and His ways.

The word of God must be our whole security, as being enough to support our hearts in waiting for it, however God may cover Himself with frowns and an appearance of anger in those afflictions which befall us in the way. The scriptures are written to direct us to know Christ aright, who is the kernel and the marrow of all the scriptures, who is the great subject of the Gospel. The chief benefit we have by Him is eternal life, by which all our pains and losses for Christ are recompensed, and from where we fetch our comfort all along during the course of our pilgrimage, and upon the hopes of which the life of grace is carried on, and the temptations of sense are defeated, so that this is the main blessing which faith aims at.

Nature declares there is a God; scripture declares there is a Christ. And shall we neglect this great salvation brought to us by Jesus Christ, or coldly seek after it? I judge Him faithful that has promised, and depend upon Him that He will make good His word, though this happiness is future and lies in another unseen, unknown world to which there is no coming but by faith.

In our passage to heaven we meet many temptations. We are assaulted both on the right hand and on the left with terrors of sense, which are a discouragement to us, and the delights of sense, which are a snare to us. Christ’s service will bring trouble with it. All that is precious in the world must be renounced, or else we shall not be able to hold out.

We owe God blind obedience. If God will have it so, faith must find a way through the great deep. No dangers are so great that we must decline. Certainly we have no true belief of the promise of eternal life if we can venture nothing upon it. That religion is worth nothing that costs nothing. Are you content to be at some considerable cost for eternal life? Most men love a cheap gospel.

Whether you like it or not, you are at God’s disposal and cannot shift yourselves out of His hands, either here or hereafter. It is a part of your duty to voluntarily surrender yourselves to be disposed of and ordered by God according to His pleasure, to be content to be what He will have you to be, and to do what He will have you to do. You must be content to enjoy what God will have you enjoy, and to lack what He will have you lack, and to lose what He will have you lose.

– From Volume 2 of Manton’s Works

Faith, not Sight

Faith, not Sight

“We walk by faith, not by sight.” – 2 Corinthians 5:7

This walk of faith takes in all the minute circumstances of every day’s history; a walking every step by faith: a looking above trials, above necessities, above perplexities, above improbabilities and impossibilities, above all second causes; and, in the face of difficulties and discouragements, going forward, leaning upon God. If the Lord were to roll the Red Sea before us and marshal the Egyptians behind us, and thus, hemming us in on every side, should yet bid us advance, it would be the duty and the privilege of faith instantly to obey, believing that, before our feet touched the water, God, in our extremity, would divide the sea and take us dry-shod over it. This is the only holy and happy life of a believer. If he for a moment leaves this path and attempts to walk by sight, difficulties will throng him, troubles will multiply, the smallest trials will become heavy crosses, temptations to depart from the simple and upright walk will increase in number and power, the heart will sicken at disappointment, the Spirit will be grieved, and God will be dishonored. Let this precious truth ever be before the mind, “We walk by faith, not by sight.”

– Octavius Winslow, Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the Soul, page 71.

Controlling the Universe, or Controlling Ourselves?

Controlling the Universe, or Controlling Ourselves?

It is reported of a king of Spain, or rather of Portugal, that he presumed to say that if God had consulted him at the creation about the dispositions and motions of the planets, he would have contrived them better than they are. I suppose the poor man took the schemes and dreams of the astronomers of his day to be a just representation of the system. It sounds, however, like a blasphemous speech in our ears. We take it for granted that the sun, the moon, Jupiter, and the rest are exactly where they should be and move as they ought. But if we are content the Lord should manage the heavenly bodies without our assistance, we are ready enough to advise Him how He should dispose of our insignificant selves. We think we could point at twenty things in our situation which might be mended; and that we should serve Him much better than we do if we were but at liberty to choose where and how we would be thus placed.

Thus we can gravely censure the vanity and folly of King Alphonso, without being aware that the thoughts we sometimes indulge are no less arrogant than his, and that we might with as much reason offer to assist God in the government of the universe as in the direction of our own paltry concerns. I hope, however, as we grow older we shall grow wiser, and be more satisfied, that whether we are placed in town or country, whether we are sick or well, the present circumstances for the present time must be the best, because of His appointment.

…The most pleasant and most profitable course we can take is to be thankful. Let us praise the Lord that we know our disease and know our physician; that He has undertaken our case, and will, consequently, perfect it. But let us pray for patience and submission to be willing to wait His time and to take things in His way. The plain English of half our complaints is that we don’t like the cross. We would have victory without conflicts, and the crown without fighting for it. And while we lament many of the evils, we are apt to overlook or make light of the chief of all, which is the impatient workings of the self, which would have everything its own way. We are, we must be, sinners while we remain here; but if we are sinners believing in the name of Jesus, we may rejoice and sing. We must fight, we may be wounded, but we cannot be overcome.

– John Newton, 1778