Horatius Bonar: The beautiful paradox of the Christian

20 12 2011
Bonar here beautifully expresses that wonderful paradox of the Christian, sometimes described as Simul iustus et peccator (at the same time righteous and a sinner).  Bonar wisely encourages us to drink deeply from this truth or not at all.  Those who do are the happiest and most holy.
 “Christ is all and in all” (Colossians 3:11). He who knows this, knows what fully satisfies and cheers. He who knows this best has the deepest and truest peace: for he has learned the secret of being always a sinner, yet always righteous; always incomplete, yet always complete; always empty, and yet always full; always poor, and yet always rich. We would not say of that fullness, “Drink deep or taste not,” for even to taste is to be blest. But we say, Drink deep; for he who drinks deepest is the happiest as well as the holiest man.”

Horatius Bonar, The Everlasting Rigtheousness ch. 6





My philsophy of ministry (that I stole from Horatius Bonar)

20 12 2011

When I first started preaching regularly, one of the things I heard from time to time was “why do you preach the Gospel every Sunday? When are we going to move beyond that and get to discipleship?”  I tried from time to time to provide a satisfactory answer and I have long desired to write a small outline about the Gospel and how it fits into our understanding of not only how we become Christians, but how we grow spiritually.  Thankfully, I ran across ch. 10 of Horatius Bonar’s The Everlasting Righteousness, which spells out more clearly than I ever could the philosophy of ministry that we seek to embody.  Take the time to read the excerpt below.  I’ve linked to the whole book as well as to this crucial chapter below. 

We are justified that we may be holy. The possession of this legal righteousness is the beginning of a holy life. We do not live a holy life in order to be justified; but we are justified that we may live a holy life. That which man calls holiness may be found in almost any circumstances,–of dread, or darkness, or bondage, or self-righteous toil and suffering; but that which God calls holiness can only be developed under conditions of liberty and light, and pardon and peace with God. Forgiveness is the mainspring of holiness. Love, as a motive, is far stronger than law; far more influential than fear of wrath or peril of hell. Terror may make a man crouch like a slave and obey a hard master, lest a worse thing come upon him; but only a sense of forgiving love can bring either heart or conscience into that state in which obedience is either pleasant to the soul or acceptable to God.
False ideas of holiness are common, not only among those who profess false religions, but among those who profess the true. For holiness is a thing of which man by nature has no more idea than a blind man has of the beauty of a flower or the light of the sun. All false religions have had their “holy men,” whose holiness often consisted merely in the amount of pain they could inflict upon their bodies, or of food which they could abstain from, or of hard labor which they could undergo. But with God, a saint or holy man is a very different being. It is in filial, full-hearted love to God that much of true holiness consists. And this cannot even begin to be until the sinner has found forgiveness and tasted liberty, and has confidence towards God. The spirit of holiness is incompatible with the spirit of bondage. There must be the spirit of liberty, the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. When the fountain of holiness begins to well up in the human heart, and to fill the whole being with its transforming, purifying power, “We have known and believed the love that God has to us” (1 John 4:16) is the first note of the holy song, which, commenced on earth, is to be perpetuated through eternity.
We are bought with a price, that we may be new creatures in Christ Jesus. We are forgiven, that we may be like Him who forgives us. We are set at liberty and brought out of prison, that we may be holy. The free, boundless love of God, pouring itself into us, expands and elevates our whole being; and we serve Him, not in order to win His favour, but because we have already won it in simply believing His record concerning His Son. If the root is holy, so are the branches. We have become connected with the holy root, and by the necessity of this connection are made holy too.
Forgiveness relaxes no law, nor interferes with the highest justice. Human pardons may often do so: God’s pardons never.
Forgiveness doubles all our bonds to a holy life; only they are no longer bonds of iron, but of gold. It takes off the heavy yoke, in order to give us the light and easy.
The love of God to us, and our love to God, work together for producing holiness in us. Terror accomplishes no real obedience. Suspense brings forth no fruit unto holiness. Only the certainty of love, forgiving love, can do this. It is this certainty that melts the heart, dissolves our chains, disburdens our shoulders, so that we stand erect, and makes us to run in the way of the divine commandments.
Condemnation is that which binds sin and us together. Forgiveness looses this fearful tie, and separates us from sin. The power of condemnation which the law possesses is that which makes it so strong and terrible. Cancel this power, and the liberated spirit rises into the region of love, and in that region finds both will and strength for the keeping of the law,–a law which is at once old and new: old as to substance (“Thou shalt love the Lord with all thy heart”); new as to mode and motive. “The law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus bath made me free from the law of sin and death” (Rom 8:2); that is, The law of the life-giving spirit which we have in Christ Jesus has severed the condemning connection of that law which leads only to sin and death. “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh (i.e. unable to carry out its commandments in our old nature), God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh; that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit” (Rom 8:3,4).
The removal of condemnation is the dissolution of legal bondage, and of that awful pressure upon the conscience which at once enslaved and irritated; disenabling as well as disinclining us from all obedience; making holiness both distasteful and dreadful, to be submitted to only through fear of future woe.
Sin, when unforgiven, oppresses the conscience and tyrannizes over the sinner. Sin forgiven in an unrighteous way, would be but a slight and uncertain as well as imperfect relief. Sin righteously and judicially forgiven, loses its dominion. The conscience rises up from its long oppression, and expands into joyous liberty. Our whole being becomes bright and buoyant under the benign influence of this forgiving love of God. “The winter is past, the rain is over and gone, the flowers appear on the earth, the time of the singing of birds is come” (Song 2:11,12).
Condemnation is the dark cloud that obscures our heavens. Forgiveness is the sunshine dissolving the cloud, and by its brilliance making all good things to grow and ripen in us.
Condemnation makes sin strike its roots deeper and deeper. No amount of terror can extirpate evil. No fear of wrath can make us holy. No gloomy uncertainty as to God’s favour can subdue one lust, or correct our crookedness of will. But the free pardon of the cross uproots sin, and withers all its branches. The “no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus” is the only effectual remedy for the deadly disease of an alienated heart and stubborn will.
The want of forgiveness, or uncertainty as to it, are barriers in the way of the removal of the heart’s deep enmity to a righteous God. For enmity will only give way to love; and no suspense, however terrible, will overcome the stout-hearted rebelliousness of man. Threats do not conquer hearts; nor does austerity win either confidence or affection. They who would trust to law to awaken trust, know nothing either of law or love; nor do they understand how the suspicions of the human heart are to be removed, and its confidence won. The knowledge of God simply as Judge or Lawgiver will be of no power to attract, of no avail to remove distrust and dread.
But the message, “God is love,” is like the sun bursting through the clouds of a long tempest. The good news, “Through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins,” is like the opening of the prisoner’s dungeon-gate. Bondage departs, and liberty comes. Suspicion is gone, and the heart is won. “Perfect love has cast out fear.” We hasten to the embrace of Him who loved us; we hate that which has estranged us; we put away all that caused the distance between us and Him; we long to be like one so perfect, and to partake of His holiness. To be “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4), once so distasteful, is henceforth most grateful and pleasant; and nothing seems now so desirable as to escape the corruptions that are in the world through lust.

Read the whole thing here

Read the book here





Horatius Bonar: Three Reasons to Fear Not From the Risen Jesus

19 12 2011

access his commentary here

I am the LIVING One.

Thus should the passage be read—’I am the first, and the last, and the living

One.’ Throughout Scripture the name of the Messiah is associated with life. He is—Jehovah—the I Am—the Being of beings—the Possessor of all life—the giver of all life—the living and the life-giving One. His association with death is only transient—and that for the purpose of overcoming death, and bringing life out of death. He is the PRINCE of life—He is the LIGHT of life—He is the BREAD of Life—He is the WATER of life. Everything connected with LIFE is linked with Him; for as the Father has life in Himself, so has He given to the Son to have life in Himself.

The words, “I am living One,’ would remind John of the many things which he himself had narrated, and of the many words he had recorded concerning Christ as the Life; for he, of all the evangelists, has brought this great truth before us. It was as the Living One that He said, ‘the Son quickens whom he will’ (John 5:21). ‘He who believes in me has everlasting life. This is the bread that came down from heaven, that if a man eats of it, he shall not die. If any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever. Whoever eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, has eternal life’ (John 6:50-54).

Ah! Truly it was the living One who spoke such words as these; and it is as the living One that He utters them still. We fall at His feet, like John, as one dead! He lays His right hand upon us, and says to us, “fear not; I am the living One;’ it is not death, but life, that I have come to bring; and in beholding the glory of the living One, it is life, not death, that you should look for!

I WAS DEAD.

Or, more literally, ‘I became dead,’ I laid down my life. His word of cheer to John, then, is; ‘Fear not; I am He who died.’ The words here remind us of those of Paul—’Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is Christ who died.’ Yes; it was with the Christ who died, that Paul had to do; and it was with the Christ who died that John also had to do, though, in the blaze of the glory that now dazzled him, he seems to have lost sight of this. To this, however, the Lord recalls him, in order to reassure him. He takes him back to the cross, and reminds him of what he saw and heard there. He sends him to the tomb, that he may again look upon the dead body of his Master.

And thus reminding him of the cross and tomb, He reproves his present terror, and makes him feel how unlikely, how impossible it was that any amount of ‘glory, and honor, and power, and majesty,’ such as that with which he was now surrounded, could alter the relationship between them, or make Him less the Christ whom he knew so well on earth; less the SAVIOR whom, as a sinner, he needed then, and needed still—less the LAMB of God that takes away the sin of the world—or make himself less the disciple whom Jesus loved—less the trusted one, to whom his Lord had confided that most precious of earthly deposits, His mother, when dying on the cross. It is as if He had said, ‘Fear not; I am the SAME Jesus whom you saw die upon the cross, whom you saw lying in Joseph’s tomb. Yes, fear not! I was dead.’

I AM ALIVE FOR EVERMORE.

‘Though I died once, yet I die no more—death has me no more—death has no more dominion over me—I LIVE forever!’ To have died, and yet to have triumphed over death—no, to have triumphed over it by dying, so that never again could death approach Him—this was the truth by which the risen Christ comforted His affrighted apostle. In DEATH He showed Himself the Lord of life! In LIFE He showed Himself the Lord of death! In dying, and living again, He showed Himself all that a sinner needs to give him boldness in his dealings with Him. This ever-living One, with whom death has now no more to do; this ever-living One, between whom and everything pertaining to death, a great gulf is fixed—He it is with whom we have to deal, in the great transactions of life and death.

He is made our Melchizedek—Priest and King—’after the power of an endless life;’ and the life which he possesses forever is something more than what He possessed before His death, or could possess simply as God—it is “resurrection life”, which only He who died could have, and with which He was filled for us in consequence of having died. That which we need, both for body and soul, is RISEN life, resurrection-life, the life of Him who has risen! And it is this that He so specially announces here when He says, ‘I am alive for evermore!’

Here John abruptly interposes his hearty and joyful “Amen!” as if this announcement were the one which he most rejoiced in, and which at once woke up an echo in his bosom. He hears the words, ‘I am alive for evermore;’ and appreciating something of the might import of these words, and looking forward into that long eternity, during which he was to be partaker of all the life which this risen One possessed, he exclaims, with eager gladness, ‘Amen!’

A sentiment like that which we always find used in the Old Testament in reference to kings—’Let the king live forever. Amen.’ It was in the eternity of this risen life of Christ that John rejoiced—in that same eternal life of the risen One let us rejoice, adding our Amen to that of the apostle, and saying, ‘I know that my Redeemer lives!’ Oh blessedness unspeakable! Oh consolation beyond all others! To be told that, in a dying world like ours, there is a living One like this—One all made up of life—One whom death can never touch—of whom no one can ever bring to you the tidings, “He is no more!”

No amount of death in us can affect Him, or prevent us receiving His endless life. Our death is swallowed up in this boundless life; so that, where ‘death’ has abounded, their ‘life’ abounds much more. This is the tree of life, whose leaves are health, whose fruit is immortality. Let us gather round and under this great ‘Plant of Renown’; from it to draw present life to our souls, and the assurance of resurrection to ourselves, and to all who have slept in Jesus!





Horatius Bonar: The Holy Spirit, Not Power but Person

19 12 2011

How do we think of the Holy Spirit? Some churches don’t think about him at all. But those who do, often think of him as a power or influence. So in some churches the Holy Spirit is articulated as a force that works on the heart for conversion. In other churches the Holy Spirit is a force that makes us feel good. In other churches the Holy Spirit is a force that creates power for believers to perform miraculous works of healing. Some go so far as to imagine him as a wild storm, blowing throughout the church thoughtlessly and without purpose. But here is the problem with that kind of thinking. When we reduce the Holy Spirit to a power, and not a person, then he is merely an accessory (albeit a neccessary asscessory) to the persons of the Father and the Son. You can have a relationship with a person, but not an accesssory. But the scriptures understand the Spirit as a person. He is powerful, but he is not power. He is a person who applies his power thoughtfully and purposefully. And how is it applied? Bonar says it is applied chiefly through love, thus he calls it “The Gospel of the Love of the Holy Spirit.” Enjoy!

Perhaps much of our slow progress in the walk of faith is to be traced to our overlooking the love of the Spirit. We do not deal with Him, for strength and advancement, as one who really loveth us, and longs to bless us, and delights to help our infirmities (Rom 8:26). We regard Him as cold, or distant, or austere; we do not trust Him for His grace, nor realize how much He is in earnest in His dealings with us. More childlike confidence in Him and in His love would help us on mightily. Let us not grieve Him, nor vex Him, nor quench Him by our untrustfulness, by disbelieving or doubting the riches of His grace, the abundance of His loving-kindness.

He is no mere “influence,” but a living “Personality”; and there is a vast difference between these two things. An “influence” cannot love us, and we cannot love an “influence.” If there is to be love, there must be personality; and, in this case, it must be the personality of love. The fresh breath of spring is an influence, but not a personality. It cannot love us nor call on us to love it. The voice of that which we call “nature” is an influence, but not a personality. There can be no mutual love between it and us. But a being with a soul is a personality, not an influence; and the love of man or woman is a personal thing, a true and real affection-one eye looking into another, and one heart touching its fellow. So is it with the love of the Spirit. There is a personality about Him passing all the personalities of earth,-passing all the personalities of men or angels; and it is this divine personality that makes His love so precious and so suitable, as well as so true and real. There is no reality of love like that of the Spirit. It has nothing in common with the coldness or distance of a mere “influence.” It comes closely home to a human heart, because it is the love of Him who formed the heart, and who is seeking to make it His abode for ever.

The proofs of His love are abundant. They are divine proofs; and, therefore, assuredly true. It is God who has given them to us, that no doubt of the Spirit’s love may ever enter our minds. They are spread over all Scripture, in different forms and aspects. While the Bible was meant to be specially the revelation of the Son of God, it is also the revelation of the Holy Spirit. He reveals Himself while revealing Christ. He utters His own love while showing us the love of the Father and the Son.

Bonar, “The Gospel of the Holy Spirit’s Love” Read it all here