Thomas Watson: A Scrapbook of God’s Grace

21 03 2012

Below an excerpt from Thomas Watson’s powerful The Great Gain of Godliness.  Following a section where Watson has encouraged us to remember our sins, that we might know the magnitude of God’s mercy, here he encourages us to keep a book of remembrance, or as I have called it above “a scrapbook” of God’s grace.  How different would our Christian discipleship look if we trained people to  focus on God’s goodness towards them as opposed to their goodness towards him?

If God records our services, then let us record his mercies; let us have our book of remembrances.  A Christian should keep two books always beside him; one to write his sins in, that he may be humble; the other to write God’s mercies in, that he may be thankful.  David had his book of remembrance: ‘He appointed certain Levites…to record, and to thank and praise the Lord God of Israel’ (1 Chron 16.4).  We should keep a book to record God’s mercies- though I think it will be hard to get a book big enough to hold them.  At such and such a time we were straitened circumstances, and God supplied us; at another time under sadness of spirit, and God dropped in the oil of gladness; at another near death, and God miraculously restored us.  If God be mindful of what we do for him, shall not we be mindful of what he does for us?  God’s mercies, like jewels, are too good to be lost:  get a book of remembrance.

-Thomas Watson, The Great Gain of Godliness pg 108 (Banner of Truth Trust: 2008)





In Praise of the Savior’s Grace: And can it be!

12 01 2012

This song ran across my playlist this morning while doing some sermon prep and I just had to share it.  The video below has a wonderful quote from John Newton before a brief introduction to this famous Wesley hymn.  I’ve posted the lyrics in full directly below the hymn.  It would do your soul well to meditate upon the words.

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain—
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

’Tis mystery all: th’Immortal dies:
Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine.
’Tis mercy all! Let earth adore,
Let angel minds inquire no more.
’Tis mercy all! Let earth adore;
Let angel minds inquire no more.

He left His Father’s throne above
So free, so infinite His grace—
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race:
’Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!
’Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray—
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

Still the small inward voice I hear,
That whispers all my sins forgiven;
Still the atoning blood is near,
That quenched the wrath of hostile Heaven.
I feel the life His wounds impart;
I feel the Savior in my heart.
I feel the life His wounds impart;
I feel the Savior in my heart.

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.





John Owen: Grace, a necessary preparation for glory

20 12 2011

I had a decent introduction to Owen last year, reading three of his major works.  So I decided two weeks ago to go ahead and order his complete works, which arrived in the mail last week.  So far I have read three books from this set: On the Divine Original of the Scriptures (Vol XVI); Vindication of the Doctrine of the Trinity (Vol II); and Meditations and Discourses on the Glory of Christ (Vol I).  I will be using his commentary on Hebrews to finish out our Hebrews Bible study, so I’m looking forward to that as well.  Many say that Owen is difficult to read, I find him easier the farther along I get in him.  Let me simply say, he is worth the time.  Take the time to digest the quote below, and see if you can really understand the root of what the man is saying.  In a nutshell, the believer hopes to be with Christ in heaven because the believer has had  an experience of the glory of Christ, by faith, in this life on earth.  Those who have not had an experience of the glory of Christ on this earth, have no content for their hope for heaven.  Tease that out a bit and see where you land.  Enjoy!

No man shall ever behold the glory of Christ by sight   hereafter, who does not in some measure behold it by faith here in this world. Grace is a necessary preparation for glory, and faith for sight. Where the subject (the soul) is not previously seasoned with grace and faith, it is not capable of glory or vision. Nay, persons not disposed hereby unto it cannot desire it, whatever they pretend; they only deceive their own souls in supposing that so they do. Most men will say with confidence, living and dying, that they desire to be with Christ, and to behold his glory; but they can give no reason why they should desire any such thing, – only they think it somewhat that is better than to be in that evil condition which otherwise they must be cast into for ever, when they can be here no more. If a man pretend himself to be enamoured on, or greatly to desire, what he never saw, nor was ever represented unto him, he does but dote on his own imaginations. And the pretended desires of many to behold the glory of Christ in heaven, who have no view of it by faith whilst they are here in this world, are nothing but
self-deceiving imaginations.

So do the Papists delude themselves. Their carnal affections are excited by their outward senses to delight in images of Christ, – in his sufferings, his resurrection, and glory above. Hereon they satisfy themselves that they behold the glory of Christ himself and that with love and great delight. But whereas there is not the least true representation made of the Lord Christ or his glory in these things, – that being confined absolutely unto the gospel alone, and this way of attempting it being laid under a severe interdict, – they do but sport themselves with their own deceivings.

The apostle tells us concerning himself and other believers, when the Lord Christ was present and conversed with them in the days of his flesh, that they “saw his glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth,” John 1: 14. And we may inquire, what was this glory of Christ which they so saw, and by what means they obtained a prospect of it. For, – l. It was not the glory of his outward condition, as we behold the glory and grandeur of the kings and potentates of the earth; for he made himself of no reputation, but being in the form of a servant, he walked in the condition of a man of low degree. The secular grandeur of his pretended Vicar makes no representation of that glory of his which his disciples saw. He kept no court, nor house of entertainment, nor (though he made all things) had of his own where to lay his head. Nor, – 2. Was it with respect to the outward form of the flesh which he was made, wherein he took our nature on him, as we see the glory of a comely or beautiful person; – for he had therein neither form nor comeliness that he should be desired, “his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men,” Isa. 52: 14; 53: 2, 3. All things appeared in him as became “a man of sorrows.” Nor, – 3. Was it absolutely the eternal essential glory of his divine nature that is intended; for this no man can see in this world. What we shall attain in a view thereof
hereafter we know not. But, – 4. It was his glory, as he was “full of grace and truth.” They saw the glory of his person and his office in the administration of grace and truth. And how or by what means did they see this glory of Christ? It was by faith, and no otherwise; for this privilege was granted unto them only who ”received him,” and believed on his name, John 1: 12. This was that glory which the Baptist saw, when, upon his coming unto him he said unto all that were presents “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world!” verses 29-33.

Wherefore let no man deceive himself; he that has no sight of the
glory of Christ here, shall never have any of it hereafter unto his
advantage. It is not, therefore, unto edification to discourse of
beholding the glory of Christ in heaven by vision, until we go
through a trial whether we see anything of it in this world by faith
or no.

John Owen, The Glory of Christ (Owen’s Works vol I pg 288-289)





Zwingli: Living daily in sin

20 12 2011

Two notes on the following text.  First, the text was written by the Swiss reformer Huldrych Zwingli.  Zwingli often gets lost between Luther and Calvin, although he shouldn’t be so easily displaced.  He was a remarkable thinker, gifted leader, and incredibly gracious in his dealings with a hostile Luther.  Second, and more importantly, this text deals with the common problem of Christians and continuing, even daily sin.  Pay attention to where Zwingli places confidence.  Is it in performance or Christ?  Pay attention to what Zwingli believes is a sign that God has entered into a person’s life, and to go further see if you can identify why he believes this.

“As long as we live, that rogue, the body, because of the temptation, will never let us live a godly life.  However, if we have trusted in God through Christ, then the flesh cannot throw us into damnation.  Rather, as Christ said to Peter: ‘See!  The devil has lain in waiting for you so that he may sift you as wheat.  But I have prayed for you, Peter, that your faith become neither unsteady nor weak” (Luke 22.31f).  Thus we must remain firm so that all our sins will be forgiven through Christ, although both the devil and the flesh will force us through the sieve and entice us with sin to despair.  But, as Peter’s external denial di dnot bring him into damnation, so also may no sin bring us to damnation, save one: unbelief.  Here, however, the true non-Christians say: “I firmly believe in Christ.”  Yet they do nothing Christian.  Herein one sees that they are non-Christians, for one recognizes a tree by its fruit.  Therefore, note for better understanding:  as has often been pointed out before, whoever has securely trusted in teh grace of God through Christ, after recognizing his sin, cannot be without the love of God.  Who would not love him who has so graciously taken away his sin and has begun first to love him, as 1 John 4.19 says, and to draw him to himself?  Where, now, the love of God is, there is God; for God is love himself and whoever is in the love of God is in God and God is in him, as 1 John 4.16 says.  Now if God is in the right believer and he nevertheless sins, then it follows that it is as Paul says in Romans 8.10: “If now Christ is in you, then the body is dead because of sin, but the spirit or soul lives because of justification.”  This justification is nothing but a person’s placing himself in and devoting himself to the grace of God.  This is true belief.  So the opinion of Paul is that our body is always dead and gives birth to works of death and sin.  However, the same sins cannot damn us if we are righteous in faith, so that we trust with certainty the grace of God through the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Huldrych Zwingli, A Short Christian Instruction Zwingli’s Works vol II pg 58-59





Spurgeon: The Mercy of God

20 12 2011

He is as gracious in the manner of His mercy as in the matter of it. It is great mercy. There is nothing little in God; His mercy is like Himself – it is infinite. You cannot measure it. His mercy is so great that it forgives great sins to great sinners, after great lengths of time, and then gives great favours and great privileges, and raises us up to great enjoyments in the great heaven of the great God. It is undeserved mercy , as indeed all true mercy must be, for deserved mercy is only a misnomer for justice. There was no right on the sinner’s part to the kind consideration of the Most High; had the rebel been doomed at once to eternal fire he would have richly merited the doom, and if delivered from wrath, sovereign love alone has found a cause, for there was none in the sinner himself. It is rich mercy. Some things are great, but have little efficacy in them, but this mercy is a cordial to your drooping spirits; a golden ointment to your bleeding wounds; a heavenly bandage to your broken bones; a royal chariot for your weary feet; a bosom of love for your trembling heart.

Spurgeon, Morning Devotional for Aug 16





Augustine on Sanctification: Good Works Flow From those Who Have Become Drunk on God’s Mercy

20 12 2011

What a wonderful little passage on the well that Christians draw from to produce their good works!

This holy meditation preserves “the children of men, who put their trust under the shadow of God’s wings,” so that they are “drunken with the fatness of His house, and drink of the full stream of His pleasure. For with Him is the fountain of life, and in His light shall they see light. For He extendeth His mercy to them that know Him, and His righteousness to the upright in heart.” He does not, indeed, extend His mercy to them because they know Him, but that they may know Him; nor is it because they are upright in heart, but that they may become so, that He extends to them His righteousness, whereby He justifies the ungodly. This meditation does not elevate with pride: this sin arises when any man has too much confidence in himself, and makes himself the chief end of living. Impelled by this vain feeling, he departs from that fountain of life, from the draughts of which alone is imbibed the holiness which is itself the good life,—and from that unchanging light, by sharing in which the reasonable soul is in a certain sense inflamed, and becomes itself a created and reflected luminary; even as “John was a burning and a shining light,” who notwithstanding acknowledged the source of his own illumination in the words, “Of His fulness have all we received.” Whose, I would ask, but His, of course, in comparison with whom John indeed was no light at all? For “that was the true light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” Therefore, in the same psalm, after saying, “Extend Thy mercy to them that know Thee, and Thy righteousness to the upright in heart,” he adds, “Let not the foot of pride come against me, and let not the hands of sinners move me. There have fallen all the workers of iniquity: they are cast out, and are not able to stand.”  Since by that impiety which leads each to attribute to himself the excellence which is God’s, he is cast out into his own native darkness, in which consist the works of iniquity. For it is manifestly these works which he does, and for the achievement of such alone is he naturally fit. The works of righteousness he never does, except as he receives ability from that fountain and that light, where the life is that wants for nothing, and where is “no variableness, nor the shadow of turning.”

From Augustine’s “The Spirit and the Letter” 11.7





Martin Luther: God’s grace in forsaking us

20 12 2011

Luther is commenting here on the fear of Abram in Gen 15.1.  Notice Luther’s description of God withdrawing himself and what it is meant to accomplish.  First, when God withdraws himself it is because of His grace, not in spite of.  After all, grace is “truly immovalbe and unchangeable.”  But rather, God will from time to time withdraw himself to humble his people and protect them from grievous sins and at the proper time restore their spirits with a word of comfort.  The pastoral applications of this are immense. Here are some questions to help you tease this out for yourself.  What role does spiritual depression play in formation?  When I feel God’s absence, could there be a good and loving reason behind his absence?  How does being humbled by God help us to rely on his promises and love Him more? 

It is no small comfort, however, to know that grace has not been taken away but is truly immovable and unchangeable, although the awareness and experience of grace is taken away for a time, and dread and fear rush in, discouraging and troubling the spirit.  The man becomes impatient, concludes that he cannot bear the wrath of God, and simply makes a devil out of God.

Christ experienced this trial in the garden (Matt 26.41), where nature was wrestling with the spirit, and the spirit indeed was willing but the flesh was weak, terrified, fearful, and troubled.  No one is truly sorrowful unless God forsakes him, just as, conversely, no one can be sorrowful when God is present.  Therefore sorrow is an indication that God has departed from us and has forsaken us for a time…

When on the other hand, as is written in the Book of Wisdom (3.7), God shines into our hearts with rays of mercy, then it is impossible for our hearts not to be glad, even though we, like Stephen, are being dragged to torture and death.

Therefore it is profitable to consider these examples, namely, that the saints who are bold in the Holy Spirit are bolder than Satan himself.  On the other hand, when they are in the clutches of trial, they tremble so much that they are afraid even of a rustling leaf.  We are reminded of our weakness in order that no matter how great the gifts are that we possess, we may not exalt ourselves but may remain humble and fear God.  From those who do not do this He turns His face away, and trouble and perplexity follow.

I want to preface these remarks to this chapter, in which we learn about what Ps. 4.3 says: “know that God has dealt marvelously with the godly,” that is, that He keeps those who are His occupied in various ways, lest they become heretics, be presumptuous with regard to their gifts, and be puffed up over against those who do not have these gifts.  For those who do this are very close to destruction.

Therefore those who are chosen as teachers of the churches to rule over others should offer special prayers that they be preserved from this affliction as from the greatest and most dangerous evil.

Other sins- such as wrathfulness, impatience, and drunkenness- naturally bring shame because of their foulness.  Those who indulge in them know that they have sinned.  Consequently, they blush.  But vainglory and trust in one’s own wisdom or righteousness is a sin of such a kind that it is not recognized as sin.  Instead, men thank God for it, as the Pharisee does in the Gospel (Luke 18.9-14); they rejoice in it as in an extraordinary gift of the Holy Spirit.  Therefore it is an utterly incurable devilish evil.

From this God preserves saintly Abraham by subjecting the glorious conqueror to such an affliction that it is necessary to comfort him with a divine word…

Luther, Comentary on Genesis vol. II (LW vol. 3 pg 8-9)