Horatius Bonar: I am what I am because of…what?

17 01 2012

The following is a hymn written by Horatius Bonar, the 19th century Scottish Puritan.  I like the hymn because it so succinctly, poetically, and properly attributes to God what belongs to God and to me what belongs to me.  A good meditation for some “closet time” (Matt 6.6).  

A Spiritual Song based on 1 Cor XV.10

All that I was, my sin, my guilt,

My death, was all my own:

All that I am I owe to Thee,

My gracious God alone.

 

The evil of my former state

Was mine, and only mine;

The good in which I now rejoice

Is Thine, and only Thine

 

The darkness of my former state,

The bondage,- all was mine;

The light of life in which I walk,

The liberty is Thine,

 

The grace first made me feel my sin,

And taught me to believe;

Then, in believing, peace I found,

And now I live, I live.

 

All that I am, e’en here on earth,

All that I hope to be,

When Jesus comes and glory dawns,

I owe it, Lord, to Thee

 





Horatious Bonar: The Love of God and the Law of God

20 12 2011

Favor to the sinner must also be favor to the law. Favor to the sinner which would simply establish law, or leave its sanctities untouched, would be much; but favor to him which would deepen its foundations, and render it more venerable, more awful than before, is unspeakably higher and surer. Even so has it been. Law has not suffered at the hands of love, nor love been cramped and frozen by law. Both have had full scope, fuller scope than if man had never fallen.

I know that love is not law, and that law is not love. In law, properly, no love inheres. It is like the balance which knows not whether it be gold or iron that is laid upon it. Yet in that combination of the judicial and the paternal, which God’s way of salvation exhibits, law has become the source and vehicle of love, and love law’s upholder and honourer; so that even in this sense and aspect “love is the fulfilling of the law.”(2)

The law that was against the sinner has come to be upon the sinner’s side. It is now ready to take his part in the great controversy between him and God, provided he will conduct his case on the new principles which God has introduced for the settlement of all variances between Himself and the sinner; or rather, provided he will put that case into the hands of the divine Advocate, who alone knows how to conduct it aright, and to bring it to a successful issue, who is both “propitiation” and ”Advocate,” the “propitiation for our sins” (1 John 2:2), “the Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1).

Horatius Bonar, The Everlasting Righteousness, (Banner of Truth Trust: pg 12-13)





Horatius Bonar: Christ our substitute

20 12 2011

Everyone has the experience of being ashamed or embarrassed.  Perhaps this is because you are a social outcast, perhaps it is because through pride, arrogance, or shamefulness you did something that caused your good name to be tarnished.  Perhaps a family member did something shameful that by virtue of your common name, you are associated with and thus shamed with him.  At this point, you might want nothing more than to exchange names with someone whose name is not tarnished.  Of course the Scriptures testify to this end, that we have exchanged names with Jesus Christ.  His honor, glory, and beauty have become ours.  Our shame has become his.   This is the beauty of what Bonar is driving at in teh following excerpt from his great work, The Everlasting Righteousness

To be entitled to use another’s name, when my own name is worthless; to be allowed to wear another’s raiment, because my own is torn and filthy; to appear before God in another’s person, the person of the Beloved Son, this is the summit of all blessing. The sin-bearer and I have exchanged names, robes, and persons! I am now represented by Him, my own personality having disappeared; He now appears in the presence of God for me (Hebrews 9:24). All that makes Him precious and dear to the Father has been transferred to me. His excellency and glory are seen as if they were mine; and I receive the love, and the fellowship, and the glory, as if I had earned them all. So entirely one am I with the sin-bearer, that God treats me not merely as if I had not done the evil that I have done; but as if I had done all the good which I have not done, but which my Substitute has done. In one sense I am still the poor sinner, once under wrath; in another I am altogether righteous, and shall be so for ever, because of the Perfect One, in whose perfection I appear before God. Nor is this a false pretense or a hollow fiction, which carries no results or blessings with it. It is an exchange which has been provided by the Judge, and sanctioned by law; an exchange of which any sinner upon earth may avail himself and be blest.

Horatius Bonar, The Everlasting Righteousness (Banner of Truth Trust 1993 pgs 44-45)





Horatius Bonar: We are never done with the cross

20 12 2011

An excerpt from the final paragraphs of ch 4 of Bonar’s The Everlasting Righteousness. I would highly encourage to click through and read the whole thing. Bonar addresses something very important, particularly in light of North American Evangelicalism, which treats the cross as a stepping stone to a life of discipleship. “NO!” says Bonar. Rather than being a stepping stone, the cross is not only central to the Christian life, but it is the hermeneutic of heaven itself. Enjoy.

We are never done with the cross, nor ever shall be. Its wonders will
be always new, and always fraught with joy. “The Lamb as it had been
slain” will be the theme of our praise above. Why should such a name be given to Him in such a book as the Revelation, which in one sense carries us far past the cross, were it not that we shall always realize our connection with its one salvation; always be looking to it even in the midst of glory; and always learning from it some new lesson regarding the work of Him “in whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace”? What will they who here speak of themselves as being so advanced as to be done with the cross, say to being brought face to face with the Lamb that was slain, in the age of absolute perfection, the age of the heavenly glory?

Thou fool! Dost thou not know that the cross of the Lord Jesus
Christ endureth for ever, and that thou shalt eternally glory in it, if thou are saved by it at all?

Thou fool! Wilt thou not join in the song below, “To Him that loved
us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood”? Wilt thou not join
in the song above, “Thou was slain, and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood”? And dost thou not remember that it is from “the Lamb as it had been slain” that “the seven spirits of God are sent forth into all the
earth”? (Revelation 5:6).[13]

It is the Lamb who stands in the midst of the elders (Revelation 5:6), and before whom they fall down. “Worthy is the Lamb” is the theme of celestial song. It is the Lamb that opens the seals (6:1). It is before the Lamb that the great multitude stand clothed in white (7:9). It is the blood of the Lamb that washes the raiment white (7:14). It is by the blood of the Lamb that the victory is won (12:11). The book of life belongs to the Lamb slain (13:8). It was a Lamb that stood on the glorious Mount Zion (14:1). It is the Lamb that the redeemed multitude are seen following (14:4); and that multitude is the first-fruits unto God and unto the Lamb (14:4). It is the song of the Lamb that is sung in heaven (15:3). It is the Lamb that wars and overcomes (17:14). It is the marriage of the Lamb that is celebrated, and it is to the marriage-supper of the Lamb that we are called (19:7,9). The church is the Lamb’s wife (21:9). On the foundations of the heavenly city are written the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb (21:14). Of this city the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple (21:23). Of that city the Lamb is the light (21:23). The book of life of the Lamb, and the throne of the Lamb (21:27; 22:1,3), sum up this wondrous list of honors and dignities belonging to the Lord Jesus as the crucified Son of God.

Thus the glory of heaven revolves round the cross; and every object on which the eye lights in the celestial city will remind us of the cross, and carry us back to Golgotha. Never shall we get beyond it, or turn our backs on it, or cease to draw from it the divine virtue which it contains.

The tree, be it palm, or cedar, or olive, can never be independent of its
roots, however stately its growth, however plentiful its fruit. The
building, be it palace or temple, can never be separated from its
foundation, however spacious or ornate its structure may be. So, never
shall the redeemed be independent of the cross, or cease to draw from its fullness.

In what ways our looking to the cross hereafter will benefit us; what
the shadow of that tree will do for us in the eternal kingdom, I know not, nor do I venture to say. But it would seem as if the cross and the glory were so inseparably bound together, that there cannot be the enjoyment of the one without the remembrance of the other. The completeness of the sacrificial work on Calvary will be matter for eternal contemplation and rejoicing, long after every sin has been, by its cleansing efficacy, washed out of our being forever.

Shall we ever exhaust the fullness of the cross? Is it a mere steppingstone to something beyond itself? Shall we ever cease to glory in it (as the apostle gloried), not only because of past, but because of present and eternal blessing? The forgiveness of sin is one thing; but is that all? The crucifixion of the world is another; but is that all? Is the cross to be a relic, useless though venerable, like the serpent of brass laid up in the tabernacle; to be destroyed perhaps at some future time, and called Nehushtan? (2 Kings 18:4). Or is it not rather like the tree of life, which bears twelve manner of fruits, and yields its fruit every month, by the banks of the celestial river? Its influence here on earth is transforming; but even after the transformation has been completed, and the whole church perfected, shall there not be a rising higher and higher, a taking
on of greater and yet greater comeliness, a passing from glory to glory;
and all in connection with the cross, and through the never-ending vision of its wonders?

Horatius Bonar, The Everlasting Righteousness pg 61-64





Horatius Bonar: Faith is the absence of work

20 12 2011

For me, the take home point was “faith is no work, nor merit, nor effort; but the cessation from all of these, and the acceptance in place of them of what another has done.”  Conveying that one thought is the chief aim of the Holy Spirit in the Scriptures, the main goal of all pastoral ministry, and the only thought that brings progress in discipleship.

The strength or kind of faith required is nowhere stated. The Holy Spirit has said nothing as to quantity or quality, on which so many dwell, and over which they stumble, remaining all their days in darkness and uncertainty. It is simply in believing,-feeble as our faith may be,-that we are invested with this righteousness. For faith is no work, nor merit, nor effort; but the cessation from all these, and the acceptance in place of them of what another has done,-done completely, and for ever. The simplest, feeblest faith suffices; for it is not the excellence of our act of faith that does aught for us, but the excellence of Him who suffered for sin, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God. His perfection suffices to cover not only that which is imperfect in our characters and lives, but that which is imperfect in our faith, when we believe on His name.

Many a feeble hand,-perhaps many a palsied one,-was laid on the head of the burnt-offering (Lev 1:4); but the feebleness of that palsied touch did not alter the character of the sacrifice, or make it less available in all its fullness for him who brought it. The priest would not turn him away from the door of the tabernacle because his hand trembled; nor would the bullock fail to be “accepted for him, to make atonement for him” (Lev 1:4), because his fingers might barely touch its head by reason of his feebleness. The burnt-offering was still the burnt-offering, and the weakest touch sufficed to establish the connection between it and him, because even that feeble touch was the expression of his consciousness that he was unfit to be dealt with on the footing of what he was himself, and of his desire to be dealt with by God on the footing of another, infi-nitely worthier and more perfect than himself.

On our part there is unrighteousness, condemning us; on God’s part there is righteousness, forgiving and blessing us. Thus unright-eousness meets righteousness, not to war with each other, but to be at peace. They come together in love, not in enmity; and the hand of righteousness is stretched out not to destroy, but to save.

It is as the unrighteous that we come to God; not with good-ness in our hands as a recommendation, but with the utter want of goodness; not with amendment or promises of amendment, but with only evil, both in the present and the past; not presenting the claim of contrition or repentance or broken hearts to induce God to receive us as something less than unrighteous, but going to Him simply as unrighteous; unable to remove that unrighteous-ness, or offer anything either to palliate or propitiate.

It is the conscious absence of all good things that leads us to the fountain of all goodness. That fountain is open to all who thus come; it is closed against all who come on any other footing. It is the want of light and life that draws us to the one source of both; and both of these are the free gifts of God.

He who comes as partly righteous is sent empty away. He who comes acknowledging unrighteousness, but at the same time trying to neutralize it or expiate it by feelings, and prayers, and tears, is equally rejected. But he who comes as an unrighteous man to a righteous yet gracious God, finds not only ready access, but plen-teous blessing. The righteous God receives unrighteous man, if man presents himself in his own true character as a sinner, and does not mock God by pretending to be something less or better than this.

Horatius Bonar, The Everlasting Righteousness (Banner of Truth Trust: 1993 pg 74-78)





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