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The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul

(7 posts)

These works of yours

Philip Doddridge replies to those who present their own morality and righteous works as justification before God. Had your obedience to the law of God been complete, the plea might be allowed as important and valid. . . . I add farther, had these works of yours, which you now urge, proceeded from a sincere love to God, and a genuine faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, you would not have thought of pleading them any otherwise than as an evidence of your interest in the gospel covenant and in the blessings of it, procured by the righteousness and blood of the Redeemer; and that faith, had it been sincere, would have been attended with such deep humility, and with such solemn apprehensions of the divine holiness and glory, that, instead of pleading any works of your own before God, you would rather have implored his pardon for the mixture of sinful imperfection attending the very best of them. Now, as you are a stranger to this humbling and sanctifying principle, (which here in this address I suppose my reader to be) it is absolutely necessary you should be plainly and faithfully told, that neither sobriety, nor honesty, nor humanity will justify you before the tribunal of God, when he “lays judgment to the line, and righteousness to the plummet, Isa. xxviii. 17.” and examines all your actions and all your thoughts with the strictest severity. You have not been a drunkard, an adulterer, or a robber. So far it is well. You stand before a righteous God, who will do you ample justice, and therefore will not condemn you for drunkenness, adultery, or robbery; but you have forgotten him, your Parent and your Benefactor; you have “cast off fear, and restrained prayer before him, Job xv. 4.” you have despised the blood of his Son, and all the immortal blessings that he purchased with it. For this, therefore, you are judged, and condemned. And as for any thing that has looked like virtue and humanity in your temper and conduct, the exercise of it has in great measure been its own reward, if there were any thing more than form and artifice in it; and the various bounties of divine Providence to you, amidst all your numberless provocations, have been a thousand times more than an equivalent for such defective and imperfect virtues as these. You remain therefore chargeable with the guilt of a thousand offences, for which you have no excuse, though there are some other instances in which you did not grossly offend. And those good works in which you have been so ready to trust, will no more vindicate you in his awful presence, than a man’s kindness to his poor neighbors would be allowed as a plea in arrest of judgment, when he stood convicted of high treason against his prince. —Philip Doddridge, The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul (Robert Porter, 1810), 52–53.

The Preacher’s Motivation

One of the most important—if not the most important—qualities of a gospel preacher is the humility to apply every sermon to himself. Until he has first seen his own sin as the object of God’s righteous judgment, he is not fit to preach to others. And when he has, he will, as Philip Doddridge writes, be rightly motivated. And shall this sentence stand upon record in vain, Shall the law speak it, and the Gospel speak it? and shall it never be pronounced more audibly? and will God never require and execute the punishment? He will O sinner, require it; and he will execute it, though he may seem for a while to delay. For well dost thou know that “he hath appointed a day in which he will judge the” whole “world in righteousness, by that Man whom he hath ordained, of which he hath given assurance in having raised him from the dead, Acts xvii. 31.” And when God judgeth the world, O reader, whoever thou art, he will judge thee. And while I remind thee of it, I would also remember that he will judge me. And “knowing the terror of the Lord, 2 Cor. v. 11.” that I may “deliver my own soul, Ezek. xxxiii. 9.” I would, with all plainness and sincerity, labor to deliver thine. —Philip Doddridge, The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul (Robert Porter, 1810), 59.

Do ye believe?

Look upon your dear Redeemer! look up to this mournful, dreadful, yet, in one view, delightful spectacle, and then ask thine own heart, Do ye believe that Jesus suffered and died thus? And why did he suffer and die? Let me answer in God’s own words, “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities, and the chastisement of our peace was upon him, that by his stripes we might he healed: it pleased the Lord to bruise him, and put him to grief, when he made his soul an offering for sin; for the Lord laid on him the iniquity of us all, Isa. liii. 5, 6, 10.” So that I may address you in the words of the apostle, “Be it known unto you therefore, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins; Acts xiii. 38.” as it was his command, just after he arose from the dead, “that repentance and remission of sins should be, preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem, Luke xxiv. 47.” the very place, where his blood had so lately been shed in such a cruel manner. I do thereby testify to you, in the words of another inspired writer, that Christ was made sin, that is, a sin offering, “for; though he knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him, 2 Cor. v. 21.” that is, that through the righteousness he has fulfilled, and the atonement he has made, we might be accepted by God as righteous, and be not only pardoned, but received into his favour. “To you is the word of this salvation sent, Acts xiii. 26.” and to you, O reader, are the blessings of it even now offered by God, sincerely offered; so that . . . it is not your having broken the law of God that shall prove your ruin, if you do not also reject his Gospel. It is not all those legions of sins which rise up in battle array against you that shall be able to destroy you, if unbelief do not lead them on, and final impenitency do not bring up the rear. I know that guilt is a timorous thing; I will therefore speak in the words of God himself; nor can any be more comfortable: “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life, John iii. 36. and he shall never come into condemnation, John v. 24. There is therefore now no condemnation,” no kind or degree of it, to them, to any one of them, “who are in Jesus Christ, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit, Rom. viii. 1.” You have indeed been a very great sinner, and your offences have truly been attended with most heinous aggravations; nevertheless you may rejoice in the assurance, that “where sin hath abounded, there shall grace much more abound, Rom. v. 20.” “that where sin hath reigned unto death,” where it has had its most unlimited sway and most unresisted triumph, there shall “righteousness reign to eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Rom. v. 21.” That righteousness, to which on believing on him thou will be entitled, shall not only break those chains by which sin is (as it were) dragging thee at its chariot-wheels with a furious pace to eternal ruin, but it shall clothe thee with the robes of salvation, shall fix thee on a throne of glory, where thou shalt live and reign for ever among the princes of heaven, shalt reign in immortal beauty and joy, without one remaining scar of divine displeasure upon thee, without any single mark by which it could be known that thou hadst ever been obnoxious to wrath and a curse, except it be an anthem of praise to “the Lamb that was slain, and has washed thee from thy sins in his own blood, Rev. i. 5.” —Philip Doddridge, The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul (Robert Porter, 1810), 75–76.

Nothing in my hand I bring

God alone is the standard of goodness. No honest person, understanding that fact, can claim to be good. No matter how good we try to be, next to God’s holy standard, “all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment” (Isaiah 64:6). The good news of the gospel is that God provides us with a perfect righteousness, which can be ours, through faith in Christ. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. —Romans 3:28 Nor is it necessary, in order to thy being released from guilt, and entitled to this high and complete felicity, that thou shouldst, before thou wilt venture to apply to Jesus, bring any good works of thine own to recommend thee to his acceptance. It is indeed true, that, if thy faith be sincere, it will certainly produce them; but I have the authority of the word of God to tell thee that if thou this day sincerely believest in the name of the Son of God, thou shalt this day be taken under his care, and be numbered among those of his sheep to whom he hath graciously declared that “he will give eternal life, and that they shall never perish, John x. 28.” Thou hast no need therefore to say, “Who shall go up into heaven, or who shall descend into the deep for me? For the word is nigh thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, Rom. x. 6, 7, 8.” With this joyful message I leave thee; with this faithful saying, indeed “worthy of all acceptation; 1 Tim. i. 15.” with this Gospel, O sinner, which is my life; and which, if thou dost not reject, will be thine too. —Philip Doddridge, The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul (Robert Porter, 1810), 76. Not the labours of my hands, Can fulfil thy law’s demands: Could my zeal no respite know. Could my tears for ever flow; All for sin could not atone, Thou must save and thou alone. Nothing in my hand I bring, Simply to thy cross I cling; Naked come to thee for dress, Helpless, look to thee for grace: Foul I to the fountain fly, Wash me, Saviour, or I die. —Augustus Toplady

Apply to this glorious Redeemer

Philip Doddridge answers the sinner who is “convinced of your guilt and condemnation, and of your own inability to recover yourself.” Apply therefore to this glorious Redeemer, amiable as he will appear to every believing eye in the blood which he shed upon the cross, and in the wounds which he received there. Go to him, O sinner! this day, this moment, with all thy sins about thee. Go just as thou art; for if thou wilt never apply to him till thou art first righteous and holy, thou wilt never be righteous and holy at all; nor canst be so on this supposition, unless there were some way of being so without him; and then there would be no occasion for applying to him for righteousness and holiness. It were indeed as if it should be said that a sick man should defer his application to a physician till his health is recovered. Let me therefore repeat it without offence, go to him just as thou art, and say, (O that thou mayest this moment be enabled to say it from thy very soul!) “Blessed Jesus, I am surely one of the most sinful and one of the most miserable creatures that ever fell prostrate before thee; nevertheless I come, because I have heard that thou didst once say, “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest, Matt. xi. 28.” I come, because I have heard that thou didst graciously say, “Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out, John vi. 37.” O thou Prince of Peace, O thou King of Glory! I am a condemned, miserable sinner; I have ruined my own soul, and am condemned forever, if thou dost not help me and save me. I have broken thy Father“s law and thine; for thou art “one with him, John x. 30.” I have deserved condemnation and wrath; and I am, even at this very moment, under a sentence of everlasting destruction, a destruction which will he aggravated by all the contempt that I have cast upon thee, O thou bleeding Lamb of God! for I cannot and will not dissemble it before thee, that I have wronged thee, most basely and ungratefully wronged thee, under the character of a Savior as well as or a Lord. But now I am willing to submit to thee; and I have brought my poor trembling soul to lodge it in thine hands, if thou wilt condescend to receive it; and if thou dost not, it must perish. O Lord, I lie at thy feet: stretch out “thy golden scepter that I may live, Esth. iv. 11.” “Yea, if it please the King, let the life of my soul be given me at my petition! Esth. viii. 3.” I have no treasure wherewith to purchase it, I have no equivalent to give thee for it; but if that compassionate heart of thine can find a pleasure in saving one of the most distressed creatures under heaven, that pleasure thou mayest here find. O Lord, I have foolishly attempted to be my own savior, but it will not do. I am sensible the attempt is vain, and therefore I give it over, and look unto thee. On thee, blessed Jesus, who art sure and steadfast, do I desire to fix my anchor. On thee, as the only sure foundation, would I build my eternal hopes. To thy teaching, O thou unerring Prophet of the Lord, would I submit: be thy doctrines ever so mysterious, it is enough for me that thou thyself hast said it. To thine atonement, obedience, and intercession, O thou holy and ever-acceptable High Priest, would I trust. And to thy government, O thou exalted Sovereign, would I yield a willing, delightful subjection: in token of reverence and love, “I kiss the Son: Psa. ii. 12.” I kiss the ground before his feet. I admit thee, O my Savior! and welcome thee, with unutterable joy, to the throne in my heart. Ascend it and reign there for ever! Subdue mine enemies, O Lord, for they are thine; and make me thy faithful and zealous servant: faithful to death, and zealous to eternity.” —Philip Doddridge, The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul (Robert Porter, 1810), 82–83.

Hope for the Vilest Sinner

Guilt is a powerful thing. It is necessary that we know our guilt, or we would never come to Christ for forgiveness. But once we come to him, we must know that there is no sin beyond his ability to forgive. Just as no saint is good enough to be justified before God, no sinner is to wicked to be forgiven. But to suppose the worst, what if you were really the vilest sinner that ever lived upon the face of the earth? What if “your iniquities had gone up into the heavens” every day, and “your transgressions had reached unto the clouds, Rev. xviii. 5.” reached thither with such horrid aggravations, that earth and heaven should have had reason to detest you as a monster of impiety? Admitting all this, “is any thing too hard for the Lord? Gen. xviii. 14.” Are any sins, of which a sinner can repent, of so deep a dye, that the blood of Christ cannot wash them away? Nay, though it would be daring wickedness and monstrous folly, for any “to sin that grace may abound, Rom. vi. 1.” yet had you indeed raised your account beyond all that divine grace has ever yet pardoned, who should “limit the holy One of Israel? Psal. lxxviii. 41.” or who shall pretend to say, that it is impossible that God may, for your very wretchedness, choose you out from others, to make you a monument of mercy, and a trophy of hitherto unparalleled grace? The apostle Paul strongly intimates this to have been the case with regard to himself; and why might not you likewise, if indeed “the chief of sinners,” obtain mercy, that in you, as the chief, “Jesus Christ might show forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them who shall hereafter believe? 1 Tim. i. 15, 16.” —Philip Doddridge, The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul (Robert Porter, 1810), 109. The vilest offender who truly believes, That moment from Jesus a pardon receives. —Fanny Crosby

Sorrow that Produces Repentance

Not all sorrow over sin is genuine repentance. Some is only motivated by self-interest. Inquire seriously, in the first place, “what views you have had of sin, and what sentiments you have felt in your soul with regard to it?” There was a time when it wore a flattering aspect, and made a fair, enchanting appearance, so that all your heart was charmed with it, and it was the very business of your life to practice it. But you have since been undeceived. You have felt it “bite like a serpent, and sting like an adder, Prov. xxiii. 32.” You have beheld it with an abhorrence far greater than the delight which it ever gave you. So far it is well it is thus with every true penitent, and with some, I fear, who are not of that number. Let me therefore inquire farther, whence arose this abhorrence? Was it merely from a principle of self-love? Was it merely because you had been wounded by it? Was it merely because you had thereby brought condemnation and ruin upon your own soul? Was there no sense of its deformity, of its baseness, of its malignity, as committed against the blessed God, considered as a glorious, a bountiful, and a merciful Being? Were you never pierced by the apprehension of its vile ingratitude? —Philip Doddridge, The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul (Robert Porter, 1810), 115. Worldly remorse sees sin only as a detriment to the sinner. Genuine repentance sees sin for what it really is: an offense against God. Worldly remorse prompts one to seek change in hope of a better life. Godly sorrow seeks reconciliation with God. For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. —2 Corinthians 7:10


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