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Works of David Clarkson

(55 posts)

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me. —Psalm 51:5 The late Robert Schuller once spoke words to this effect: “If I preach about sin, people will leave here unhappy. Is that what the gospel is about?”* The English Puritan David Clarkson (1622–1686) would reply, “No, but that’s where it begins.” The end of the ministry of the gospel is to bring sinners unto Christ. Their way to this end lies through the sense of their misery without Christ. —David Clarkson, Of Original Sin, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:3. In order to be saved, sinners—that is, every living human—must come to Christ. The only way to Christ is through a sense of need for forgiveness wrought by the knowledge of our sin—not merely that we have sinned, but that we are sinful by nature. In the text at the top of this page, from King David’s psalm of repentance, David acknowledges more than just the sin with which the prophet Nathan confronted him, but the fact that he was born this way. He does not need forgiveness alone, but deliverance from his very nature. This is the doctrine of original sin. We are tainted with this sin from our birth, from our conception, while we are formed, while we are warmed in the womb, as the word is. Natural corruption is not contracted only by imitation, nor becomes it habitual by custom or repetition of acts, but it is rooted in the soul before the subject be capable either of imitation or acting. It is diffused through the soul as soon as the soul is united to the body. . . . The prophet upbraids Israel with this, Isa. xlviii. 8, ‘And wast called a transgressor from the womb,’ and so may we all be called, though the expression be inclusively, not only from the time of our coming out of the womb, but from the time of our being formed in it. This sin should be the ground of our humiliation. . . . because it is the foundation of our misery. Our misery consists in the depravedness of our natures, our obnoxiousness to the wrath of God, and our inability to free ourselves from either. But this is what has depraved our natures, or rather is the depravation of them; this makes us obnoxious to the wrath of God. —Ibid., 5. And it gets worse: Not only are we born in this condition, but we are powerless to cure it. Another part of this misery is your inability to free yourselves from this sin and wrath. This is evident from hence: those that are born in sins and trespasses are ‘dead in sins and trespasses,’ Eph. ii. 1. Till ye be born again, ye are dead. There must be a second birth, else there will be no spiritual life. Every one, since death entered into the world by this sin, is born dead; comes into the world, and so continues, destitute of spiritual life. And what more impotent than a dead man? You can no more repair the image of God in your souls, than a dead man can reunite his soul to his body; no more free yourselves from that antipathy to God, and inclination to wickedness, than a dead carcase can free itself from those worms and vermin that feed upon it; no more free yourselves from the wrath of God, than a dead man can raise himself out of the grave. Into such a low condition has this corruption of nature sunk the sons of men, as nothing can raise them but an infinite power, an almighty arm. Nay, so far are men, in this estate, from power to free themselves from this misery, as they are without sense of their misery. Tell them they are dead; it is a paradox. They will not believe the report of Christ; they will not hear, till a voice armed with an almighty power, such a voice as Lazarus heard, do awake them. Till then, they are without life, and so without sense. Here is the depth of misery: to be so miserable, and yet insensible of it. Yet thus low has this sin brought every sinner. Nay, if they were sensible of their misery, and of their own inability to avoid it, yet can they not, yet will they not move towards him, who only can deliver them. They are without life, and so without motion. ‘No man comes to me except the Father draw him,’ John vi. They lie dead, putrefying under this corruption, under the wrath of an incensed God, without motion or inclination toward him who is the resurrection and the life. This is the condition into which this sin has brought you; and can there be a condition more miserable? Is there not cause to be humbled for that which has brought you so low, which has made you so wretched? Should not this be the chief ground of your humiliation? —Ibid., 6–7. This is the condition in which we are born. This is why Jesus said, “You must be born again” (John 3). * I have been unable to find the original source and exact wording, but I am confident in the accuracy of this quotation. In any case, it is not difficult to prove Schuller’s contempt for the preaching of sin and repentance.

Evangelical Repentance

Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. —Luke 13:3 Repentance, writes David Clarkson, “is an evangelical duty; a gospel, a new-covenant duty.” But not all repentance falls under the gospel category. There is also legally-motivated repentance, performed in one’s own strength, intended only to ease the conscience. Gospel repentance is that which is given by God (2 Timothy 2:25), and flows joyfully from a heart he has made (Ezekiel 11:19). Clarkson distinguishes between the two, exhorts us to “practise this duty evangelically,” and offers these (and more) directions: (1.) Undertake it for evangelical ends. The end gives nature and name to the action. If your aims be legal, mercenary, the act will be so. Go not about it only to escape hell, avoid wrath, satisfy justice, remove judgments, pacify conscience. Ahab and Pharaoh can repent thus, those who are strangers to the covenant of grace. How then? Endeavour that you may give God honour, that ye may please him, that you may comply with his will, that you may never more return to folly. Confess, to give honour, as Josh. vii. 19, get hearts broken, that you may offer sacrifice well pleasing. (2.) Let evangelical motives lead you to the practice of it. Act as drawn by the cords of love. The goodness of God should lead you to it, Rom. ii. Horror, despair, terror of conscience will drive Cain and Judas to strange fits of legal repentance. The remembrance of sins against electing, distinguishing love, against redeeming, pardoning mercy, against the free grace of the gospel and offers of it, should lead you to it. So should your dealing unfaithfully in the covenant of grace, sinning against the blood of Christ, wounding him, grieving him, who became a man of sorrows. Piercing, Zech. xii. 10, that you have hated him who loved you; grieved him who would have comforted you with unspeakable comforts; dishonoured him who thought not his own glory too much for you; provoked him who would see his own Son die, rather than you should perish; undervalued him who thought not his life too dear for you. (3.) In an evangelical manner, freely, cheerfully, with joy and delight; not as constrained, but willingly. As those that are . . . in love with the duty—for so are pardoned repenting sinners. . . Christ’s people in covenant with him are ‘a willing people,’ Ps. cx. 3 . . . (4.) Repent that ye can repent no more. This is an evangelical temper, to be sensible of the defects and failings of spiritual duties; be grieved that you can grieve no more for sin; abhor yourselves that you cannot hate it with a more perfect hatred; count it your great affliction that sin and you are not quite divorced; count the relics of sin which you cannot drive out, what the Canaanites were to the children of Israel, Num. xxxiii. 55 . . . (6.) Think not that your repentance can satisfy God, or make any amends for the wrong sin has done him; do not imagine that it is any recompence for the injury sin has done him, or any reparation of that honour which is violated and defaced by sin. Every old corrupt heart is so far legal as it would have a righteousness, a satisfaction of its own, and not rely upon another for it; so proud is corrupt nature, as it is loth to deny its own, to depend only upon another’s satisfaction. And therefore we are apt to think that our acts of repentance do satisfy God and appease him, and thereupon, after the exercise of them, will speak peace to ourselves, and stop the mouth of an accusing conscience with such performances, resting on them as though thereby we had satisfied the Lord. But we must consider that no satisfaction is sufficient to make amends for sin but that which is of infinite value, since the injury sin has done is infinite, having disobeyed, displeased, dishonoured, an infinite majesty. And such a satisfaction no finite creature can make, not the most perfect saint, not the most glorious angels; much less can such vile, weak, sinful creatures as we, by such imperfect acts of repentance. (7.) Ye must depend upon Christ for strength, ability to repent; all evangelical works are done in his strength. Repentance is an act above the power of nature, and therefore we cannot practise it without power from above. Ye must depend on, seek to Christ for this power. . . . Christ must both give us soft hearts, hearts that can repent, and must teach them by his Spirit before they will repent. Except he smite those rocks, they will yield no water, no tears for sin; except he break these hearts, they will not bleed. Repentance is his gift, his work, Acts xi. 18, 2 Tim. ii. 25. . . . Go into your closet, and pour out your requests: Lord, thou commandest me to repent, and I see the necessity; but I have a hard heart, opposite; and Satan and the world, &c. (8.) Ye must expect the acceptance of your repentance from Christ. No evangelical service whatsoever, or by whomsoever performed, can be well pleasing to God, either in itself or as it comes from us, but only in Christ. Not as it comes from us, for our persons must be accepted before our services can be capable thereof. But how can sinful persons please a holy God? We must either be righteous in ourselves or in another, or else the righteous God will loathe, must punish us. No flesh can be justified in his sight, Ps. cxliii. 2, till Christ cover its deformities, and clothe it with a robe of his righteousness; nor in themselves, for so the best are sinful, in regard of many defects, &c., not fit to be looked upon by him who is ‘of purer eyes,’ &c., Heb. iv. 13; only acceptable through Jesus Christ, 1 Peter ii. 5, Eph. i. 6. . . . (9.) Think not your repentance obliges God to the performance of any promise, as though he were thereby bound, and could not justly refuse to bestow what he has promised to the penitent; for he is not obliged to fulfil it till the condition be perfectly performed. Imperfect repentance is not the condition; God requires nothing imperfect. . . . Perfect performances are still required. The gospel remitteth no part, no tittle of the substance of the law, which commands perfect obedience in duties, whether expressly or implicitly, and by consequence contained in it, as repentance is. . . . Now our repentance is defective, both in quantity and quality, measure and manner, neither so great nor so good as is required. Our sorrow not so hearty, constant, ingenuous, &c., and so does not engage. Why then does God perform? How is he obliged? Why, it is Christ that has obliged him; he makes good the condition. When we cannot bring so much as is required, he makes up the sum; he adds grains to that which wants weight. He has satisfied for our defects, and they are for his sake pardoned, and therefore are accepted, as though they were not defective . . . Christ’s undertaking makes good the condition, and so the promise is obliging. Hence, 2 Cor. i. 20, he is so obliged by Christ’s undertaking as, except he will be changeable or unfaithful, he must accomplish. Hence he is called the Mediator, Heb. ix. 15, and surety, chap. vii. 22. . . . Christ has procured pardon for all defects. And in this sense our repentance is as it were perfect, because the defect thereof shall not be imputed. Hence it obliges the Lord, not by virtue of our performance, but of Christ’s satisfaction. —David Clarkson, Of Repentance, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:19–23.

Sorrow for Sin

Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. —Luke 13:3 David Clarkson lists three characteristics of genuine repentance: sorrow for sin, hatred of sin, and turning from sin to Christ. On sorrow for sin, he writes, He never truly repented, who has not been more grieved for his sins than for his sufferings, Luke xiv. 26 . . . he that loves not these less than me, &c. Now sorrow is a sign of love, proportionable to it. He that mourns more for the loss of these than losing, dishonouring Christ, loves these more than Christ. And such are unworthy of Christ, are in a state incapable of any benefit by Christ, an impenitent state. Thus no true repentance, where is not more sorrow for sin, than for any affliction has befallen, or you can imagine may befall. —David Clarkson, Of Repentance, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:34. Are you more grieved over your offenses against God than over the consequences to yourself? Am I? This is a measure of the genuineness of our repentance.

Imperfect Hate

Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. —Luke 13:3 David Clarkson lists three characteristics of genuine repentance: sorrow for sin, hatred of sin, and turning from sin to Christ. Concerning hatred of sin, we may observe that we don’t hate it enough, that, in fact, we still find some attraction to it. We may, then, worry that our repentance is not adequate. Clarkson writes, All hatred of sin is here imperfect. No perfection in this life, but sense of imperfection. Both graces, and gracious affections, want many degrees of perfection. Grace is but of a child s stature, it has perfection of parts, but not of degrees. A child has all the parts of a perfect man, but wants many degrees of man s perfection. And as with grace, so with this affection; it is not perfect, either rations objecti; sin is not hated as it should be according to its hatefulness; nor ratione facultatis, so much as it is possible for the heart to hate it; not raised to such high degrees of hatred, as it may be will be. . . . He that truly hates sin, though but imperfectly, cannot be properly said to love it. He that hates all sin, and hates it above all that the world counts hateful, and abhors himself that he can hate it no more, and mourns for the imperfection of his hatred, and strives in the use of appointed means to perfect it, does truly hate it. In the same subject there cannot be contrary affections to the same object. We count it impossible to love and hate the same thing or person. . . . He that hates does not love, &c. It is as impossible, as for the same thing to be both black and white; the same water to be at once both hot and cold. It may be neither, but it cannot be both; if one, not the other. So here, and though hatred be but in us in a remiss degree, imperfectly, and it may be supposed the imperfection arises from the mixture of the contrary affection, yet that which is predominant gives the denomination. He that hates sin more than he loves it, may be said simply absolutely to hate it. We say not water is cold if it be hot above lukewarmness, though it be not hot in the utmost extremity. We say not that he loves sin who hates it truly, though not perfectly. If he be overpowered to act it, surprised with some pleasure in it, this argues not love. For he abhors himself acting, mourns bitterly for delight in it, as Paul, Rom. vii. —David Clarkson, Of Repentance, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:38–39. For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin. —Romans 7:15ff

Repentance and Original Sin

Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. —Luke 13:3 Must we repent of original sin? This is a difficult question for many, but the consensus of orthodox theologians has always been affirmative. The following is one of the best arguments to that effect that I have read. We are bound to rejoice in imputed righteousness, and therefore to mourn for imputed sin. Adam’s sin is ours, the same way as Christ’s righteousness, viz., by imputation, Rom. v. 19 . . . If we must rejoice in Christ’s righteousness, we should bewail Adam’s sin. And indeed great cause of joy in that it is the marrow, the quintessence of the gospel ; the most gladsome part of . . . those glad tidings which are published in the gospel; the sweetest strain of that message, which, the angel says, was good tidings of great joy to all people, Luke ii. 10. Imputed righteousness is that blessed design which the Father from eternity contrived, which Christ published and performed, into which the angels desire to pry, that lost man, who could not be saved without righteousness, who had no righteousness of his own to save him, should have a righteousness provided for him, whereby he is freed from wrath, and entitled to heaven. Sure this is, this will be, an occasion of eternal joy ; and if so, imputed sin is a just ground of sorrow. —David Clarkson, Of Repentance, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:40. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. —1 Corinthians 15:21–22

Reformation without Repentance

Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. —Luke 13:3 Repentance is more than simply turning from sin. David Clarkson lists several examples of moral reformation that do not constitute genuine repentance. Here are three of them. In appearance only: He that leaves sin only outwardly, excludes it out of his conversation, not out of his heart. Repentance is a turning with all the heart, Joel ii. 12; it is not only a turning from all sin, but a turning of all the man, the whole man, inward and outward, from all sin. He that abstains from all sin outwardly and visibly may pass for a penitent with men, but it is not so in God’s account, unless sin be turned out of the heart as well as out of the life. Man judgeth according to outward appearance, but the Lord judgeth of repentance by the heart. There is no true repentance where the life is not reformed; but there may be an unblameable conversation, a life outwardly reformed, where there is no true repent ance. Paul professes that he had lived in all good conscience, &c., until that day, Acts xxiii. 1; and therefore, since he lived so all his life till that day, he lived so before he repented, unblameably, in good conscience outwardly before God, in the account of others, and in his own account; he lived so before he had truly repented, as neither others nor his own conscience could accuse him for outward sinful acts, Philip.  iii. Therefore abstinence from sin outwardly is not sufficient. If sin be regarded in the heart, there is no true repentance though the life be freed from it. Men judge of the heart by the life, but God judges of the life by the heart. He hears every prayer of a penitent soul, Isa. lvii. 15; yet David says, Ps. lxvi. 18, ‘If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.’ Whatever his life was, God would not respect, regard him as a penitent, if he did regard it in his heart. If ye do not break out into gross acts of sin, yet if your hearts entertain them, if you act uncleanness, revenge, covetousness in your thoughts, you are in a state of impenitency. —David Clarkson, Of Repentance, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:43. Out of selfish motives: He that leaves sin only out of sinister respects, by-ends, because it would deprive him of some advantage, or expose him to some loss, if committed, of friends, credit, profit, in respect of God or men; gives not himself to intemperance, because it is expensive; to uncleanness, because it is a sin shameful in the account of the world; avoids oppression, revenge, because civil laws lay penalties; wholly omits not ordinances, lest he should be accounted an atheist; he that leaves sin only thus does not repent; for true repentance is ‘repentance toward God,’ Acts xx. 21. It makes a man forsake sin out of respect to God, because it offends, dishonours him, as Joseph, Gen. xxxix. 9; but this is to abstain from sin out of respect to himself. —Ibid., 44. Turning from without turning to: He that so turns from sin as he does not turn to God. This motion cannot be perfect without its [end point]. If it be not essential to, it is inseparable from repentance, Isa. lv. 7. So forsake sin, as embrace Christ; so hate sin, as love holiness; so grieve for it as delight in God’s ways; steer the conversation to a quite contrary point. Not only cease to do evil, but learn to do good, Isa. i. 16, 17. It is not sufficient not to profane God’s name; he that repents will glorify it; not only not omit holy duties, but perform them in a holy manner; not only not pollute the Sabbath, but sanctify it; not only not dishonour profession, but adorn it; not only abstain from sin, but exercise grace. There are fruits of repentance which John requires, Mat. iii. 8, and Luke iii. 8. That repentance which brings not forth fruit is not sound, no plant of God’s planting; the doom of it you may see, ver. 9. Would you think it a sufficient evidence of a good vine, that it brings forth no wild grapes ? No; if it be an empty vine, though it have no bad, if it bring not forth good grapes, it is good for nothing. Negative righteousness will never evidence true repentance. It is not enoughJto say with the Pharisee, Luke xviii. 11, ‘I am not as other men,’ &c. The apostle joins these, repent, turn to God, do works, &c., Acts xxvi. 20. Those that would approve themselves clear in this matter, who would give clear evidences to the world and their own consciences that their repentance is to salvation, and that they sorrow after a godly sort, must produce all the effects of repentance which he inquires after, 2 Cor. vii. 11; not only indignation against sin, clearing themselves from vice, but carefulness to express the contrary virtues; not only fear of offending God, but vehement desire to please and honour him; not only revenge for dishonouring God by wicked courses, but zeal for his glory in all the ways of holiness. A fruitless repentance is rejected. —Ibid., 45–46.

The Essence of Saving Faith

Saving faith has been defined as the combination of three elements: knowledge, assent, and trust (or, if you want to get uppity, notitia, assensus, fiducia). David Clarkson writes, 1. Knowledge. Faith is expressed by knowledge, Isa. liii. 11. If knowledge be not faith, yet there can be no faith without knowledge. That blind faith of the papists is good for nothing but to lead them into the ditch. That ignorance is the mother of devotion, is one of the principles of the father of lies. Sure it is the nurse of unbelief. It is Satan’s muffler, which he makes use of to lead sinners blindfold into hell; it brings them there before they know where they are. Ignorant persons are like the Syrians, struck with blindness, 2 Kings vi. 20. They thought they were going on a hopeful design, but when their eyes were opened, they found themselves in the midst of Samaria, in the midst of their enemies. The first step to conversion is to open the eyes, to scatter darkness, Acts xxvi. 18. He begins the new creation as he did the creation of the world: ‘Let there be light,’ Gen. i. The first thing he produces is light. There is a dawning of the day before the day-star arise; some light goes before the sun rising. Such a dawning of knowledge there is before the Sun of righteousness arise, before Christ dwell in the heart by faith; some light from the law discovering sin and misery; some light from the gospel discovering Christ’s excellency and all-sufficiency. There is a competent knowledge of the mysteries of the gospel, a knowledge more distinct, more convincing, more affecting, than that which he had in the state of unbelief. 2. Assent. As to the principles of the doctrine of Christ, so especially to these two truths: 1, that he has a necessity of a Saviour; 2, that Christ is the only all-sufficient Saviour. (1.) There is an absolute necessity of a Saviour, which the Scripture declares upon three grounds: 1, the sinfulness of a natural man; 2, his misery; 3, his inability to free himself from it. There must be a full and effectual assent to, and belief of, what the Lord declares concerning his sinful, miserable, impotent state. 3. Recumbence, relying upon Christ. To rely upon Christ alone for salvation is saving faith. . . . It is not to give credit to him, but to rely on him; it is to trust in him. To trust in him is more than to believe him, to assent to his word as true. . . . This is the essence, the formality of saving faith. There cannot be justifying faith without knowledge and assent, but there may be knowledge and assent without it; these are as the body to faith, this relying is the soul; without this, knowledge and assent are but a carcase. The devils and hypocrites may have more knowledge, and they may have as firm an assent, but this act is above their reach, and they never attain it. —David Clarkson, Of Faith, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:64–65. Knowledge and assent are indispensible, but the essence of saving faith is trust—to know that we are utterly dependant, and believe that he who holds us in his hand will never fail us (Hebrews 13:5). It is to give up all hope in ourselves, and rest fully upon him. This kind of faith does not come naturally, proud as we are by nature. That is why we must be reborn (John 3) as new creatures (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Cling to Christ

To believe in Christ is to adhere to him, to cleave to him, cling about him. . . . A man that has suffered shipwreck is left to the mercy of the waves; has nothing in his reach to secure him but some planks or mast. How will he cling to it! how fast will he clasp! He will hold it as if it were his life, 2 Kings xviii. 5, Deut. iv. 4. He knows he is a dead man if he leave it; and therefore if any wave drive him off, he makes to it again with all his might, and clasps it faster. He knows there is no way but sink and perish if he part with it. A sinner, when the Lord begins to work faith in him, apprehends himself in a gulf of wrath; all the billows and waves go over him, and the depths are ready to swallow him up. Now in this case he sees no other security but Christ; he is . . . the only plank that is left (after our miserable wreck in Adam) to bring a sinner to shore; and therefore he cleaves to him; his soul clasps about him; he holds him as he would hold his soul ready to leave him, if it could come into his embraces. He knows, if he part, he sinks for ever; and therefore if any apprehension of wrath, of sin, of unworthiness, would drive him off, he clings closer to him, or he sinks eternally. —David Clarkson, Of Faith, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:68.

Relying upon Christ Alone

Faith is a rejecting of all other supports, a sole dependency on Christ alone. While the sinner depends upon anything else, in himself, or without himself, for safety, he believes not on Christ, he stands no longer upon his own legs. While the sinner stands upon his own bottom, his own righteousness, his good meaning, good nature, good deeds, his charitableness or religiousness, his being better than others, or not so bad as most, and upon this raises hopes of pardon, he is far from faith, he is but in the condition of the unjustified Pharisee. But when he looks upon these as no greater securities than tow or stubble would be, to shroud him from a consuming fire, then he will look out for a better screen to interpose betwixt his soul and that fiery indignation that his sins have kindled. When the soul, feeling the flame of wrath kindling on her, cries out as one that is already perishing, None but Christ, none but Christ, then he is in the highway to faith. If the dove which Noah sent out could have found rest for the sole of her feet elsewhere, she would not have returned unto the ark, Gen. viii. 12. Such an averseness there is in our natures to Christ, as he is the last thing a sinner looks after. If he can rest in anything else, if he can find rest in his friends, in his boon companions, in his accommodations, in his worldly employments, in his religious duties, in his good accomplishments; if he find rest to the sole of his foot here, the ark* is forgotten, he returns not to Christ. But when he sees a deluge of wrath overwhelm him, when the waters of God’s wrath rise so high as nothing appears but the ark, nothing to rest on but Christ, nothing but drowning and perishing in the common deluge, except he get into the ark, then he rests not till he gets into Christ, then he flies to him as for his life. See faith thus working in Ephraim, Hosea xiv. 4. They reject all foreign dependences: Asshur shall not save us; they reject all dependence on themselves: we will not ride, &c. They reject all that they had formerly idolised, and that by relying on them, they knew that this was the high way to mercy. . . . Till the sinner apprehend himself as an orphan, without strength, without counsel, all his supports dead which were a father to him, he will not betake himself to Christ as his only guardian; till he thus betake himself to Christ, he believes not. —David Clarkson, Of Faith, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:78. * This parallel to the ark is exactly appropriate (see here).

Faith Is Humble

A believing heart is a humble heart. Faith lays the soul low, in sense of its own vileness, emptiness, impotency; in sense of former sinfulness, present unworthiness; in sense of its many wants, weaknesses, distempers, corruption. As nothing more exalteth Christ, so nothing more debaseth man. As it advances man high in the account of God, so it lays him low in his own eyes. The Lord, having a design to display the riches of his grace, made choice of faith as the fittest instrument, as that which gives all to God, and nothing to man. It is the soul’s going out of himself, as having nothing but sin and misery, unto Christ for all. It has a double aspect: one to himself, there it sees nothing but guilt, weakness, emptiness; another to Christ, and there it sees righteousness, strength, all-sufficiency. Faith empties a man of himself, self-conceit, self-sufficiency, self-confidence, makes him seem nothing, that Christ may be all in all. Where the strongest faith, the greatest humility, Mat. viii. 7–10; judges himself unworthy of the least favour, counts himself the greatest of sinners, less than the least of all mercies, thinks better of others than of himself, patient of reproofs, and ready to stoop to the meanest service that Christ shall call him to; ascribes all he has to Christ and grace. —David Clarkson, Of Faith, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:108–109.

If You Are Unworthy

Are you unworthy of God’s love and mercy? Good! Christ never excluded any upon this account, because they were unworthy. Christ never laid this as a bar to keep thee out; why shouldst thou make use of it to bar thyself out? He has always shewed himself ready to entertain a humbled returning sinner, how unworthy soever. Christ makes this no exception; why dost thou make it one? He never spoke word of discouragement to this, and why dost thou make it a discouragement? Who more unworthy than the prodigal, either really, or in his own apprehension? How unworthy he was really, you may see in the former part of the parable; how unworthy in his own apprehension, you may see by his own expression. Yet does not this hinder him from returning, nor did it hinder the father (who there represents Christ) from receiving and embracing him. When he returns, filled with shame and sorrow, burdened with the sense of his former unworthy carriage, see how freely, how affectionately, how joyfully he entertains him. See it, and never let the thought of unworthiness discourage thee more. Methinks the sad heart of a humble, dejected sinner should revive and leap within him to see this affectionate passage. When this worthless wretch is afar off, he runs and meets him; when he comes at him, he falls about his neck and kisses him; when he has brought him home, he has the kindest entertainment that love can make him, thinks nothing too dear, nothing too good to welcome him, who in the mean time is thinking nothing so vile, nothing so bad, so base and unworthy, as himself. He rejoices in him as one would do who receives a dear child from the dead. He rejoices himself, and he calls heaven and earth to rejoice with him. Oh see here the tender compassions, the wonderful kindness, the overflowing affections of Christ to the unworthiest of sinners, when he does but really return to him. As sure as that parable is Christ’s, so sure will this be thy welcome, thy entertainment, poor dejected soul, if thou wilt but return to him. Thou hast unworthy thoughts of Christ, if the thoughts of thy unworthiness do discourage thee from coming to him. Will that hinder Christ from receiving thee, that never hindered him from admitting any? —David Clarkson, Of Faith, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:129–130.

The Unpardonable Sin

I can think of no doctrine more difficult than that of “the unpardonable sin,” but there it is, in Scripture, so it cannot be denied or ignored. It must be acknowledged, and we must attempt to understand it. David Clarkson helps. There are many scriptures where this sin is mentioned, but I find but three where it is described: Mat. xii., Heb. vi. and x., with the other evangelists concurring. And from these scriptures we may collect this description of this sin. It is a blasphemous renouncing of Christ and his doctrine out of hatred, and against conviction by the Holy Ghost’s light and testimony. We shall take it into parcels, that you may see distinctly how every part is contained in all and every of those alleged texts. (1.) It is a renouncing or denying of Christ. (2.) With blasphemy and reproaches. (3.) Out of hatred and malice. (4.) Against light and conviction. The two former are as the matter of it; the two latter the form which constitutes this sin in its peculiar being, and distinguished! it from all other sins. (1.) A renouncing or denying of Christ and his doctrine. You may see this in the scribes and Pharisees, Mat. xii. When Christ by a miracle had drawn the people to acknowledge that he was the [Messiah], ver. 23, nay, say the Pharisees, he is not the [Messiah] for all this, this he does by the power of Satan; he is not the king of Israel, the king of the church, but he tampers with the prince of devils. . . . This more expressly elsewhere: ‘We will not have this man to reign,’ Luke xix., and so rejected him as king. No: ‘but he deceives the people,’ John vii. 12. . . . Doing despite to the Spirit. So the prophetical office of Christ and the doctrine which he teaches is rejected; for it is the Spirit of grace and truth by which Christ executes his prophetical office. (2.) With blasphemies and reproaches. This sin is expressly called blasphemy, Mat. xii. 31 and 32, speaking a word, that is, a blasphemous word, such as is shameful and reproachful to him. The blaspheming of the Son is called blaspheming of the Holy Ghost, because it is against the Son as discovered and borne witness to by the Holy Ghost; against the person, offices, and doctrine of the Son, but against the light and testimony of the Holy Ghost. Their particular blasphemy is set down, ver. 24, where they do as bad as call Christ a conjuror, and the Holy Ghost, whereby he acted, an evil spirit, the prince of devils. Expressly, Mark iii. 22, 30. And this was their blasphemy, ver. 29; this sin is blaspheming too, as described Heb. vi. 6, a putting Christ to open shame, ascribing that openly to him which is shameful and reproachful. . . . (3.) Out of hatred and malice. This is the rise, the principle, from whence this sin proceeds; it is from hatred of Christ and his truth. . . . This was the rise of it in the Pharisees, this was at the bottom. That which appeared was horrible, they broke out into blasphemies; but Christ minds not that only, but what was within, Mat. Xii. 24, 25. He takes an estimate of their sin, not by their words only, but by their thoughts, which were boiled up and set a-working by hatred and malice. And this he charges them with expressly elsewhere, John xv. 25; cited from Ps. xxxv. 19. . . . (4.) All this must be against light and conviction. This is express, Heb. vi. 46; it is the falling away from Christ of those that have been enlightened; so Heb. x. 20, a sinning after the receipt of knowledge, a sinning wilfully, which cannot be but against knowledge. . . . They knew that Christ wrought miracles, they acknowledge it, John xi. 47. It is strange if they were not convinced that these miracles were acts of a divine power, the finger of God. Can we think them more stupid than the Egyptian magicians? They saw and acknowledged the finger of God in Moses’s miracles, Exod. viii. 19. Were they blinder than those instruments of Satan in the midst of Egyptian darkness? There was a convincing light went along with the miracles of Christ, which shewed their original, and convinced all the people who was the author of them: John xi. 47, 48, ‘All will believe on him,’ Mat. xii. 22, 28; John vii. 31; iii. 2. ‘We,’ i. e., [Nicodemas], and those of his sect, the Pharisees, they knew it, were convinced of it; and when they spake otherwise, said they were of the devil, they had something within them that gainsaid them; they said it with some reluctancy of conscience. They were convinced that Christ was the [Messiah]; the light of the Holy Ghost, shining in his doctrine and miracles, discovered this unto them; though they were loath to see it, unwilling to believe it. Their rebellious will rising up against their judgment, did check and oppose this light, but it could not be avoided, nor quite suppressed. Christ tells them they knew him, John vii. 28. They knew he was the heir: Mat. xxi. 37, 38, ‘This is the heir.’ They knew who he was, and they perceived that Christ intended them in that parable, ver. 45, 46.. All the three evangelists agree in it. This was that which completed this sin, so as it became unpardonable, Luke xxiii. 34. . . . But there were some who might be forgiven, for such he prays; and who were those? Why, those who knew not what they did, acted not against knowledge and conviction. So then, those who knew what they did, are they who could not be forgiven. Their sin, acted against knowledge and conscience, was the unpardonable sin. So Peter encouraging the Jews to repent, by proposing hopes of pardon, lays down this as the ground of the encouragement, Acts iii. 17–19, as your rulers, Herod and Pilate did, implying that if they acted against knowledge, if they had known him to be the Lord of life whom they crucified, there had been no hopes or encouragement for them. Answerably, the apostle Paul shews how it came to pass that he found mercy, after he had so blasphemously and maliciously opposed Christ: I did it ignorantly, 1 Tim. i. 13. There were all other ingredients of that unpardonable sin in Paul’s sin, but this only, he acted not against know ledge and conscience; if he had not done it ignorantly, he had found no mercy, as the expression seems to insinuate. This seems to be the reason why this sin directed against Christ is yet called the sin against the Holy Ghost. Light and conviction is the work of the Holy Ghost; his office and operation is to convey light, and thereby effect conviction. When Christ discovered convincingly by the light and testimony of the Holy Ghost is thus renounced, the Holy Ghost is blasphemed, which discovers and bears witness of him; his light and testimony is rejected and renounced. —David Clarkson, Of Faith, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:147–150. I don’t think there is a more shocking revelation in all of Scripture than the fact that many of the Pharisees knew Jesus was the Son of God, the Messiah, the one for whom Israel had waited so long, and rather than joyfully falling at his feet, willfully rejected and killed him. It is no wonder they were beyond redemption.
Faith is the work of God (Ephesians 2:8–9), but, as David Clarkson writes, “he works it not immediately, but in the use of appointed means.” The means he uses cannot work but that the Holy Spirit works through them, but neither does the Spirit work to bring faith outside the appointed means. “It is his power that works faith; but in that way, and by those means, which he has prescribed. Though he has not absolutely tied and confined himself to them, yet he has tied and confined us. Though he is free, yet the means are necessary to us.” The primary means is the hearing of God’s word. This is a means of the Lord’s appointing, and which he ordinarily uses for this end, John xvii. 20. He prays for some that were to believe afterwards, but were to believe through the word in the ministry of his servants. And all that the Holy Ghost mentions afterwards as believers were brought to believe by the ministry of the word. The Jews, Acts iv. 4; the Gentiles, Acts xiii. 48; the Ephesians, Eph. i. 13; the Corinthians, Acts xviii. 8. And therefore the ministers of the gospel are called ‘ministers by whom they believed,’ 1 Cor. iii. 5. And the word preached is called ‘the word of faith,’ Rom. x. 8. He shews the necessity of this means by a gradation, verse 14, 15. There must be a mission, that there may be preachers; there must be preaching, that there may be hearing; there must be hearing, that there may be believing; and so he concludes his discourse, verse 17. Those that will have faith without hearing would have it out of God s way, and are such ever like to find it? If the word be not preached it cannot be heard. The Lord may work it in an extraordinary way, but can it be expected the Lord should step out of his ordinary path to meet those who shew so much contempt of God and of their souls as they will not wait on him for faith in the way that he has appointed? Will God work miracles to save those who so much despise him and his great salvation? Nay, the Lord will have the ministry of the word more honoured in this respect than miracles. He has used miracles sometimes for to startle and humble sinners in order to faith, but has referred those persons at the same time to the ministry of the word for the working of faith. We find not that ever the Lord so much honoured miracles as to work faith by them without the word, though we find the Lord ordinarily so far honouring the ministry of the word as to work faith by it without miracles. Miracles are ceased many hundred years ago, yet the Lord has been working faith in all ages by the ministry of the word. And when miracles were in use, they were but used as subservient to the word, to prepare for faith, which the Lord would work by hearing the word. Saul was struck down and humbled in a miraculous way, but he was sent to hear Ananias, that he might be possessed with the Spirit of faith; he was not filled with the Holy Ghost till then, it descended on him in his ministry, Acts ix. 6. The jailor was humbled by a miraculous earthquake, Acts xvi. 27, 28, but the Lord would not work faith in him by that miracle, he reserved the honour of that work to the ministry of Paul and Silas, ver. 30, 31, 32, 34. Hearing the word is the ordinary means to attain faith, and was the ordinary means when the Lord appeared in extraordinary and miraculous dispensations. —David Clarkson, Of Faith, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:170–171.

Faith and the Attributes of God (1)

My righteous one shall live by faith —Hebrews 10:38 The efficacy of faith is not in its strength, but in its object. “The object of faith,” writes David Clarkson, “is God in Christ, as made known in his attributes, offices, relations, promises, and providences.” Just as our trust in any person depends on what we know of his character, our trust in God can only rest on his character as he has revealed himself to us. [God’s Divine attributes] are the pillows and grounds of faith, rocks of eternity, upon which faith may securely repose: ‘Though the earth should be removed,’ &c. ‘The name of the Lord’ (i. e., his attributes) ‘is a strong tower, the righteous fly into it,’ and faith admits and there secures them. Hence this is faith’s ordinary plea in Scripture. ‘For thy name’s sake,’ i. e., for the glory of those attributes whereby thou art known to us, as men are known by their names. These are frequently propounded and made use of as the objects and supports of faith. Power. This is it on which the heroical faith of Abraham fixed: Rom. iv. 21, ‘Being fully persuaded that what he had promised he was able to perform.’ Wisdom. This upheld Peter’s faith, when Christ, so often questioning his love, might have made him doubt of it: ‘Lord, thou knowest all things, thou knowest I love thee,’ John xxi. 17. And David’s faith acts upon the omnisciency and immensity of God, Ps. cxxxix. Justice. This was David’s plea: Ps. cxliii. 11, ‘For thy righteousness sake bring my soul out of trouble.’ And Daniel’s, ix. 16, ‘Lord, according to all thy righteousness, I beseech thee,’ &c. Faithfulness. This was the foundation on which Solomon raised that prayer, so full of faith, 1 Kings viii. 33, ‘There is no God like unto thee, who keepest covenant and mercy with thy servants;’ and Dan. ix. 4, Heb. x. 23. Truth. David useth this, Ps. cxv. 1, ‘For thy truth’s sake;’ and frequently, ‘Do this according to thy word,’ Ps. cxix. 154. Mercy. Faith never finds more strong support, nor ever fixes with so much delight as here: Ps. cxix. 149, ‘Hear my voice, according to thy loving-kindness;’ Ps. cxxx. 7, ‘Let Israel hope in the Lord: for with the Lord there is mercy;’ Ps. lii. 8, ‘I trust in the mercy of God for ever and ever.’ —David Clarkson, Of Living by Faith, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:176.

Faith and the Attributes of God (2)

My righteous one shall live by faith —Hebrews 10:38 Let faith fix on that attribute which is most suitable to thy condition. And here faith may meet with many encouragements: first, there is no condition thou canst possibly fall into but some attributes afford support; secondly, there is enough in that attribute to uphold thee, as much as thou standest in need of, as much as thou canst desire; thirdly, there is infinitely more; though thy condition were worse than it is, worse than ever any was, yet there is more than thou needest, more than thou canst desire, more than thou canst imagine, infinitely more. Some one attribute will answer all thy necessities; some most, some many. For, first, some of God’s attributes encourage faith in every condition. Omnipotency. When thou art surrounded with troubles and dangers, there is the power of God to rely on; so Jehoshaphat, 2 Chron. xx. Art thou called to difficult duties above thy strength, strong lusts to oppose, violent temptations to resist, weighty employments to undertake? Let faith support thee and itself on omnipotency, as Paul: ‘I can do all things through Christ strengthening me.’ Art thou called to grievous sufferings? Imitate [Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego], act on God’s power: ‘Our God whom we trust is able to deliver us.’ Dost thou want means for effecting what thou expectest, and so seest no possibility in reason or nature for obtaining it? Act like Abraham; believe he is able, Rom. iv. 21, to perform without means, or against means. Art thou afraid to fall away? Stay thyself on God’s power: ‘We are kept by the power of God through faith.’ Omnisciency. Wantest thou direction, knowest not what to do, at thy wit’s end? Eye omnisciency: 2 Chron. xx. 12, ‘Neither know we what to do, but our eyes are upon thee.’ The Lord knows how to deliver the righteous. When thou searchest thy soul, and art afraid a treacherous heart should deceive thee, trust omnisciency. He searches the heart, and can teach thee to search it. Art thou upbraided for hypocrisy, and borne down by Satan’s suggestions, so as thou almost suspectest thy integrity? Let omniscience support thee here; he knows, he sees the least gracious motion. Fearest thou secret plots of Satan, crafty conveyances of wicked men, such as no eye can see or discover? Trust omnisciency. Immensity.* Art thou deserted by friends, or separated from them by imprisonment, banishment, infectious diseases? Let faith eye immensity; as Christ, ‘Yet I am not alone,’ &c. Fearest thou remote designs in other countries, nay, in the other world, in hell? Thou canst not be there to prevent; ay, but the Lord is everywhere. All-sufficiency.† Let faith set this against all thy wants. I want riches, but the Lord is all-sufficient; liberty, children, friends, credit, health, he is liberty, &c. I want grace, the means of grace, comfort; he is these. Dost thou fear death? The Lord is life. Dost thou fear casting off? The Lord is unchangeable. Nay, whatsoever thou fear, or want, or desire, there is one more that will give universal and full support. Mercy. This will hold when all fail. It is the strength of all other supports, and that in all conditions. There is no condition so low but mercy can reach it, none so bad but mercy can better it, none so bitter but mercy can sweeten it, none so hopeless but mercy can succour it. It bears up faith, when nothing else can, under the guilt of sin and sense of wrath; in misery, that is the time when faith should eye mercy. Hence you may argue strength into faith. If one attribute answer many, yea, all, conditions, will not all answer one? Secondly, There is enough in any one attribute to support thee as much as thou needest or desirest, let thy corruptions be never so strong, thy wants never so many. Thirdly, There is more than enough, than thou needest or canst desire; more than is necessary for thy condition, for a worse than thine, for the worst that ever was. If thy dangers were greater than can be paralleled in former ages, if the impetuousness of all those lusts that have broke out since the creation were united in thine, yet there is more power in God than is needful for thy condition. If thou wert pinched with all the wants that all the indigent men in the world were ever pressed with, yet all-sufficiency can do more than supply. Suppose there were many more worlds, and in each ten thousand more sinful creatures than in this, and every one’s sins ten thousand times more sinful than thine, yet mercy could do more than pardon. And faith may say, If mercy can pardon, more than pardon, so many more than mine, and so much more heinous, why may not mercy pardon mine?—David Clarkson, Of Living by Faith, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:179–180. * Omnipresence. † Perfection.

Faith and the Attributes of God (3)

My righteous one shall live by faith —Hebrews 10:38 The more we learn of the attributes of God, the greater our faith should grow. Knowing who he is and what he is able to do should give us great confidence in him. Best of all, we can be sure that, in all of his attributes, he will never change. Our friends, good as they may be, will fail us, but God never will. What we trust today will be true tomorrow, and for eternity. We may doubt of creature power, because it is limited, but he is omnipotent. The creature may have strength, but want wisdom, and this may disable him, and weaken our confidence; but God is omniscient. A friend may have strength and wisdom too, but may be far from us; oh, but he is omnipresent. A man may have all these, but be prevented by death; but God is eternal. A man may have power, wisdom, propinquity,* life, but not be willing; but God is merciful, gracious, compassionate, and joins other attributes to his mercy, the more to confirm faith. Mercy endures for ever; there is eternity. Over all his works; there is immensity. Abundant in goodness, there is its infiniteness. His compassions fail not, there is unchangeableness. —David Clarkson, Of Living by Faith, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:181–182. * 1 : nearness of blood : kinship 2 : nearness in place or time : proximity    —Merriam-Webster

Faith and the Offices of Christ

My righteous one shall live by faith —Hebrews 10:38 Just as the attributes of God are foundational to our faith, so are the offices of Christ; but these are more personal. His offices—prophet, priest, and king—are, as David Clarkson writes, “purely relative; wholly ours, for us, in reference to us; relative . . . both in their constitution and execution.” He was made king, priest, &c., for us, and does exercise these for us. They are essentially relative, depending on us, as one term of the relation upon another. As there cannot be a father without a child, so Christ had not been king without believers, who are his kingdom, 1 Cor. xv. 24. There cannot be a priest without a sacrifice; nor a sacrifice, except some for whom to offer it. It is otherwise in the former object; God’s attributes are absolute essentially, their relation to us is but accidental. Their being is not for us, but only their acting. God had been omnipotent, omniscient, merciful, &c., if no creatures had ever received a being. Therefore here is more support for faith than in the attributes. Where there is more interest, there may be more confidence. Faith may plead, Christ is my king, and was anointed, crowned, in reference to me. For this end he came to the kingdom, that he might govern me. He is my priest, consecrated for my sake, in reference to my guilt, my necessities, that he might satisfy for me. Christ is my prophet; for this end he was anointed, and received the Spirit without measure, Isaiah lxi. 1, that he might instruct me; ergo, I will be confident. —David Clarkson, Of Living by Faith, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:183.

His Saying Is Doing

My righteous one shall live by faith —Hebrews 10:38 It is all one with God to do as to say, to perform as to promise; it is as easy, he is as willing, as able, to one as the other. There is no such distance betwixt God’s saying and doing, as amongst men. His saying is doing: Ps. xxxiii. 9, ‘He said, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast.’ . . . ver. 6, ‘By the word of the Lord were the heavens made;’ Heb. xi. 3, ‘The worlds were framed by the word of the Lord.’ There is omnipotency in his word, both of command and promise: therefore called, ‘the word of his power,’ Heb. i. 3. One word of his can do more in an instant, than the united powers of heaven and earth can do to eternity. This consideration removes at once the chief discouragements that hinder the lively actings of faith; for what is it that weakens our confidence of the promises performance, but because we look upon the accomplishment as uncertain or difficult, or future and afar off! Now from hence faith may conclude the performance is certain, easy, and present. It is certain. The root of all certainty is God’s will. He is willing to promise, for he has actually done it. He is as willing to perform, for it is all one with him to do as say. It is easy. What more easy than a word! An act is not more difficult. And one word will give accomplishment to all the promises: no pains, trouble, cost, hazard. The covenant is our tree of life, the promises are its branches, laden with all precious fruits. The least word, the least breath, from God’s mouth, will shake all the fruits into your bosoms. Will not he speak so little who has done so much, sent his Son to suffer so much, let his Spirit strive so much? There is but one word betwixt you and all the happiness contained in the great and precious promises. And is it not easy for faith to believe that it is easy for God to speak one word? This may be faith’s plea, Only speak the word, and it shall be done. Nay, it is done, the accomplishment is present, the word is passed out of his lips. You have as much for the accomplishment of promises, as all things that now exist had for their creation, God’s word. He does when he says; his saying is doing. Nothing remains on God’s part to be done further. That which suspends your enjoyments is want of faith; do but believe, and all is said, all is done, to make you happy. You may as easily believe that he will perform, as that he has promised. It is easy to believe that he has promised: you question not that. There is as much reason to believe he will perform, for it is all one to him. Men promise great things, but can not perform without trouble, expense, or hazard; therefore may we doubt of them. But there are no such things incident to God’s performances; no more trouble or pains to perform a promise than to make it. He can perform all with less trouble than we can speak, do all he has said as easily as anything he does. —David Clarkson, Of Living by Faith, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:193–194.

A Right to the Promises

My righteous one shall live by faith —Hebrews 10:38 Believers have a just and unquestionable title to all things promised, besides that title which the promise conveys. They have right to them, and therefore have no reason to doubt but the gracious God will bestow them, especially when he has confirmed the former title by promise. All that is promised was bequeathed to believers by the eternal will of the Father, and purchased for them by the precious blood of Christ, and they are instated therein by many endearing and interesting relations. They have as much right thereto as an heir to his inheritance, or a wife to her jointure; for they are co-heirs with Christ, and married to him: 1 Cor. iii. 23, ‘All is yours.’ All. This is more than if he had said a kingdom, though this is much; nay, more than if he had said, all the kingdoms of the earth; nay, more than if heaven and earth were yours. What then is all? Why heaven and earth, and all in both. All in heaven that you are capable of, and all in earth that is desirable and good. Not only angels and men; not only riches, pleasures, glory; but the Father (that which is more than all), Christ, and the Spirit; all that they are, have, can do, so far as these are communicable, attributes, offices, functions. All these are your own, though you do not believe it. You have [a] right to these, upon other accounts besides the promise. Faith gives . . . actual possession. Here is great encouragement for believers to act faith in the promises, from this consideration. Will a child doubt that a pious and indulgent father will not give him his own, though he do not promise it? But if he engage himself by promise, he will be confident. Shall we be more confident of the justice of men, than the righteousness of God? He has made all your own, and will he be so unjust as to detain it? He has promised to give all that is yours, and will he add unfaithfulness to injustice, such injustice as is odious amongst men? Shall not the Lord of heaven and earth be righteous? Faith cannot doubt here. Either you must believe, or cast such horrid aspersions on God, as though he were as unjust or unfaithful as the worst of men. —David Clarkson, Of Living by Faith, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:194.

When Prayer Is Sin

Years ago, I recorded my objection to the “unspoken” prayer request, but I neglected one very important reason I won’t pray for your unspoken request. As David Clarkson writes, The thing asked for must be an object of faith; such things as you may upon good grounds believe that God will grant. There must be a belief, a persuasion, that the things desired are lawful according to his will: 1 John v. 14, ‘And this is the assurance that we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us.’ No assurance he will hear, without assurance that what we ask is according to his will; now that is according to his will for which we have command or promise . . . If there be no persuasion, or none upon these grounds, the prayer is not of faith, and so it is sin; for whatever is not of faith is sin, and sin can expect no comfortable return from God. He that cannot behold it will not hear it, or hear it so as to reward it but with punishment. A fervent prayer for a thing unlawful is a crying sin. —David Clarkson, Faith in Prayer, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:198. In short, if your request is kept secret, how can I know if it’s biblical? I really do need to know.

Believers Can Pray Believing

One of the many great promises given to God’s children is that of answered prayer. If we know we are his, we know he will hear. Get assurance of your interest in the covenant; that Christ has loved you, and washed you from your sins in his blood; that he has given you his Spirit; that you are reconciled and in favour. If you be sure you are his favourites, you may be sure to have his ear. As acceptance of persons goes before acceptance of services, so assurance of that is the ground of confidence in this: 1 John v. 13–15, ‘These things have I written, that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us. And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.’ First, assurance that ye have eternal life, and then confidence that he will hear. If ye know that ye have right to eternal life by faith, the first fruits of it, then ye may be sure he will hear and grant; not hear in vain, but make sweet returns to the petitions he hears, ver. 15.: John xv. 7, ‘If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.’ First assure your union, and then doubt not of your audience. Union goes before audience, so assurance of one goes before assurance of the other. —David Clarkson, Faith in Prayer, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:202.

Willing to Hear

He was willing, resolved, determined to hear, before you were willing to ask. He decreed it from eternity; he was willing before you had a will, a being. Nay, he was not only willing before, but he was the cause why you are willing. You must not think that your prayers move God to be willing; his will is the same for ever, not subject to the least motion or alteration. Prayers are rather a sign than a cause that God is willing. He is not made willing because we pray, but because he is willing he stirs up our hearts to pray: Ps. x. 17, ‘Lord, thou hast heard the desire of the humble: thou wilt prepare their heart, thou wilt cause thine ear to hear.’ He is first desirous to do us good, and then makes us desire it, and pray for it, that we may have them in his own way,—a clear evidence he is more desirous than we, because he makes us, so our desires spring from this. . . . He that prescribes the only course whereby prayer may get audience without fail, and commands us to follow that course, is more willing prayer shall be heard than those that are negligent in observing that only fallible way. But so it is, the Lord has commanded and prescribed such a course, which punctually followed, prayer can never return without the answer desired. But the best of men are more or less negligent in observing this prescript; therefore he is more willing our prayers should be heard than we ourselves. Now, since the Lord is willing, and so willing, to hear, why should we not believe that he will hear? What strong encouragement is here to pray in faith! There is as much reason to believe that God will hear as there is to believe that you are willing to be heard. —David Clarkson, Faith in Prayer, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:203–204.

Prayer Conditioning

God wills that we pray believing, but we do not always know how we should pray. We do not know what is best. Therefore, while we should pray believing that he will answer, we must not necessarily expect the exact object of our request. He might have something different in store for us. Believe not precisely that you shall receive this you pray for; but either this, or some other; something as good or better in reference to God’s glory and your happiness; this is sufficient when you are not certain whether that you pray for be best for you; I say not, whether it seem, but whether it be. In this case, it is not required you should believe determinately that you shall receive what you pray for, but disjunctively, either this, or some other. In such a condition was Paul: Philip. i. 23, 24, ‘I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.’ When you are in such a strait you may pray for what you apprehend to be best, but not believe you shall be heard in that precisely; but either in that, or some other thing better or equivalent; so in praying for riches, posterity, deliverance, and indeed all things that are in their own nature, or to you, indifferent; you may desire riches, &c., but it is not necessary you should be confident that God will make you rich; but either do this or something as good. —David Clarkson, Faith in Prayer, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:217. Furthermore, God’s answers to our prayers are conditioned on the righteousness of our requests, and our preparedness to receive them. It may be that the change we need is in ourselves. We are to pray for nothing but what is commanded or promised; and the things we are to pray for are held forth in the word with two sorts of conditions, some annexed to the promise, some to the thing promised. Spiritual blessings are conditional, because sometimes conditions are annexed to the promises, whereby God engages himself to give them. Now when he has already wrought the conditions, we may pray in faith for them absolutely, as before. When the conditions are not wrought, then we should [pray] for the conditions themselves, not for the blessings conditionally: as Mat. v. 6, that we may hunger and thirst after righteousness; and Rev. ii. 10, that we may be faithful unto death. Temporal blessings are conditional, because conditions are annexed to the things themselves, and they are such as these: if it seem good, if it be thy will, if it be for thy glory, if it be for my soul’s good. Temporal favours are to be asked in faith, but faith must act conditionally. The like is to be observed about the removal of afflictions, and vouchsafing of spiritual favours that tend to our well-being: faith in asking these must be acted, but acted conditionally, and with submission. An example we have in David, a man strong in faith and much in prayer: 2 Sam. xv. 25, 26, ‘If I shall find favour in the eyes of the Lord, he will bring me again, and shew me both it and his habitation. But if he thus say, I have no delight in thee; behold, here I am, let him do to me as seemeth good unto him.’ And in Christ himself, his faith acted conditionally: Mat. xxvi. 39, ‘If it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.’ —Ibid., 217–218.

Prayer Is Its Own Reward

The primary purpose of prayer is not to get from God, but to glorify him and bring us into communion with him. Prayer is answered when it is accepted, though there be no other effect of it visible. Prayer is not in vain, if the person be accepted, and the service approved. Do you think it is nothing to please God, to do that wherein his soul delights, to offer that which ascends to him as the odour of a sweet smell? Is it nothing to obey God, to honour him, to give a testimony to his glorious perfections? Is it nothing, to be admitted to such sweet intimate communion with God in such a familiar way, to speak to him as a man to his friend, as a child to his father? Suppose you should reap no other benefit by prayer, is not here as much as will amount to an answer? If you will not measure the return of your prayers by lower inferior advantages, these are the most blessed returns. It should be more desirable in your account to please him, than to be happy yourselves. His glory should be more valuable than your salvation, or all the means that tend to it. And such society with him should be esteemed the first-fruits of heaven. Yet these are the privileges of every accepted prayer; and therefore, if it be accepted, though it obtain nothing more, it is abundantly answered. He sometimes makes prayer an answer to itself, answers when you are praying: Isa. lxv. 24, ‘While they are yet speaking, I will hear;’ not only hears, but answers, answers the prayer by enabling us to pray, Dan. ix. 20, 21. While Daniel was speaking in prayer, an angel was sent in answer to his desires. You will judge this is a sweet return. But how much more is it for the Holy Ghost to be sent into the heart, and thereby to have powerful assistance, comfortable enlargements, heavenly affections, and vigorous exercise of graces; to have the soul winged with holy affections, to fly into the bosom of Christ; to have heaven as it were opened, and the veil withdrawn, that the light of God’s countenance may break out and shine upon the soul! These are the greatest, the sweetest of spiritual blessings, and infinitely transcend all outward enjoyments, Ps. iv. 6–8. Well then may they be accounted most blessed answers. —David Clarkson, Faith in Prayer, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:218–219.

The Grace of “No”

Whether God grants our petitions or denies them, he is gracious. It is a gracious answer sometimes to be denied. You account it a good answer to a petition when you have that which is better than the things desired; but when you desire that which is not good, the denial is better than the grant. The denial is a mercy, the grant would be a judgment. So it was with David: he was importunate for the life of his child; but was it not better for him that the Lord granted not its life, since it would have been a living monument of his ignominy, wherein every beholder might have read both his shame and heinous sin? The Lord is merciful oftentimes in denying outward blessings, worldly enjoyments, to his children; denies them plenty of temporals, lest it should bring leanness into their souls; denies them health, that their souls may prosper; denies comfort in dearest relations, by making them cross and uncomfortable, lest they should steal away the heart from himself. These denials are great mercies, and therefore sweet returns of prayer. —David Clarkson, Faith in Prayer, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:219.

The Unworthy Are Accepted

Do you feel unworthy to present your prayers to God? Then you, of all people, may expect to be heard. “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” The Lord never heard any that either were really worthy, or did account themselves so. All that ever had access to, and audience with God, have been really, and in their own esteem, unworthy. The Lord requires not that his people should bring any worth with them to commend their prayers to him. The want of personal worth did never hinder the Lord from answering prayer. Therefore no reason to be discouraged for want of that which is neither necessary nor ever was present. No flesh is justified in his sight. The more unworthy, and withal the more sensible of it, the more hopes of answer and acceptance. This is so far from being any just impediment to faith, as it should rather encourage it; for Scripture and experience tell us it is both the Lord’s gracious disposition and practice to do most for them who are, or seem to themselves to be, most unworthy: ‘He fills the hungry,’ Luke i. 53, 48, ‘but casts down the mighty,’ ver. 52. He pronounces them blessed who are poor, Mat. v.; calls not many wise and noble, 1 Cor. i. 26–28; seeks that which is lost, Luke vi. 19, 20; saves sinners, the chief of them, 1 Tim. i. 15; invites beggars, sends out his servants to fetch them, Luke xiv. 21, 23; those who have no money, no worth, worth nothing, Isa. lv.; pities those whom no eye pities, Ezek. xvi. 6; condescends lowest to those who are lowest. He takes pleasure in it, he gets honour by it. Hereby is the freeness, the riches of grace made more conspicuous, infinite mercy appears more merciful. Consider but the different demeanour and success of the Pharisee and publican as to this duty, and it will put it past doubt. Consider what self-confidence and conceitedness in the one, what humility and sense of unworthiness in the other: Luke xviii. 10 to the 15th, ‘This man went away justified, rather than the other.’ Justified, i. e., pardoned, accepted, answered. Rather, i.e., exclusively; he was justified, and not the other. The reason is observable: ver. 14, ‘For every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.’ Sense of unworthiness should rather strengthen than discourage. Prayer and praying in faith is not only a privilege, but a duty; and is any one unworthy to do his duty? If it was only a privilege, unworthiness might be some plea to keep off sinners from meddling with prayer or acting faith, but since it is a duty, you cannot with any reason, cannot without absurdity make use of it to discourage you. What, are you unworthy to obey God, to do what he commands, to do as he requires? The very conceit of this is absurd; men would laugh at such a plea; God will be far from accepting it. Would you take it well from your servant, if he should neglect to do what you command under pretence that he is unworthy to obey you? Yes, you would count it a jeer, you will think him idle, and foolish too in finding no better excuse for his idleness. The case is alike in reference to God; we are unworthy to receive, but not to obey. There is no show of reason why this should be a discouragement. Though you be unworthy to be heard, yet Christ is worthy; it is he that undertakes to present your petition, and procure an answer. Believers, when they are found praying, they are found as Paul, Philip. iii. 9, ‘not having their own righteousness, but that which is through the faith of Christ, that which is of God by faith.’ Faith makes Christ yours, and so his righteousness yours. It unites to Christ as to your head . . . When the Lord looks on you he finds you having Christ’s righteousness, and that is enough to make both persons and prayers righteous, to cover all unworthiness in either that might hinder acceptance. Though Christ communicates not his merits, so as we can deserve anything, yet he communicates the efficacy and benefits of interest in his merits, so as if they be not ours they are for us; he deserves, he is worthy that we should be heard. —David Clarkson, Faith in Prayer, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:221–222.

Faith Which Is Saving

That you may live and die in the state of faith, get into that happy state. Get faith rooted and grounded in your hearts, and then you are sure: “Kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.” You can neither live nor die without faith. While ye live without faith you are under the sentence of condemnation, and if ye die without faith, death will lead you to execution. Be not deceived, think not that to be faith which is not; think not you have faith, because you believe the word of God is truth, and what it reveals concerning God, and Christ, and holiness, and happiness, is true. This is faith indeed, but such a faith as the devils have; such a faith will be no advantage either in life or death; it will distinguish thee from an infidel, but not from an unbeliever. That faith which is saving, which receives testimony from God, &c., is such a faith as will make you willing to embrace Christ both as prince and Saviour; willing to obey him, as to be saved by him; to be sanctified as well as justified; that worketh by love, purifieth the heart, brings forth the fruits of the Spirit. This is the faith by which ye must live, in which ye must die, if ye will die happily, comfortably, &c. That you may attain this faith, be diligent in attending upon the word. This direction is the apostle's, Rom. x. 14, 17. It is the word that both begets faith, and nourishes it. —David Clarkson, Of Dying In Faith, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:240.

When Pilgrims Go Home

All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. —Hebrews 11:13 Be not too fearful of death. It is a sleep now; Christ’s death did change the property of it; and will a pilgrim, a weary traveller, be afraid of sleep? When you are come to the gates of death, there is but one step then betwixt you and home, and that is death. Methinks we should pass this cheerfully, the next step your foot will be in heaven. How does it cheer the weary traveller, to think this is the last day’s journey; to-morrow, to-morrow I shall be at my own home, with all my dear relations. There I shall have ease and rest, and many welcomes. Suppose this last be the worst, the most stormy day of all my journey, to-morrow will make full amends for it. Now such a day is the day of death, the last day of a wearisome pilgrimage, and that which brings the stranger to his long home, into the bosom of God, into the embraces of Christ, unto all those joys and engagements that his own country afford, such as eye has not seen, nor ear heard, &c. This is partly the way to live as strangers, to live so as ye may die in the faith; and those that die in the faith die in the Lord, and those are blessed. —David Clarkson, Of Living as Strangers, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:246.

The Surpassing Value of Knowing Christ

But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ —Philippians 3:7–8 In Philippians 3:4–6, the apostle Paul lists the points on which he might boast, things any devout Jew would count as valuable, even indispensible. But none of these so fundamental to his Hebrew identity were of any worth when compared with the knowledge of Christ. Now, because this might seem a wonder and hard to be believed, that the apostle should renounce, cast away that which others counted their gain, treasure, ornament, their glory and confidence, that which they thought highly commended them, and made them acceptable in the sight of God, and glorious in the eyes of men; to procure the easier belief, to express further the height of his resolution herein, and the fixedness of his heart in what he had done, he affirms it again, and that with an asseveration, together with divers heightened expressions, ver. 8, ‘Yea, doubtless,’ &c. He did not only count them loss, but he had actually renounced them. It was not only his judgment, but his practice. He did not only count them loss, but dung, filth, excrements, when compared with Christ. He did not only thus account, thus renounce these things fore-mentioned, but all things, even those things that he had done and suffered for Christ, since he knew Christ. Not that he repented of what he had done or suffered, nor that he thought these would not be graciously rewarded, but in point of confidence, in point of justification. If he had brought these before God’s tribunal to be accepted, pardoned, justified, saved for them, he had been lost, they would have proved the loss of his soul. God would no more accept of these as satisfaction for sin, or meritorious of eternal life, than he would accept of dung. And therefore in these respects he did that which the Lord would have done, he counted them loss and dung. He smelt a savour of death in those things which had been his confidence be fore for acceptance and life. And further, he adds the cause of this strange effect, ‘The excellency of the knowledge,’ &c. It was the discovery of Christ that wrought his heart to this temper. It was his view of a sinner s transcendent advantage by Christ, that made him account all these loss. It was the wonderful excellency of the knowledge of Christ, that made all these things seem as dung. When we are in the dark, we are glad of candle-light, and glow-worms will make a fair show in our eyes; but when the sun is risen and shines in his full strength, then candle-light seems needless or offensive, and the worms that glittered in the dark, make no better show than other vermin. So when men are in the state of nature and darkness, then their church privileges and carnal prerogatives, then their outward performances and self-righteousness, make a fine show in their eyes. They are apt to glory in them, and rely on them, as that by which they may gain the favour of God and eternal life. Ay, but when Christ appears, when the Sun of righteousness arises in the heart and discovers his excellency, his all-sufficiency, then a man’s own sparks vanish; then all his formerly beloved and rich esteemed ornaments are cast off; then all he has, and all he has done, privileges and outward services, are loss and dung. None but Christ, none but Christ, for pardon, acceptance, life. This is the excellent effect of this excellent knowledge. —David Clarkson, The Excellent Knowledge of Christ, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:250.

To Know is to Rest

But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ —Philippians 3:7–8 [Knowing Christ] brings the soul to rest upon Christ and his righteousness alone, for pardon, acceptance, salvation, and to cast away all those rotten props, good nature, well meaning, harmless life, honest carriage, just dealing, church privileges, natural accomplishments, religious performances, upon which he relied, and made the grounds of his confidence before. Who more confident than Paul before he knew Christ? His being numbered amongst the people of God, his strictness in an outward way of religion, his zeal in the way of his conscience, his blameless conversation, were the things for which he thought himself sure of heaven. Here was his confidence; but when Christ was made known, to rest in these he saw was to trust in the arm of flesh, to lean upon a broken reed; and therefore, when the joyful discovery of Christ was made to his soul, he had no more confidence in the flesh, then he would not own his righteousness of the law as a ground of confidence: ‘Not having,’ &c. The soul that has this excellent discovery of Christ, will make nothing but Christ his confidence; despair in himself, how good soever he be, what good soever he has done, and only rely on Christ his righteousness. —David Clarkson, The Excellent Knowledge of Christ, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:253.

The Excellencies of God in Christ

But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ —Philippians 3:7–8 In knowing Christ we know the glorious excellencies of God, John xiv. 7. The Father and Christ are so like, as he that knows the one knows the other also, sees the Son, sees the Father. This is so apparent, as Christ seems to wonder that Philip, who had seen him, should speak as though he had not seen the Father, ver. 8, 9. He is known in the knowing of Christ, and seen in the seeing of Christ. Hence he is called ‘the image,’ Col. i. 15,—that which represents, and in a lively manner holds forth to us, the infinite perfections of God; therefore styled, Heb. i. 8, ‘the character,’—not a shadow of him, not a dead, superficial representation of him, such as pictures and portraitures are, but a living, express, subsisting, perfect representation. The similitude seems to be borrowed from a signet s impression, which represents all the sculptures and lineaments of the seal. But no similitude can reach this mystery; only this we learn by this expression, that as Christ is perfectly distinct from, so is he a full and perfect resemblance of the Father, of the same nature and essence with him, so that there is no perfection in the Father but the same is substantially in the Son, so that in knowing Christ we apprehend (as weakness will suffer) the excellencies of God; hence the glory of God is said to shine in the face of Christ, 2 Cor. iv. 6, so that those who know Christ, thereby see the glory of God in the face of Christ. That knowledge, that light which discovers Christ, discovers the glorious excellencies of God, the brightness whereof appears in the face of Christ. Nor is this only true of Christ as he is the Son of God, of the same nature with the Father, but also as he is Mediator. In the great work of redemption, the Lord caused his glory to pass before the sons of men. Never was there such a full, such a clear, discovery of God s glorious perfections, as was made to the world in Christ. In him we may see infinite power, wisdom, justice, mercy, holiness; glorious truth, faithfulness, unchangeabless; the glory of love, of free grace, of goodness; he even caused all his goodness to pass visibly before us in Christ, so that he who knows Christ knows all these glorious excellencies. —David Clarkson, The Excellent Knowledge of Christ, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:255.

The Most Excellent Knowledge

But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ —Philippians 3:7–8 There is no knowledge more excellent than the knowledge of Christ, because there is no object more excellent than Christ. The knowledge of the most excellent object is the most excellent knowledge, such is Christ’s. There is nothing in him but what is excellent. There is a mixture in all created beings; where there is something excellent, there is also something deficient. Search out the best accomplished creature on earth, and something or other will be found distasteful in it. The heavens, though they seem the most excellent of all things visible, and their excellency seems to be their lucidness and purity, yet in the Lord’s sight even they are not pure, Job xv. 15. Nay, the angels, though the most excellent of all invisibles, and their chief excellency be wisdom,—‘wise as an angel,’—yet the Lord charges them with folly, Job iv. 18. Those glorious creatures are conscious of something not fit to be seen by the eye of God; they cover their feet, Isa. vi. 2. Ay, but Christ he is altogether lovely; whatever is in him is excellent, nothing in him deficient, distasteful, imperfect; ‘fairer than the children of men,’ ‘higher than the heavens;’ so far transcends the angels, as they adore him, Heb. i. 6, as infinitely below him; nothing in Christ but what is worthy of all love, all delight, all admiration, everlasting praises of saints and angels. All excellencies that are in the creatures are eminently to be found in Christ. Take a survey of heaven and earth, and whatever you see that is truly excellent in any, in all things therein, look up to Christ, and you may see it transcendently in him. Whatever is truly amiable, desirable, delightful, or admirable, whatever takes thy heart, if it be worthy of thy heart, look upon Christ, and there it shines in its full brightness. Every excellency that is scattered here and there in the creatures, are altogether in Christ; all the several lines of perfection and transcendent loveliness do all meet and centre in him. All these excellencies are in him in a more excellent manner: perfectly, without any shadow of imperfection; infinitely, without any bounds or limits; unchangeably and eternally, they ebb not, they wane not, they are always there in the full, they alter not, they decay not. He is infinitely all excellencies, without variableness or shadow of changing. The angels kept not their first habitation, the heavens shall wax old as a garment, the glory of man is as the flower of the grass, but Christ is yesterday, and to-day, and the same for ever, for ever altogether excellent. Not only all that are in the creatures, but innumerable more excellencies than are in all the creatures together, are in Christ alone. Not only the creatures’ fulness, but the fulness of the Godhead dwells in him, bodily, i. e., substantially, personally. Besides all that he has communicated to heaven or earth, there are unspeakably more excellencies in him than eye ever saw, or ear heard, or can enter into the heart of man to conceive, Col. ii. 9. Oh how excellent must that knowledge be, whose object is so transcendently excellent! —David Clarkson, The Excellent Knowledge of Christ, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:257–258.

No Excellence without Diligence

But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ —Philippians 3:7–8 If there was one thing of supreme value, and one means of obtaining it, would you not make use of that means? Would you not set aside lesser pursuits toward that end? In fact, there is such an object, and such a singular means. Nothing excellent is attained without diligence, knowledge especially. Those that think it not worth their diligence, despise it. If you thought it precious, you would search after it; if it were a treasure in your esteem, you would dig for it; you would carefully, constantly search the Scripture, for that is the mine where this treasure is to be found, that is the field where it is hid, hid,—not that it should not be found, but that it should be sought after. What a sad thing is it, that those who profess themselves Christians, should spend whole days, nay, whole weeks, without looking into, without reading, without searching the Scripture. The Lord has writ to us (as he complains), not only the great things of the law, but the excellent mysteries of Christ, the great things of the gospel, and these count them a vain thing. Do ye not count it a vain thing, when ye care not for looking into it? Say not ye are too busy. What, are ye too busy to know Christ? are ye too busy to be saved? or is there any possibility of being saved without this excellent knowledge of Christ? Say not you want time; alas! it is want of heart, not want of time; want of affection to it, not want of time for it, that keeps men from knowledge. That time which you merely mis-spend in idleness, or needless pastimes, or satisfying your unclean, intemperate, or worldly lusts, would be sufficient to get this knowledge. If ye counted it excellent, ye would redeem time for it. Say not, What needs so much knowledge, so much diligence? Those that think it excellent will never think they can have too much knowledge, or that it cost them too much diligence, Prov. ii. 2–4. No getting knowledge without crying to God for it, seeking diligently after it. Those that have not thus sought it do yet want it, and those that are not diligent to get it despise it. —David Clarkson, The Excellent Knowledge of Christ, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:258.

Wrapped Up in Scripture

But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ —Philippians 3:7–8 Continuing yesterday’s theme, if you would know Christ, you must find him wherein he is revealed, that is, in Scripture. Having found him there, meditate—think long, deeply, and prayerfully—on that revelation. Let the word of God be familiar to you. What is to be known of Christ is here to be learned, Col. iii. 16. Be much in reading the Scripture, it is Christ’s advice to the Jews, John v. 39, search daily, search diligently, search as for a treasure, as for the pearl of great price, here it is to be found. Those that are strangers to the Scripture will be strangers to Christ. You may as well see without light as know Christ without the knowledge of the Scripture. Follow the Lord’s advice to Israel, see how strictly, how punctually he enjoins this, Deut. vi. 6–9. Be much in hearing the word. Christ is wrapped up in the Scripture, here the covering is unfolded and exposed to open view, here he is set as crucified, &c. It is the Lord’s ordinance, instituted for this end, to bring sinners to the knowledge of Christ, to open their eyes that they may see him, to unveil Christ that ye may behold him with open face. Whenever you read or hear, be sure to meditate; you must not think the Lord will work knowledge by a miracle, this is the means by which he makes it effectual, the knowledge of Christ will never be rooted in your souls without meditation. —David Clarkson, The Excellent Knowledge of Christ, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:262.

Not Merely to Know

But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ —Philippians 3:7–8 I love to read and learn. I love it so much that I am afraid I could be content just to acquire knowledge without ever putting it to any use. But that is not as it should be, and if that is all that comes of our learning of Christ, that is tragic indeed. Seek not the knowledge of Christ merely to know, that may be the end of a vainly curious mind; but seek to know him, that you may enjoy him more, that you may improve him better, that you may gain more heavenly and spiritual advantage by him, Mat. xiii. 45, 46. A merchant that travels into other countries, his end is not to view the places, and the rarities of them; that he minds but upon the by; but his design is to meet with commodities, whereby he may get the advantage to raise an estate. Such should your design be, a labouring to get more acquaintance with Christ, not merely to see and know more than others,—that may be done for ostentation, or out of curiosity,—but to discover that which may make your souls rich unto God; that you may discern that in him which may make you willing to sell all to possess and enjoy him, to suffer the loss of all things to gain Christ. Press to get near him, as the woman in the Gospel, that you may find a healing, a sovereign virtue coming from him; labour to get into the light which discovers him, that you may be under his influences, those healing, quickening, strengthening, comforting influences upon which the strength, life, comfort, and activeness of your souls depends; that you may derive from him more spiritual life, sense, strength, refreshment, motion, and activeness; that you may partake more of his riches, taste more of his sweetness; that you may adore, admire him more, and be more in his praises; that you may be engaged and enabled to honour him more, and serve him better, to do and suffer more for him; so to discover him, as to know the power of his resurrection, &c., Philip, iii. 10, so as to be excited and enabled to follow after, ver. 12, 13. Content not yourselves with light without heat. Let every spark of knowledge beget some spiritual and heavenly heat, let it kindle you into more zeal for him, more ardent desires after him, more flames of love to him, more fervour of spirit in seeking, in following him. If the light whereby you discover anything of Christ be not accompanied with spiritual heat, it will prove but a fruitless blaze, which will soon go out, and end in smoke, come to nothing or worse. Satisfy yourselves with no knowledge of Christ, but such as makes you [love him], Cant. i. 3. The apprehensions they had of Christ gave them a taste, a delicious relish of him, such as made them in love with him, sick of love. Let it raise you to such a heat of resolution as it did Peter, Mat. xxvi. 35. Let it excite in you such desires as in David, Ps. lxiii., raise you to such a value of Christ as the spouse had, Cant. v. 5, 6, 10, 16. If it beget not heat of affection, it will not be like the light of the rising sun, which shines more and more, &c., but like a flash of lightning, which appears and vanishes in a moment, and often does more hurt than good. —David Clarkson, The Excellent Knowledge of Christ, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:264–265.

Let Knowledge Shine

But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ —Philippians 3:7–8 More on yesterday’s subject: the use of knowledge. Live up to the knowledge you have; that is the way to attain more. Let the light that shines in your minds shine in your lives. Imprison not the truth; so you do when it is in your understandings, but confined there so as the influence of it does not reach your conversations. This will provoke the Lord to leave you in darkness, it was the effect of this crime in the heathen; this was the cause of that darkness and those delusions amongst the papists, 2 Thes. ii. The pleasure they had in unrighteousness prevailed against the belief and knowledge of Christ and his truths, and rendered it impractical; so that though they knew his ways, they would not walk therein; though they knew the will of Christ, they would not do it, therefore he gave them up to be blinded by Satan. If you so abuse the discoveries of Christ, they will be rarely, sparingly vouchsafed; the Lord will not entrust you with more, but rather take from you what you have. But on the contrary, there is a promise to improve knowledge, John vii. 17. If according to your knowledge ye do more for Christ, ye shall know more of him. If you follow the light, the light will follow you, you will have it in more abundance; but if you walk not answerable to your knowledge, if you contradict it in the temper of your hearts, or course of your lives, you take the course not to have it augmented, but to have less of it, or none at all. If a friend hold a light to you, and you will not follow it, that will not move him to add to it, or make it brighter, but rather to put it out. If the light whereby Christ discovers himself to you be not used for those purposes for which it is vouchsafed; if it do not lead you effectually to a fuller compliance with him, to an exacter conformity to him, to higher degrees of holiness, self-denial, mortification, contempt of the world; this is the way not to have the light increased, but rather extinguished. Let humility keep pace with knowledge, and be of an equal and proportionable growth. If knowledge puff you up, take heed the light be not puffed out. Pride would be the attendant of knowledge, but it never thrives nor comes to good where this is not checked. It is such a weed as sucks away the life and sweetness of knowledge; it is not only an enemy to it in its own nature and quality, sucking away the moisture that should make it grow, but it provokes the Lord to blast it. He resists the proud, beats down that in which they exalt themselves, but gives grace to the humble, inspires both mind and heart with more grace, gives both more holiness and more knowledge. —David Clarkson, The Excellent Knowledge of Christ, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:265–266.

To Gain Christ

But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ —Philippians 3:7–8 What does it mean to “gain Christ”? He that partakes of Christ, the benefits of his purchase, all those spiritual and eternal blessings wherewith those that have interest in him are blessed; he that gets the graces and advantages of his mediatorship, of his offices, righteousness, sufferings, resurrection, &c., so as to have communion with him in all these, and a communication of all that he has procured, and bestows upon all that are his, he has gained Christ. To gain pardon of sin, right to eternal life, reconciliation with God, holiness in its life, power, exercise, increase, perseverance, the exceeding great and precious promises, high and glorious privileges, sweet and honourable relations which the gospel tenders, all things that are good in this life, the presence of Christ in every state, employment, the assistance of Christ in every service, acceptance through Christ of every endeavour, the joys and comforts of the Spirit, the foretastes of heaven, and a full assurance of actual possession; to partake of Christ in these respects is to gain him. This is that for which he, and all that know Christ with him, are ready to lose all. And if the worth and value of Christ, and these invaluable advantages by him, be duly weighed, it will seem no wonder that those who know him think not much to suffer the loss of all to gain him. —David Clarkson, The Excellent Knowledge of Christ, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:266–267.

Paul’s “All”

But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ —Philippians 3:7–8 What did it mean, in practical terms, for Paul to suffer “the loss of all things”? But what are these all things? The apostle gives us an account of them in this chapter, and elsewhere in his Epistles. By all things we may understand his privileges, his accomplishments, his enjoyments, his righteousness too; much more all and every sin. 1. His privileges. He was born of a noble tribe and family, was one of the blessed seed, the seed of Abraham, had that blessedness sealed to him by circumcision, and so was outwardly in covenant with God, and numbered amongst his people. This he once counted a gainful, an advantageous privilege; but after he had attained the knowledge of Christ, he saw that without Christ this would not at all avail him, ver. 7. 2. His accomplishments. He was a man of great natural parts, and he had raised, improved them by art and learning: he sat at the feet, i.e., was the scholar of Gamaliel, a great rabbi, a master in Israel. He might have advanced his esteem amongst men by excellency of words and wisdom, but he wholly denied himself, and waived these, when there was danger thereby of obscuring the glory of Christ. He was content to lose the reputation of them, 1 Cor. ii. 1, 4: The like mind is in those who have attained not to make ostentation of their gifts. 3. His enjoyments. His credit, ease, plenty, friends, liberty, safety, he was willing to lose all for Christ’s sake; he was content to be accounted as the filth and offscouring of the world, 1 Cor. iv. 13. His ease; in labours more abundant, in journeyings often, in weariness and painfulness, in watchings, 2 Cor. xi. 23, 27. The plenty and advantages of a good estate, ver. 27, hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness, choosed rather to serve Christ in such necessities, than to enjoy a plentiful estate without him. His friends, these became his enemies for Christ’s sake; hence he was in perils by his own countrymen. Instead of favours he received stripes, and that often, ver. 24. His liberty; in prison more frequent, bonds and afflictions, Acts xx. His safety; run the hazard of his life often for Christ, ver. 25, 26. Those that are savingly acquainted with Christ are like-minded; rather lose anything than part with Christ. 4. His righteousness too. His exactness in outward observation of the law, his zeal in the way of his conscience and judgment, all his outward performances, how specious or plausible soever, he was willing to lose, to renounce these, in point of confidence. He knew, after he knew Christ, if he had relied upon these for pardon, acceptance, salvation, it had been to the loss of his soul. So in this consideration he suffered the loss of them; he was willing to renounce, to disclaim them as grounds of his confidence. 5. As for his lusts, all and every of those sins that he was formerly addicted to, he counts it no loss to part with them; they scarce come into this account. It was a thing without question not only with him, but even the false teachers, that he who would not part with every known sin could not gain Christ, could have no interest in him, no advantage by him. Thus you see the effect of this excellent knowledge of Christ in the apostle. Whatever was sinful, he utterly rejected it; those things that were indifferent, he had either actually suffered the loss of them for Christ, or it was the purpose and resolution of his soul so to do, whenever the interest of Christ should require it. And the things necessary, he renounced them as to any confidence in them, for those purposes for which they were not sufficient. They were loss, of no value to him in this respect. —David Clarkson, The Excellent Knowledge of Christ, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:267–268.

The Best Bargain

But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ —Philippians 3:7–8 As to your outward enjoyments and earthly possessions. To tell you, you must be ready to part with these, may seem an hard saying; it is so to those who are well accommodated in the world; it was so to him in the Gospel, who presumed that all the other commands of God he had observed, he fell off at this; when he was tried here, he left Christ, went away sorrowful, Mat. xix. But the apostle Paul had actually done it (as in the text), and so had the rest of the apostles, Mat. xix. 27. And none are or can be the disciples of Christ indeed, none are Christians really, but such as are resolved on it beforehand, and actually do it when they are tried, when the honour and interest of Christ requires it, Luke xiv. 33. And those that know Christ effectually will see no reason to stick at it; for he has assured us, that to suffer the loss of all for him is no loss at all, how great and intolerable soever the loss is in appearance, yet really it is the greatest gain, the richest advantage. We cannot possibly make a richer, a more gainful improvement of what we have in the world, than by losing it all for Christ. How great a paradox soever this seem, Christ has assured us of it, and if we do not believe him, we do not know him, Mat. xix. 29. You think it a good improvement of what you have, if you could gain twenty or fifty in the hundred, but what is this to gain an hundred-fold! You would think it a rich return of an adventure to double it or treble it; what is it then to double it more than forty times over? What merchant is there that would not venture all he has, nay, that would not throw his goods into the sea, upon assurance (as good assurance as he can desire), that for every pound he so loses he shall certainly gain an hundred? Why, Christ himself assures you of no less advantage by any thing you lose for him, and can you desire better assurance? or can you expect greater advantage? If you think not this advantage enough, if you desire more, he assures you of more, in the next world everlasting life; an hundred-fold here in this present time, and besides that, everlasting life hereafter, Mark x. 29, 30. Now eternal life in the kingdom of glory is not only an hundred-fold more, but ten thousand times more, ten millions more, unspeakably, unconceivably more, beyond all computation than all you can lose for Christ. And will you think much to lose a pound upon assurance to gain many millions? You shall gain no less by suffering the loss of all for Christ, than if by the loss of a farthing you should gain ten millions; the advantage will be greater, vastly greater, beyond all proportion. Yea, but what assurance is there of this? It is a gainful adventure in deed, beyond all in the world, if it were sufficiently insured. Why, you have the best assurance of it that the whole earth, yea, or heaven itself can give. Christ himself is engaged for it, he who is the mighty God, the faithful and true Witness, who has all power in heaven and earth to make it good; and heaven and earth shall perish, rather than one iota of his word shall fail and not be fulfilled. You shall sooner see the heavens fall, and the whole earth sink, than see the least failure as to the performance of his word. And this being so, certainly if Christ were known, if he were believed, if there were faith concerning this thing, to suffer the loss of all for Christ would be so far from being counted an intolerable loss, that it would be esteemed the richest and most advantageous bargain that we can possibly make for ourselves in this world. It would be so far from being feared and avoided upon unworthy terms, that it would be welcomed and embraced as that which is richly desirable. —David Clarkson, The Excellent Knowledge of Christ, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:270–271.

Both Necessary and Worthless

But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ —Philippians 3:7–8 Counting “all things,” including our own righteousness, “to be loss” does not mean that we should no longer pursue holiness; as the Apostle writes, “godliness actually is a means of great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6; also, Philippians 2:12–13). But we should never believe that we can, even in part, be justified thereby. Our personal righteousness, the best of it, holiness of heart and life, this must be quitted in some respect, and only in some respect. To speak or think of suffering the loss of all absolutely, is intolerable. A personal righteousness is in its own place transcendently excellent, and absolutely necessary; without it we cannot be qualified for glory, we cannot be serviceable on earth, we can never come to heaven; without it we cannot honour Christ here, nor shall ever see his face hereafter, Heb. xii. In these respects we must not think of suffering the loss of it, we must not lose it for a world, we lose heaven and our souls if we suffer it. But in point of justification we must quit it, i.e., we must not rely on our personal righteousness as a justifying righteousness. To quit it thus far will be no loss, for it is no loss to quit anything so far as it is not useful, how excellent soever it be otherwise. Now our personal righteousness is not useful to justify us before God against the accusation of the law of works; to quit it here, to lose it thus, is to lose nothing but a false conceit, a conceit that it is what it is not, and can do for us what it can never do. No person on earth ever had in himself a justifying righteousness. It is true if our first parents had continued in their primitive state, without sin, their righteousness would have justified them; but since their fall, sin entering into the world, and spreading over it, no man ever had in himself a justifying righteousness but the man Christ Jesus; no other personal righteousness besides can answer the demands of the law in a full, perfect, spotless conformity to it; none can satisfy for the transgressions of it, none can give a title to eternal life. This I call a justifying righteousness. The best personal righteousness of the most eminent saint on earth is no such thing, it can no more justify him than dung can feed him; how excellent soever it be for other purposes, it is not sufficient, it is not useful, for this, here it leaves us at a loss. On this account the apostle did suffer the loss of his own righteousness; if he was to appear before God, to be justified or condemned, he would be found not having his own righteousness, he durst not rely on that. Elsewhere, 1 Cor. iv. 4, and others, Ps. cxliii. 2, they decline the consideration of their own righteousness in this case, as knowing upon that account they could not be justified, the sinful effects of it would rather expose them to condemnation. But if we rely not on our own righteousness for justification, what righteousness is there to rely on? We shall be at a loss for a justifying righteousness. So the papists, so the Socinians and their followers, determine. But the apostle was otherwise minded, he knew where to find a righteousness fully sufficient for this purpose: ‘Not having his own righteousness’; if he might be found in Christ, even in him who is ‘the Lord our righteousness’, in him who is ‘made of God wisdom and righteousness,’ &c., who is ‘the end of the law for righteousness,’ ‘who was made sin for us, that we,’ &c. This is a righteousness far transcending any personal righteousness that sinners are capable of; yea, and that righteousness too which would have justified our first parents if they had not sinned, as being the righteousness of God, the righteousness of faith, an everlasting righteousness. It is a better, a more excellent, righteousness than that in the state of innocency would have been, if it had been perfected in respect of the subject, it being ‘the righteousness of God,’ so called verse 9, and not of man only. 2. In respect of the facility of obtaining, it is attainable by faith, and so described, ver. 9. Faith interests those in it who can neither personally satisfy for past disobedience, nor perfectly observe the law for the time to come. 3. In respect of its perpetuity, it is everlasting: Dan. ix. 24, ‘Righteousness of eternity’ (Heb.]. Adam’s righteousness, if it had continued a thousand years, might have been lost by sin; but this righteousness makes an end of sin, and so makes a justified state endless. Those that believe this effectually, need not think much to suffer the loss of all, that they may win Christ and be interested in his righteousness, so they may be found in him, not having, &c. —David Clarkson, The Excellent Knowledge of Christ, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:271–272.

A City of Refuge

I count all things to be loss . . . so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith —Philippians 3:8–9 In the previous verses, Paul writes of his willingness to lose everything for “the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” In verse 9, he begins to describe the end goal of obtaining that knowledge: to “be found in him,” and enjoy the benefit of that union, namely, the imputation of his righteousness. When by virtue of his being in Christ a believer is secured from what he fears, and hath that procured for him which he most wants; when he hath in Christ acceptance to life, and by Christ is delivered from the curse and threatening of the law; when he obtains the blessings . . . and escapes vengeance, as the malefactor by being in the city of refuge; these were typical, and very significantly shew us what it is to be found in Christ. To be found in him is to be covered with his righteousness, held forth in the notion of a garment, Isa. lxi. 10, Rev. xix. 8. Every sinner is full of uncleanness and deformity, the pure eye of God cannot behold him without loathing, nor will he admit any unclean thing into his presence. If he seek a covering of his own righteousness, it helps not, it is but as a menstruous rag, it adds to his uncleanness rather than hides it. How then shall a wretched sinner stand in the sight of an holy God? Why, the Lord hath made provision; when the sinner returns as the prodigal, the Father bids bring out the best robe, he covers, he adorns him with this; he takes order with a returning sinner, as with Joshua, Zech. iii. 3, 4. A believer puts on Christ, Gal. iii. 27, Rom. xiii. 14, Rev. xii. 1. This is his robe, his garment, and when he is found in it, then he is found in Christ; his person, his services are accepted, the way to heaven is opened for him, the Father delights in him, and blesses him with spiritual, eternal blessings. So that to be found in Christ is to be found in his righteousness, and that the apostle explains himself, ‘Not having,’ &c. Then for security from evil: to be found in Christ is as the malefactor to be found in the city of refuge. The man that had slain his neighbour casually was to fly to the city of refuge; if the pursuer overtook him before he was in the city, he had liberty to slay him without mercy; if he found him in the city of refuge, he was not to touch him. Thus here, every sinner out of Christ is liable to the stroke of revenging justice, but when he is found in Christ he is secure, justice then will not touch him. To be found in Christ is to be found as in the city of refuge. —David Clarkson, Justification by the Righteousness of Christ, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:274–275.

Out of Christ

I count all things to be loss . . . so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith —Philippians 3:8–9 All the blessings that belong to Christ belong to all who are found in him. But what of those who are not? Except you be found in Christ you are lost; your persons, services, happiness, and hopes of it, all are lost, unless you be found in him. 1. Your persons: it is as impossible that any person in the world should escape the wrath of God, out of Christ, as it was impossible any man in the old world should escape drowning, when the flood came and found him not in the ark; some of those perishing creatures might scramble up into some mountain or tree and preserve themselves a little while the waters are low, but they were all swept away ere long who were not found in the ark. So here, there is a deluge of wrath coming upon the world of unbelievers and obstinate sinners, and though some may think to escape by flying to outward duties, and relying upon their privileges and enjoyments, yet those are but a refuge of lies, there is no escaping for any but those that are found in Christ, the deluge of wrath will sweep away every sinner sooner or later that is not found in Christ. 2. Your services too are all lost: whatever you do in a way of religion, or in a way of charity, except you be found in Christ doing of it, it is lost, it will never be accepted. Do what you will, it is impossible to please God if he find you not in Christ, in whom only his people are made acceptable: ‘Without faith it is impossible to please God,’ Heb. xi. 6. Why? Because it is faith that brings a man into Christ, that faith which purifies the heart and life, that faith which runs to Christ out of deep seas of sin and wrath, that faith that will take Christ upon his own terms. 3. Your happiness, and hopes of it, are lost too: ‘There is no name under heaven,’ &c. The Lord blesses his people with spiritual blessings in heavenly places; but how? In Christ only, Eph. i. There is no enjoyment of happiness, there is no hopes of it, but for those that are found in Christ: ‘Christ in you the hope of glory,’ Col. i. Without Christ, without hope in the world. Those who anchor not within the veil, will see their souls and hopes wrecked together. In what condition soever you be found, if found without Christ, you are miserable. Though you be found in health, in plenty, in prosperity; nay, though you be found in a throne, if you be not found in Christ, there is no hopes of happiness, they give no rest. —David Clarkson, Justification by the Righteousness of Christ, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:275–276.

Have No Confidence

I count all things to be loss . . . so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith —Philippians 3:8–9 To be found in Christ . . . You must have no confidence in your own righteousness. The apostle joins these both in his doctrine and practice, ver. 9. If you would be found in Christ, you must lay aside all conceits of any sufficiency in your own righteousness to justify or save you; those that lead you to this draw you from Christ. It was such conceits that kept off the Pharisees from Christ, and made it less feasible for them to be found in Christ than the publicans; and against this is that parable directed, Luke xviii. 9. This cut off the Jews from Christ and his righteousness: Rom. x. 34, ‘In the Lord have we righteousness, in the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified,’ Isa. xl. 24, 25. But this self-confidence will make men say, ‘We are lords,’ Jer. ii. 31. This makes Christ of none effect, discharges them from being found in him, or finding any advantage by him, Gal. v. 4. An expectation to be justified by conformity to, or observation of the law, tends to disannul and abolish Christ; such are fallen from the doctrine of grace, which doctrine teaches that we are justified freely by another righteousness, Rom. iii. This renders the death of Christ a vain and needless thing, Gal. ii. 21. Christ was obedient unto death, that we might have righteousness in him to justify us. If we can have such a righteousness by our observance of the law, he died in vain and to no purpose, we might be as well without him. —David Clarkson, Justification by the Righteousness of Christ, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:276.

Satan Wants You to Be Good

I count all things to be loss . . . so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith —Philippians 3:8–9 The devil loves it when people sin willfully. He loves it more when they live morally and think themselves good. If you desire the comfort and happiness to be found in Christ, take heed of relying upon your own righteousness. There are two ways whereby Satan leads the greatest part of the world to destruction. The one is, the open way of profaneness and ungodliness; the other is, the retired way of self-confidence. If that great enemy of souls cannot prevail with men to run with [other to] excess of riot, when he sees some through religious education, or common workings of the Spirit, to have escaped the gross pollutions of the world, he attempts their ruin another way, by possessing them with a conceit of the sufficiency of their own righteousness, tempting them to neglect Christ by resting in themselves. And though this way be fairer than the other, yet ordinarily it proves more dangerous, because those that are entered into it are not so easily convinced of it, and brought out of it; publicans and sinners are more easily brought to Christ than Pharisees. The word to which the apostle compares self-righteousness tells us thus much. He calls it . . . dung . . . It must be an extraordinary power that will work a man that is civilized, and hath the form of godliness, to deny himself, and renounce his self-righteousness; and yet nothing doth more cross the great and glorious designs of God in the gospel, nothing is more dishonourable to Christ, and more affronts him; nothing more dangerous to the soul of sinners, than to rely upon their own righteousness for pardon and salvation. And therefore, if you would not be found fighters against God in his most gracious contrivement of man's happiness; if you would not be contemners of Christ and the grace of the gospel; if you would not be found accessory to the destruction of your own souls, take heed of depending upon your own righteousness, take heed of making anything the ground of your confidence but Christ and his righteousness. —David Clarkson, Justification by the Righteousness of Christ, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:280–281.

A Description of Self-Righteousness

I count all things to be loss . . . so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith —Philippians 3:8–9 Self-righteousness comes in a several varieties. It may be nice, good, moral, religious, not-bad, or (presumptively) earned. None is of any value. Some rely much upon a natural righteousness, that which we call good nature; if others persuade them, or they can persuade themselves that they are of good dispositions, mild, candid, gentle, ingenuous, kind and peaceable temper, they rest here, and are apt to conclude, the Lord will not be so severe as to cast so good nature (though there be nothing more than nature in them) into hell. Some rely upon a positive righteousness, and observance of some rites and circumstances in religion. They are baptized, and accounted members of the church, and partake of ordinances, and come under church order, submit to this or that form of ecclesiastical government, and adhere strictly to some outward observances prescribed by God, or perhaps received by tradition from their superiors or forefathers. Here they ground their hopes of heaven. This was part of the Pharisees righteousness, and that in which their false teachers grounded their confidence, which the apostle here opposes, and overthrows elsewhere, when he tells us, ‘The kingdom of God comes not by observation,’ &c., Luke xvii. 29; Rom. xiv. 17. And Christ raises it: ‘Except your righteousness,’ &c., Mat. v. 20. Others rely upon a moral righteousness, because they have some care to observe the duties of the second table, because they are just, sober, temperate, liberal, love their neighbours, do no man wrong, give every one his own; hence conclude they are sure of heaven. Whereas if this were a sufficient ground of confidence, we might conclude many heathens in heaven, such as never knew Christ, nor heard of the gospel. If such righteousness be sufficient, then Christ died in vain, as the apostle concludes to like purpose, Gal. ii. 21. Others rely upon a religious righteousness, their outward performances of some religious duties. Because they pray, and hear the word, and read the Scriptures, receive the sacraments, converse with those that are religious, and in some sort observe the Sabbath, upon this are confident that they shall die the death of the righteous, and it shall be well with them in the latter end. But even this support the apostle rejected as rotten; though he was one of the most religious sort among the Jews, and blameless as to his outward performance of religious duties, yet he durst not be found with this righteousness alone; he disclaims all confidence in it. Others rely upon a negative righteousness. Because they are not so unrighteous, not such idolaters, atheists, not such apostates or heretics, not such swearers or Sabbath-breakers; because they are not drunkards nor adulterers, not murderers or oppressors, not covetous, proud, or ambitious, therefore it shall go well with them. This was the Pharisees’, as in the parable; but it was far from justifying them, Luke xviii. 11, 14. Others rely upon a comparative righteousness, their being or thinking themselves to be more righteous than others, because they do more in a way of religion, of justice, of charity, than others who have like engagements; whatever their principles be from which, or the ends for which they do it, conclude for this they shall be saved. This is like that of the labourers sent into the vineyard early in the morning. They expostulate about their wages, as though they had deserved some extraordinary reward in having borne the burthen and heat of the day, Mat. xx. 12. There is a sad intimation, that though these were called, yet they were not chosen, ver. 16, Mat. vii. 22. Others rely upon a passive righteousness. Because they have suffered for the truth, being jeered, reproached, persecuted for some way of religion, therefore they are confident that for these sufferings they shall be saved and pardoned. But the apostle here sheweth the vanity of this confidence, for who had suffered more than he, who had suffered the loss of all things for Christ? He makes not his sufferings, but Christ, the ground of his confidence; he durst not be found, not in his sufferings for Christ, except he might withal be found in Christ: that he desired above all. Nor would he rest in anything but in Christ: ‘Not having his own righteousness;’ he counts it loss so far as it was unuseful and insufficient, he counts it dung so far as it invades Christ’s prerogative, so far as it would usurp the place and office of his righteousness; it was no better than dung when it would supplant and dishonour the righteousness of God. —David Clarkson, Justification by the Righteousness of Christ, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:281–282.

Why God Must Punish Sin

Sin being entered into the world, the Lord was concerned not to let it go unpunished. It is enough for our purpose, which is out of question, that it was the Lord’s will and determination to punish all sin. But there seems to be a sufficient proof, that it was not from the mere pleasure of his will that he should be punished, but there was a necessity for it, from the nature and perfections of God, and from his relation to man as his governor, and from the law enacted as the rule of his government. The Lord is obliged, not only by his truth and unchangeableness, but by his wisdom, holiness, and justice, to punish sin. His truth engages him to it. He threatens it in his law, and if he will rule according to law, it must be inflicted. His truth is obliged for the executing of the threatening, and to make good what he had declared to be his resolution. His unchangeableness makes it necessary. He did determine from eternity to punish it. The event shews that it was eternal purpose, and the counsel of the Lord must stand: he is not as man. His wisdom makes it necessary. The end and designs of his law and government would be lost, his law would appear to be powerless and insignificant, his government would be rendered contemptible, the authority of the one, and the honour of the other defaced, if sin is not punished. The holiness of God requires it. Sin is contrary to him; he hates it. If he will shew himself to be what he is, ‘an holy God, of purer eyes than to behold evil, and who cannot look on iniquity,’ Hab. i. 13, it is necessary to shew his hatred of it by punishing it: Josh. xxiv. 19, ‘he will not forgive,’ that is, he will punish, because he is holy, where, as in other places, the necessity of punishing is grounded upon his holiness. If the Lord be necessarily an holy God, it will be necessary to hate sin; for hatred of sin is essential to holiness, and cannot be conceived or apprehended without it. Now to hate sin . . . necessarily includes a will to punish it. It is essential to holiness to be displeased with sin. Now as the love of God is our chief reward, so God’s displeasure is the chief punishment of it. If then it be not necessary that he punish sin, there will be no necessity that he be displeased at sin. It will be arbitrary to the holy God to be pleased with sin, if it be arbitrary not to punish it. We might conceive that he may as well be pleased with sin as displeased with it, which is intolerable to say or imagine. Finally, His justice obliges him to punish it; for suffering is indispensably due to sin, and the sinner justly deserves it, and justice requires that everything, every one, should have his due, that every disobedience receives a just recompence of reward, Heb. ii. 21, Rom. i. 32, 2 Thes. i. It is righteous with God to give to every one according to his work. —David Clarkson, Justification by the Righteousness of Christ, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:282–283. This is very bad news, but there is good news to come.

God Will Punish Sin

Having seen why God must punish sin, and knowing that we are all sinners, we are left in an apparently hopeless position. Since there is such necessity that sin be punished, and the Lord so highly concerned to inflict the penalty due to sin, either the sinners themselves must bear the penalty, or some other for them; if the sinners themselves must bear the punishment, no flesh could be saved, all mankind must be eternally miserable, for it is the penalty expressed by death and curse. If some other bear the penalty for them, it must be such a person, and in such a way, that will be as satisfactory to justice, and as full a salvo to the divine perfections concerned in his law and government, as if the sinners themselves suffered it. The design of the law must be secured, and the ends of divine government attained, and the justice, holiness, truth, and wisdom of God vindicated and manifested, as much as if the penalty was inflicted upon the transgressors themselves. —David Clarkson, Justification by the Righteousness of Christ, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:284. But there is good news: We have a substitute. It was Christ that undertook this, and the way wherein he effected it was by suffering in our stead. This is it which we are concerned to maintain; Christ suffered in our stead; for if he did not, the punishment due to sin is not inflicted (since his bearing the punishment due to our sin, and his suffering in our stead is all one), neither we nor any for us undergo it. Thus sin, as to all that are saved, will go unpunished every way, and so the ends of government are neglected by the infinite wise and righteous Governor of the world, and the glory of his wisdom, truth, justice, and holiness are by himself exposed and left to suffer without any salvo. If we be saved in a way that will not secure the honour of the divine perfections, salvation will be effected in a way not consistent with the honour of God. But no salvation can be expected on these terms, and therefore either none will be saved by Christ, or else it is upon the account of his bearing the penalty of the law in their stead. But by Christ’s suffering in our stead all is secured, justice is satisfied for them, sin hath its deserts, that which is due to it, and which justice requires should be inflicted for it; his holiness is demonstrated, for what clearer evidence, that he is of purer eyes than to behold it, that he perfectly hates it, than by punishing it in his own Son, when he appeared but in the room of sinners. His truth is manifested, when the Lord of life must die, rather than what the law denounced shall not be executed; his wisdom is no way impeached, the ends of government fully attained, the law vindicated from contempt, the authority of the great lawgiver upheld, and the children of men deterred from sin, when the Son of God must suffer for it. I need not here give an account of that abundant evidence we have in Scripture that Christ should suffer in our stead, only this in short: the several notions whereby his death is represented to us in Scripture, make it plain that he suffered and died not only for our good, but in our stead. His death is held forth as a punishment, as a ransom, and as a sacrifice. His death was a punishment: He was ‘wounded for our transgressions;’ he died for our sins; that is, he suffered what our sins deserved, that we might not suffer; and this is the very thing that we mean by his suffering in our stead. His death was our ransom, Mat. xx. 28. He paid that in our behalf which justice required of him, and this is to pay it in our stead. His death was a sacrifice: he died that we might escape that death which was the penalty of the law transgressed by us. As the life of the sacrifice went for the life of the sinner for whom it was offered; this is to die in our stead, as the sacrifice died instead of the offender. —Ibid. (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:284–285.

God Is Satisfied

God must punish sin, and Christ has taken that punishment. With that, God is satisfied. Christ’s sufferings were accepted for us, and accepted as suffered in our stead. None who believe he suffered will question but his sufferings were accepted; nor will any deny that they were accepted as suffered in our stead, but those who against all evidence of Scripture deny that he suffered in our stead. (1.) The ground of his death and suffering; (2.) The end and design of them; (3.) Their full sufficiency for their end; (4.) The dignity and quality of the person suffering; everything, in a manner, which occurs therein tends to make this unquestionable among all Christians. It was the will of the Father, expressed in the form of a covenant between Father and Son, that the Son taking our nature should thus suffer, Ps. xl. 6–8, Heb. x. 5. The Father promises that these sufferings should be accepted, Isa. liii. 10, 11. The Son, upon assurance of the Father’s acceptance, submits to the sufferings. He suffered all that in justice was required, that way might be made for our acquitment. His sufferings were a full demonstration of his truth, wisdom, holiness, justice, yea, of his mercy too; the Lord was hereby every way transcendently glorified, and that which thus glorifies him must needs be highly acceptable. He that suffered was not only man, but God, of the same essence, power, and will with the Father. His sufferings and blood was the sufferings and blood of him who is God, and therefore of infinite value, and so most worthy of all acceptance, such as could not in justice but be accepted. The Lord was herewith fully satisfied, and that which fully satisfied him was unquestionably accepted. —David Clarkson, Justification by the Righteousness of Christ, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:285.

A Refuge of Lies

I count all things to be loss . . . so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith —Philippians 3:8–9 Whatever refuge men fancy in their own righteousness, it will prove a refuge of lies, it will deceive and betray those that fly thereto. They are but imaginary sanctuaries, they are none of God’s appointing; there is nothing in them to hinder revenging justice from proceeding against the sinner in a way of wrath and vengeance. . . . The apostle, though he had more reason to think himself safe in his own righteousness than others can have, yet he durst not be found there; the ‘not having,’ &c. He flies to another refuge, runs to Christ, desires to be found in him; ay, there is none but Christ, none but Christ, no other refuge, no other sanctuary, no other altar that can secure a sinner from the wrath and justice of God, but Christ and his righteousness; though the hills and mountains should fall upon you and cover you, yet could they not hide you from the wrath of him. How high soever your righteousness be in your own opinion, the flood of God’s indignation will overwhelm it, and your souls with it, if you get not into this ark. —David Clarkson, Justification by the Righteousness of Christ, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:298.

Far from Christ

You are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life. —John 5:40 All humanity, by nature, is far from Christ. This is true even of his elect (Acts 2:39; Ephesians 2:11ff). We departed from our father’s house in Adam, and till the Lord convert us, we, as he, dwell in a far country, at a great distance from Christ, far from him in respect of knowledge, union, participation, converse. 1. In respect of knowledge. Far from knowing Christ savingly, effectually, experimentally; far from apprehending such excellency in him as to count all things dross and dung in comparison of him; such necessity of him as to part with sin, self, the world, and all for him; such all-sufficiency in him, as to be content with him in the want, in the loss of all; far from clear knowledge of Christ, as a poor prisoner, locked and bolted in a dark dungeon is far from seeing the light of the day, or as a man stark blind is far from seeing the light of the sun; so, and far more than so, is a natural man from seeing Christ; shut up in darkness, under the power of Satan, having the eyes of his mind blinded by the God of this world, that he cannot see the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. 2. In respect of union. He is far from being united with Christ, from being one with him; wedded to sin, glued to the world, and unwilling to be separated, and so far from Christ, because there can be no contract betwixt Christ and the soul till there be a divorce betwixt the soul and sin, the soul and the world. No league with Christ till the covenant with hell and death, with sin and the world, be broken. Far from faith, which is the bond of this union, shut up under unbelief, and a gravestone laid upon the soul, which nothing can roll away but an almighty power; far from marriage-union with Christ, even as a child yet unborn is far from the hopes and comforts of a conjugal life and union; so far are men from Christ, who are yet in the state of nature, not regenerated, not born again. 3. In respect of participation. As far from union with the person of Christ, so far from partaking of the benefits of Christ; far from pardon, being yet under the sentence of condemnation; from adoption, being yet servants of sin, and slaves to Satan; from reconciliation, being enemies to Christ in their minds through wicked works; from sanctification, the old man keeping still possession with a strong hand, and the interest of the flesh and the world prevailing in the soul; from heaven, there is a great gulf betwixt him and heaven, a gulf deep and large, no passage possible by the act or power of nature. Far from enjoying any of the benefits of Christ’s purchase, as he that is in the Indies, without ship or boat, is far from enjoying any comforts or accommodations here with us. 4. In respect of converse. A stranger to Christ, far from communion with him; a stranger to his thoughts, Christ is not his meditation; his heart is not with him, his affections not on him, his inclinations not towards him, his desires not after him, his delight not in him, his designs not for him; he lives not to Christ, acts not for him, walks not with him; Christ is in heaven, and his heart is on the world. As far as heaven is from earth, so far is a natural man from Christ. —David Clarkson, Men by Nature Unwilling to Come to Christ, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:332–333.

Halfway to Christ

Do you come to Christ as a Saviour to deliver you from the wrath to come? It is well; but if ye go no further, ye go but half the way to Christ. If you will come home to Christ indeed, you must go to him, not only as a Saviour, but as a Lord; not only to receive pardon from him, but to be ruled by him; not only to be saved, but to be sanctified; not only for happiness, but for holiness too, for Christ is both or neither; and if ye come for one and not for the other, indeed you come not at all; you do but delude yourselves with thoughts that you are already come; Christ will have as much cause to complain of you as of the Jews, ‘Ye will not.’ —David Clarkson, Men by Nature Unwilling to Come to Christ, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:335.

Learn to Love Much

Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. —Luke 14:27 Get much love to Christ. A strong affection will carry you after Christ when you cannot follow him but under the cross, will make you follow him wherever he goes, though the way be deep, and rugged, and thorny, though it lead directly to the cross, and bring you to mount Calvary. Much love will make you willing, ready, resolute to suffer for Christ; and it is want of will, more than want of strength, that disables us from bearing the cross. Christ uses not to deny strength to those who are resolutely willing to suffer for his name’s sake. There is a strength in love which is too hard for death itself; love is strong as death. Much love will make you suffer much, for it is . . . that which makes the soul cling to Christ; and the more it is, the faster it cleaves to him, and the more hardly will it part from him; no small matter will part them. A servant that has some affection to his master will suffer something for him, but an affectionate wife will suffer far more for her husband, because the conjugal love is stronger. If you mean to suffer much, you must learn to love much. A little love will go but a little way under the cross. If love be weak, get it strengthened; if it be cooling, get it inflamed; if it be declining, get it repaired. A declining love is a step to apostasy, and will be in danger to end there in a day of trial. When the Church of Ephesus has lost her first love, Christ speaks of her as fallen, Rev. ii. 4, 5. There are some amongst these churches who professed Christ, but, for want of love to him, gave way to a principle which was more for their own safety than his honour. They would hold all those things indifferent for which they were like to suffer, that so none might condemn them for yielding in things indifferent, rather than be ruined. These held it indifferent to be circumcised, to escape sufferings from the Jews; indifferent to eat things offered to idols, to escape sufferings from the Gentiles; and, when they had no other way to escape, they would hold it indifferent to deny the faith. So . . . Now it is probably thought that this principle had made some impression upon the church of Ephesus. Hereupon she is charged with losing her first love, because she was not so ready to suffer for Christ as at first. This principle, inclining her more to comply than suffer, she was not so disposed to do her first works, and undergo her first sufferings, for which she is commended, ver. 3. And why? Her first love was lost, she was fallen. If you would not decline the cross, or fall under it, keep up your first love; or, if it be declined, make haste to get it repaired. Follow Christ’s advice to Ephesus, ver. 5, ‘Remember from whence thou art fallen, and repent,’ &c. Content not yourselves with some small degree of love to Christ; that will not serve you when a day of trial and suffering comes. A little water will quench a spark; it must be a flame, indeed, that all the waters will not quench, nor the floods drown and extinguish, Cant. viii. 6, 7. Get your love kindled into a vehement flame, and then you will follow Christ, and may safely do it, though all the waves and the billows go over you. —David Clarkson, Of Taking Up the Cross, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:481–482.

The Love of Christ Constrains Us

If you would increase your love for Christ, meditate on his love for you. Say to thy soul, Was he, in whom there dwelt the fulness and riches of the Godhead, content to become so poor for my sake, as he had not whereon to lay his head? And shall I think much to hazard my estate and outward enjoyments for his sake? Oh what had become of my soul if he had stood upon such terms! Was he, who was the brightness of the Father’s glory, content to become the scorn of men and reproach of the people; to be jeered, and buffeted, and spit upon? Was he willing, when he was the King of glory, to be reviled and abused, as the vilest of men, for me? And shall I think much to be vilified, and scorned, and reproached for his sake? Was he content to leave the delights and joys of heaven, that he might become a man of sorrows? Was he willing to be scourged, and nailed, and wounded, and endure such grievous things for me, as made his soul heavy unto death, and forced him to cry out to heaven, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ and to cry out to earth, ‘Have ye no regard, all ye that pass by?’ &c. And shall I think much to endure any pain or torture for him? Was he content to bear the wrath of God, and the rage of men and devils for me? And shall I think much to endure the rage and malice of men for him? Was he content to suffer a cruel, a shameful, a cursed death for me? And shall I refuse to suffer a blessed death, a death that himself hath blessed, for his sake? Oh what had become of me! in what a hopeless and helpless condition had my soul been in, if he had stood on the honour, and ease, and plenty, and respect of the world, yea, or his own life! And shall I stand upon these, when his honour and interest requires me to forego them? Make such use of the love of Christ to provoke your hearts to a more ardent and vehement affection. ‘The love of Christ constrains us,’ says the apostle. There is something in it that is irresistible; a sweet and powerful force therein, when the Spirit of God impresseth the sense thereof upon the heart, to constrain you to such a love as will compel you to take up the cross, and bear it for his sake, notwithstanding any reluctancy of flesh and blood. —David Clarkson, Of Taking Up the Cross, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:483–484.

Infinite Fulness

You may as well doubt that all the waters of the ocean cannot fill a spoon, as that the divine fulness cannot be enough to you, if you should have nothing left in this world; for all the waters that cover the sea are not so much as a spoonful, compared with the boundless and infinite fulness of all-sufficiency. What refreshments in him, &c. One drop of divine sweetness is enough to make one in the very agony of the cruellest death to cry out with joy, The bitterness of death is past. Now in him there are not only drops, but rivers; not a scanty sprinkling, but an infinite fulness. —David Clarkson, Of Taking Up the Cross, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:492.
As I’ve been writing on the five points as presented in The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, and Documented, and referred to the TULIP acrostic/acronym, it occurs to me that I haven’t actually listed them. I suppose it’s safe to assume that most of my readers are familiar with them, but for those who aren’t, here is a brief summary (for longer explanations, click the links at the end of each): Total Depravity: When Adam fell, all mankind fell with him, and inherited his sin (Romans 5:12). This sin has so corrupted all men that, without regeneration by the Holy Spirit, we are unable to respond in faith to the gospel. The word “total” does not mean that we are as depraved as we could be. All people do not descend to the most extreme depths of evil (we are not all Hitler, Stalin, or abortion rights activists). “Total” means that sin has corrupted the totality of our beings—there is no part of us that is not touched by sin. In the Arminian versus Calvinist context, applying this truth to the notion of free will, we realize that though our will may be free, it is a corrupt, sinful will, “hostile toward God” (Romans 8:7). The late R. C. Sproul preferred to call it Radical Corruption. Unconditional Election: God has chosen a people for himself, not based on any quality they possess or any good they may do (Romans 9:11), but “according to the kind intention of His will” (Ephesians 1:5). Sproul preferred Sovereign Election. Limited Atonement: Christ died specifically to “save his people from their sins.” Who are “his people”? See above. Because of the misleading nature of this term, Sproul preferred Definite Atonement. Irresistible Grace: Those who the Father has chosen will infallibly respond in faith to the gospel call (John 6:37). This is not intended to mean that the Holy Spirit forces people against their wills to come to Christ, but that, in regeneration, he changes their wills so that they come gladly. For this reason, Sproul preferred Effectual Grace. Perseverance of the Saints: All who are chosen by the Father, redeemed by the Son, and regenerated by the Spirit will be infallibly kept in the faith (John 6:39–40). Again, because “perseverance” sounds like something we do (contra Philippians 2:13), Sproul made his own improvement: Preservation of the Saints. Thus far, you’ve only seen the doctrine and its history presented, with very little support. Stay tuned . . .


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