When one small twig’s broke off, the breach should be
Such an enfeebling thing upon my mind.
Then take a pardon from thy store, and twist
It in my soul for help. ‘Twill not be missed.
Having affirmed that God is filled with a liberality which the world cannot contain, he turns to himself again and ask, am I thine?
This may seem logically erroneous, because he seems to have resolved that issue previously. But to think in this manner fails to understand the psychology of repentance which Taylor displays in this passage. He does not doubt either the goodness of God or the depth of his sinfulness. He confesses both with elaborate attention.
The question is whether that goodness in God belongs to him.
The question of assurance has been a dogged question in Christian theology. There have been debates about whether it should even be something permitted as a concept absent some direct revelation from heaven.
Protestant theology through Luther and Calvin affirms the rightness of a sense of assurance and thereafter developed theological explanations for assurance. Puritan theology, in particular, gave profound attention to the question of assurance.
We could consider assurance from two perspectives: the matter observed objectively as a doctrine; and the matter observed subjectively as a matter of self-examination.
Taken from either direction Taylor’s subjective experience, struggling with assurance while faced with his own sense of sin is coherent with Puritan theology. Two examples from the vast corpus may help support this proposition:
“(2.) When assurance is actually stronger than diffidence, and doth certainly prevail against distracting fears, then it is to be accounted certain assurance, though it be still imperfect.—The truth and the degree of a believer’s assurance doth hold proportion to the truth and degree of his grace; and by this proportion of one to the other they do very much illustrate each other. Thus, First: There is an analogy between grace and assurance, in this, that as grace may be true, although it be not perfect, so may assurance be true assurance when imperfect. Again: As where sin reigns there is no grace, so where doubting reigns there is no assurance; but as when grace prevails, it is accounted true grace, so when assurance prevails over doubts, it is to be reckoned true assurance. Lastly. Where grace is perfect without sin, (as in heaven,) there assurance will be perfect without all doubt, and not till then.”
James Nichols, Puritan Sermons, vol. 6 (Wheaton, IL: Richard Owen Roberts, Publishers, 1981), 381. And John Owen:
“Self-condemnation and abhorrency do very well consist with gospel justification and peace. Some men have no peace, because they have that without which it is impossible they should have peace. Because they cannot but condemn themselves, they cannot entertain a sense that God doth acquit them. But this is the mystery of the gospel, which unbelief is a stranger unto; nothing but faith can give a real subsistence unto these things in the same soul, at the same time. It is easy to learn the notion of it, but it is not easy to experience the power of it. For a man to have a sight of that within him which would condemn him, for which he is troubled, and at the same time to have a discovery of that without him which will justify him, and to rejoice therein, is that which he is not led unto but by faith in the mystery of the gospel. We are now under a law for justification which excludes all boasting, Rom. 3:27; so that though we have joy enough in another, yet we may have, we always have, sufficient cause of humiliation in ourselves. The gospel will teach a man to feel sin and believe righteousness at the same time. Faith will carry heaven in one hand and hell in the other; showing the one deserved, the other purchased. A man may see enough of his own sin and folly to bring “gehennam è cœlo,”—a hell of wrath out of heaven; and yet see Christ bring “cœlum ex inferno,”—a heaven of blessedness out of a hell of punishment. And these must needs produce very divers, yea, contrary effects and operations in the soul; and he who knows not how to assign them their proper duties and seasons must needs be perplexed. The work of self-condemnation, then, which men in these depths cannot but abound with, is, in the disposition of the covenant of grace, no way inconsistent with nor unsuited unto justification and the enjoyment of peace in the sense of it. There may be a deep sense of sin on other considerations besides hell. David was never more humbled for sin than when Nathan told him it was forgiven. And there may be a view of hell as deserved, which yet the soul may know itself freed from as to the issue.”
John Owen, The Works of John Owen, ed. William H. Goold, vol. 6 (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, n.d.), 547.
This struggle with one’s faith seeking assurance was a matter not uncommon among the Puritans. The whole could be a matter of mere morbid self-introspection leading to despair unless a clear eye is kept upon the absolutely graciousness of God.
A key to seeing this in Taylor’s poem is the use of the word “strange.” When he looks at himself he calls himself a “strange strange thing.” His strangeness in that instance is willingness to sin and lack of hatred for his sin. But here he sees something strange – but it is come from God:
What strange thing’s in me?
Enriched thus by thy legacy?
In himself he is strange to not love God more. And here he sees a strange work of God to enrich him by God’s grace.
I must admit I am not quite sure of his reference here:
When one small twig’s broke off, the breach should be
Such an enfeebling thing upon my mind.
I don’t know what he means by a twig being broken off. In the next lines he will speak to how little he will be asking from God (because God’s well of grace is so great), and that could be a possible reference to this “small twig”.
It could be that the broken twig is his own conscious introspection, because that does seem to be “enfeebling.” But as it stands, I am not sure of Taylor’s purpose with these two lines.
The remainder is clear enough, however:
Then take a pardon from thy store, and twist
It in my soul for help. ‘Twill not be missed.
The pardon will not be missed on God’s part, because God has such great store of grace. He asks that God take a pardon and then “twist in my soul for help.”
This is striking language: He is not asking for a pardon which does not remedy. He is not saying forgive me as much as change me: forgive and change my life.
The pardon is ineffective if it were merely a legal declaration: It is that: God does objectively forgive, but that forgiveness is transformative.
Bonhoffer’s language of cheap grace comes at this concept from another direction but has the same basic aim: The effect of grace is not merely outside the human subject. It is something which happens to us; it transforms in forgiving us.
The whole of this transformation goes well beyond this note, but it must be understood in part to get a purchase on Taylor’s thought. The reason for our irrationality is our distance from God. Our trouble is that we are wrong with God.
We do not function correctly except in relationship to God. But sin creates a breach in that relationship and renders us a “strange strange thing.” When God’s grace remedies that breach, it creates a “strange thing” in us, because it transforms us. We come into relationship.
In that relationship, the introspection and self-diagnosis of sin does not destroy the human because it drives us to Christ and forgiveness.
That is the key difference between bare guilt and conviction. Guilt is a sight of our failure. Conviction is a sight sin which drives to us to Christ. The Puritans referred to guilt as “legal” but that drive to Christ as “gospel.”
V. “Doct. That God’s children at all times have their sacrifices.”
Even though Christ has come and the temple sacrifices of animals and grain have been superseded, it does not mean there are no sacrifice remains for Christians. Sibbes lists five: a broken heart, “offering Christ to God,” offering a mortified life as a living sacrifice, giving alms, and praise. When it comes to praise, he will offer further elaboration.
A. Even though Christ has come we must still offer sacrifice
There is indeed one kind of sacrificing determined and finished by the coming of Christ, who was the last sacrifice of propitiation for our sins.
He specifically rejects the concept of the mass as a continuing sacrifice. The sacrifice commemorated in the Supper was the sacrifice under which which has ended.
The more to blame those who yet maintain a daily sacrifice, not of laud and praise, but of cozening and deluding the world, in saying mass for the sins of the quick and the dead; all such sacrifices being finished and closed up in him, our blessed Saviour; who, ‘by one sacrifice,’ as the apostle speaks, ‘hath perfected them that are sanctified,’ Heb. 10:14, 7:27; and that, ‘by one sacrifice, when he offered up himself,’ Heb. 10:12; when all the Jewish sacrifices ended. Since which, all ours are but a commemoration of Christ’s last sacrifice, as the fathers say: the Lord’s supper, with the rest, which remain still; and the sacrifice of praise, with a few others, I desire to name.
But there are other sacrifices:
1. First, The sacrifice of a broken heart, whereof David speaks, Ps. 51:17; which sacrifice of a wounded, broken heart, by the knife of repentance, pleaseth God wondrously well.
2. And then, a broken heart that offers Christ to God every day; who, though he were offered once for all, yet our believing in him, and daily presenting his atonement made for us, is a new offering of him. Christ is crucified and sacrificed for thee as oft as thou believest in Christ crucified.
I guess we best understand this as the application of faith to a broken heart: it is to plead Christ’s death again without claiming that we are in fact re-sacrificing Christ.
Now, upon all occasions we manifest our belief in Christ, to wash and bathe ourselves in his blood, who justifieth the ungodly. So that, upon a fresh sight of sin, with contrition for it, he continually justifieth us. Thus, when we believe, we offer him to God daily; a broken heart first, and then Christ with a broken heart.
There is also the sacrifice of the presenting our lives to service:
3. And then when we believe in Christ, we offer and sacrifice ourselves to God; in which respect we must, as it were, be killed ere we be offered. For we may not offer ourselves as we are in our lusts, but as mortified and killed by repentance. Then we offer ourselves to God as a reasonable and living sacrifice, when we offer ourselves wholly unto him, wit, understanding, judgment, affections, and endeavour; as Paul saith of the Macedonians, ‘they gave themselves to God first, and then their goods,’ 2 Cor. 8:5.
In sum, it is that sacrifice Paul speaks of, ‘to present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God,’ &c., Rom. 12:1. For a Christian who believeth in the Lord Jesus is not his own, but sacrificeth himself to him that was sacrificed for him. As Christ is given to us, so he that believes in Christ gives himself back again to Christ.
This sacrifice is the measure and proof of our salvation:
Hereby a man may know if he be a true Christian, and that Christ is his, if he yields up himself to God. For ‘Christ died and rose again,’ saith the apostle, ‘that he might be Lord both of quick and dead,’ Rom. 14:9. ‘Therefore,’ saith he, ‘whether we live or die, we are not our own,’ Rom. 14:8.
Each time we suffer due to the fact that our life given up to God is conflict with the flow of this world, we are in a state of sacrifice:
What we do or suffer in the world, in all we are sacrificed. So saith a sanctified soul, My wit, my will, my life, my good, my affections are thine; of thee I received them, and I resign all to thee as a sacrifice. Thus the martyrs, to seal the truth, as a sacrifice, yielded up their blood.
In an anti-antinomian turn, Sibbes who is much of the freedom of God’s grace notes that nature of grace received is to create thankfulness which is expressed in a manner of life. This is an interesting idea: Obedience is rendered as an act of thankfulness toward God.
He that hath not obtained of himself so much as to yield himself to God, he knows not what the gospel means. For Christian religion is not only to believe in Christ for forgiveness of sin; but the same faith which takes this great benefit, renders back ourselves in lieu of thankfulness.
He presses and explicates the point:
So that, whatsoever we have, after we believe, we give all back again. Lord, I have my life, my will, my wit, and all from thee; and to thee I return all back again. For when I gave myself to believe in thy dear Son, I yielded myself and all I have to thee; and now, having nothing but by thy gift, if thou wilt have all I will return all unto thee again; if thou wilt have my life, my goods, my liberty, thou shalt have them.
Here he notes that true faith is not merely a cognitive assent to a fact “not altogether in believing in this or that”. Faith transforms the entire life, faith is such a thing:
This is the state of a Christian who hath denied himself. For we cannot believe as we should unless we deny ourselves. Christianity is not altogether in believing this and that; but the faith which moves me to believe forgiveness of sins, carries us also unto God to yield all back again to him.
Love for those whom cannot repay:
4. More especially, among the sacrifices of the New Testament are alms, as, ‘To do good and to communicate forget not, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased,’ Heb. 13:16.
The sacrifice of prase:
5. And among the rest, the sacrifice of praise, which is in the same chapter, verse 15. First, he saith, By him, that is, by Christ, let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips: which is but an exposition of this place, which, because it is especially here intended, I will a little enlarge myself in.
B. What is meant by “calves of our lips”
This idiom is at first quite difficult: calves and lips are not concordant ideas. But the use of “calf” as a metonymy for “sacrifice” leads to some sense:
He first gives an outline of how he will develop the idea: giving glory and giving thanks. One is extolling God, the other is an effusion of love for the thing received.
The ‘calves of our lips’ implies two things: Not only thankfulness to God, but glorifying of God, in setting out his praise. Otherwise to thank God for his goodness to us, or for what we hope to receive, without glorifying of him, is nothing at all worth.
1. What it means to glorify God
For in glorifying there are two things.
a. “A supposition of excellency.” For that cannot be glorified, which hath no excellency in it. Glory in sublimity hath alway excellency attending it. And
b. “The manifestation of this glory.”
Now, when all the excellencies of God, as they are, are discovered and set out, his wisdom, mercy, power, goodness, all-sufficiency, &c., then we glorify him. To praise God for his favours to us, and accordingly to glorify him, is ‘the calves of our lips;’ but especially to praise him. Whence the point is—
c. “That the yielding of praise to God is a wondrous acceptable sacrifice.”
Which is instead of all the sacrifices of the Old Testament, than which the greatest can do no more, nor the least less; for it is the sacrifice and fruit of the lips.
But to open it.
i. The speech which glorifies God has its value in the fact it springs from the understanding:
It is not the sound of the words, but the resolution of the heart which makes the speech God-glorifying.
It is not merely the sacrifice of our lips; for the praise we yield to God, it must be begotten in the heart. Hereupon the word, λογὸς [logos], speech, signifieth both reason and speech, there being one word in the learned language for both.
Reason is communicated as speech:
Because speech is nothing but that stream which issues from the spring of reason and understanding:
therefore, in thanksgiving there must not be a lip-labour only, but a thanksgiving from the lips, first begotten in the heart, coming from the inward man, as the prophet saith, ‘Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy name,’ Ps. 103:1.
We know what and why we praise:
Praise must come from a sound judgment of the worth of the thing we praise for.
Praise must rise from true affection:
It must come from an affection which desires that God may have the glory, by the powers of the whole inward man, which is a hard matter, to rouse up ourselves to praise God with all the powers of our soul, ‘all that is within me, praise his holy name,’ Ps. 103:1.
In sum: There goeth judgment, resolution of the will, strength of affections, and all with it.
ii. Praise comes from the heart and then flows out into action:
Praise is an act of integrity: It begins with a true understanding and love, expressing itself in word and in conduct:
And then again, besides this, ‘the calves of our lips’ carries us to work. The oral thanksgiving must be justified by our works and deeds; or else our actions will give our tongue the lie, that we praise him with the one, but deny him in the other. This is a solecism, as if one should look to the earth, and cry, O ye heavens! So when we say, God be praised, when yet our life speaks the contrary, it is a dishonouring of God. So the praise of our lips must be made good and justified by our life, actions, and conversation. This we must suppose for the full understanding of the words, ‘We will render,’ from our hearts, ‘the calves of our lips;’ which we must make good in our lives and conversations, ever to set forth thy praise in our whole life.
C. Why this phrase?
Quest. But why doth the prophet especially mention lips, ‘the calves of our lips,’ which are our words?
Ans. 1. Partly, because Christ, who is the Word, delights in our words.
2. Because our tongue is our glory, and that whereby we glorify God.
3. And especially because our tongue is that which excites others, being a trumpet of praise, ordained of God for this purpose. Therefore, ‘the calves of our lips;’ partly, because it stirs up ourselves and others, and partly, because God delights in words, especially of his own dictating.
D. How can become the person who gives such true praise?
To come then to speak more fully of praise and thanksgiving, let us consider what a sweet, excellent, and prevailing duty this is, which the church, to bind God, promiseth unto him, ‘the calves of our lips.’ I will not be long in the point, but only come to some helps how we may come to do it.
1. We must be broken and humbled to give praise: We must think little of ourselves. He makes an important point here concerning thankfulness. A thankful person begins with an understanding of his lack of some-thing and his unworthiness to receive something. We pay money at the market and take away my apple, I am not thankful to the cashier for letting me take my apple, I have paid for it. But if that same person out of kindness gave me that apple without money, an apple I had not earned or deserved, I would be thankful:
First, this praising of God must be from an humble, broken heart. The humble soul that sees itself not worthy of any favour, and confesseth sin before God, is alway a thankful soul. ‘Take away our iniquity, and then do good to us.’ We are empty ourselves. Then will ‘we render thee the calves of our lips.’
Proof of the point
What made David so thankful a man? He was an humble man; and so Jacob, what abased him so in his own eyes? His humility: ‘Lord, I am less than the least of thy mercies,’ Gen. 32:10.
He that thinks himself unworthy of anything, will be thankful for everything; and he who thinks himself unworthy of any blessing, will be contented with the least.
Exhortation: Notice how Sibbes is continually raising application as it is appropriate. To be thankful: which is the thing sought, we first must contemplate our unworthiness. The point here is not self-centered loathing, but a realization that we do not deserve good so that we may be thankful of the good.
Therefore, let us work our hearts to humility, in consideration of our sinfulness, vileness, and unworthiness, which will make us thankful: especially of the best blessings, when we consider their greatness, and our unworthiness of them.
Here he makes a point which coheres with something I see in the Iliad (which I am currently completing), a book of extraordinarily proud men. Thankfulness is almost non-existent. The word “thank” only appears 10 times in Butler’s translation, as an ironic concept, as a means for a god to deceive someone into a committing a crime, as a basis for pride (no one thanks me for my fighting).
I wonder if our emphasis on self-esteem has contributed to unhappiness by making us unthankful: and also creating a basis for constant disappointment and frustration (I have not received what I deserved).
Another note, the broken-hearted humility is humility toward God.
A proud man can never be thankful. Therefore, that religion which teacheth pride, cannot be a thankful religion.
Popery is compounded of spiritual pride: merit of congruity, before conversion; merit of condignity, and desert of heaven, after; free will, and the like, to puff up nature. What a religion is this! Must we light a candle before the devil? Is not nature proud enough, but we must light a candle to it? To be spiritually proud is worst of all.
2. Thankfulness is paired with an evaluation of the greatness and goodness of God. The Christian who “humbles” himself can conceal pride in that humility if it is not paired with an understanding of the goodndess and greatness of God. Without this there will never be thankfulness; and there will not be true humility
And with our own unworthiness, add this: a consideration of the greatness of the thing we bless God for; setting as high a price upon it as we can, by considering what and how miserable we were without it.
He is going to raise the doctrine of Hell. The doctrine is routinely unfashionable and is often considered reprehensible. But here Sibbes asks us to consider it so that we may be thankful. Here is the misery we have earned (and that is the point which is unpalatable, perhaps you could deserve Hell, but I could not), and yet we are spared. If you narrowly avoided being killed in a fire, you would thank the fireman.
He will bless God joyfully for pardon of sin, who sees how miserable he were without it, in misery next to devils, ready to drop into hell every moment. And the more excellent we are, so much the more accursed, without the forgiveness of sins.
For the soul, by reason of the largeness thereof, is so much the more capable and comprehensible of misery; as the devils are more capable than we, therefore are most accursed. Oh, this will make us bless God for the pardon of sin!
Consider all of the good things we have received. In particular be thankful that we can see or hear or touch.
And likewise, let us set a price upon all God’s blessings, considering what we were without our senses, speech, meat, drink, rest, &c. O beloved!
we forget to praise God sufficiently for our senses.
This little spark of reason in us is an excellent thing; grace is founded upon it. If we were without reason, what were we? If we wanted sight, hearing, speech, rest, and other daily blessings, how uncomfortable were our lives! This consideration will add and set a price to their worth, and make us thankful, to consider our misery without them.
Sadly, we don’t know how many good things we have until we do not have them:
But, such is our corruption, that favours are more known by the want, than by the enjoying of them. When too late, we many times find how dark and uncomfortable we are without them; then smarting the more soundly, because in time we did not sufficiently prize, and were thankful for them.
3. If we have a good assurance that we are right before God, we will be thankful
And then, labour to get further and further assurance that we are God’s children, beloved of him.
Assurance will work in two ways: it will make me conscious of what I have – and what is coming. It will make me thankful.
This will make us thankful both for what we have and hope for.
Proof of the point by considering the opposite:
It lets out the life-blood of thankfulness, to teach doubting or falling from grace.
Why does God tell us of the good which is laid up for us? To make us hopeful and thus thankful:
What is the end, I beseech you, why the glory to come is revealed before the time? That we shall be sons and daughters, kings and queens, heirs and co-heirs with Christ, and [that] ‘all that he hath is ours?’ Rom. 8:17. Is not this knowledge revealed beforehand, that our praise and thanksgiving should beforehand be suitable to this revelation, being set with Christ in heavenly places already. Whence comes those strong phrases? ‘We are raised with Christ; sit with him in heavenly places,’ Eph. 2:6; ‘are translated from death to life,’ Col. 1:13; ‘transformed into his image;’ ‘partakers of the divine nature,’ &c., 2 Pet. 1:4.
Faith begets thankfulness. Doubting robs us of blessing. This is an important aspect of faith: it the means by which one person receives love and joy and hope from another: if I distrust you, I can never receive love from you.
If anything that can come betwixt our believing, and our sitting there, could disappoint us thereof, or unsettle us, it may as well put Christ out of heaven, for we sit with him. If we yield to the uncomfortable popish doctrine of doubting, we cannot be heartily thankful for blessings; for still there will rise in the soul surmises, I know not whether God favour me or not: it may be, I am only fatted for the day of slaughter; God gives me outward things to damn me, and make me the more inexcusable.
And if we doubt we will not give God the praise he deserves. How could one be thainkful with, maybe you’ll do me good?
What a cooler of praise is this, to be ever doubting, and to have no assurance of God’s favour! But when upon good evidence, which cannot deceive, we have somewhat wrought in us, distinct from the greater number of worldlings, God’s stamp set upon us; having evidences of the state of grace, by conformity to Christ, and walking humbly by the rule of the word in all God’s ways: then we may heartily be thankful, yea, and we shall break forth in thanksgiving; this being an estate of peace, and ‘joy unspeakable and glorious,’ 1 Pet. 1:8, wherein we take everything as an evidence of God’s love.
He restates the proposition:
Thus the assurance of our being in the state of grace makes us thankful for everything.
He restates the contrary: Notice the tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, tell them what you told them. Particularly when delivering an oral message, repetition is critical to retention and understanding.
So by the contrary, being not in some measure assured of God’s love in Christ, we cannot be thankful for everything. For it will always come in our mind, I know not how I have these things, and what account I shall give for them.
He repeats the exhortation: Be assured of what you will receive for this will fill your heart with thankfulness:
even for the honour of God,
and that we may praise him the more cheerfully,
let us labour to have further and further evidences of the state of grace,
[this leads to]
to make us thankful both for things present and to come,
seeing faith takes to trust things to come, as if it had them in possession.
[Our faith is well-grounded]
Whereby we are assured of this, that we shall come to heaven, as sure as if we were there already. This makes us praise God beforehand for all favours; as blessed Peter begins his epistle, ‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which, according to his abundant mercy, hath begotten us again unto a lively hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,’ &c., 1 Pet. 1:3, 4.
A final encouragement:
As soon as we are newborn, we are begotten to a kingdom and an inheritance. Therefore, assurance that we are God’s children will make us thankful for grace present, and that to come, as if we were in heaven already. We begin then the employment of heaven in thanksgiving here, to praise God beforehand with cherubims and angels. Let us, then, be stirred up to give God his due beforehand, to begin heaven upon earth; for we are so much in heaven already, as we abound and are conversant in thanksgiving upon earth.
Though the two disciples had Christ for their companion, yet their hearts were full of fears and doubts, whilst their eyes were held that they should not know him, Luke 24:14, 15, &c. Till a Christian’s eyes be open to see his assurance, his heart will be full of doubts and perplexities.
Though Mary Magdalene was very near to Christ, yet she stands sighing, mourning, and complaining that they had stolen away her Lord, because she did not see him, John 20:13–16.
Christians! though you may be very near and dear to Christ, yet till you come to see your assurance,
you will spend your days in doubting,
The sum of all is this, as you would be rid of your burden of cares,
your burden of fears,
and your burden of doubts,
get a well-grounded assurance of your happiness and blessedness;
but if you are in love with your burdens, then neglect but the making of your calling and election sure, and you shall certainly make sure your burdens; they shall rise with you, and walk with you, and lie down with you, till they make your lives a hell.
Thomas Brooks, The Complete Works of Thomas Brooks, “A Serious Discourse Touching a Well-Grounded Assurance”, ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart, vol. 2 (Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet and Co.; G. Herbert, 1866), 400–401.
It is methinks a meet [appropriate] emblem of a suffering saint, who by afflicting strokes may lose somewhat of his accidental beauty; but nothing of his real worth. In the plate, the fashion is only marred; but the substance is neither diminished or embased. If you bring it to the scale, it weighs as much as it did; if you try it by the touchstone, it is as good silver as it was.
And is it not thus with a saint, when bruised and broken by many pressures? His luster and repute with men may be prejudiced and eclipsed by them, but not his person or his worth with God. If he be weighed in the unerring balance, he will not be found the lighter; if examined by his test, he will not be esteemed the less precious.
It is not the Cross that makes us vile, but sin; not passive evils we suffer, but active evils we do. The one may render us unamiable to men, but the other makes us unholy before God. The one raze the casket; the other makes a flaw in the jewel.
Happy and wise therefore is that man who makes Moses his choice pattern in choosing affliction rather than sin; esteeming it better to be an oppressed Hebrew that builds houses and palaces of brick rather than an uncircumcised Egyptian to dwell in them. For when he is tried he shall receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to them that love him.
 Note: There are a few uncommon words in this meditation. First, he speaks of “accidental” and “substance”. Consider a car: there are things which make a car a car; that which makes a car a car is its substance. The differences between a van and a race car are “accidents” [this is a wildly simplified version of the philosophical concepts. If you would like to read precise explanations of substance and accident, go here: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/aristotle-metaphysics/%5D
The “plate” is a flat sheet of silver or gold; or a coin made of silver or gold.
A “touchstone” is a means of testing whether an item which appears to be gold or silver is actually gold or silver.
A “casket” is the setting for a precious stone.
 If you nick a silver coin, it is still worth the same.
Thy righteousness is in heaven;’ and methought withal I saw with the eye of my soul, Jesus Christ at God’s right hand. I saw, moreover, that it was not my good frame of heart that made my righteousness better, nor yet my bad frame that made my righteousness worse; for my righteousness was Jesus Christ Himself, the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever. Now did my chains fall from my legs indeed; I was loosed from my afflictions and irons. Oh, methought, Christ! Christ’ there was nothing but Christ that was before my eyes! I could look from myself to Him and should reckon that all those graces of God that now were green on me, were yet but like those crack-groats and fourpence halfpennies that rich men carry in their purses, when their gold is in their trunks at home! Oh, I saw my gold was in my trunk at home! In Christ my Lord and Saviour! Now Christ was all; all my wisdom, all my righteousness, all my sanctification, and all my redemption!
CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE: THE PRIVILEGES OF THE GODLY: TO KNOW ONESELF LOVED OF GOD
Now therefore because there being so many difficulties in the ways of godliness–and those so hard to pass–and difficult enterprises are always commended by the good that follows them; it is necessary that the great privileges which belong to the godly should be explained.
The privileges must be show so that the godly may know their own happiness and strive to enjoy it; the wicked may see what great good things they deprive themselves of; and that all men may see the Christian life may be in better valued, which now of all sorts is too much underprized and so neglected and by some contemned and scorned.
I will omit all those benefits which are common to the godly and the wicked (although these are far more sweet and savory to the godly than to others); or, those which are proper to some of the faithful in respect of their callings. I will consider only those which the wicked have no part or portion, and yet all the faithful may possess, one as well (though not so much) as another.
These are either such as given us in this life to be enjoyed for our encouragement, or else those which God has in store for us in the life to come.
We May Know Ourselves to be Beloved of God
The first and chief of them which are given us in this life is that all true Christians may know themselves to be beloved of God, and that they shall be saved. 1 John 3:1, 1 John 5:13. This may be known by better evidence than any man can have of the things he holds in this life. This is not so well know at the first, but after experience has been gathered of the unchangeable love of God toward us, our confidence is increased; yea, the longer we enjoy this privilege, the better we know it; neither can it be so lost wholly or finally.
Objection: Some of God’s children after they have been thus persuaded have fallen to doubting again.
Answer: True Christians are renewed in part, and therefore some are by subtlety and cunning of Satan brought to the neglect or are careless of using the means whereby faith is confirmed, and so to doubting. And there are other who do too easily give place to distrust, thereby depriving themselves of this great privilege.
This privilege is the greater because of the unspeakable glory and everlasting joy which it brings with it, whereas other delights are but fleeting and momentary. Which greatness will easily appear if we well consider the unspeakable woe and horror of such desperate persons as feel the lack of this happiness either here, or in hell.
The Special Blessings of Being Known by God
After God has vouchsafed the faithful this honor, that they may know the selves to be beloved of him, and that they shall be saved hereafter; he does not them, but is always with them, and has a special care of them above others, nay, when he is angry with others. Romans 5:5; Psalm 30:6-7; Luke 13:34; Deuteronomy 32:10; 1 Timothy 4:10; Matthew 10:30; Psalm 1:3; Psalm 23;1 Samuel 2:3.
He esteems them not only as his household servants, but as his friends, John 15:15; his sons and heirs, Romans 8:17; his precious treasure, Exodus 19:5; yes, honors them so far as he calls them and makes them kings, Exodus 19:5. All which is both certain and constant onto the faithful, but it is not so with the wicked. So that by this it appears, that the estate poor child of God, is far better the best of the ugodly; yes, better than themselves sometimes would have asked or thought of.
Those who are thus cared for of God, receive grace from him to live according to his will, that at death they may enter into his glory. For he teaches them to be fruitful in good life, but also to avoid foul offenses.
As for the first, that is, a holy life whereunto God enables him by his own power, it is a great prerogative in that they need not account Christian life cumbersome, unsavory, heavy, tedious, as many do, but an easy yoke, a light burden, a pleasant race. This is in the Scripture called blessedness. Psalm 1, 84:2; Luke 111:4.
Many indeed are, even good people, who in great part go without this privilege; but the cause is that they draw not by faith daily strength from Jesus Christ to subdue their lusts, but trust either to their own strength or and other means, until being frustrated of their desire, they either fallen to great vexation, or else plain security and looseness.
For the remedy whereof, they must labor to be steadfast in faith, not yielding onto distrust, to learn to know that God who has taken care of his, will not leave them in their infirmities, but according to his all sufficient power, will succor and deliver them. Which if they once believe (as God requires we should) then shall they see themselves mightily stayed at upheld unto they be set at great liberty, and that it was the devil before held them in fear and bondage.
Objection: we dare not believe that God will give us such grace, except first we first overcome our special corruptions.
Answer: We have no strength of any such work, but we must obtain it by faith which is also commanded us. John 3:23. And until we do so, we shall be kept from our right by the craft of Satan.
 Privileges which are unique to particular stations of life or particular occupations.
The previous post in this series may be found here: https://memoirandremains.wordpress.com/2014/06/11/paul-baynes-brief-directions-unto-a-godly-life-chapter-23/
To M.B., One of his flock who had felt deserted in soul
Peterhead, February 7, 1843.
Here is a model of pastoral advice and counsel to one who feels a loss of assurance of one’s salvation. While not the only possible cause for a loss of assurance, persistence in some sin will cause a believer to suffer a lack of assurance (for a further discussion of this issue, see, https://memoirandremains.wordpress.com/2011/10/21/a-cherished-sin-can-damage-assurance/). Note how M’Cheyne begins with kindness and sympathy. Even as Paul wrote kindly to the Corinthians despite their manifest sins (1 Corinthians 1:1-13), M’Cheyne writes to his “friend.” He weeps with one who weeps (Romans 12:15b). When a Christian has moved from rebellion in sin to sorrow for sin, when one has shown to be weak and fainthearted, the wise counselor will match encouragement and help for the weak and faint-hearted (1 Thessalonians 5:14) (If this had been sometime earlier in the progress of the sin, perhaps M’Cheyne would have been required to admonish this friend.).
—I was very happy to hear from you. I grieve to hear of your sorrow; but Job’s sorrow was deeper, and David’s also, in Ps. 42. If you cannot say, “I found Him whom my soul loveth,” is it not sweet that you can say, “I am sick of love”—He is my beloved still, though He has withdrawn himself and is gone for a time? Seek into the cause of your declension. See that it be not some Achan in your bosom,—some idol set up in the corner of your heart. See that it be not some allowed sin,—an unlawful attachment that is drawing you away from the bleeding side of Jesus, and bringing a cloud between you and that bright Sun of Righteousness. When you find out the cause, confess it and bewail it in the ear of a listening God. Tell Him all; keep nothing back. If you cannot find out the cause, ask Him to tell it you. Get it washed in the blood of Jesus. Then get it subdued.—Micah 7:19. None but the Lord Jesus can either pardon or subdue. Remember not to rest in a state of desertion. “I will rise now and go about the city.” And yet do not think that you have some great thing to do before regaining peace with God. The work on which peace is given has all been done by Jesus for us. “The word is nigh thee.” Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.
The sunshine is always sweeter after we have been in the shade; so will you find Jesus in returning to Him. True, it is better never to wander; but when you have wandered, the sooner you return the happier you will be. “I will go and return to my first husband, for then it was better with me than now.” Hos. 2:7.
Do not delay, but humble yourself under his mighty hand, and He will exalt you in due season.
I have been speaking to-night in this place to a large and attentive audience on Zech. 9:9. May you be enabled to apply it. Remember me to Mrs K——, and also to all your fellow-servants whom I know and love in the truth. Tell N—— C—— to make sure that she is in Christ, and not to take man’s word for it. Tell E—— L—— to abide in Jesus; and tell her brother to take care lest he be a rotten branch of the true vine. Tell W—— J—— to be faithful unto death.
I have no greater joy than to know that my children walk in the truth.—
Many Christians become discouraged and struggle with sin — thinking themselves to have no faith. Yet they are mistaken in the matter, because they have confused the benefits of a lively faith with faith itself. It is as if a man with a wife thought himself unmarried because he has no children. Or, as Romaine will write, it as if a man complains that he has no apples without bothering to see if he has a tree:
How many errors in judgment, and consequent mistakes in practice, prevail at this day, chiefly arising from confounding faith with its fruits; and from not distinguishing between the word of God believed, and what will follow upon believing it aright! [Believing typically produces the fruit of assurance. However, the fruit of assurance is not faith: it is something produced by true faith.]
Thus, some make assurance to be of the essence of faith, others make it appropriation, and many make it consist in an impression upon the mind, that Christ loved me, and gave himself for me. These are fruits— what faith should produce, but not what it is. These are effects of faith working, and not definitions of the nature of faith.
A believer should be exhorted to make his calling and election sure; for it is his privilege. He ought to give all diligence to attain assurance, to appropriate Christ with all his blessings to himself, and to be clearly persuaded that Christ loved him, and gave himself for him. These are blessed fruits of believing. May God give his people more of them. But then the tree must be before the fruits, and the fruits grow upon the tree. Faith is first, and faith derives its being from believing the word of God, and all its fruits are continued acts of believing.
William Romaine “Treatises on the life, walk, and triumph of faith.”
Confusion here leads to much mischief in one’s spiritual life. The poor Christian looks for the fruit of assurance, finds none and then decides he has no faith — which throws him into despair. The despair and anxiety thus seek relief. Since he cannot turn to God for relief (since he has convinced himself he probably has no faith and thus no right basis to come to God), he turns from God and seeks a sin to settle his heart. Sin, being antithetical faith, merely stirs his bad conscience more and he becomes ever more discouraged — and now has seemingly better grounds to doubt his faith.
What he forgets is that he is living by sight — he is making his sense to control his thinking — and not by faith. He fails to remember that faith grows into assurance. But just as a human is not born the size of an adult, so faith is not born with full fledged assurance:
When faith cometh by hearing, then we assent to the truth of what God hath said, and we rely upon his faithfulness to make good what he has promised. Assurance is this faith grown to its full stature: but we are not born six feet high.
The remedy here is plain enough: repent, return to Christ. As Richard Sibbes wrote in The Bruised Reed:
1. What should we learn from this, but to `come boldly to the throne of grace’ (Heb. 4:16) in all our grievances? Shall our sins discourage us, when he appears there only for sinners? Are you bruised? Be of good comfort, he calls you. Conceal not your wounds, open all before him and take not Satan’s counsel. Go to Christ, although trembling, as the poor woman who said, `If I may but touch his garment’ (Matt. 9:21). We shall be healed and have a gracious answer. Go boldly to God in our flesh; he is flesh of our flesh, and bone of our bone for this reason, that we might go boldly to him. Never fear to go to God, since we have such a Mediator with him, who is not only our friend but our brother and husband. Well might the angel proclaim from heaven, `Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy’ (Luke 2:10). Well might the apostle stir us up to `rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice’ (Phil. 4:4). Paul was well advised upon what grounds he did it. Peace and joy are two main fruits of Christ’s kingdom. Let the world be as it will, if we cannot rejoice in the world, yet we may rejoice in the Lord. His presence makes any condition comfortable. `Be not afraid,’ says he to his disciples, when they were afraid, as if they had seen a ghost, `It is I’ (Matt. 14:27), as if there were no cause of fear where he was present.
2. Let this support us when we feel ourselves bruised. Christ’s way is first to wound, then to heal. No sound, whole soul shall ever enter into heaven. Think when in temptation, Christ was tempted for me; according to my trials will be my graces and comforts. If Christ be so merciful as not to break me, I will not break myself by despair, nor yield myself over to the roaring lion, Satan, to break me in pieces.
The solution for a bad conscience is not to wallow in one’s misery, or run from Christ, or ignore one’s conscience. Rather, the solution for sin and sorrow is repentance and Christ. He appears upon a throne of grace to receive sinners. Faith strides into the throne room, seeking grace.