This man is said to be, “not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the word.”‘ In speaking on this part of the subject, I shall consider the doing of the word in a twofold sense; viz., internally and visibly.
1st. Internally; which may be comprised in the work of faith, patience of hope, and labour of love.
Faith is that grace of the Spirit by which the sinner believes in, looks unto, and rests upon Christ and his finished work for life and salvation. It is the business of faith against hope to believe in hope; that is, to rest upon the promise of God, in spite of all opposition. Though there be nothing in nature and reason but what militates against the accomplishment of the promise given, yet it is the work of faith to believe that faithful is he who hath promised, who also will do it; for faith has nothing to do with wit and carnal reason: it is a grace which soars above and beyond them, and fetches blessings from a source which is quite beyond their reach and comprehension: it is in its very nature to work through clouds and darkness of every description, and never stop short of the fountain of light: for it enters into the very heart of Christ. “We walk by faith, not by sight.”
Unbelief and carnal reason are sure to stand opposed to faith, and use all their efforts to bring the Christian into darkness and bondage; to accomplish which, they endeavour to hide Christ from his eyes, shut up the fountain of life, and bar up the gate to endless rest; but faith’s work is to maintain the fight against them, by keeping Christ in view, as the only light, life, and rest of the soul; and in relying upon, and trusting in him as such, at all times and in all situations: so that, when faith is drawn forth into lively exercise, it is the Christian’s privilege to say to all his enemies, come from what quarter they may, ‘The life I henceforth live in the flesh is not a life of carnal reason, nor of sinless perfection in the flesh, (which is reason’s easy-chair,) but I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me; and I rejoice that my eternal happiness does not depend on my cultivations, nor on the power, skill, and prudence of my own hands, but on the very life of Christ; for he is my life, and because he lives, I shall live also. I profess to have no immortal life but what centres in him, and, through the riches of his grace, I am too well satisfied with what 1 have in, and derive from him, to seek or desire another.”
Nature may dress up an appearance of life, and be highly pleased with its beauty, but after all the care and skill which are used in the work it will be but:
“A child of fancy, finely dress’d,
But not the living child.”
As it is the production of nature, it will fade away with nature, and will never stand the storm of Jehovah’s displeasure. But the Christian’s life and beauty are such as bid defiance to all the powers of nature, sin, Satan, or the killing letter, either to mend or mar them; for they are in him who is the brightness of his Father’s glory, and the express image of his person: and when the brightness of Jehovah’s glory can be rendered more glorious by the work and power of fallen man, faith shall stop and listen to the smatterings of carnal reason; but till that can be done, it shall soar beyond it, and bring solid rest and sweet enjoyment to the mind: for he that believeth hath entered into rest, and ceased from his own work, as God ceased from his; (Heb 4:3-10); his legal strife being at an end, just in proportion as he can live by faith. In like manner, as unbelief and carnal reason gain the attention of the Christian, in the same proportion will his life be a life of strife and rebellion. Hard work and hard fare must, of necessity, be his lot; for whatsoever is not of faith is sin, and without faith it is impossible to please God. But to live a life of faith is both sure and sweet, for “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen:” and “Being justified, by faith we have peace with God through the Lord Jesus Christ:” for “Whosoever liveth and believeth in Christ shall never die.”
The believer’s enemies, whether they be internal, external, or infernal, all unite to keep the mind from Christ, and lead it to desperation, in some shape or other. Nor will they be wanting in bringing forward detached sentences of holy writ, in order to gain their ends: so that, they will often come with an, “It is written.” Nay, the Master of the house himself has been tried upon this very- ground: and if they have done these things to the green tree, what will they do to the dry?
Satan will sometimes say to the Christian, “Without holiness no one shall see the Lord:” and then send forth his fiery darts, and stir up all the corruptions of the carnal mind, and ask, “How can such a vile wretch as you pretend to be a Christian, or hope for happiness, with this Scripture in view? It must be the highest pitch of presumption in you, to lay claim to blessings that belong only to a holy people. You are nothing but a mass of wretchedness, and, therefore, cannot be one of those to whom the blessings belong.” Unbelief is sure to second the motion; and a thousand to one, but the conscience will witness to the fact; that is, that the sinner is a mass of wretchedness and unholiness: and Reason directly says, “It must be presumption to suppose that such a vile wretch can be a favourite of heaven!” Then the poor creature’s knees begin to tremble, and the loins quake for fear; darkness surrounds the mind, and the soul finds itself in a storm, wondering where the scene will end. Well! now is the time for faith to work, and work it does, when the blessed Spirit is pleased to draw it forth into lively exercise upon Christ, the living Head; and its work is, to look unto Jesus, the end of the law for righteousness, and by a faith’s view of interest in him, the Christian can say, “Why are thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God; for I shall yet praise him, the health of my countenance, and my God.” (Ps 42:11) Yes, beloved! by faith in Jesus, the Christian can put the whole host of hell to flight; because, whatever charge they bring against him, it is the business of faith to maintain its ground.
Through faith, the soul can say, “1 know I am a poor, sinful, foolish, weak, fickle, empty worm; not worthy the notice of any one, much less the eternal God: but, through the riches of God’s grace, I am brought to know that though, in myself, I am poor, yet my dear Jesus, who was rich, became poor, that 1 through his poverty might be rich: and this precious Christ is my portion; and, of his own eternal kindness, he has made me rich in faith, and an heir of the kingdom of God. Though, in myself, I am vile and sinful, and am truly ashamed of my baseness, this dear Christ is of God made unto me sanctification; and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, he has caused me to drink of the streams which flow from him, and made me a partaker of a divine nature. All my fruit is in him; and with such an immortal store of holiness as he is in possession of, I, as a member of his body, can never lack in the end. It is to him I look to be supplied in this wilderness-world, and I know he will never prove a dry breast, nor barren wilderness; for he is a fruitful vine. Though, in myself, I am a poor, foolish creature, I can rejoice that I have wisdom in him, even the hidden wisdom of God; for he of God is made unto me wisdom, and of his rich grace, he has made me wise to know my own folly, and to cleave to him for true wisdom. Though I am as weak as a worm, crawling in and out of the earth, yet Christ is the strength of my life: my strength is all in him. Though, in myself, I am a poor, unsteady, fickle fool, scarce through a single hour the same, there is no fickleness in him. He is in one mind, and none can turn him; Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever; and, through the riches of his grace, he has enabled me to depend upon his faithfulness to me, and not mine to him. Though the best righteousnesses I can produce of my own are but as filthy rags, overrun with the most noxious vermin, too filthy to be touched or looked upon by way of dependence, in him I stand complete, eternally complete, for he is the Lord my righteousness. Though, in myself, I am nothing but emptiness and vanity, I have a fulness in him; for it hath pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell: and out of his fulness I receive, and grace for grace. In a word, my whole treasure is in Christ; all I have or desire to have, for time or eternity, is in him: and in spite of all my foes, I find it my happiness to live by faith in him: for I have neither shelter from the storm, covert from the tempest, nor hiding-place from the wind, but in him. In the strength of faith, 1 now challenge earth and hell to bring one accusation against him; and till this can be done, I maintain my ground, and rest safe and secure by faith in this divine Head and Representative. My only ground of happiness is this, and if this can fail, I am undone: but it cannot; therefore, I rejoice over all my enemies, putting no confidence in the flesh, but trusting wholly in that God who has said, ‘They that trust in the Lord shall never be confounded nor put to shame, but shall be as Mount Zion, which cannot be moved.'” Thus the work of faith is to realise Christ, and keep the soul steadfastly fixed upon him, in spite of earth, hell, or sin.
I am will aware that the self-righteous Pharisee will reject such a doctrine with disdain, and say, it leads to licentiousness; but what has the believer to do with this? He knows by heart-felt experience that this truth is the very life of his spirit, and that he can only bring forth fruit unto God as he lives by faith in Christ. A man who only lives what he calls a holy life, because he is afraid he shall be damned if he does not, is a stranger to holiness. To say that a most holy faith living upon a most holy Head, is the way to licentiousness, is little less than blasphemy; and such professors who maliciously charge this God-glorifying, soul-comforting, mind-fortifying, sinner-supporting, Satan-vanquishing, sin-overcoming doctrine with having a licentious tendency, are the greatest enemies to the cross of Christ that the world has in it; though, in appearance, they may be transformed into an angel of light. We, therefore, pass on to speak a little on the labour of love.
Love is that grace of the Spirit by which the Christian embraces the eternal Jehovah; and whatever faith discovers of the beauty and glory of the Holy Three as a God of truth and grace, love embraces and delights in it. Love is called the fruit of the Spirit, and the love of God is shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Ghost which is given to us. This love is not that universal charity of which the bulk of professors make their boast. No! it is the love of God: and though it be but a drop from the ocean, it partakes of the nature of the whole; nor can it, in its own nature, love anything that God abhors. Whatever love we possess which is not swallowed up in God and the things of his delight, must be either fleshly or natural, at best, and is not that pure, spiritual love shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Ghost. If we find a principle that can love, and take pleasure in, the gratification of our fleshly appetite, however great the warfare maintained against it may be. it proves we have a love, in and about us, which cannot be the love of God or the fruit of the Spirit. But my intention is to speak a few words on the labour of that love which is of God.
I have heard ministers say that in the salvation of sinners, God, as it were’, lost sight of himself, or he only had in view the sinner’s good, and was not moved by any other motives to save a lost world. But I freely declare, that I very widely differ from them, for I believe it was his own glory which was the grand object he had in view— being determined to glorify all the perfections of his nature in the salvation of rebels who deserved his wrath. (See Eph 1; Is 42:8; 43:25; 48:9-11; Ez 36:21-22) For as Jehovah is the immortal excellence of all excellences, he must, in nature, delight most in his own glory; and to display his glory must be the grand object he has in view in all he does; for all his works praise him, and all things are and were created for his pleasure. (Rev 4:11) And that love which he sheds abroad in the hearts of his children must, in its own nature, have the great God of all glory for the grand object of its warmest attachment and regard. As far as Jehovah is pleased to reveal himself to faith, and make known his intrinsic excellences, so far love sweetly embraces him, and is too well satisfied with him to seek another love: and as faith discovers the glory of God in the persons of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, in the whole economy of redemption, so love embraces him with the greatest satisfaction. And again, as faith discovers the glory of God in his precious word, his dispensations of providence and grace, the members of Christ, the union of the church, with all blessings connected with these sublime subjects, so love embraces them; for God’s glory is sure to gain the attention and special regard of this love.
But what is the labour of love? and what does it labour for? To keep every rival from the heart; for it abhors everything that exalts itself against God, appear it in what form or shape it may. All the propensities of the old man of sin, with all the pride and vain-glory of this world, are objects of its disgust, and it labours to keep them from the heart. The glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ, is too excellent, in its own nature, to admit of such trash meeting with encouragement: and as the old man of sin is ever on the way in pursuit of fleshly objects, so love is ever concerned to keep them from the throne; for there Christ does and must reign, and sway his righteous sceptre.
All that garnish which mortals obtain in going about to establish a righteousness of their own to recommend themselves to the favour of God, of which the bulk of professors make their boast, and on which they, in whole or in part, rest for salvation, is equally as disgusting to love as open profligacy; for she sees it, at best, to be but a painted harlot, putting the cheat on deluded souls. Love, real love, to God, is no stranger to this harlot’s flattery and deception; for every vessel of mercy is more or less plagued therewith. She will often say to the poor child of God, “How well you have prayed! how solemn you have been! how much you are devoted to God! surely God loves you now! you must be a high favourite of heaven! how you have overcome your lusts and pride! and how humbly and holy you walk with God!” Now the whole of this is implacable enmity to Christ and his cross, though spoken with such a smooth tongue, and is only attempting to gain the throne, and please the Christian with his holy self instead of the Lord of life and glory: but love appears to keep her down, and to destroy her cursed flattery and power. However pleasing she appears to flesh and blood, love to God abhors her. Indeed, the Christian’s warfare does not so much consist in fighting against open profaneness. He is not so much plagued with that as he is with this cursed self, for this is an enemy always at hand, and on all occasions lifting up its hateful head against the God he dearly loves: so that, the greatest part of the Christian’s warfare is to fight against that which is the glory of the self-righteous free-wilier, viz., self. Wherever the love of God dwells, this haughty usurper will be abhorred, for Christ is to such a soul all and in all; and love will not admit of a rival.
Love labours after communion with God and fellowship with Christ. She can never be at rest at a distance from the enjoyment of God, and devotion always seems barren if the presence of God be not there; therefore, it is her business to cast out that slavish fear which keeps the child from getting near the Father: “Perfect love casteth out fear.” She always finds herself at home when the Lord’s presence is enjoyed, her delight being to unbosom the whole soul unto him, and freely tell him all her mind, and ask counsel at his hands. With him she can trust her secrets, and with none else: and when he is graciously pleased to reveal his secret to her, and kiss her with the kisses of his lips, it inflames her afresh, and her language is, “O love the Lord, all ye his saints. Or ever I was aware, my soul made me like the chariots of Amminadib” (Cant 6:12); and she feels the truth of that declaration, “He is altogether lovely!” The more she enjoys of his loving presence, the more she wants, and this she labours after; and, under her influence, the soul is saying, “Then shall I be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.” Love also labours to satisfy the soul with the whole will of God, knowing he is too wise to err, and too good to be unkind; so that, she labours to embrace Jehovah in all his dispensations, however mysterious and dark they appear to reason and sense. She labours to keep the soul calm in every affliction, disappointment, and distress, knowing that the eternal God sits at the helm of all affairs, and governs all circumstances and events in strict justice and judgment, for his own glory, and, of course, for the welfare of every one whose highest ambition is the glory of God, and who glory only in the Lord. Rest assured that, as long as we dwell in Meshech, love will not be out of employ; for she will meet with too many opponents to God’s glory to suffer her to be at ease, seeing that his glory is her eternal delight. We will, therefore, for a moment leave her to make the best of her way in the glorious cause she has espoused, and go on to say a few words on the patience of hope.
Hope is that grace by which the Christian firmly expects all the blessings which God has promised to bestow, and is founded on the promise and oath of Jehovah, and the finished work of Christ; and, as such, is an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast. Whatever difficulties lie in the way, it is the nature of hope to expect the accomplishment of God’s promise: but a good hope can expect nothing without the authority of God. It must have good ground for its expectations to rest upon, and, therefore, can never be disappointed. It is a false hope that does not rest upon the truth of God. God has declared that he will supply all our needs, according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus; and hope expects this to be done, because God has promised it. Jehovah has said he will give grace and glory, and no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly, that he will be a very present help in every time of trouble, and that, in the issue, his people shall be with him where he is, to behold his glory; and hope expects the accomplishment of the whole, and is daily looking out for it. But, whatever hope expects, it must go on sure ground, and, consequently, it stands directly opposed to presumption. It is true, the things that hope has to do with are both future and difficult, but they are, nevertheless, certain; so that, when the skies are rolled together like a scroll, and the elements are melted with fervent heat; when Christ shall be revealed in flaming fire, and, in his awful majesty, take vengeance on them that know not God; hope expects that, even then, the soul will be swallowed up in his immortal glory, and, with infinite delight, say “Amen,” to all his proceedings, and live with him for ever. But I shall be very brief on this subject, and shall conclude by observing, that hope is a hanging of the soul on the faithfulness and promise of Jehovah, the person, glory, work, and fulness of Christ, and is a looking for that blessed hope, and glorious appearance of the great God, and our Saviour Jesus Christ (Tit 2:13); and a good hope maketh not ashamed. But what is patience?
Patience is that grace of the Spirit which submissively waits the will of God; so that, when the soul begins to be peevish and fretful, because Jehovah seems to delay in fulfilling his promise, (for “hope deferred maketh the heart sick;” but though a good hope may be deferred, it never can be defeated, but when it is deferred, our peevish minds begin to rebel,) it is the work of patience to say to the soul, ‘”It is good that a man should hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord.” As though it should say, “Come, be not so peevish and fretful; remember, God’s time is the best, and he knows what is best for you, and when it will be most for his glory and your good to bestow his blessings on you. Be still, therefore, and know that he is God. Ye have need of patience, that after ye have done the will of God, ye might inherit the promises. If he tarry, wait for him, for in due time he will come, and will not tarry. Why should poor, short-sighted creatures of the day attempt to limit the Almighty, and call in question the justice and equity of his proceedings? Jehovah cannot be regardless of his word and oath, nor of the objects of his special regard; therefore, possess ye yourselves in patience, and submissively wait the will of your God and Father.” And thus David, in the strength of faith and patience, addresses his soul, saying, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God, for I shall yet praise him.” So that, what hope expects, it is the business of patience quietly to wait for, saying, “Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the Lord.”
Now, when the blessed Spirit of all grace makes the Christian active in these things, he is not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the word; that is, when faith is drawn out to discoveries of Jehovah’s glory; when love is sweetly employed in embracing and delighting in what faith discovers, and opposes all things that stand arrayed against God’s glory, when hope is large and steadfast in expecting all that God has promised; and patience is cheerfully waiting God’s time; I say, when a Christian is thus employed, it is sweet work; and a work that is acceptable to God, through the Lord Jesus Christ. But we go on,
2dly. To speak a little on the visible work of a Christian: what I mean is, his deportment among men, in the church, and in the world. You will not find this man spending his time at balls, plays, cards, dancing, and the like. No; these refined amusements (as the profane and vast numbers of the professing world call them) are too mean, contemptible, and dirty, to suit the taste of the hidden man of the heart. If the believer be at any time drawn aside into them, or any other dissipation of life, they are not his element, for he never feels himself at home while this is the case; and his soul is sure to be humbled under a sense of his own vileness, on account of his being overtaken therewith, the better part abhorring the very garments spotted by the flesh. A man who is looking into the perfect law of liberty can be satisfied with no such cursed trash. His conversation is in heaven, from whence also he looks for the Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ. Being predestinated to good works, it is his delight to walk in them. I am not going to preach sinless perfection in the flesh; nor do I believe that any of God’s ministers do preach it; they are Satan’s ministers, transformed into the appearance of ministers of Christ, who preach such a doctrine; but at the same time, I am sure that the grace of God teaches his people to live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.
I have often been pleased with an expression of Paul’s, when writing to the Galatians: ”Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself lest thou also be tempted.” (Gal 6:1) It appears to me that the apostle knew well that faults, like a pack of blood-hounds, sometimes pursued God’s people: that is. faults which are outwardly visible (as well as inwardly felt;) and though these are not the Christian’s greatest plagues, yet when they hunt his poor soul, he is often at a loss to know what to do. But it is possible for faults to overtake the people of God. or for a vessel of mercy to be overtaken in a fault, and a very scandalous one too, as David, Peter, and others were; but then there is a material difference between a man being overtaken in a fault, and faults being his element and delight. The child of God has many a hard race for it, and is brought to many a close point, and though, through the mercy of God, he often out-runs these blood-hounds, he is brought to know that the race is not to the swift, that his victory is not owing to the swiftness of his feet, nor to any sagacity or wisdom he has displayed in the business, but to the rich, sovereign goodness of God; and he is willing, sweetly willing, for God to have all the glory. But, as I said before, sin is not the Christian’s element. If there were no hell, he would love holiness, and pursue it: and therefore his light will, in some good measure, shine before men.
The man who is living upon and walking in Christ, by faith, will be honest in his deportment in the world and among men; and, as God gives him ability, he will evidence his bowels of compassion to the afflicted, poor, and distressed. His conduct will be circumspect in all his various undertakings, the cause of God and truth lying too near his heart for him to find a delight in the practice of such things as expose it to contempt. He wishes not only to be a Christian, but to live the Christian, in the world, in the family, and in the church of God; and though he never expects to gain heaven, in whole or in part, by anything he can do, he nevertheless delights to do the will of God in keeping his commands, and often mourns over his short-comings. The idea of doing anything from fear of damnation, or with a view to gain heaven, or as the task of a slave, is too mean, low, and beggarly, to suit the taste of a son of God. Every particle of such a principle that he feels rise up within, he abhors in his very soul. God, in the riches of his grace, has blessed him with a mind too noble to be governed by such a self-righteous principle. Real love to God induces him to walk circumspectly, independently of such a merit-mongering idea; and those ministers who enforce duties on Christians from such motives sadly miss the mark.
Show me a man who is looking into the perfect law of liberty, and, by faith, living on its divine contents, and I will show you a man who is living in the fear of God, abhorring sin, and giving proof that the truth of God does not lead to licentiousness, but to holiness and godliness: for to this are the heirs of promise called. To such a man, the precepts which Christ has taught his church, the ordinances he has instituted, and the means of grace he has appointed, will be attended to with pleasure and delight; nor does he ever find himself at home when this is not the case. When, through the power of his own evil nature, or any other enemy, he is drawn aside, he is restless, uneasy, and quite dissatisfied. He feels like a man in a bewildered state, far from home, and with Job is saying, “O that it were with me as in months that are past, when the candle of the Lord shone round about me;” or, with David, “My soul thirsteth for God, the living God; when shall 1 come and appear before God?” Such a man is not satisfied with being a member of a church and filling up his place, merely to do his duty, or to be seen of men: though he wishes to be found in the means of God’s grace, and to obey his commands, and is by no means happy when this is not the case, as far as God giveth him opportunity, yet nothing short of beholding God in them, and viewing him as the God of the means, can make him enjoy them. It is poor, dry work to be there alone. The believer’s language is, “One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple.” (Ps 27:4) God’s beauty and glory are the saints’ eternal delight; and, fired with a feeling sense of this, they are concerned to walk in all well-pleasing before God, and unblameably among men.
We are now come,
William Gadsby (1773-1844) was a Strict and Particular Baptist preacher, writer and philanthropist.