February 3, 2009

Follow the Lamb - Section XV

We now come to the conclusion of Pastor Bonar's work Follow the Lamb. Do not lose heart in the midst of your Christian duties, dear brothers and sisters. Do what you are called to do, with all your heart!

XV. BE OF GOOD CHEER

A revival time is one of blessing, but it is one of peril. The running well and the going back, the flocking to the cross and the turning away from it, the warm confession and the subsequent silence,--these are things which have been witnessed in other times, and may be witnessed again. Hence our anxiety to give all the guidance and the counsel that we can. Let the young listen. Let them humble themselves to Christian counsel. Let them take heed and watch narrowly their own footsteps.

But still we would not dishearten any. Be not discouraged, we say; but be of good cheer. Faint not, though you may often be weary. Though we bid you count the cost, yet we say to you, as God said to Israel, 'Behold, the Lord your God hath set the land before thee: go up and possess it, as the Lord God of thy fathers hath said unto thee; fear not, neither be discouraged' (Deut 1:21). We would not be of those to whom God spoke, and said, 'Why discourage ye the hearts of the people?' (Num 32:7). We remember it is said that 'the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way' (Num 21:4); and that this discouragement led to sin. We would not discourage the weakest; for we call to mind Him who 'breaks not the bruised reed, nor quenches the smoking flax' (Isa 42:3); who 'gathers the lambs with His arms, who carries them in His bosom, and who gently leads those that are with young' (Isa 40:11). We say to 'those who are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not' (Isa 35:4); and we would 'strengthen the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees' (Isa 35:3). You say the 'fearful' are among those who are cast into the lake of fire, and you fear you are one of them. Not so. The 'fearful' specified in the Book of Revelation (Rev 21:8), are the cowards who have refused to confess to Christ, who have turned their back on Christ; and they are very different from the 'fearful' spoken of in Isaiah.

Be of good courage. You have God upon your side. You have Christ to fight for you. You have the Holy Spirit to sustain and comfort you. You have more encouragements than discouragements. You have the example of millions that have gone before you. You have exceeding great and precious promises (2 Pet 1:4). You have many fellow-travellers and fellow-soldiers on the right hand and on the left. You have a bright kingdom in view which will compensate for all triaI and conflict here. And then, the way is short. The toil will soon be over. The battle will not last for ever. Greater is He that is with you than all that can be against you. Be strong in the Lord. Be strong in His love and in His power. Take to you the whole armour of God (Eph 6:10,11).

Do you say that you are in Christ, and that you are abiding in Him? Then you ought to walk as He walked. You are bound to follow His footsteps; and if you say that you are not bound to do so, you set aside the divine teaching of the apostle here given us.

The man who says, 'I am Christ's,' is under obligations to imitate Him. Duty and love alike constrain him to do so; not duty without love, nor yet love without duty. Duty without love would mean reluctance and compulsion; love without duty would mean love fixed upon an unlawful object, whom it was not right to love. Duty and love going together mean that our love is fixed upon a worthy and lawful object; in loving whom we are feeling what is right, and in obeying whom we are doing what is right.

If I love that which it is not my duty to love, I sin. If I love that which it is my duty to love, I am doing the right thing,--the thing which God delights in. If I honour my parents, I do so for two reasons: (1) Because God has said, 'Honour thy father and thy mother'; (2) Because I love them. The two things, the duty and the love, are in perfect harmony with each other. It is a dutiful thing to love, and it is a loving thing to be dutiful. Suppose you have a mother in Scotland and a father in India. You love both of them as truly as a son can love. But the question may arise as to which of them you are to visit or to stay with. Are you to remain in Scotland or go to India? Love cannot determine this question, for you love both equally. How is it to be decided? By duty. You ask, Is it my duty to go to my father, or to remain with my mother? If you decided to leave your mother, from a sense of duty, would she doubt your love, and say, I want none of your professions of it? And when you went to India, and told your father that it was a sense of duty that brought you to him, would he scorn you, and say, I want none of your duty, give me your love? Duty is a right and proper motive. It is again and again referred to in Scripture, as the words 'ought,' 'are bound,' 'must,' 'debtor,' 'owe,' and the like abundantly show. 'He that saith he abideth in Him, ought himself so to walk even as He walked' (1 John 2:6).

We read such passages as the following:--'Ye also ought to wash one another's feet' (John 13:14); 'We have done that which was our duty to do' (Luke 17:10);--'We that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak' (Rom 15:1);--'So ought men to love their wives' (Eph 5:28);--'We are bound to thank God' (2 Thess 1:3);--'We are bound to give thanks' (2 Thess 2:13);--'We ought to lay down our lives for the brethren' (1 John 3:16);-- 'We ought to love one another' (1 John 4:11). These are a few out of many passages in which duty is spoken of in very plain terms. That duty and love should go together, is no proof that there is no such thing as duty, or that a Christian should rise above it into the region of 'pure love,' as Romish mystics have held. Duty means the thing that is due; are we not to do it because it is due, because it is the right and proper thing? Let us exercise our common sense, and understand the meaning of words, whether Greek or English, before soaring into transcendental regions, into which neither prophets nor apostles have gone before us.

There is a danger of running to excess in our day, of attempting the superfine in religion; of soaring too high, of getting away from both Scripture and common sense; of indulging in a sentimentalism, which looks very spiritual, but which, when analysed, is simply absurdity, or, at best, a one-sided exaggeration of some isolated truth. There is great danger, in a time of spiritual quickening, of being carried about with diverse and strange doctrines. Let us cleave to the word. Only thus can we find steadfastness and sobriety. Only by feeding on it, and being guided by it, can we maintain a manly and healthy religion,--free from error, yet devoid of effeminacy, following out the old paths of reformers, apostles, prophets, and patriarchs, unshaken by novelties, yet unfettered by bigotry or self-will.

'He that is dead,' says the apostle, 'is freed from sin' (Rom 6:7); or more exactly, 'He that has died is justified from sin.' Death was the penalty, and he who has paid the penalty is legally justified. There is no further claim against him. We pay the penalty when we take the death of the Substitute as ours, and God reckons the penalty paid when He obtains our consent to the exchange. It is the thought of having paid the penalty that pacifies the conscience; and it is the thought of God reckoning it paid that gives us peace with Him. When we come to understand the meaning and value of the work upon the cross; when we accept what God has declared concerning all who believe His testimony to that work, the burden drops, and we enter into liberty.

With that liberty comes holiness. We seek henceforth conformity to Him who has set us free, and who bids us follow Him in the path of conformity to the Father's will. With that liberty comes love,--love to Him who hath brought our souls out of prison by going into prison for us.

With that love comes zeal,--the zeal of Him who followed after His lost ones till He had recovered them,--of Him it is said, 'The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.'

With this love and zeal there comes self-denial, the self-denial of Him who 'pleased not Himself,' who lived on earth solely for others; though rich, for our sakes becoming poor.

Of all this be it ever remembered, that the root is 'peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ'; and that this peace comes from the knowledge of the peace-making blood, the blood of the one divine peace offering, whom to know is peace! It is out of the sacrificial blood that we extract the peace which is the beginning of all service, all religion, all uprightness of walk. 'No condemnation' commences the life of freedom and self-denial and zeal. We cease to know the law as our enemy, and begin to know it as our friend; for that which is 'holy, and just, and good' must ever be our delight, our joy, our guide. 'I delight in the law of God after the inner man' (Rom 7:22) is one of our truest watchwords; for we were set free from the law just in order that we might delight in the law and in order that 'the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us' (Rom 8:4). With law satisfied,--nay, transformed into a friend, and speaking not condemnation, but pardon, not wrath, but love, we walk onwards and upwards, realizing in that blessed law what David did when he said, 'The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. (Psa 19:8-10).
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