Everything and Everyone Changes, Except God

Everything and Everyone Changes, Except God

Everything and Everyone Changes, Except God
Hugh Binning (1627–1653) was a young minister who also taught philosophy at the University of Glasgow. He was a prolific author and popular preacher with a gift for clear teaching.
5 Apr, 2019

Events, strategies, commitments, principles. Everything seems to be subject to change in human affairs, especially politics. An even more changeable future seems inevitable as uncertainty increases. It’s a world of tumultuous, relentless and constant change. Technological, social and moral change in particular, seem to be speeding up. Things we never expected to see are now considered normal. Some change is deeply troubling and other change is good. All this makes us less confident and optimistic in predicting the future. But there is no real reason to fear if we are connected to the unchanging reality of the eternal God.

Hugh Binning points out that the most profound thing that we can say about God is also the simplest. “The Lord gives a definition of Himself”. It is short and we may not think it says much—”I AM” (Exodus 3:14). When people seek to exalt themselves they want to be described in grand and majestic ways to flatter themselves. But there is more majesty in this simple title “I AM” than in all others. This is spiritually discerned.

To compare God with others and say that He is best gives too great significance to the things which we use for comparison. Thus, the Lord calls Himself “I AM”, meaning “I am as if nothing else were”. Not, “I am the highest, the best and most glorious that is”. This assumes other things have some being and glory that is worth taking account of. Rather it is “I am, and there is none else; I am alone”. Nothing else can say, “I am, I live, and there is nothing else”. Everything else is dependent on God. Thus, nothing besides God, can say, “I am”. All things are only borrowed drops of this self-sufficient fountain. If anything comes between the stream and the fountain it is cut off and dried up.

See the profound mystery of God’s absolute self-sufficient perfection enfolded in these three letters, I AM. If you ask what is God? There is nothing better than this, “I AM,” or, He that is. If I would say He is the almighty, the only wise, the most perfect, the most glorious, it is all contained in this, “I am that I am”. He is all those perfections simply, absolutely, and solely.

 

1. Our God is Eternally Unchanging

He never was nothing and never will be nothing and may always say, “I am.”  God is eternally unchanging (Psalm 90:2). Now this is properly to be; and this only deserves the name of being. All the generations past; where are they now? They were, but they are not. And we then were not, and now are; for we have come in their place and in a little time, which of us can say, “I am.” No, we “fly away as a dream” (Job 20:8). We “are like a tale that is told,” (Psalm 90:9) that makes a noise in the present and then it is past. Within a few years this generation will pass, and no one will make mention of us. Our place will not know us, no more than we do now remember those who have been before (Psalm 103:16).

Christ said of John the Baptist, “he was a burning and shining light” (John 5:35); “he was,” but now he is not. But Christ may always say, “I am the light and life of men” (see John 1:4). Man is; but look backwards a little, and he was not; you will find his origin. Go forwards a little and he will not be, you will find his end. But God is “Alpha and Omega…the beginning and the end” (Revelation 22:13). Who can find the beginning and end in such a being who is the beginning and end of all things, yet without all beginning and end? The soul is enclosed between infiniteness before and infiniteness behind. It is between two everlastings; whichever way it turns, there is no way out. Whichever way it looks, it must lose itself in an infiniteness round about it.

We change in our days and are not today what we were yesterday. But “he is the same yesterday, and today, and for ever” (Hebrews 13:8). Every day we are dying, some part of our life is taken away. We leave one more day behind us, it is gone and cannot be recovered. Though we vainly please ourselves in the number of our years and the extent of our life, the truth is that we are losing much of our being and time as it passes. First, we lose our childhood, then we lose our adulthood. Then we leave our old age behind us also and there is no more before us.

But when God moves all things, He remains immoveable. Though days and years are in a continual flux and motion around Him and they carry us down with their force yet He abides the same forever. Even the earth and heavens that are established so sure grow old but He is the same, and “his years have no end” (Psalm 102:26-27). He is the beginning without any beginning; the end without an end: there is nothing past to Him, and nothing to come. He is all, before all, after all, and in all. He beholds all the changes of the creatures out of eternity. There is no change in His knowledge, as there is in ours (Acts 15:18). He can declare the end before the beginning; for He knows the end of all things, before He gives them beginning. He is never driven to make consultations in any emergency as the wisest of men are, who could not foresee all events. “He is in one mind”; He had it from everlasting and “who can turn Him?” (Job 23:13).

 

2. Our Response to the Unchanging God

Job’s response to knowing God as He is was to humble himself and repent (Job 42:5-6).  Here is the true knowledge of God’s majesty, which uncovers within you a mystery of iniquity. Here is the knowledge of God indeed, which abases all things besides God, not only in opinion but in affection. It attracts and unites your soul to God, and draws it from yourself and all created things. This is a right revelation of divine purity and glory, that stains the pride of all glory. True knowledge empties a soul of itself and humbles a soul in itself, that it may be full of God. He that thinks he knows any thing, knows nothing as he ought to know.

This then is the first evidence of the saving knowledge of God. It removes all grounds for empty confidence so that a soul cannot trust in itself. The purpose of this is that a soul may trust in God and depend on Him in all things. For this purpose the Lord has called Himself by many names in Scripture which correspond to our various needs and difficulties. This is so that He might make known to us how all-sufficient He is, so that we may turn our eyes and hearts towards Him. This was the purpose of this name, I AM; that Moses might have support for his faith (Exodus 3:14). “I AM;” I, who give all things a being, will give a being to my promise. I will make Pharaoh listen and the people obey.

What is there that this name of God will not answer? It is a creating name—a name that can bring all things out of nothing by a word. If He is what He is, then He can make what He wishes from us. It is a name that brings us comfort (Isaiah 41:12). If we believed this how we would submit to His blessed will. If we believed this would we not make Him our dwelling-place?  Would we not be assured of our own stability and the stability of His church because of His unchangeable eternity? (Psalm 89:1; Psalm 102:27-28). How can we think of such a fountain-Being without acknowledging ourselves to be shadows of His goodness? We owe to Him what we are, and so must dedicate ourselves to His glory. How can we consider such a self-Being, independent and creating Goodness without a desire to cleave to Him and confidence to trust in Him? This is to know Him.

 

3. Ourselves Compared to the Unchanging God

When we think on His unchangeableness let us consider our own vanity. Our glory and perfection is like a summer flower, or like a vapour ascending for a little time, our best estate is altogether vanity. Our plans are soon broken off and made of no effect, our resolutions change. This is mortality, we are not always the same. To be one thing now and then another thing is a characteristic of sinful and wretched man. Therefore let us “cease from man whose breath is in his nostrils” (Isaiah 2:22).  Do not trust in princes who will die, far less in ourselves who are less than the least of men (Psalm 146:3). Let us put our trust in God who does not change and we will not be consumed (Malachi 3:6).

We will never be ashamed of any hope we have in Him. There is nothing else you trust in which will not, without doubt disappoint you. Whatever you hear or know of God is vain and empty, unless it descends into the heart to shape it with fear and love to Him. It must extend into the outward actions and conform it to obedience. Otherwise when you “know God” you “do not glorify Him as God” and that knowledge will be worse to you than ignorance. It will only harden you and ultimately be your solemn accuser and witness (Romans 1: 21-24). The true knowledge of Jesus Christ is never unfruitful. The things that spring from its root are humility, self-abasing confidence in God, patience in tribulations, meekness in provocations, temperance and sobriety in lawful things (2 Peter 1:5-8).

 

Conclusion

It is a source of wonder as well as comfort to contemplate a God whose being, plans and promises never change. This should draw us to God again and again. He can keep our hearts steadfast. Whatever else and whoever else may change, let us seek to have an unwavering devotion, obedience and love to Him by His grace.

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Who Are You?

Who Are You?

Who Are You?
Hugh Binning (1627–1653) was a young minister who also taught philosophy at the University of Glasgow. He was a prolific author and popular preacher with a gift for clear teaching.
18 Jan, 2019

From gender to nationality to race–can we choose the identity we want? Are these things that drive identity politics real? Even if we resist every other label – what exactly does human mean these days? Other subtle influences within society point us to find our identity in what we have and what do. Is there something fixed that goes beyond changeable subjective notions?

Yes. We can draw our identity from what God has done and what God has said. We need to go back to the beginning, to creation. We cannot understand who we are without this. This is the foundation of understanding our personal identity. That is exactly what Hugh Binning does in the following updated extract.

 

1. Our Original Identity

It is certain, that you will never rightly understand yourselves or what you are, until you know first what humanity was made to be. You cannot imagine what your present misery is until you know the happiness man had when he was created: “let us make man in our image”.

Some have called Adam a microcosm of the world, because he had heaven and earth as it were married together in him. He united two very remote and distant natures. The dust of the earth and the immortal spirit  (called the breath of God) sweetly linked, conjoined and inclined to one another. In this piece of workmanship the Lord made a microcosm of all His works. He brought together in one creation the marvellous wisdom, being, living, moving, sense and intelligence which are scattered across the other creatures. We carry around in ourselves the wonders we admire in the rest of creation.

With a mere simple word, this huge framework of the world started out of nothing. But in creating humanity God acts as a skilful craftsman: “Let us make man”. He makes rather than creates. He first raises the walls of flesh, builds the house of the body with all its organs, all its rooms, and then He makes a noble and divine guest to dwell in it. He breathes into it the breath of life.

 

2. Our Unique Original Identity

But what the Lord would have us consider most is the image of Himself imprinted on man —“Let us make man in our own image.” There was no creature without some engravings of God and His power, wisdom, and goodness. The heavens are said to declare His glory (Psalm 19:1). But whatever they have, it is only the lower part of that image, some dark shadows and resemblances of Him. But the final work of creation is made according to His own image. He reflects Himself in this as with a mirror. The rest of creation resembles His footstep but man resembles His face. He was made “in our image, after our likeness”.

It is true that only Jesus Christ His Son is “the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person”. He alone  resembles Him perfectly and thoroughly in all properties. He is another self in nature, properties and operations. He is so like Him that He is one with Him, it is really a oneness, than a likeness.

But man was created according to God’s own image, with some likeness (not sameness or oneness) to Himself. That is a high privilege indeed, to be like God. How could man be like God, who is infinite, incomprehensible, whose glory cannot be given to or shared with another? There are unique aspects of His being in which He not only has no equal not none even to compare to Him. In these He is to be adored as infinitely transcending all created perfections and conceptions. But yet in others He reveals Himself so as to be imitated and followed. For this purpose He first stamps these qualities on man in shaping him at first.

 

3. Our Original Moral Identity

If you want to know what those qualities are in particular the apostle defines them.  They include “knowledge” (Colossians 3:10), “righteousness and true holiness” (Ephesians 4:21). This is the “image of him who created him” (Colossians 3:10).  It is the image which the Creator stamped on man, that he might seek Him. He set him apart for Himself to keep communion with him and to bless him. There is a spirit given to man with a capacity to know and to will. This is God’s face sketched out and this is not engraved on any other creature that has feeling. One of the most noble and excellent operations of life which exalts human beings above brute beasts is the capacity to reflect on ourselves and to know ourselves and our Creator. Other things have natural instincts suitable to their own nature, but none of them have a capacity to know what they are or what they have. They cannot conceive ideas of He who gave them a being.

He has limited the eye to respond to colours and light, He has limited the ear so that it cannot act without sounds. He has assigned every sense its own proper range within which it moves. But He teaches man knowledge, and He enlarges the sphere of his understanding beyond visible things to invisible things or spirits. He has put a capacity in the soul to know all things, including itself. The eye discerns light, but does not see itself. But He gives a spirit to man to know himself and his God.

And then there is a willing power in the soul by which it gives itself towards any thing that is conceived as good. The understanding directs and the will commands according to its direction. Then the whole faculties and senses obeying these commands make up an excellent portrait of the image of God. There was a sweet proportion and harmony in Adam, all was in due place and subordination. The motions of immortal man began within. The lamp of reason shone and gave light. There was no stirring, choosing or refusing until reason moved. This was like a ray of God’s light reflected into the soul of man.

When reason discerned good and evil this power in the soul influenced the whole person accordingly, to choose good and refuse evil. There would have been no living resemblance to God if there was only power to know and will.  These capacities must also be beautified and adorned with supernatural and divine graces of spiritual light, holiness and righteousness. These complete the image of God on the soul in full colour.

There was a divine light which shone on the understanding until sin intervened and eclipsed it. The sweet heat and warmness of holiness and uprightness in the affections came from the light of God’s face.  There was nothing but purity and cleanness in the soul, no darkness of ignorance, no muddiness of carnal affections. The soul was pure and transparent, able to receive the refreshing and enlightening rays of God’s glorious countenance.

This was the very face and beauty of the soul. This is the beauty and excellency: conformity to God. This was throughout the whole: in the understanding and the affections. The understanding had to be conformed to God’s understanding, discerning between good and evil. As a ray of that sun, a stream from that fountain of wisdom, a light from God’s understanding it has to be conformed to Him.

The will agreed with His will: approving and choosing what He approved and refusing what He hated. This union was closer than any bond among men. It was as if there were not two wills but as it were, one. The love of God reflecting into the soul drew the soul back to Him again. Love was the conforming principle which shaped the whole person without and within to be like God and obey Him.  Man was formed for communion with God, and he must have this likeness or else they could not join as friends.

 

4. Our Original Moral Identity Destroyed

But it is sad to think where we have fallen from and how great our fall is. To fall from such a blessed condition is great misery indeed. Satan has robbed us of our rich treasure, the glorious image of holiness. He has drawn the very image of hell on our souls the very visage of hell, the distinctive features of his hellish countenance. But most people are unaware of anything of this. If we could consider all the sad and awful consequences of sin in the world and what miseries that one fall has brought on all humanity we would see what a fearful fall it has been.

Sin intervened between God and us, this darkened our souls and killed them. The light of knowledge was put out, the life of holiness extinguished. There now remains nothing of all of that stately building except some ruins of common principles of reason and honesty in everyone’s consciences. These merely show us what the building was like. We have fallen from holiness and therefore from happiness. Our souls are deformed and defiled. If sin was visible, how ugly the shape of the soul would be to us. This is because it has lost its very beauty, which is God’s image.

 

5. Our Original Moral Identity Restored

We must know where we have fallen from and into what a gulf of sin and misery we have fallen. When we know this, the news of Jesus Christ, a Mediator and Redeemer of fallen man will be sweet to us. It was the Lord’s will to let His image be marred and ruined in us because He had this purpose to repair and renew even better than of old. He created (the human nature of) Christ according to His image for this purpose. He stamped that image of holiness on His humanity. This was so as to be a pattern and pledge of restoring original glory and excellence to the souls that flee to Him for refuge. He has made His Son like us that we might once again be made like Him. He said in eternity, “let one of us be made man”. This was so that it might be said once more, “let man be made like us, in our image”. Only a second creation can do this. Look at your hearts to enquire if it this new creation has been formed in you. You must be re-created in that image if you belong to Christ.

 

Conclusion

There are many voices in our generation encouraging everyone to seek their own identity. Young people are often on a quest to find an identity even if it means that their minds and bodies are at odds with one another. But this will never bring the happiness and peace we seek. We have lost an identity and we need it recovered, but it is the identity God has given and offers not the one that we choose out of our own preferences. In one sense the gospel is saying to us, “be who you were meant to be, who you were created to be.” We will only find that if we are a new creation in Christ. This is the true basis for our personal identity.

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Our Need of the Ever New, Unbegun Beginning

Our Need of the Ever New, Unbegun Beginning

Our Need of the Ever New, Unbegun Beginning
Hugh Binning (1627–1653) was a young minister who also taught philosophy at the University of Glasgow. He was a prolific author and popular preacher with a gift for clear teaching.
28 Dec, 2018

We have a certain natural inclination to “some new thing” (Acts 17:21). We live in time and that makes the expectation of change inevitable. New beginnings (such as a new year) can open fresh opportunities for transformation.  But it becomes unhealthy when we value things simply because they are new rather than using a more enduring standard. An addiction to novelty creates destructive rootlessness and distraction. It afflicts the world and the Church. Adhering to things simply because they are old rather than because they are true is also lethal, however. How do we develop a healthy approach to new beginnings that doesn’t discard everything in the pursuit of novelty?

We need new and old brought together in an enduring way. We need to consider time in the context of eternity. Hugh Binning explains how Christ is the unchanging but also the ever new; how He is eternal but entered time. These thoughts (drawn from 1 John 1:1-2) take us into the mystery of Christ’s person. “That which was from the beginning” could be seen, heard and touched.  As Binning says, this combines antiquity and novelty together in one, and that makes it all the more excellent and wonderful. This is the glorious way in which the “Word of life” is brought within our reach. We can expect new and fresh blessings from the unchanging Word of life but they are of eternal benefit.

 

1. Considering the Unbegun Beginning

Christ is that which was from the beginning, which was with the Father before all antiquity from eternity.  He is not only from the beginning of time but before all time, before all imaginable beginnings. Christ Jesus, the Father’s Word, was with the Father from the beginning. He was with the Ancient of days who infinitely and unmeasurably antedates all antiquity. Compared to His endurance all we regard as antiquity is mere novelty. The infinite, beginningless, immeasurable endurance of God before this world can never be unravelled by the imaginations of men and angels. Even if they had all eternity they could never unravel it.

There is nothing so old, He is infinitely before the oldest and most ancient creatures. The age of this Word is like a labyrinth with innumerable turnings and windings. Those who make the most progress and the longest search will be just where they were, always beginning, and never coming nearer the beginning of His duration. This is because it is the beginning of all things that have had a beginning but has no beginning itself.

This is what makes religion the richest and most transcendent subject in the world. It presents us with a twofold eternity. It surrounds the soul with a “past” eternity without beginning and a “future” eternity without end. “That which was from the beginning”, before all beginning, either real or imagined. How much there is in that to settle a soul in view of all the false, painted appearances of the world.

 

2. Consider the Incomparable Christ

Such a Saviour is held out to us. We are to come to and lean on the Rock of ages. He is the one on whose word the whole universe is established and stands firm. He infinitely exceeds and precedes all things visible or invisible and all their changes. From eternity the Father and Son took delight in the thoughts of peace and good will they had towards us, which would be revealed in time. If they delighted in planning it how much more in accomplishing the whole plan.

Think what an incomparably excellent Saviour we have who is one with God and equal to Him: one with Him from all eternity. What a strong foundation this is for faith and confidence, what a Rock on which to establish a floundering soul. Man’s misery and curse being liable to endure for all eternity, there is One to deliver them from that, who was Himself from all eternity. Who could purchase for us such absolute blessedness throughout all eternity, except one who was Himself from all eternity? What marvellous proportion and beauty there is in the ways of God. Everything is devised by infinite wisdom so that that we may have strong consolation.  

Consider how the Word of life is held out to you and yet you do not allow your hearts to be moved, or stirred after Him. This is to forsake a great mercy, the eternal Word of life as the infinite Wisdom of the Father. Will we let this offer run past us every day and never find pause from the multitude of business, thoughts and lusts of the world? Will we never look beyond this world, to God, and His Son Jesus Christ? Will we never take seriously either the one that was before all things or our own souls, that must survive and outlive all visible things. 

 

3. Considering the Ever New Christ

But there is also a newness in this subject, which increases admiration and may engage our affections all the more. The “life was manifested” (verse 2). He is such a Word of life that though He was invisible and untouchable from the beginning, yet He was recently clothed with flesh that made him both visible and capable of being handled. These are the two poles on which the mystery, glory and wonder of Christianity turns. The antiquity of His real existence as God and the newness of His appearance in the flesh as man.

He who was so blessed from everlasting begins to be manifested in the fulness of time. To make Himself visible, He takes on our flesh. It was only for this purpose, that He who was Life itself and the eternal life might become life to poor dead sinners and give them eternal life. In taking on our flesh, the Word is more wonderfully manifested and made visible than in the creation. In creation the Creator made creatures come out of nothing at His command. But in this, the Creator is made a creature. He once gave a beginning of being to things that had no being. Being before all beginning Himself, He now takes a beginning and becomes flesh, which He was not before.

How wisely and wonderfully it is planned that, for the good of lost man, the Son of God should be made of a woman.  The lower the nature in which He appears, the higher the mystery is and the richer the comfort is. The glory of the only begotten Son of God was more visibly manifested in that He appeared in such a low form. It is for power to show itself in weakness and such glorious rays to break out from under such a dark cloud. This was greater glory, and more majesty, than if He had only showed Himself in the most perfect creatures.

 

4. Consider Our Need of His New Blessings

When we see the ancientness of our Saviour and the newness of His appearance in the flesh brought together, it ought to endear Him to us. He has come so near us, and brought his own Majesty within our sphere so that we can lay hold of it. He did this for no other purpose except to make life and immortality shine as beams from Him to bring dead souls to life.

Let us open our hearts to Him, and then welcome such fresh news with new delight. Though it is many centuries old, this news is still recent to a believing heart. There is an everlasting fountain in it that sends out fresh comfort to souls every day. It is as refreshing as the first day this fountain was opened. This is the new wine that never grows old, indeed it is renewed in every generation with some new manifestation of the love of God. Christ’s incarnation was the first manifestation of the Son, the very morning of light and life, the dayspring visiting the world that was buried in the darkness of idolatry.

The Sun of righteousness first appeared up above the horizon at that time. But it is still now the same “day”. He has been appearing by greater degrees, shining more and more to the noon day (2 Peter 1:19). This Sun has never set since, but gone round about the world in the preaching of the gospel. It has brought life and light from one nation to another, and one generation to another. We ought to welcome His kindly and affectionate love to mankind (Titus 3:4). This is what shines so brightly. The beams of grace and love to men are the rays that come from this Sun of righteousness.

 

Conclusion

A new year offers new opportunities for fresh appreciations of the glory of Christ. We need to take regular time out from the treadmill of demands and the constant feed of new content to seek this. As we do this we will be brought into contact with eternal realities. Are we trading things these opportunities and only gaining things that are new but immediately grow old? The promise of the new that the world constantly offers soon proves empty. There are new blessings to lay hold on in fellowship with Christ, the Word of life as we seek to live out this glorious gospel. These blessings are of eternal significance.

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Denying Any Wrongdoing?

Denying Any Wrongdoing?

Denying Any Wrongdoing?
Hugh Binning (1627–1653) was a young minister who also taught philosophy at the University of Glasgow. He was a prolific author and popular preacher with a gift for clear teaching.
14 Dec, 2018

​Any news bulletin about an allegation seems inevitably to include the phrase that the accused “denies any wrongdoing”. It seems to indicate a reflex response of stoutly resisting the glare of scrutiny. Whether accused in the court of public opinion or the law courts, no guilt can be admitted. Its constant use gives the impression of a society of either very scrupulous or unscrupulous consciences. It comes straight from the lawyer’s office of course. It is used in the narrow sense of breaking civil law and the liability that this would involve. The phrase makes us think more deeply, however, about the nature of what is required from us morally. Can any of us say that in any action or event we have not been guilty of any kind of wrongdoing whatsoever? Are we tempted to claim that? What should be our response to the claims of God’s law on us?

Scripture makes it clear that we cannot say that we are without sin (Ecclesiastes 7:20).  There is a constant battle (Galatians 5:17) in which we all offend in many things (James 3:2). None of us are able “perfectly to keep the commandments of God” we “daily break them in thought, word, and deed” (Larger Catechism, Q149). Sin is present with us in our best actions (Romans 7:18-19). But do our prayers, words and attitudes reflect this? In this updated extract, Hugh Binning addresses this in applying 1 John 1:8,10, verses that deal with denying our sin. Isn’t it striking that the same phrase is repeated in those two verses?

 

1. Does Anyone Really Secretly Deny Any Wrongdoing?

Solomon gives a challenge to the whole world, “Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?” (Proverbs 20:9). No one is so great a stranger to themselves that they will not confess this. If they soberly and calmly retreat into their own heart, the very evidence of its impurity will make them confess it. Inwardly they feel what outwardly they deny. They cannot but sometime or other be filled with horror and anguish in their consciences. The time will come (either when the mighty hand of God is on them here, or when they must enter eternity) that they will awake. They will find all their iniquities mustered by the Lord of hosts in battle array against themselves in their conscience.

 

2. Can Believers Implicitly Deny Any Wrongdoing?

But this verse does not only restrain those who openly profess sinless, spotless sanctity. There is another way of saying this than by the tongue. There are many other ways of self-deceiving; they are more dangerous, because less discernible. Even true believers may fall into something of this.

(a) If We Think Too Much of Our Progress

Some are ready to think too highly of themselves. They have attained fervent desires and progress in relation to holiness and walking with God. They have something of the presence of God in the soul filling it with some sweetness. Perhaps they are ready to look on others with some disdain. There is no sense of their true condition and a humble mourning with it; rather they measure their attainments by their desires.  This is in effect, really saying, “we have no sin.” It is a self-deceiving delusion. We are actually infinitely below either our duty or our desire. We must be reminded of this often. Otherwise we are in danger of being drunk with self-love and self-deceit in this.

(b) If We Are Not Concerned About Making Further Progress

There are many Christians who once had a powerful experience of sorrow for sin, fear of wrath and comfort by the gospel. But they have not progressed. They are accustomed to certain public and private religious duties. But they have stopped here and do not think about further progress. They think that if they keep that condition all is well. They have few concerns or attempts for greater communion with God or purification from sin.

This makes them degenerate into formalism. They wither and become barren. They are exposed to many temptations which overcome them. But is this not really saying, “we have no sin?” Is it not living as if you had no sin to wrestle with, no more holiness to aspire to? Is it not as if you had no further race to run to obtain the crown? Do not deceive yourselves by thinking it is enough to have just enough grace as may (in your opinion) put you over the line. As if you seek no more than what is precisely necessary for salvation. If you continue without stirring up yourselves to a daily conversion and renewal, you do much to blot out the evidence of your conversion.

(b) If We Only Confess Sin in a Vague and General Way

You confess you are sinners and break all the commandments, but if we come to specifics not one in twenty seriously admit any sin. What you grant regarding sin in general you retract and deny in relation to specific sins. This is the danger of being strangers to the real truth of it and being over-blinded with self-love. Is a general acknowledgement of sin a mask to deceive yourself or a blind to hide you from yourself?  Many justify themselves when they are challenged for committing or being inclined to any particular sin.

(c) If We are Content to Continue in Sin

Do you live in sin as impenitently as if you had no sin and no fear of God’s wrath? Most people’s lives proclaim that they think they have no sin. Do you live without any earnest and serious striving to change your ways and purify your hearts? Though you confess sin in general, does your whole conduct declare that you do not think it is a thing to be feared greatly? Does your life declare that someone may go on in sin and it will be well with them in this life and the one to come? Is this not denying the very nature of sin and deceiving your own souls?

 

3. Why do We Deny Any Wrongdoing?

“If we say we have no sin, we make him a liar” (1 John 1:10). Why is this repeated again? It is to show us (even Christians who believe in Christ and are washed in His blood), how hard it is to know ourselves aright. Worldly people scarcely acknowledge they have any sin. Any they do acknowledge are not seen in their vile nature. So they live in peace as if they had no sin. This self-deceiving is not so subtle but quickly seen through. But this verse speaks against you Christians, who are to some extent acquainted with yourselves.

(a) Sin Doesn’t Seem So Obvious

When we get peace from the conviction of sin and hope of pardon we often cease to know ourselves. Sin may not break out so visibly. So you remain strangers to your hearts. You ought rather to believe what is in you based on God’s testimony rather than wait to see it breaking out.  The goodness of God restraining our corruption should increase rather than diminish the sense of our own wickedness.

(b) Self-Love Blinds Us

We look on ourselves through self-love and it makes everything seem more beautiful than it is. “We deceive ourselves, and make God a liar.” It is strange to think how clear someone’s assessment can be against the evils in others which he cannot see in himself. How many Christians are ready so spot the least appearance of sins in others and condemn it who are partial in judging themselves. How often people declaim against pride, covetousness, self-seeking, and other such evils! They pour out a flood of eloquence and zeal against them. But it is strange they do not easily perceive these evils predominate in themselves (Romans 2:1).

Judge yourself in anything that others can judge. Strive to know your personal evils before others can know them. This will keep you humble and preserve you from much sin. You will not deceive yourself nor dishonour God in making him a liar.

(c) We Measure Ourselves By Others Rather than God’s Law

Commonly we judge ourselves by comparing ourselves amongst ourselves, which is, as Paul says  “not wise” (2 Corinthians 10:12). We do not measure ourselves by the perfect rule of God’s holy Word, but rather by others who come short of that standard. We compare ourselves with the worst, and if we are not as bad as they are, we think ourselves good.

Others will compare with those who are good, but with the worst in them not that which is best. How often people identify a good man who is subject to certain weaknesses. Thus, self-love flatters itself, and, by flattering, deceives itself. But when we do this our pride and self conceit ascends, but the higher we in our own esteem the lower we are in God’s account. But the higher God is in our account, the higher we are in His (Matthew 23:12).

 

4. How Do We Avoid Denying Any Wrongdoing?

What should we do then, since sin is always within? Between 1 John 1:8 and 1 John 1:10 which warn against denying our sin is 1 John 1:9 which speaks of confession and forgiveness. This confession should continue as long as we are in this life. Confess your sins as long as you have them. Continually mourn over your daily failings. If that stream of corruption runs continually, let the stream of your confession run as incessantly. There is another stream: Christ’s blood. This runs constantly too, to cleanse you.

This shows the deceitfulness of many of our public and private confessions. They soon dry up and are not constant. There is no daily humbling of ourselves. It is merely by fits and starts responding to certain fleeting convictions. Thus, we quickly cover and bury our sins in oblivion and forget what kind of persons we are.

You have two desires and prayers to Christ: (a) that your sins may be forgiven; (b) that they may be subdued. Christ has two promises to satisfy you: (a) to forgive your sins; (b) to cleanse you from all unrighteousness. This is the great desire of such a truly penitent heart, to have sin purified and purged out of us as well as pardoned. The promise is not only to pardon sin, but to purge from sin. It is not only to cover it with the garment of Christ’s righteousness and the breadth of His infinite love. It is also to cleanse it by his Spirit effectually applying that blood to the purifying of the heart.  Believe He will both forgive you and in due time cleanse your heart from the love and delight of sin. Believe His promise, for “he is just and faithful to forgive sins.” His justice being now satisfied, is engaged to forgive, not to punish.

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The Complete Remedy for Human Miseries

The Complete Remedy for Human Miseries

The Complete Remedy for Human Miseries
Hugh Binning (1627–1653) was a young minister who also taught philosophy at the University of Glasgow. He was a prolific author and popular preacher with a gift for clear teaching.
3 Aug, 2018

​It’s common to make light of “first world problems”. These are the trivial frustrations that vex only those in wealthy countries: lack of wifi, battery charge or milk in the fridge.  A little perspective shows that they are nothing compared to the real human misery experienced across most of the planet. Yet those in the first world also experience the real miseries of this life: affliction, sickness and deep sorrow. But still we know nothing of the disease, war, displacement, oppression and general suffering of many nations. We must add to all this the spiritual misery of sin itself as well as its consequences and the condemnation that sin brings. Is it really possible that there can be a complete and perfect remedy for human misery? Does this claim too much?

There is a full and complete remedy for all human misery. It may not be an immediately entire eradication of misery but it does begin to remove it immediately in a real sense. Ultimately, that full eradication of misery will happen.

 

1. Human Misery is Comprised of Three Things

Hugh Binning observes that there are three things which coincide to make people miserable: sin, condemnation and affliction. Everyone may observe that “man is born unto trouble as the sparks fly upward,” that his days here are few and evil. He possesses “months of vanity, and wearisome nights are appointed” for him (Job 5:6-7; 7:3). He “is of few days and full of trouble” (Job 14:1).

The pagan philosophers meditated a great deal on the misery of human life. In this they outstripped most Christians. We only include certain afflictions and troubles such as poverty, sickness, reproach, banishment, and such like amongst our miseries. The philosophers included even natural necessities amongst our miseries. This included the constant revolution of the circle of eating, drinking, and sleeping. What a burden to an immortal spirit to roll about that wheel perpetually. We make more of the body than of the soul. They counted the body a burden to the soul. They placed posterity, honour, pleasure and such things, on which men pour out their souls amongst our greatest miseries. They saw them as vanity in themselves, and vexation, both in enjoying and losing them. But they did not recognise the fountain of all this misery—sin. Nor did they acknowledge the consummation of this misery—condemnation.

They thought trouble came out of the ground and dust either by natural necessity or by chance.  But the Word of God shows us its beginning and end. Its beginning was man’s defection from God and walking according to the flesh. All the calamities and streams of miseries in the world have this as their source. It has even extended to the whole creation and subjected it to vanity (Romans 8:20). Not only would man eat in sorrow but the curse is also on the ground. Man who was immortal will return to that dust which he magnifies more than the soul, (Genesis 3:17).

The beginning had all the evil of sin in it and the end has all the evil of punishment in it. The streams of this life’s misery run into an infinite, boundless and bottomless ocean of eternal wrath. If you live according to the flesh you will die. It is not only death here but eternal death after this. The miseries of this present life are not a proportionate punishment of sin. They are merely a downpayment of that great sum which is to be paid on the day of accounting. This is condemnation, “everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and the glory of his power” (2 Thessalonians 1:9).

 

2. The Complete Remedy for Human Misery

As the law reveals the perfect misery of mankind, so the gospel has brought to light a perfect remedy of all this misery. Jesus Christ was manifested to take away sin, His name is Jesus, “for he shall save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). This is the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world. Judgment was by one unto condemnation of all. But now there is “no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). Thus, these two evils are removed, which indeed have all evil in them. He takes away the curse of the law (being made under it) and then He takes away the sin against the law by His Holy Spirit. He has a twofold power, for He came by blood and water (1 John 5:6-7). By blood, to cleanse away the guilt of sin, and by water to purify us from sin itself.

But in the meantime, there are many of the afflictions and miseries common to mankind on us. Why are these not removed by Christ? The evil of them is taken away, though they themselves remain. Death is not taken away but the sting of death is removed. Death, afflictions and all are overcome by Jesus Christ, and so made His servants to do us good. The evil of them is God’s wrath and sin; these are removed by Jesus Christ. They would be taken away entirely if it was not for our good they remained, for “all things work together for good to them that love God” (Romans 8:28).

Thus, we have a most complete deliverance in extent but not in degree. Sin remains in us but not in dominion and power. Wrath sometimes kindles because of sin but it cannot increase to everlasting burnings. Afflictions and miseries may change their name and be called instructions and trials; good and not evil. But Christ has reserved the full and perfect deliverance until another day. It is therefore called the day of complete redemption (Romans 8:23). All sin, all wrath, all misery will then have an end and be swallowed up of life and immortality” (2 Corinthians 5:4).

This is the summary of the gospel. There is a threefold consolation which corresponds to our threefold evils (sin, affliction and condemnation). There is “no condemnation to them which are in Christ.” Here is a blessed message to condemned lost sinners who have that sentence of condemnation within (Romans 8:1). This was the purpose for Christ’s coming and dying. It was that He might deliver us from sin as well as death and the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us.

He has therefore given the Holy Spirit (and dwells in us by the Spirit) to quicken us who are “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). O what consolation this will be to souls that consider the body of death within them to be the greatest misery. They groan with Paul “O wretched man that I am!” (Romans 7:24).

But because there are many grounds of heaviness and sadness in this world, therefore the gospel opposes unto all these, both our expectation which we have of that blessed hope to come, whereof we are so sure, that nothing can frustrate us of it, and also the help we get in the meantime of the Spirit to hear our infirmities, and to bring all things about for good to us (Romans 8:28).

And from all this the believer in Jesus Christ has reasons for triumph and boasting before the perfect victory—even as Paul does in the name of believers in Romans 8:31 to the end. Not long ago he cried out, “O wretched man, who shall deliver me?” Now he cries out, “who shall condemn me?” The distressed wrestler becomes a victorious triumpher; the beaten soldier becomes more than a conqueror. O that your hearts could be persuaded to listen to this joyful sound—to embrace Jesus Christ for grace and salvation! How quickly would a song of triumph in Him swallow up all your present complaints and lamentations!

All the complaints amongst men may be reduced to one of these three. I hear most people bemoaning things in this way. Alas, for the miseries of this life, this evil world! Alas for poverty, for contempt, for sickness! Oh! miserable man that I am, who will take this disease away? Who will show me any good thing (Psalm 4:6); any temporal good? But if you knew and considered your latter end, you would cry out more. You would refuse to be comforted even though these miseries were taken away.

But I hear some bemoaning still more sadly—they have heard the law and the sentence of condemnation is within them. The law has entered and killed them. Oh! “what shall I do to be saved?” Who will deliver me from the wrath to come? What are all present afflictions and miseries in respect of eternity? Yet there is one moan and lamentation beyond all these, when the soul finds the sentence of absolution in Jesus Christ. Then it gets its eyes opened to see that body of death and sin within, that complete man of sin diffused throughout all the members. Then it bemoans itself with Paul, “O wretched man—who shall deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24). I am delivered from the condemnation of the law, but what comfort is it as long as sin is so powerful in me? Indeed, this makes me often suspect my deliverance from wrath and the curse, seeing sin itself is not taken away.

Now, if you could be persuaded to listen to Jesus Christ and embrace this gospel, O what abundant consolation you would have! What a perfect answer to all your complaints! They would be swallowed up in such triumph as Paul has here. This would reveal such a perfect remedy of sin and misery that you would not complain any more. Or at least, not as those without hope. You will never have a remedy for your temporal miseries unless you begin in relation to your eternal miseries, in seeking to prevent them. “Seek first the kingdom of God,” and all other things “shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33). Seek first to flee from the wrath to come and you will escape it and then afflictions (the evils of this life) will be removed. First remove the greatest complaints of sin and condemnation. How easy then it is to answer all the lamentations of this life, and make you rejoice in the midst of them!

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The Highest Wish of a Holy Heart

The Highest Wish of a Holy Heart

The Highest Wish of a Holy Heart
Hugh Binning (1627–1653) was a young minister who also taught philosophy at the University of Glasgow. He was a prolific author and popular preacher with a gift for clear teaching.
8 Jun, 2018

We can monitor the pulse of our soul by considering what we long for most frequently and in the strongest way. Our hearts naturally go out to that which we value most.  We may wish for and aspire to many things that are not only worthwhile but necessary. The farmer wishes for the right weather and the businessman favourable market conditions. Yet above all these are the highest wishes of the soul for our eternal good and the good of others. We desire that others would prosper in outward things but the prosperity of their souls comes first (3 John 2). Outward things are limited and finite but spiritual blessings are infinite.  We may desire everyone to be filled with these and the same fulness will remain in God.

Hugh Binning speaks of “the highest wish of a holy heart” for itself and those it loves best. He says it summarised in this: “The God of hope fill you with all peace and joy in believing” (Romans 15:13).

There is nothing can be spoken which sounds more sweetly in the ears of men than peace and joy. They do not need to be commended, everyone testifies to them in their affections. What does everyone seek after but this? They do not seek any outward earthly thing for itself, but rather for the peace and contentment the mind expects to find in it. Anyone would think themselves happy if they could attain this without having to go through all other things one by one. The believing Christian is merely a wise person, who is instructed where true peace and joy lie. They seek to be filled with these things themselves.

The Soul’s Feast
These are the fruits of the Spirit Paul desires to be filled with and feed on. He desires to feed on peace as an ordinary meal and joy as an extraordinary dessert, or a powerful cordial. The believer would refuse the finest food to sit at this table. It is a full feast which fills the soul with peace, joy and hope, as much as it is capable of in this life.

The Soul’s Fruits
The words of the verse point to both the root that produces these fruits and the branch that bears them. The root is the God of hope and the power of the Holy Spirit. A soul that has been grafted in as a living branch by faith into Christ receives strength to produce such pleasant fruits. They grow on the branch of believing, but the sap and life of both come from the Holy Spirit and the God of hope.

The Soul’s Streams
Think of it in a different way. This is the river which makes glad the city of God with its streams, it waters the garden of the Lord with its threefold stream. It is divided into three streams every one of which is derived from another. The first is peace — a sweet, calm and refreshing river which sometimes overflows like the river Nile. Then it runs in a stream of joy, which is the high spring tide but ordinarily it sends out the comforting stream of hope in abundance. This threefold river has a high source, as high as the God of hope and the power of the Holy Spirit. Yet the channel of the river runs on low ground, this channel is believing in Christ.

 

1. A Wish for Peace

Our Saviour found no better word to express His matchless good-will to the well-being of his disciples than peace. After His resurrection He said “Peace be unto you,” (Luke 24:36). As though He wished them absolute satisfaction and all the contentment and happiness that they themselves would desire.

We must consider this peace in relation to God, to ourselves, and fellow Christians. Brotherly concord and peace are the main subject of Romans chapter 15. This involves bearing with the weaknesses of our neighbour, not pleasing ourselves and similar mutual duties of charity.

But peace in relation to God and ourselves are most essential to happiness. The foundation of all our misery is the enmity between man and God. All our being, all our well-being, hangs on His favour. All our life and happiness is in His favour. But since the fall everyone is contrary to God, and in his affections and actions declares war against heaven.

When a soul sees this enmity and division in sad earnest, there is war in the conscience. The terrors of God raise up a terrible arm within, the bitter remembrance of sins. These are set in battle-array against the soul, and everyone pierces an arrow into his heart. It is the business of the gospel to quell this storm, because it reveals the glad tidings of peace and reconciliation with God. This is the only grounds for perfect calm in the conscience. The atonement which has pacified heaven and appeased justice is declared in this. Only this can pacify the troubled soul and calm the tumultuous waves of the conscience (Ephesians 2:13-20; Colossians 1:19-22).

God in Christ is reconciling sinners to Himself (2 Corinthians 5:19). He entreats us to lay down our hostile affections and the weapons of our warfare. The love of God carried into the heart with power, gives that sweet calm and pleasant rest to the soul, after all its tumult.  This commands the winds and waves of the conscience, and they obey it.

 

2. A Wish for Joy

Joy is the effect of peace. It flows out of it in the soul laying hold of the love of God and the inestimable benefit of the forgiveness of sins. It is peace in a large measure, running over and resulting in refreshing of all that is in the believer: “My heart and my flesh shall rejoice.” This is the very exuberance and high sailing-tide of the sea of peace that is in a believer’s heart. It swells sometimes on the favour of God beyond its usual bounds to a boasting in God. When a soul is filled with glory by the Holy Spirit in possessing what it hopes for it enlarges itself in joy. In this inward jubilation, the heart leaps for joy.

This is not the ordinary experience of a Christian. It is not even as constant as peace. These ripe fruits are not always on the table of every Christian, and for some not at all. It is sufficient that God keeps the soul in the healthy condition of being neither completely cast down or discouraged through difficulties and weakness. It is sufficient if God speaks peace to the soul, even though it is not acquainted with these raptures of Christianity.

It is not fitting that this would be our ordinary food, lest we mistake our pilgrimage for heaven, and start building tabernacles in this mount. We would not long so earnestly for the city and country of heaven, if we had anything more than tastes of that joy to sharpen our desires after its fulness. It is a fixed and unchangeable statute of heaven, that we should here live by faith, and not by sight.

The fulness of this life is emptiness to the next. But there is still a fulness in comparison with the abundance of the world. Their joys and pleasures, their peace and contentation in the things of this life, are only like “the crackling of thorns under a pot” (Ecclesiastes 7:6). They make a great noise, but vanish quickly. It is like the loudest laughter of fools, which has sorrow in it and ends in heaviness (Proverbs 14:13). It is superficial not solid. It is not heart joy but a picture and shadow of the gladness of the heart in the face outwardly. Whatever it may be, sorrow, grief, and heaviness inevitably follow at its heels.

But certainly the wisest and most learned men cannot have any real understanding of the life of a Christian, until they experience it. It is beyond their comprehension, and therefore called “the peace of God” which passes “all understanding,” (Philippians 4:7). It is a “joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8). The natural mind esteems foolishness whatever is spoken of the joy of the Spirit or the peace of conscience and abstaining from worldly pleasures.

 

3. A Wish for Hope

Our peace and joy is often interrupted in this life and very frequently weakened. It is not so full a feast as the Christian’s desire seeks. The enjoyment we have here does not reduce the pain of a Christian’s appetite, or supply their emptiness. Hope must make the feast complete and to moderate the soul’s desire until the fulness of joy and peace come. Though there is less of the other benefits, there is abundance of hope. The Christian can take as much of that as they can hold, it is both refreshing and strengthening. We cannot be pleased with having or enjoying anything without adding hope to it.

Everyone has their eyes on the future. Looking for future benefits can often reduce our current enjoyments. But the Christian’s hope is a very sure anchor within the veil, it is secured on the sure ground of heaven. This keeps the soul firm and steadfast (albeit not unmoved) but protected from tossing or drifting. As a helmet, it protects against the power and force of temptations. It guards the main part of a Christian and keeps resolutions towards God unharmed.

 

Conclusion

The source of these sweet and pleasant streams is the God of hope and the power of the Holy Spirit. There is power in God to make us happy and give us peace. The God of power, as well as hope, both can and will do this. In His promises and acts He given us grounds for hope in Himself. He is the chief object of hope and the chief cause of hope in us too. Everything is to be found in this fountain.

These streams run into the channel of believing, not doing. It is true, that righteousness and a holy life is a notable means to preserve them pure, unmixed and constant. The peace of our God will never live well with sin, the enemy of God. Joy, which is so pure a fountain cannot run in abundance in an impure heart. It will not mix with worldly pleasures. But the only source of true peace and joy is found by believing in Christ.

Whatever else you do to find them you will not find this solid peace and surpassing joy except by looking away from yourselves. You must fix your hearts on another object, Jesus Christ. “Peace and joy in believing”. What is this believing? It is the soul heartily embracing the promises of the gospel. Believing involves meditation on and deep consideration of these truths. Believing brings peace, and peace brings joy.

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The Greatest Lie We Can Tell Ourselves

The Greatest Lie We Can Tell Ourselves

The Greatest Lie We Can Tell Ourselves
Hugh Binning (1627–1653) was a young minister who also taught philosophy at the University of Glasgow. He was a prolific author and popular preacher with a gift for clear teaching.
27 Apr, 2018

Pop psychology believes that the worst thing we can do is not think positively about ourselves. Apparently we just need to have the right mindset and then we can do anything. Our negative thoughts then become “the lies we tell ourselves”. Biblical wisdom is far different. It reveals glorious truths and realities that provide us with more motivation than we could imagine. Yet it also reveals the uncomfortable truth about ourselves, leaving us with nowhere to hide. Unless we come to terms with this we will only deceive ourselves. The most glorious thing that the Bible says we can have is fellowship with God. Yet it is hindered by the greatest lie.

Both of these are brought together in one verse. “If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth” (1 John 1:6). Hugh Binning opens up the most glorious privilege and the greatest lie.

 

1. True Religion is in Fellowship with God

True religion consists not only in the knowledge of God but especially in conformity to Him and communion with him. Communion and fellowship with God is the great goal and design of the gospel. It is the great result of all a Christian’s efforts and progress. It is not only the greatest part of religion, but its very reward.

Godliness has its own reward of happiness without borrowing from external things. This sweet and fragrant fruit which perfumes the whole soul with delight and fills it with joy, springs out of conformity to God. This means assimilation of nature and disposition, some likeness to God imprinted on the soul again in holy affections and dispositions. It also means our will coinciding with the will of God, drowning it in the sea of His good pleasure and having His law in the inward parts.

What is the root of this conformity except the knowledge of God? This has the power to transform the soul into His likeness. You see then where true religion begins lowest and by what means it grows up to the sweet fruit of that eternal joy that shall be pressed out of the grapes of fellowship with God. So then, whatever is declared by God to us in His word concerning Himself is not only presented for our knowledge. It is especially also a pattern for imitation and an inflaming motive for our affection. This is the very substance of the verse “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5).

 

2. True Religion is Becoming More Like God

The end of your knowing God is to become more like God. Let us consider that we know only as much about God as we love, fear and are conformed to Him. Any knowledge which is not doing this or does not have this goal will serve no other purpose except to be a witness against us.

If you want fellowship with God then consider what you engage in and what kind of person He is. The intimate knowledge of one another is presupposed in all true friendship. You must know what God is if you want to have communion with Him. There is no communion without some conformity and no conformity without knowledge of Him. Therefore, as He is light, so the soul must be made light in Him and enlightened by Him. We must be transformed into that nature and made children of light who were children of darkness. Now, as there is a light of understanding and wisdom in God, and a light of holiness and purity, so there is in our souls, opposite to these, a darkness of ignorance, unbelief, sin, and impurity of affections. Now, “what communion can light have with darkness?”

Looking often on God until our souls are enlightened and our hearts purified advances the soul to the closest conformity with God. This gives the soul greatest capacity for blessed communion with God. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).

 

3. The Greatest Lie

There is nothing in which men allow themselves to be so easily deceived as in religion (the matter of greatest concern). The eternal welfare of their souls consists in this. There is no delusion either so gross or so universal in any other thing as in this thing. Delusion together with self-love (which always hoodwinks the mind and will not allow serious impartial self-examination) are at the bottom of this vain persuasion.

If anyone says they are a Christian they really say that they have fellowship with God.  In so far as you pretend to be Christians and yet do not profess holiness you fall under a twofold contradiction and commit a twofold lie. The first is between your profession and practice and the second is in your profession itself.

Your practice is directly contrary to the very general profession of Christianity. You affirm you are Christians and yet refuse the profession of holiness. You say you hope for heaven and yet do not so much as pretend to godliness and walking spiritually. Without this the name of Christian is empty, vain, and ridiculous.

This is the greatest most dangerous lie. It is the greatest lie because it takes in the whole of someone’s life. It is one great universal lie, a lie composed of infinite contradictions and innumerable individual lies. Every step, every word and action is in its own nature contrary to that holy profession. But all combined together it makes up a black constellation of lies—one powerful lie against the truth. And, besides, it is not against a particular truth but against the whole complex of Christianity.

Error is a lie against the particular truth it opposes but the whole course of an ignorant, ungodly life is one continued lie against the whole body of Christianity and Christian truth. It is a lie extended across the length of many weeks, months and years against the whole fabric of Christian profession. There is nothing in the calling of a Christian that is not retracted, contradicted and reproached by it.

O that you could examine your ways and see what a cluster of lies and inconsistencies is in them. See what reproaches these practical lies cast on the honour of your Christian calling. They tend by their very nature to disgrace the truth and blaspheme God’s name. It is no less than a denial of Jesus Christ and a real renunciation of Him. It puts you outside the refuge of sinners and is most likely to keep you outside the blessed city where nothing that makes a lie can enter (Revelation 21:27). What shall then become of them whose life all along has been but one continued lie?

 

4. The Greatest Lie We Can Tell Ourselves

“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). Some are ready to think too highly of themselves. They do not see themselves in  a way that may intermingle humble mourning. Rather, they measure their attainments by their desires. Now, indeed, this is in effect, and really to say, “we have no sin” ( 1 John 1:8). We are infinitely below either our duty or our desire, and need to be reminded of this often in order not to be drunk with self-deceit in relation to this.

Are there not many Christians who, having experienced sorrow for sin and comfort by the gospel and engage in religious duties who stop in this without desiring further progress? They think that if they keep that attainment all is well with them. They make few endeavours after more communion with God, or purification from sin. This makes them degenerate into formalism. They wither and become barren and are exposed by this to many temptations which overcome them. Is this not to really say, “we have no sin?”

Do not your walk and frame of spirit imply as though you had no sin to wrestle with, no more holiness to aspire to, as if you had no further race to run to obtain the crown? Do not deceive yourselves, by thinking it sufficient to have so much grace as may (in your opinion) put you over the line. As though you would seek no more than what is precisely necessary for salvation. Some may find that this is a self destroying deceit and they have not in fact passed over that line between heaven and hell.

 

5. True Religion is Beautiful in Practice

There is nothing so contrary to religion as a false appearance. Religion is a most complete thing, harmonious in all its parts. It is the same inside and out, in expression and action, all corresponding together. Now, to mar this harmony and to compose it out of dissimilar parts and make one part contradict the other is to make religion ugly and deformed. This happens when the course of a man’s life, in ignorance, negligence, and sin declare what is contrary to the profession of Christianity.

Practice is real knowledge because it is living knowledge. It is the very life and soul of Christianity when nothing more is needed except the intimation of God’s will to move the whole being. This is what we should all aspire to and not satisfy ourselves in our poor attainments below this.

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Astonishing Evidence for God All Around Us

Astonishing Evidence for God All Around Us

Astonishing Evidence for God All Around Us
Hugh Binning (1627–1653) was a young minister who also taught philosophy at the University of Glasgow. He was a prolific author and popular preacher with a gift for clear teaching.
16 Feb, 2018

Even Richard Dawkins admits that when we consider the intricate complexity of the natural world around us it reveals design. The difference of course is that he says that our eyes are deceiving us. It is only the appearance or illusion of design. In other words, he extols a triumph of blind faith over common sense. We see design all around us in terms of technology and media and we never dream of questioning if there was a designer. Faith and God’s Word, however, confirm what our senses and common sense tell us, there is design in nature and there must be a Designer, which is God.

Nature reveals an astonishing intricacy in terms of design. Wherever we look, near or far, we see design –  the galaxies, the earth’s ecosystem, the living cell, bacteria, DNA, bird flight and the human body. The inescapable conclusion is that there is a Designer. Many organisms have a beauty and sophistication far beyond what is needed to make them merely fittest to survive.

Hugh Binning (1627–1653) taught philosophy at the University of Glasgow and later a minister in the same city. A prolific author, he had a formidable intellect and knowledge of theology and philosophy. Yet he was able to explain things in a clear and concise way. Here he dwells on the way that the glory of God revealed in His Creation should fill us with wonder.

 

1. The Evidence for a Designer

God is that self-being who gave all things a being, who made the heavens and the earth. This is the most glorious manifestation of an invisible and eternal Being. The things that are made show Him forth. Suppose a man was travelling into a far country and wandered into a wilderness where he could see no inhabitants but only houses, villages and built up cities. He would immediately conclude that some workmen had done this; this had not been done casually but by the skill of some rational creatures.

How much more may we conclude the same when we look on the fabric of this world. We see how the heavens are stretched out for a tent to cover those that dwell on the earth. The earth is settled and established as a firm foundation for men and living creatures to live on. All things have been done in wisdom. We cannot but immediately imagine that there must be some skilful and wise designer and mighty creator of these things.

“Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed” (Hebrews 11:3). Indeed only faith in the word of God gives a true and distinct understanding of it. There have been innumerable wanderings and mistakes of the wise of the world about this matter because they lack this lamp and light of the word of God, which alone gives a true and perfect account of it. They have fallen into many strange imaginations. There is so much of the glory of God engraved on the creatures without and so much reason imprinted on the souls of men within that it is certain no-one could seriously and soberly consider the visible world without being constrained to conceive of an invisible God. This would be so were it not for the judgement of a darkened understanding in those who do not glorify Him in as far as they know Him.

Would everyone not think within themselves that all these things, which are so excellent, cannot come from chance or make themselves? They clearly owe their being to something beside themselves. It is certain that that to which they owe their being cannot itself originate from any other thing otherwise it would be endless. There must therefore be some Supreme Being, derived from nothing else and from which all things have come.

 

2. The Wise Goodness of the Designer

God made all these things “very good” (Genesis 1:31) to declare His goodness and wisdom. Creation may be called a large book extended and spread out before the eyes of all men, to be seen and read of all. It is certain that if these things in their order and harmony, being and qualities were considered in relation to God’s majesty, they would teach and instruct both the fool and the wise man in the knowledge of God. How many engravings He has made on creation to reflect to any seeing eye the very image of God!

Consider the vast and huge dimensions of the heavens and the earth, yet they are merely one throne to His majesty and earth (in which many palaces are constructed by men) His footstool. Consider the sheer multitude of creatures, the variety of birds in the sky and the multiplicity of animals on the earth. They are hosts as Moses speaks (Genesis 2:1). Yet none of all these are useless, all of them have some special purposes that they serve. There is no discord or disorder, nothing superfluous or lacking in this whole kingdom. All declare the wisdom of Him who “made every thing beautiful in its time” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

Everything is most fit for the use for which it was created so that the whole earth is full of His goodness. He makes every creature good one for another to supply one another’s needs. The elements and the things made from them have so many different natures and compositions yet all these opposites are so moderated by supreme skill that together they make up one excellent and sweet harmony or beautiful proportion in the world. O how wise must He be who alone contrived it all! We can do nothing unless we have some design or pattern before us. But when God stretched out the heaven, and laid the foundation of the earth was instructed or counselled Him. Certainly, none of all these things would have entered into the heart of man to consider or contrive (Isaiah 40:12-13).

There are wonders which faith can contemplate in the smallest and most inconsiderable of the creatures. O the ingenuity and skill of the finger of God in the composition of flies, bees, flowers etc. People ordinarily admire extraordinary things more, but the truth is that the whole course of nature is one continued wonder.

 

3. Wonder at the Designer

You say that God made heaven and earth but how often do you think on that God? How often do you think on Him with admiration? Do you ever wonder at the glory of God when you gaze on His works? This volume is always observable before your eyes — everything showing and declaring this glorious Creator. Yet who takes any more notice of Him in this than if He were not at all? Such is the general dullness that many never ponder and digest these things in their heart. They should do this until their soul receives the stamp of the glory and greatness of the invisible God which shines most brightly in those things that are visible. By this they ought to be in some measure transformed in their minds and conformed to these glorious manifestations of God engraved in large letters in everything that can be seen.

 

4. Faith in the Designer

The apostle says “through faith we understand that the worlds were framed”. This is the same faith spoken of in the end of Hebrews 10 by which the “just shall live”. To believe with the heart in God, the Creator and Father Almighty is an aspect of saving faith. Faith should view God’s almighty power, and sufficient goodness and infinite wisdom, shining in the fabric of the world with delight and admiration at such a glorious fountain-being. Faith should climb up to view His majesty by considering it in His creation. The saints in the Old Testament did this to a greater extent than we do. They had more excellent and becoming thoughts of God than we. It should make Christians ashamed that heathens who had no other book opened to them but that of nature, read it more diligently than we do. The saints of old who did not have such a clear testimony of God as we now have, learnt more from the book of Creation than we do both out of it and the Scriptures.

We look on all things with such a careless eye and do not observe what may be found of God in them. Truly, I think there are many Christians and ministers of the gospel, who do not ascend into those high and ravishing thoughts of God in His being and works as would be fitting even mere scientists. How little can they speak of His majesty or think as befits His transcendent glory! There is very little in sermons that contains wonder or unique thoughts of a Deity but in all these we are as careless as if He were an idol.

FURTHER READING

Contemporary books which focus on the evidence around us and are easy to follow include Hallmarks of Design and He Made the Stars Also by Stuart Burgess. They are published by Day One Publications.

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What Can We Learn from Falling Leaves?

What Can We Learn from Falling Leaves?

What Can We Learn from Falling Leaves?
Hugh Binning (1627–1653) was a young minister who also taught philosophy at the University of Glasgow. He was a prolific author and popular preacher with a gift for clear teaching.
27 Oct, 2017

The carpet of golden, russet and even purple leaves daily gathers around us. Autumn has its own nostalgic beauty. It also brings glory to the Creator. These tints speak to us of decay as well as change. Eventually the leaves lose their splendour as they wither and decompose on the ground. We ought to draw spiritual lessons from the book of creation and Scripture directs us to that. Fallen and withered leaves speak of the decay and change that occurs in individuals and nations. Are we learning the visual lesson?

Hugh Binning expounds the solemn lament of Isaiah 64:6: we “fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away”. He even draws spiritual lessons from the falling sap and dying light of autumn. What does this teach us about our own spiritual condition, the condition of those around us and that of our land as a whole?

 

1. Sin Brings Decay

Sins and iniquities have a great influence in the decay of nations and individuals and change in their outward condition, when it is joined with the wind of God’s displeasure. This people’s calamity is described by alluding to a tree in the fall of the leaf. We were (he says) once in our land as a green tree with leaves and fruit. Our Church and state were once in a flourishing condition, at least nothing was lacking to make outward splendour and glory. We were immovable in our own land, as David said in his prosperity, “I shall never be moved,” so we dreamt of eternity in earthly Canaan.

But now we are like a tree when the leaf falls. Sin has obstructed the influence of heaven and drawn away the sap of God’s presence from among us so that we fade as a leaf before its fall. Our sins prepared us for judgment. Our iniquities raised the storm of indignation that, like a whirlwind, has blown the withering leaves off the tree, driven us out of our own land and scattered us among strangers. Sin and uncleanness and the filthiness of our righteousness prepared us for the storm. It made us light so that we could resist no judgment. It made us combustible. Iniquities and sin rising up to iniquities (coming to such a degree) have accomplished the judgment and put fire among us.

 

2. Do Not Trust in Prosperity

It is familiar in the Scripture that people in a prosperous condition are compared to a green tree flourishing. The wicked’s prospering is like a green bay tree spreading himself in power, spreading out his arms, as it were, over more lands to conquer them, over more people, to subject them (Psalm 37:35). This is a trial to the godly. The Lord Himself bore witness of His people that they were “a green olive tree, fair and of goodly fruit” (Jeremiah 11:16). This was once their name, though it is now changed.

Now they are called a fading, withering tree without leaves or fruit. Now their place does not know them, they are removed as in a moment (Psalm 37:36). He uses this comparison in order to bring us to understand something of the nature of human glory and pomp. The fairest and most beautiful excellence in the world, the prosperity of nations and people, is only like the glory of a tree in the spring or summer.

Do not build your nest in your outward prosperity; these leaves of prosperity will not cover you always, there is a time when they will fall. Nations have their winter and their summer, individuals have them likewise. Just as these must change in nature, so they must in the lot of men. Only heaven only is continual spring, perpetually blossoming and bringing forth fruit. The tree of life that brings forth fruit every month, that has both spring and harvest all year round is there. Christians, do not sit down under the green tree of worldly prosperity, if you do, the leaves will come down about you. The gourd you trust in may be eaten up in a night, your winter will come on so that you will forget the former days as if they had never been.

Be prepared for changes. All things are subject to revolution and change. Every year has its own summer and winter. Thus the Lord has set the one over against the other, that man might find nothing after him (Ecclesiastes 7:14).

 

3. What Causes Decay?

What is the moth that eats up the glory and goodliness of created enjoyments? It is sin and iniquities. Sin raises the storm of the Lord’s wrath and blows away the withered leaves of men’s enjoyments. Sin dries up all the sap and sweetness of the creature comforts. It makes the leaves of the tree wither and drives the sap away to the root. It hinders the influence of God’s blessing from coming through the veins of outward prosperity. What is the virtue and sap of created things? It is God’s blessing, and therefore bread does not nourish without God’s word and command (Matthew 4:4).

We have a right through Christ to enjoy created things when we receive them by prayer and thanksgiving. This is what sanctifies our right to anything. But the iniquities of men separate between God and them (Isaiah 59:2). When God is separated and divided from things enjoyed, they are empty shells and husks with no kernel in them. This is because God fills all in all, He is all in all. Remove Him and you have nothing—your food and drink is no blessing, your table is a snare, your pleasures and laughter have sadness in them. They are at best like the vanishing blaze of thorns under a pot.

When God is angry due to sin, man’s beauty is consumed as before the moth (Psalm 39:11).  David was conscious of this and could speak from much experience (Psalm 32:3-4). The anger of the Lord ate him up and dried his moisture. It might be read in his face – all the world could not content him, all the showers of creatures’ dropping fatness could not keep sap in him. God’s displeasure scorches him so greatly that no hiding-place can be found in the world, no shadow of a rock among all the creatures in such a weary land.

 

4. Blown Away with the Wind of Judgment

When sin has prepared a man for judgment, if iniquity is then added to sin it raises up the storm and kindles the fire to consume the combustible matter. Sin gives many blows at the root of things in which we find pleasure and value. It will ultimately bring the fatal stroke that will drive the tree to the ground. There are some preparatory judgments and some final, some wither the leaf and some blow it off completely.

Some judgments make men like the harvest, ripe for the sickle of judgment. The widespread corruption of a land and mere formality in worshipping God, ripens a land for the harvest of judgment. It exposes it to any storm and leaves it open to the Lord’s wrath. There is then nothing to hold His hand and keep back the stroke but when the wind arises and iniquities have made it tempestuous, who may stand? It will sweep away nations and people as a flood, and make their place not to know them, so that there will be neither leaf nor branch left.

There is often a great calm with great provocation. Iniquities cry, “Peace, peace!” But when its cry has gone up to heaven and has engaged God’s anger against a people or an individual, then it raises a whirlwind that takes everything away.

We ought to acknowledge sin and it is a wonder that our nation is not punished in this way. Sins and iniquities bring judgment in their train. Now you sit at peace, everyone in his own dwelling and spread forth your branches. Yet your carnal peace, security and ease need to be disturbed with these thoughts. If there was nothing more against us except the iniquity of our holy things (the casual, formality of our way of serving and worshipping God) this might be enough to raise the storm.

You do not know the reasons that ought to make you afraid of judgment. Consider original sin and how your religious actions are defiled and you will find sufficient evidence of fading away. You sit still now and seem to be so settled as though you will never be moved, you dream of an eternity here. Your hearts cleave to your houses and lands, you stick as closely to the world and will not part with it, as a leaf to a tree. Yet behold the wind of the Lord may arise that will drive you away. If your soul is removed from these things then whose will they be? If you will not fear temporal judgments, fear eternal judgment—fear hell. May the Lord not shake you off this tree of time and take you out of the land of the living, to receive your portion?

There is not only a universal deadness of spirit in the land but a profane spirit — iniquities, abominable sins, abound. Every congregation is overgrown with open disobedience. We are all unclean, sin is not hidden in corners but men declare their sin as Sodom, sin is come to maturity. Defection and apostasy is the temper of all spirits. Above all, the iniquity of Scotland is the general contempt and slighting of the glorious gospel. We wonder that the withered leaves still stick to the tree, that the storm is not yet raised so that we are blown away. Now, you are like stones – your hearts are as adamants and cannot be moved with God’s threatening. The voice of the Lord’s Word will not move you. You sin and are not afraid but when the voice of God’s rod and displeasure will roar it will make the mountains tremble, the rocks move.  How much more will it drive away a leaf? You seem to be like mountains now but when God will enter into judgment you will be like the chaff driven to and fro.

 

5. The Remedy

If you would prevent this, engage in serious acknowledgment of your sins. “Search your ways, and turn again to the Lord.” Do not merely confess sin in general, but uncover it till you see uncleanness. Go to the source original sin then go to all the streams, even the iniquity of holy things. Let everyone be specific in searching out their own personal provocations personal.  Let everyone confess the general sins of the land, that you may confess out of knowledge and a felt sense “We are all as an unclean thing…”.

 

Conclusion

Fallen leaves present an often beautiful picture. Yet in the light of Scripture they have a solemn message for our land and for ourselves, especially if we have a spirit of carelessness. Such lessons drawn from nature should be part of the lovingkindness of God that leads us to repentance and prayer. We ought also to have the hope of a spiritual springtime when the spiritual life and sap of God’s blessing rises again. Even when the leaves have been shed the life remains in the tree. Like “an oak, whose substance is in them, when they cast their leaves” (Isaiah 6:13). In the same way, the Lord is able to revive us spiritually.

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The Only Way to Know if We Are on the Right Path

The Only Way to Know if We Are on the Right Path

The Only Way to Know if We Are on the Right Path
Hugh Binning (1627–1653) was a young minister who also taught philosophy at the University of Glasgow. He was a prolific author and popular preacher with a gift for clear teaching.
18 Aug, 2017

What is worth knowing unless we know our purpose in this life and how to achieve it? Most people walk through life with random aimlessness because they do not consider either. The apostle Paul speaks of this as walking “in the vanity of their mind” (Ephesians 4:17). They simply pursue their own gratification or glorification. Their purposes and plans vary according to their inclinations or circumstances. Some seek to gratify pride by honour, others to satisfy their lust by pleasure. Then there are those who feed their covetousness with wealth. If everyone was seeking true happiness they would all pursue the same goal by the same means. It is essential to know whether we are on the right path.

Hugh Binning makes these observations in directing us to the truth. He notes that those who are not in the right way find that the faster they seem to move toward their goal, the further they go from it. Wandering from the right way only takes them further away from true happiness. Therefore it concerns us all most deeply to be acquainted with the true path of blessedness. If we are mistaken about it, the more we do and the swifter we move, the more distant we will be from it.

 

1. It is Easy to be Mistaken About the Right Path

There is even greater necessity because there are so many by-paths that lead to destruction. Not by-paths indeed but highways, beaten paths, that the multitude walk in. They never question it, nor can endure being challenged as to whether they are going wrong. In other journeys, men keep to the highway and are afraid of any secret by-way, in case it leads them wrong. In this case the highway leads wrong (far wrong), to hell.

This is the meaning of Christ’s instruction not to walk not in the broad way where many walk, for it leads to destruction. You must be persuaded that the course of this world—the way of most—is dangerous, is damnable. O consider where this way will lead you, before you go further. Do not think it foolish to stand still now and examine it when you have gone on so long in their company. Stand and consider!

Do not be ignorant like mere animals that know nothing else except to follow the herd. They do no follow where they ought to go, but where most go. You have rational souls within you; therefore I beseech you, do not be moulded according to custom and example, that is to be like brute beasts. Walk according to some inward knowledge and reason. Withdraw from the multitude and ask God earnestly: “What is the way?” God will teach those that fear Him the way that he should choose (Psalm 25:12).

 

2. We Need the Right Guide for the Right Path

The way to this blessed end is very narrow, very difficult. You must have a guide in it—you must have a lamp and a light in it—else you cannot but go wrong. The principles of reason within us are too dark and dim; they will never lead us through the pits and snares in the way. These shined so brightly in Adam that he needed no light or voice outside of him; but sin has extinguished this greatly. Nothing remains but a little spark under the ashes of much corruption. This is insufficient in itself and most often blinded and darkened by lusts. No matter how much reason is refined (as with the classical heathen philosophers) it is only the blind leading the blind and both must fall into the ditch.

Our goal is high and divine—to glorify God and to enjoy Him. Reason can no more steadfastly behold that glorious goal and move towards it, than our weak eyes can behold the sun. Our eyes can look downward on the earth but not upward to the heavens. We have some remnant of reason in us with poor limited ability for matters of little moment like the things of this life. If we look upward to the glory of God, or eternal happiness, our eyes are dazzled, our reason confounded and we cannot steadfastly behold it (Ephesians 4:18; 2 Corinthians 3:13-14).

 

3. The Only True Guide for the Right Path

For this reason the Lord has given us the Scriptures as “a lamp to our feet” and a guide to our way. They are like a candle or light shining in a dark place “until the day dawn” (2 Peter 1:19). These are “able to make us wise unto salvation” (2 Timothy 3:15). Although there is much light in the Scriptures to guide men’s way to God’s glory and their own happiness, yet it will all be to little purpose if the eyes of our understanding are darkened and blinded.

Even if you surround a man with daylight he cannot see unless he opens his eyes. The Scriptures are a clear sun of life and righteousness, but the blind soul surrounded with that light is none the wiser. He thinks the lamp of the Word does not shine because he does not see and has his own dungeon within. Therefore the Spirit of God must open the eyes of the blind, and enlighten the eyes of the understanding, that the soul may see wonderful things in God’s law (Psalm 119:5, 18).

 

Conclusion

Let this be established in your hearts as the foundation of all true religion, that the Scriptures are the Word of the eternal God. They contain a perfect and exact rule for glorifying God and the way to enjoy Him. They can make you perfect for every good work. As you love your own souls, acquaint yourselves with them.

Hold fast what you have received, and “contend earnestly” for it. Add nothing to it and diminish nothing from it. Let this lamp shine till the day dawn, till the morning of the resurrection and walk in the light of it. Do not kindle any other sparks otherwise you lie down in the grave in sorrow, and rise in sorrow. Take the Word of God as the only rule, and the perfect rule.

It is a rule for all your actions, secular and religious. All must be done to His glory and His word teaches us how to attain to that. Do not let your imaginations, others example, the preaching of men, the decisions of Church courts be your rule, except in so far as you find them agreeing with the perfect rule of God’s Holy Word. All other rules are but like publications and intimations of the rule itself. Decisions of Church courts are only like the herald proclaiming the king’s statute and law: if they varies in anything from His intention, they are not valid and binding. Take the Scriptures for the rule of your walk or else you will wander, the Scriptures are a ruling rule. If you are not acquainted with them, you must follow the opinions or examples of other men, and what if they lead you unto destruction?

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The following articles by Hugh Binning develop these principles further:

Why are We Here?

and 

Can Reading Really Save Your Life?

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Why Are We Here?

Why Are We Here?

Why Are We Here?
Hugh Binning (1627–1653) was a young minister who also taught philosophy at the University of Glasgow. He was a prolific author and popular preacher with a gift for clear teaching.
31 Mar, 2017

Many struggle to get a satisfactory answer to such a simple question. Some have concluded that there is no such final answer and the meaning we seek cannot be found. If the ultimate reality is only matter shaped by random blind chance then seeking meaning is a pointless exercise. But an infinite personal God guarantees meaning and a satisfactory answer to this question.

Hugh Binning taught philosophy at Glasgow University as well as being a minister. He was therefore well-qualified to answer this question. The following is an updated extract from one of his lectures. It focuses on the first question of the Shorter Catechism “What is the chief end of man?” The answer is “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever”. This is a simple but very profound answer to the question “Why are we here?”

 

1. What Is Most Important for Us to Know?

All that we are required to know may be summarised under these two headings: (a) our purpose and (b) how we must attain that purpose. All we are required to do is to achieve that purpose by any means.

This is the first priority in all arts and every business and is especially necessary in Christianity too. It is the first cause of all human actions and the first principle of all deliberate activity. Unless you are going to walk randomly – not knowing where you are going or what you are doing – you must first establish and fix your intention. “What is the great purpose for which I have been created and sent into the world?” If you do not ask this and settle it aright, you will do nothing or else nothing purposefully or that which is even worse, you will do that which will undo you. Establishing this one thing in the wrong way certainly makes most of our activities either completely unprofitable or destructive and harmful.

Since this point has first place in the catechism, it ought to be laid to heart first of all and pondered as the one thing necessary. “One thing is needful”  says Christ, (Luke 10:42). If any thing is most necessary of all this is it. O that you would consider it according to its necessity and weight!

 

2. What Is Our Chief Purpose?

There are two Scripture verses which deal with the ultimate and chief purpose of man, which is glorifying God by all our actions, words and thoughts (Romans 11:36; 1 Corinthians 10:31). In these we have the following important matters:

  • God’s glory is the purpose of our being.
  • God’s glory should be the purpose of our doing.
  • The basis for both of these. Since both being and doing are from God, they ought therefore to be both for him. He is the first cause of both and therefore he ought to be the ultimate purpose of both. “Of him, and through him…are all things”. All things are for Him and therefore all things should be done to Him.

 

3. Why is God our Ultimate Purpose?

God is altogether independent and self-sufficient. This is His royal prerogative in which He infinitely transcends all created perfection. He is of Himself and for Himself. He is from no other and for no other: “of him, and for him…are all things” (Romans 11:36).

He is the fountain-source. You ought to follow the streams up to this and then rest because you can go no further. Even the most perfect creature is limited and imperfect: it is from another and for another. Its source is in the fountain of God’s immense power and goodness and it must run towards that again until it empties all its faculties and excellencies into that same sea of goodness.

Dependence is essential to a created being — dependence on that infinite, independent Being for their first cause and ultimate purpose. This principle is engraved in the very nature of man. It is as certain and evident that man is made for God’s glory and for no other purpose as that he is from God’s power and no other cause. “That which may be known” of man’s chief purpose, “is manifest in them”‘ so that all are “without excuse”. It is evident unless men violate their own conscience and put out their own eye as the Gentiles in Romans 1:19.

God’s being is independent – there is no more suitable name than the one He gives Himself, “I am that I am”. This implies a boundless, ineffable, absolute and transcendent being. It is the glorious perfection of His nature that He does “all things for himself” (Proverbs 16:4). He does them for His own name and His glory is as dear to Him as Himself. “I am the Lord, that is my name, and [therefore] my glory will I not give to another” (Isaiah 42:8 and 48:11).

 

4. Why is Our Ultimate Purpose Not in Ourselves?

For a man to seek his own glory or search into it “is not glory” (Proverbs 25.27) but rather a man’s shame. Self-seeking in creatures is an unnatural thing. It is as absurd and unfit for a creature to seek its own glory, as to attribute its own being to its own agency. Will the thing formed say to the potter that he has not made it? That would be ridiculous. Will the thing formed say that it is made for itself? That would be equally ridiculous. Self-denial is the beauty of a creature and therefore humility is an ornament and clothing (1 Peter 5:5). Honour upholds the humble spirit (Proverbs 29:23).

 

5. Why is it Not Wrong for God to Seek His Own Glory?

But God’s self-seeking and seeking His own glory is His eminent excellence. It is indeed His glory because He is and there is none else. There is nothing besides Him except that which has issued from His incomprehensible fullness. There is thefore all the reason in the world that as He is the beginning so He should be the end of all things (Revelation 1:8). Seeking His own glory is not prejudicial to the creature’s good but in glorifying Himself, He is most beneficial to His own creatures.

Ambition in man robs and spoils  what is excellent in others for itself  and then boasts itself in these borrowed feathers! But our blessed Lord is doing most for our benefit when He does all for His own glory. He does not need to go outside of Himself to seek perfection but manifests what He is in Himself  and communicates from Himself to us. O blessed self-seeking that gave us a being and wellbeing; that gains no advantage by it but gives advantage! He has the honour of all but we have the benefit of all.

God has made all things for Himself and especially man for His own glory to display the glory and excellence of His power, goodness, holiness, justice, and mercy in Him. It is not only most reasonable therefore that man should do all things to the glory of God but it is his beauty and perfection. This is the greatest possible accession to his existence—to glorify God by that existence. We are not our own, therefore we ought not to live to ourselves but to God to whom we belong.

 

6. What is it to Glorify God?

Is it any advantage to the Almighty that we are righteous? No indeed! Here is the vast difference between God’s glorifying and sanctifying us, and our glorifying and sanctifying Him. God’s glorifying is creative — ours only declarative. He makes us such, we do no more but declare Him to be such. This then is the work that man was created for, to be a witness of God’s glory and give testimony to its manifestation in God’s ways of power, justice, mercy and truth.

To glorify God is to conceive of Him and meditate on His name in our souls until they receive the impression of His glorious name. We are then to express this in our words and actions, commending Him and obeying Him. Our souls should be like wax bearing the seal of His glorious attributes of justice, power, goodness, holiness, and mercy. As water reflects the beams of the sun back again, so our spirits should receive the sweet, warming beams of His love and glorious excellency and then reflect them towards His Majesty, with the desires and affections of our souls. All our thoughts of Him and all our affections towards Him should declare there is none like Him or besides Him.

A soul will glorify God when love so unites it to God and makes it one spirit with Him. His glory becomes our honour and becomes the principle of all our inward affections and outward actions. It is not always possible to have express particular thoughts of God and His glory in every action and meditation. For the most part, however, it ought to be so.

If souls were accustomed to meditating on God it would become their very nature  and be delightful. Even though we may not always have an express intention towards God’s glory we ought always to maintain a spirit that may be construed to proceed from intending God’s glory.

 

7. How does Redemption Restore our Ultimate Purpose?

“All men have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). That glory is the reason for man being in the world and he has come short of it. O strange shortcoming! Short of all that he was ordained for!  But behold! the goodness of the Lord and his kindness and love has “appeared toward man. Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us” “through Jesus Christ” (Titus 3:4-6). Our Lord Jesus, by whom and for whom all things were created  would not let this excellent workmanship perish and He therefore goes about the work of redemption.

This is a second creation with greater labour and glory than the first. This is the purpose of His second creation, as it was of the first: “We are his workmanship created to good works in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:10).  He has made us again and paid a price for us and so we are twice bound not to be our own but His, and so to glorify him in our bodies and spirits (1 Corinthians 6:20).  We once came short of our goal —God’s glory and our happiness; but it is attainable again. We lost both but both are found in Christ. Awake then and stir up your spirits, otherwise it will be double condemnation (when we have the offer of being restored our former blessed condition) to love our present misery better.

 

8. When Will We Begin to Ask This Question?

Ask yourself “Why am I here? Why have I come into the world?” If you do not ask this what will you answer when God asks you when you appear before his judgement seat? You have been sent into the world only for this business to serve the Lord. If you answer truthfully  (as you will have to —you cannot lie then) you must say, “Lord, I spent my time in serving my own lusts. I was taken up with other business etc”. Imagine if an ambassador reported to his government on his negotiations: “I was busy at cards and dice. I spent my money and wore my clothes”. Though you think your ploughing and borrowing and trading and reaping very necessary, yet certainly these are but as trifles and toys compared to the main business.

O what a dreadful account will souls give! They come here for no purpose but to serve their bodies and senses, to be slaves to all the creatures which were once put under man’s feet. Now man is under the feet of all and he has put himself under them.  You seek these created things as if you were created for them and not they for you. You seek yourselves as if you came from yourselves and not from God. You were not made for that purpose nor yet redeemed either to serve yourselves or other creatures but that other creatures might serve you and you might serve God (Luke 1:74-75). And this is really the best way to serve ourselves and to save ourselves—to serve God. Self-seeking is self-destroying; self-denying is self-saving, soul-saving. He that seeks to save his life shall lose it, and he that loses his life shall find it, and he that denies himself and follows Christ, is His disciple (Luke 9:23-24).

When will you sit down and be truly earnest about this business? ‘It is lamentable only to begin to learn to live when you must die! You will be  almost out of the world before you ask “Why did I come into the world?” This is the most lamentable thing of all —many souls end their life before they begin to live. For what is our life but a living death as long as we do not live to God, and do not live in relation to the great end of our life and being,—the glory of God? It would be better, says Christ, that such “had never been born”.  It concerns you who are created again in Jesus Christ most of all to ask, “Why have I been made? And why am I redeemed? For what purpose?” It is certainly so that you may glorify your heavenly Father, (Matthew 5:16; Psalm 56:13). And you will glorify Him if you bring forth much fruit, and continue in His love, (John 15:8-9). Therefore abide in Him by faith that you may honour Him and bring forth fruit (John 5:23; 15:4).

Here is the summary of how to glorify God. Receive salvation from Him freely, righteousness and eternal life. This is placing your seal of approval on God’s truth and grace and mercy. Whoever counts the Son worthy to be a Saviour to them and places their seal of approval on Him whom God the Father has sent and sealed also honours the Father. He that honours the Father will be honoured “for them that honour me I will honour” (1 Samuel 2:30) says the Lord. “He that serves me, him will my Father honour” (John 12:26).

God is the delight of such a soul and such a soul is God’s delight. That soul sets God in a high place, in a throne in its heart. God sets that soul in a heavenly place with Christ (Ephesians 2:6). He comes down to sit with us and dwells in us from off His throne of majesty (Isaiah 66:1-2 and 57:15).

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The Bible’s Main Teachings in 2 Words

The Bible’s Main Teachings in 2 Words

The Bible’s Main Teachings in 2 Words
Hugh Binning (1627–1653) was a young minister who also taught philosophy at the University of Glasgow. He was a prolific author and popular preacher with a gift for clear teaching.
10 Feb, 2017

Summarising a book of more than 780, 000 words is a colossal challenge. Especially when it is a book infinitely more important than any other. Perhaps it is impossible to do that meaningfully in two words. But to summarise the main teachings of the Bible is entirely different from condensing its entire contents. It is not a high level overview to provide general knowledge but a set of keys to unlock its personal application. Just two words can take us a long way into a practical and devotional engagement with the Scriptures.

One of the questions in the Westminster Larger and Shorter Catechisms most passed over is “What do the scriptures principally teach?” The answer seems as simple and straightforward as the question. “The scriptures principally teach, what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man”. Yet this simple statement undergirds the whole teaching and structure of the Catechisms, because it undergirds thee whole teaching of Scripture. The first part of the Catechisms deal with what we are to believe and the second part with what we are to do, or obedience to God’s revealed will.

Two words: faith and obedience. As we shall see, Hugh Binning preferred to speak of faith and love (as long as the latter was understood to include obedience). He drew this from the proof text used by the Catechisms: Hold fast the form of sound words…in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 1:13). Once we have grasped this it can transform our practical engagement with Scripture.  These are the glasses through which we must read the Word as we ask the questions: What does God want me to believe and what does God require me to do? 

Scriptures certainly teaches that it contains “great things” of principal importance (Hosea 8:12). It is clear that faith in what God has revealed is one such thing  (John 3:33).  Another is obedience (Micah 6:8; John 17:17; 1 John 2:3-5). It also reveals a close relationship between faith and obedience; they depend on each other (Titus 1:1; 3:8; 1 Timothy 6:3). Faith must work by love (Galatians 5:6). The truth is truly believed when it is acted on and obeyed (John 3:21; 7:17; Romans 16:25-26). Truly depending on God’s Word will always be expressed in action. The Catechisms put faith first because it is most important and no obedience is pleasing or acceptable to God without it (Hebrews 11:6; Proverbs 2:1 and 5). Loving obedience is the evidence and outcome of faith. The following is an updated extract from Hugh Binning’s exposition of the Shorter Catechism.

 

1. Two Words

All divine truths may be reduced to these two headings: faith and love; what we ought to believe and what we ought to do. This is everything the Scriptures teach and this is everything we have to learn. What do we have to know except what God has revealed of Himself to us? What do we have to do except what He commands us? In a word, what do we have to learn in this world except to believe in Christ, love Him and so live unto Him? This is the duty of man, the dignity of man and the way to eternal life.

Here is the business then: to have our souls reconciled to Him so as to take away the enmity within us; and as He is satisfied with His Son, to so satisfy ourselves with Him and be as well-pleased in his redemption and purchase as the Father is. Then you believe in Him indeed. Now if this were accomplished, what more do we have to do but to love Him and to live unto Him?

Have you found in Scripture and believed with the heart what man once was and what he now is; how God once appeared to man and how He now manifests himself in the gospel? You now have no more to do except to search in the same Scriptures what you ought to be from now on. You who are restored in Christ must ask: “What manner of persons ought we to be?” The Scriptures will also give you that “form of sound words” which may not only teach you to believe in Him, but to love Him and obey His commands.

The law that before condemned you is now put in your hands by Christ to guide and conduct you in the way. It teaches you how to live from now on to His glory (Titus 2:12). Here is the rule of your conduct summed up: piety towards God, equity towards men and sobriety towards ourselves. This is self-denial, world-denial and lust-denial; to give up the world and our own lusts and have no more to do with them from now on. We must give them up in our affections not for a time, not in part but entirely and forever. We must give ourselves up to Him, to live unto Him and to live in Him.

 

2. Faith and Love Together

We do not have to distinguish faith and love too carefully. It is certain that love is in and from faith. It is in the very bosom of it, because faith is a soul-embracing of Christ. Faith is choosing Him for its portion and then having considered this goodly portion (what He is and has done for us) the soul loves Him still more and is impatient to be so distant from Him. We find them conjoined in Scripture and they are one in the heart. As they are joined in the word, so our heart should be a “living epistle”. Faith and love are two words but one thing under different conceptions. They are the outgoings of the soul to Christ for life – the breathings of the soul after Him, for more of Him, when it has once tasted how good He is.

Faith is not speculation or a wandering idea of truth.  It is not the truth not captivated in the mind but dwelling in the heart and getting possession of the whole man. A man and his will are one, but this is not so with a man and his mind. He may perceive the truth about many things that he does not love. But whatever a man loves, he becomes (in a way) united with.

When divine truth gains entry to the heart of a person and becomes one with their will and affections, it quickly commands the practice of the whole man. He that received “the truth in love” is found to walk in the truth. Many captivate truth in their understanding; they hold or detain it in unrighteousness but because it has no freedom to descend into the heart and possess that garrison, it cannot command the whole person.

Yet it is better to be truth’s captive than to captivate truth. It is better “to have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine” (Romans 6:17). This blessed captivity to truth is indeed freedom, for truth makes free (John 8:32). Give it freedom to command you and it will indeed deliver you from all strange lords. You will obey it from the heart when it is indeed in the heart.

When the truths of God (whether promises, threatenings, or commands) are impressed on the heart, you will find them expressed in conduct. Faith is not empty assent to the truth but receiving it “in love”. When the truth is received in love, it begins to work by love (Galatians 5:6). Obedience proceeding from love to God flows from faith in God, and that shows the true and living nature of that faith.

 

3. Love is Obedience

Love is the sum of the law and its fulfillment. The truth is the most effective, sweet and pleasant principle of obedience. The love of Christ constrains us to live to Him and not to ourselves (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). If Christ has gained someone’s love, the whole train of the soul’s faculties and operations will follow.

If someone loves Christ, they will certainly be careful to please Him. No matter how much they may obey, there is no pleasure unless it is done out of love. “If ye love me, keep my commandments”. Love devotes and consecrates all that is in a man to the pleasure of the one he loves. It constrains us to live to Him, not ourselves. Its joy and delight is in Him, and therefore all is given up to Him.

Just as it is certain that if you love much you will do much, so it is certain that little proceeding from a principle of love is accepted in place of much. Thus, our poor maimed and limping obedience is called “the fulfilling of the law”. He is well-pleased with it, because love is not pleased with it. Love thinks nothing too much, everything too little. His love therefore thinks anything from us to be much, since love would give more. He accepts that which is given; the lover’s mite cast into the treasury is more than ten times as much as outward obedience from another person.

I know of no more effectual way to increase love to Jesus Christ than to believe His love. Christ Jesus is “the author and finisher” both of faith and love; and “we love him, because he first loved us”. What Christ is, and what He has done for sinners will above all other things prevail most to engage the soul to Him.

 

4. Sound Words

We shall conclude with that exhortation: “Hold fast the form of sound words”. You have this doctrine of faith and love given to you which may be able to save your souls. Then, I beseech you, hold them fast, salvation is in them. They are “sound words” and wholesome words; words of life, spirit and life as well as words of truth. You cannot hold it fast unless you have it within you; and it is within you indeed when it is in your heart. The form of it must be engraved on the very soul in love.

These sound words must be engraved on the heart or else you will never hold them. They may be easily snatched out of the mouth and hand by temptation, unless they are enclosed and laid up in the secret of the heart, as Mary did. The truth must hold you fast, or you cannot hold it fast; it must captivate you, and bind you with the golden chains of affection (which is the only true freedom) or you will certainly let it go. You must not only have the truth received by love into your heart, but you must also “hold fast the form of sound words”.

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