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.

​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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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The Mark of the Christian

The Mark of the Christian

The Mark of the Christian
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.

​You might recognise this title from a well-known book written by Francis Schaeffer. His point was that love “is the mark Christ gave Christians to wear before the world. Only with this mark may the world know that Christians are indeed Christians and that Jesus was sent by the Father”. It was a point made centuries earlier by Hugh Binning. He called Christian love the “badge that Christ left to his disciples: if we cast this away on every disagreement, we disown our Master, and disclaim his token and badge”. Both of course refer to Christ’s words in John 13:35 that “love one to another” is the way by which all men will recognise Christ’s disciples.

During his lifetime Binning experienced sad disagreements with those who were otherwise fully agreed on the Church’s faith and practice. He was a man of principle who did not cast away his convictions when difficulties arose. But he was also a man of peace who loved obedience to Christ’s new commandment: to love one another.  He did not give up speaking the truth even when it might offend others, but he spoke the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). Binning believed that: “Unity in judgement [conviction] is very necessary for the well being of Christians…[and]… unity in affection is most essential and fundamental”. He says that “love is a uniting and transforming thing”.

His valuable little book Christian Love has particular beauty and power (see below for a special offer for purchasing it). It is not a book that sprinkles platitudes and slogans but rather penetrates deeply. In particular he comments on 1 Corinthians 13 with great insight. This is a chapter often read and referred to but seldom understood with accuracy and depth.

 

1. The Mark of God

“There is a special stamp of excellency put on this affection of love”. It is that God delights to reveal Himself in this way. “God is love”. We are to be “followers of God as dear children, and walk in love” (Ephesians 5:1-2). We are to follow this pattern. “God has a general love to all the creatures, from which the river of his goodness flows throughout the earth, and in that, is like the sun conveying his light and benign influence, without partiality or restraint, to the whole world”. Yet His “special favour runs in a more narrow channel towards those whom he has chosen in Christ”.

A Christian must be like his Father in this. Indeed Binning says “there is nothing in which he resembles him more than in this, to walk in love towards all men, even our enemies. For in this he gives us a pattern: “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you, that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:44-45).

To do good to all, and to be ready to forgive all, is the glory of God, and certainly it is the glory of a child of God to be merciful as his Father is merciful, and good to all, and kind to the unthankful. And this is to be perfect as he is perfect. This perfection is charity and love to all. But the particular and special current of affection will run toward the household of faith, those who are of the same descent, and family, and love.

This is the “badge” of Christ’s disciples. “These two in a Christian are nothing but the reflex of the love of God, and streams issuing out from it”. In order to support this Binning quotes from Galatians 5:10 “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith”. The other extremely apt verse he gives is 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13: “And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love onetowards another, and towards all men, even as we do towards you, to the end he may establish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, with all his saints.”

A Christian walking in love to all, blessing his enemies, praying for them, not reviling or cursing again, but blessing for cursing, and praying for reviling, forgiving all, and ready to give to the necessities of all, and more especially, uniting the force of his love and delight, to bestow it upon these who are the excellent ones, and delight of God, such a one is his Father’s picture, so to speak. He is partaker of that divine nature, and royal spirit of love.

 

2. The Mark of True Humanity

Binning says that most of Christianity is true humanity. “Christ makes us men as well as Christians. He makes us reasonable men when believers. Sin transformed our nature into a wild, beastly, viperous, selfish thing. Grace restores reason and natural affection in the purest and highest strain. And this is reason and humanity, elevated and purified – to condescend to all men in all things for their profit and edification, to deny itself to save others”. Yet “charity will not, dare not sin to please men. That were to hate God, to hate ourselves, and to hate our brethren, under a base pretended notion of love”.

We should be “blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation,” among whom we should shine “as lights” (Philippians 2:15). And truly it is humanity elevated by Christianity, or reason purified by religion, that is the light that shines most brightly in this dark world.

 

3. The Mark of Spiritual Light

On occasion Binning is lyrical in his spiritual understanding of Christian love.

Love is real light and life. Is it not “a pleasant thing for the eye to behold the sun?” Light is sweet, and life is precious. These are two of the rarest jewels given to men.

He follows this immediately with an arresting quotation from 1 John 2:9-11 that it is only those that love their brother who abide in the light. “The light of Jesus Christ cannot shine into the heart, but it begets love, even as intense light begets heat, and where this impression is not made on the heart, it is an evidence that the beams of that Sun of righteousness have not pierced it”.  Daylight is made for going about our daily work. Why is spiritual daylight given to the soul? In order “that it may rise up and go forth to labour, and exercise itself in the works of the day, duties of love to God and men”.

Now in such a soul there is no cause of stumbling, no scandal, no offence in its way to fall over.  When the light and knowledge of Christ possesses the heart in love, there is no stumbling block of transgression in its way. It does not fall and stumble at the commandments of righteousness and mercy as grievous, “therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (Romans 13:10).  And so the way of charity is the most easy, plain, expedient and safe way.  In this way there is light shining all along it, and there is no stumbling block in it.  Love for God and our brethren has polished and made it all plain

 

4. The Mark of Humility

Here Binning comes to one of the most challenging aspects of Christian love. It is demanding and self-sacrificing not insipid sentiment. Christian love will be as careful as possible to avoid stumbling others. (For more on this point see the recent article 7 Reasons to Avoid Stumbling Others). Although there are “many stumbling blocks in the world, yet there is none in charity, or in a charitable soul”.  Binning says: “I…think there is no point of Christianity less regarded”. Other matters are acknowledged though we may fail in practice but this scarcely comes into the minds of any. Few see it as their obligation.

“The apostle says, ‘Give none offence, neither to the Jews nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God’ (1 Corinthians 10:32). And he adds his own example, ‘Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved’, verse 33. If only those who love “all things to all men” as a slogan would be dissuaded by this verse from stumbling others.

Love is a light which may lead us by offences inoffensively, and without stumbling.  In darkness men mistake the way, know not the end of it, take pits for plain ways, and stumble in them.  Uncharitableness casts a mist over the actions and courses of others, and our own too, that we cannot carry on either without transgression. And this is the misery of it, that it cannot discern any fault in itself.  It knows not where it goes, calls light darkness and darkness light.  It is partial in judgment, pronounces always on its own behalf, cares not whom it condemns, that it may absolve itself.

“Charity is not self-addicted”, he says. Binning is unsparing in his treatment of uncharitable self-love. We want others to deal charitably with us but are less inclined to extend it ourselves. “If I be convinced that there is any equity and beauty in that command which charges others to love me, forgive me, forbear with me, and restore me in meekness, why, then, should it be a grievous command that I should pay that debt of love and tenderness to others?”

The root of this problem is pride. We compare the best in us with the worst in others in order to inflate our self-opinion. It would be better to compare our worst with other people’s best. “Humility makes a man compare himself with the best that he may find how bad he himself is, but pride measures by the worst, that it may hide a man from his own imperfections”.

SELFLOVE

 

5. The Mark of Righteousness

Binning shows that the commandments which relate to our neighbour (the fifth commandment to the tenth) are branches of Christian love. They all require “the works of righteousness and of mercy”. Yet these are “interwoven” through each other. Though mercy is usually restricted to showing compassion on men in misery, yet there is a righteousness in that mercy, and there is mercy in the most acts of righteousness, as in not judging rashly, in forgiving etc. Therefore we shall consider the most eminent and difficult duties of love, which the word of God solemnly and frequently charges upon us in relation to others, especially these of the household of faith.

 

6. The Mark of Liveliness

Binning says that cold love is “the symptom of a decaying and fading Christian and Church” (Matthew 24:12). It was the great charge that Christ had against Ephesus (Revelation 2:4-5). Love is the source of life and liveliness for a Christian. Without it the soul is in decay. “It is the …evidence, as well as the root and fountain, of abounding iniquity”. Binning says that it is the epidemic disease of the present time, love cooled, and passion heated”. From these arise “contentions, wars and divisions, which have brought the church of God near to expiring”. “Therefore being mindful of…Hebrews 10:24, I would think it pertinent to consider one another, and provoke again unto love and to good works”.

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The book contains a biographical note as well as three expositions from Binning’s exposition of Romans 8:1-15 The Sinner’s Sanctuary. The first chapter identifies the love of a Christian and its opposite: self-love.  Chapter 2 considers the excellence of Christian love, again distinguishing it from the false selfish love that prevails in the world.  Binning then offers motives for Christian love (chapter 3) and practical teaching (chapter 4).  The fifth chapter dwells on humility and meekness as a key aspect of Christian love.

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Are You Killing Sin, or is Sin Killing You?

Are You Killing Sin, or is Sin Killing You?

Are You Killing Sin, or is Sin Killing 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.

“Be killing sin, or sin will be killing you”. A stark pair of alternatives. What could be more urgent? Yet how much do we think, hear or read about putting sin to death? This is one of John Owen’s most famous quotes. He stresses that it is a constant and daily imperative. “Be always at it while you live. Cease not a day from this work”. The biblical reasons he gives can be summarised as follows. Indwelling sin never goes away or stops its activity. It is always seeking our destruction. It is also our duty to grow in grace and holiness every day. Our spiritual life depends on putting sin to death.

Before Owen uttered these famous words they were earlier declared by Hugh Binning. It is not necessarily likely that Owen would have been aware of this. Still, it shows that the Scottish writers and ministers equalled the great puritan preachers. They shared a deep understanding of Scripture and spiritual experience. The following is an updated extract from the sermons Binning preached on Romans 8:13.

 

Killing Sin is Spiritual Self-defence

Binning appeals to the natural law of self-defence. We ought to be afraid of “the infinite danger” involved in indulging sin. Sin is our enemy. The life of sin will be your death and vice versa. It only embraces us to strangle us. We are deadened by its effects. When it gets us in its stranglehold our spiritual life is starved of breath. It wants to squeeze the life out of us. We must, therefore, be engaging in killing it. He says:

your sins and lusts to which you are inclined and accustomed, will certainly kill you, if you entertain [accommodate] them

Self-love at least, should motivate us to this duty. Even if we are not persuaded (as we ought to be) by love to God.

nature itself would teach you the law of self-defence, – to kill, ere you be killed, to kill sin, ere it kill you, – to mortify the deeds and lusts of the body, which abound among you, or they will certainly mortify you, that is, make you die.

It remains true, and always will that “the wages of sin is death”. Just like it was for Adam and Eve in the garden. In their unbelief, they believed attractive promises about the forbidden fruit. “Every way you choose to fulfil the lusts of your flesh, and to make provision for it, neglecting the eternal welfare of your souls, will certainly prove to be to you” the same. It will not yield its promises, instead it “will bring forth death, – the eternal separation of the soul from God”. If we understood all this as well as we should we would think that we owe sin nothing but “enmity and hatred and mortification [putting to death]”. We cannot make spiritual progress without it. Echoing Romans 8:13, Binning says.

If you mortify the deeds of the body, you will live. As sin decays, you increase and grow, as sins die, your souls live, and it will be a sure pledge of eternal life to you.

 

Killing Sin is Painful

Binning acknowledges that there is nothing easy about putting sin to death. It sounds harsh at first. The hearts of men say, “It is a hard saying, who can hear it?” It is indeed harsh to our corrupt nature. Scripture describes it as great effort and pain, great torment and labour.

It is painful. But so is amputating a part of the body with gangrene to avoid the infection spreading. You will never be a loser by putting sin to death. You will never regret it. To die to ourselves and the world, to kill sin within…makes way to a life hid from the world. Even “one hour” of such spiritual life is better than thousands of years in sinful pleasure.

in so far as sin is nearer expiring, and nearer the grave, your souls are nearer that endless life.

Crucifying sin means a painful, lingering death (Galatians 5:24). Putting sin to death is “great pain, but it is short pain”. The pleasure that results from it is greater. It also continues longer than the pleasure that sin offers. By being negligent in putting sin to death Christians only make the pain last longer. They allow “the Canaanites to live, and these are thorns and briers in their sides continually”.

 

Killing Sin is Impossible on Our Own

It is interesting that Binning emphasises many of the same principles Owen later asserted. Owen would urges “universal sincerity”. This means that the believer must be prepared to resist and put to death any and every sin. Not merely those to which they are not particularly prone, or those that trouble them most. “Set yourself impartially against all known” sins, Binning counsels. Certainly, we also need to identify “the chief idols and predominant inclinations of” the heart. We must be “particularly against the most beloved sin, because it interrupts” communion with God most. It separates you from your Beloved. The dearer the sin is to us, the more dangerous it is to us.

We must identify “the chief idols and predominant inclinations of” the heart. We must be “particularly against the most beloved sin, because it interrupts” communion with God most. It separates you from your Beloved. The dearer the sin is to us, the more dangerous it is to us.

John Owen emphasises the following as the two main means for putting sin to death. Acting faith on the death of Christ and relying on the power of the Holy Spirit. These are likewise emphasised by Hugh Binning. He says: look back to the Christ has gained the victory in our name and look around now for the help of the Holy Spirit. Binning uses a memorable play on words. He says that putting sin to death “will be a dead business” if we are not enlivened by these considerations.

(1) Look to the Death of Christ by Faith

Christ died to sin and lived to God in his resurrection. In this He was representing believers. Thus, you may conclude with Paul: “I am crucified with Christ” (Galatians. 2:20). “We are buried with him by baptism into his death” (Romans 6:4). Consider that union with Christ crucified, and life shall spring out of his cross, out of his grave, to kill sin in you. Consider that the great business is done already, and victory gained in our Head, “This is our victory, even faith.” Believe, and then you have overcome before you overcome, and this will help you to overcome personally.

(2) Look for the Help of the Holy Spirit

Look around to the strong helper you have, the Spirit. We can only “mortify the deeds of the body” “through the Spirit” (Romans 8:13). There is one engaged in the warfare with us who will never leave us nor forsake us. He only withdraws His help now and again to expose our weakness to ourselves and cleave faster to him. He leads us through weaknesses, infirmities, faintings and wrestlings. His strength is perfected in weakness. That when we are weak, then we may be strongest in him (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Our duty is to follow this Spirit wherever he leads us. A Christian must be dependent on and subordinate to the Spirit of God. Pay careful attention to your leader. Whenever the Spirit pulls you by the heart or draws your conscience to drive you to prayer or other duties, do not resist that pull. Do not quench the Spirit. If you neglect such warnings, then you may grieve him, and this cannot but be bitterness to you in the end.

Certainly, many Christians are guilty in this. They rob themselves of the benefit of this leading. They follow so slowly and need so much pressure and persuasion to engage in any duty.  We should be ready to obey at the slightest impulse.

We often resist the Holy Ghost. This is worse. He draws and we hold onto beloved sins. He pulls, and we pull back from the most spiritual duties. But there is comfort if you have truly surrendered yourself to the guidance of this Spirit and sincerely endeavour to follow it. Be encouraged, if you lament being carried back or away or hindered by temptation and sin. You “are the sons of God”. God gives this guide to no one but his own children. “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, are the sons of God.” Even though you do not follow all his promptings perfectly. Though you are often driven away or turned back, yet does the Spirit not have hold of your heart?

 

Conclusion

This is a large but vital subject. A great deal more could be said. But we need the practice and not just the theory. Have you begun to put sin to death? Will you begin to do this? Will it be a daily priority for you?

RECOMMENDED READING

If you would like to read more about putting sin to death or the mortification of sin here are some good places to start. You may wish to read Hugh Binning’s sermons on Romans 8:13. They are part of a collection of sermons on Romans 8 called The Sinner’s Sanctuary. These are often found in his collected works. In many ways, this is probably easier reading than John Owen. Yet Owen’s writing on the mortification of sin is not that difficult. It was originally delivered as lectures to teenage boys.

John Owen, On the Mortification of Sin. You will find this in various formats on the internet by searching for it. Many people have commented on it and sought to explain it as well as update its language. It belongs to Volume 6 of his printed Works.

John Owen, Mortification Of Sin, The Nature And Causes Of It. This is a different more concise treatment of the subject. But it is at least as helpful and is like a summary of the above. It belongs to Volume 3 of his printed Works within a larger piece of writing about the Holy Spirit.

John Flavel, The Method of Grace contains a good section on the subject also.

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Can Reading Really Save Your Life?

Can Reading Really Save Your Life?

Can Reading Really Save Your Life?
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.

The benefits of reading are frequently extolled. Some of the benefits relate to improved health and are supported by scientific evidence. These claims may be true as far as they go, but does this go far enough? What of the benefits we need most? Such comments seem to assume that any kind of reading is a good thing. What kind of reading truly could save your life?

Hugh Binning (1627–1653) has some interesting remarks on books and reading. Binning taught philosophy at the University of Glasgow. After this, he was a Church of Scotland minister. A prolific author, he had a formidable intellect and knowledge of theology and philosophy. James Durham observed “that there was no speaking after Mr Binning”. Yet he expressed himself plainly as a preacher and often attracted vast crowds. His views on reading and books are well worth gathering.

 

1. Temporary benefit

Some claim that “reading can save your life”. This involves any kind of reading that absorbs the mind. Does this promise too much, however? It is true that its physical benefits include stress reduction and increased calm. It helps to preserve the memory and stimulate the mind. Yet, as Binning notes, reading simply to pass valuable time is not good enough. “Many books serve no purpose except to spend and pass the time without thought”.

Reading is often commended as a way to increase intelligence. It develops the imagination, vocabulary and analytical thinking. While these are good things in themselves, it is not every book that truly enriches. We need to be selective. Binning observes that for the “most part many books are good for nothing except to burden and over-weary the world. They make readers imagine knowledge which they do not have. Many books serve only to nourish men’s curiosity, vain imaginations and contentions about words and notions”.

The health and intellectual benefits that we may gain from reading are real. Yet at best they are still only temporary. Much of the pleasure as well as benefit of books is also short-lived. Many “writings and discourses may tickle the ears with some pleasing eloquence, but that is vanishing. It is merely like a musician’s voice. Some may give minor and momentary benefits. But how soon will all that be at an end? Within a little time, the benefits of all the books of the world will be gone”.

Then there are books that promise something more than escapism. They offer therapy and increased self-esteem. A recent book with the title How Dante Saved My Life speaks of finding a way out of depression in this way. Yet there is no evidence of that author coming to rely on anything more than a gospel which is not authentic. Such therapeutic benefits may go deeper but are still only temporary.

 

2. Reading that truly saves your life

Truly spiritually edifying books have much to offer in so far as they communicate the truth of God’s Word. These benefits are spiritual and lasting. Yet no book other than the Scriptures can offer 100% benefit. This is the Book of all books. “Other books may have sound content, but there is still something, in either style or words which is unsound. No one can speak truth to you in such plainness, simplicity and such soundness as the Scriptures”. The Bible has “sound content and sound words. It is the truth truly presented. Health and salvation are offered in as healthful content as is possible. Its content and style are both divine”.

“Make much of Scripture, for you will neither read nor hear the like of it in the world!”

Can reading really save your life? “The Scriptures show the path of life. Life is the most excellent of all things. It comes nearest the blessed being of God. When we say life, we understand a blessed life, only this deserves the name”. Only Scripture truly offers eternal life to those that read. “Eternal life is in it”.

 

3. Perfectly profitable reading

“Who can speak of the usefulness and profitableness of the Scriptures equal to their worth? Some things may be over-commended, all things in fact, except this – God speaking in His word to mankind. Human writings are described in many ways. Some are called accurate, some clever, some ingenious and some profound and deep. Some are plain, some learned. They may call them what they please. Scripture justly claims the sole prerogative to these two descriptions – holy and profitable”.

“The best speaker in the world cannot avoid sinning in many words. The best writer has some dross and rubbish. But in Scripture everything is holy, everything is profitable. If you do not profit by it, you can have no pleasure in it. It is only ordained for profiting your soul, not for pleasing your imagination. It is not provided as the basis for curious speculation, nor for contention and strife about its interpretation. Scripture both can profit you and will profit you. I wish that souls would read the Scriptures as profitable Scriptures intending to receive profit. If you do not read with such a purpose, you do not read not the Scriptures of God. They become like any other book to you”.

“But what are they profitable for? For doctrine – divine doctrine, a doctrine of life and happiness. It is the great promise of the new covenant, ‘You shall be all taught of God’. Scripture can make a man learned and wise, learned to salvation. It is foolishness to the world, “but the world through wisdom know not God.” What then do they know? Is there any besides God? And is there any knowledge besides the knowledge of God? You have a poor, lesser wisdom among you to gather riches and manage your business. Others have a poor imaginary wisdom that they call learning.

Generally people think that to pray to God is merely a paper-skill, a little book-craft. They think the knowledge of God is nothing else except learning to read the Bible. Do not be mistaken. To know God is something altogether different. The doctrine of Jesus Christ written on the heart is a deep, profound learning. The poorest, most simple, least educated people may (by the Spirit’s teaching) become wiser than their ancients, than their ministers”.

 

4. Deeper reading: searching the Scriptures

This kind of reading truly offers life. But this life does not come merely from the activity of reading. A deeper reading that is required. This involves searching the Scriptures. Search them to discover eternal life. Search them to find Christ and to know him. To know Christ is eternal life.

“Searching signifies diligence, great diligence. It’s a serious work, it’s not ordinary seeking of an easy and common thing. It’s search and scrutiny for something hidden or something special. Bare reading of the Scriptures will not fulfill this duty unless it is diligent and daily reading. Yet this alone is not enough unless the spirit within meditates on them and searches diligently through meditation. There is some hidden secret that you must search for which is enclosed within the covering of words and sentences. There is a mystery of wisdom that you must apply your hearts to searching out (Ecclesiastes 7: 5). Jesus Christ is the treasure hid in this field. O precious treasure of eternal life! Now then, souls, search in the fields of the Scriptures (Proverbs 2:4) for Him as for hidden treasure. It is not only truth you must seek, buy, and not sell but you must search for life”.

 

5. Deeper reading: meditating on the Scriptures

Deeper reading means more than merely understanding the truth. “If you want to profit from the Scriptures, you must bring both understanding and affections to them. You must not depart until they both return full. If you bring your understanding to seek the truth, you may find truth, but not truly. You may find it, but you are not found of it.”

“You may ‘know the truth’, but you are not ‘known of it’. Nor are you brought into captivity to obeying it. The treasure that is hidden in the Scriptures is Jesus Christ, whose complete and perfect name is, ‘Way, Truth, and Life’. He is a living truth and true life…He has truth in him to satisfy the mind, and has life and goodness in Him to completely satisfy the heart”.

The amount that we find of Christ is the amount of profit we get from the Scriptures.

Deeper reading means meditating on the Word that we read. “It is not so much reading much of Scripture that profits, as pondering these things in your hearts. Digesting them by frequent meditation, until they become the food of the soul”.

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