What is Hate Speech? The Definition Affects Us All

What is Hate Speech? The Definition Affects Us All

What is Hate Speech? The Definition Affects Us All
The Westminster Assembly was an advisory body of theologians to the English Parliament which met at Westminster from 1643 to 1648. It produced a new range of standards for church order and government, worship and doctrine for the churches of England, Scotland and Ireland that have been used ever since by Presbyterian churches across the world.
3 Jul, 2020

Should expressing your non-threatening view be prosecuted for “stirring up hatred” simply because others found it insulting? This is the controversy surrounding the Hate Crime Bill making its way through the Scottish Parliament. For instance, the author J K Rowling’s recent reasoned opinions on gender have been called “hate” by prominent politicians. Should she be in danger of up to 7 years in prison for expressing them? Some have noted how this legislation abolishes blasphemy at the same time as establishing new blasphemy laws. In fact, you only need to possess objectionable material with a view to passing it on. Criminal law must punish hate crime, but it already does. These proposals are about prohibiting certain views rather than protecting from actual harm. Many are concerned that biblical views may be prosecuted under such laws. Who defines hate speech? Such debates should prompt us to understand from Scripture what real hate speech is and how to avoid it. In fact, we need this for all our personal interactions.

We need to avoid any contempt for others in expressing our view. Too often anger and contempt are revealed as words boil over in social media debates. Leaving aside the matter of when hate speech is a crime, we need to consider how hate speech is a sin.

As the Lord Jesus Christ taught, the sixth commandment is not simply about committing murder, it also reaches to our thoughts and words (Matthew 5:22). The words of the commandment simply mention the highest degree of the sin, but all degrees are forbidden. Sinful and rash anger and contempt are also condemned.

As David Dickson points out, Christ expounds this commandment to forbid “rash anger and every evil motion against our neighbour’s person no less than it forbids murder”. Christ warns us that the least degree of this sin will be judged. As Dickson says, this should drive us to “the rich ransom of Christ’s blood and largeness of his grace” for refuge.

As the Larger Catechism points out therefore, the sixth commandment forbids all “sinful anger, hatred, envy, desire of revenge; all excessive passion…provoking words…quarrelling”. It also requires “charitable thoughts, love, compassion, meekness, gentleness, kindness; peaceable, mild and courteous speeches and behaviour”. It is possible to communicate the truth in this way. Love does not seek to work or speak evil against our neighbour (Romans 13:10; 1 Peter 3:9-11). This should characterise our relations within the church of God to a still higher degree (Colossians 3:12-13; 1 John 3:15; Ephesians 4:31).

We ought also to think about how we can sin by omission in our speech with destructive consequences to others. James Durham points out that sinful silence in not restraining people from sin (Ezekiel 3:18) or not reproving sin has this effect (Leviticus 19:6). When heresy and false teaching goes unchecked for instance, it destroys souls which is more serious still.

We can also reprove or restrain people in such a weak way that it has no effect. This is what happened with Eli and his sons, he did not reprove and restrain them with a holy severity (1 Samuel 2:22,25 and 1 Samuel 3:13).

One of the books that influenced the Larger Catechism was A Body of Divinity by James Ussher. The following updated extract is drawn from his treatment of the sixth commandment. He shows how the commandment requires us to speak to our neighbour kindly and use courteous and friendly speech towards them (Ephesians 4:32). In the Old Testament such friendly speech is often literally spoken of as “speaking to the heart” (Ruth 2:13).

1. Bitter and Angry Words are Hate Speech

Bitter and angry words or speech uttered in wrath or using evil or vile terms (Matthew 5:22) are condemned by this commandment.

2. Mocking Words are Hate Speech

Mocking in general is sinful (Psalm 22:7-8; John 19:3). Mockery of a disability (Leviticus 19:14) or especially mocking others for godly behaviour (2 Samuel 6:20) are condemned. Sometimes, however, God’s children may use mocking in a godly manner as Elijah did to the priests of Baal (1 Kings 18:27).

3. Slanderous Words are Hate Speech

Speaking evil of someone, even although the matter is not in itself false is still wrong if it is not done with a right purpose or in a right manner and at the right time. False accusations are also condemned (Luke 23:2; Acts 24:5).

4. Abusive Words are Hate Speech

Brawling and angry shouting are sinful (Titus 3:9; Ephesians 4:31). Threatening, insulting and provocative speech is also condemned (1 Peter 3:9; 2 Samuel 16:5,7; 2 Kings 2:23-24;1 Corinthians 5:11 Psalm 57:4 Psalm 52:2 Psalm 64:3-4 Ps 140:3)

5. Harsh Words are Hate Speech

Spiteful, disdainful and harsh words are sinful, especially when they are uttered contemptuously (Proverbs 12:8; Proverbs 15:1).

5. Complaining Words are Hate Speech

When we complain about one another and grumble with malice (James 5:9).

Application

According to Paul’s counsel we should see that edifying words rather than “corrupt communication” are found in our mouths (Ephesians 4:29. Our speech should be always seasoned with the saltiness of grace so that we know how to answer every one in the right way (Colossians 4:6). If meat is not sprinkled with salt, it will smell. It will be so with those who do not have their hearts seasoned with the word of truth.

If we are not careful the words proceeding from our mouths will be angry, wrathful, and loathsome speech against our brother. Scripture compares such words to juniper coals which burn most fiercely (Psalm 120:4) or to a sword or razor cutting most sharply (Proverbs 12:18; Psalm 52:2). James therefore says that the tongue is an unruly evil, set on fire by hell (James 3:6, 8). We ought therefore to govern our tongues by the Word of God and beware of vile speech.

Conclusion

The things summarised here are all too commonly heard in our culture. It is easy to become used to them and even to think that certain ways of speaking are justified if we are defending the truth. Righteous anger is a truly rare thing. None of us are free from the contagion of using words tainted or motivated by malice but we must flee from this as from every other sin. As we consider it carefully it should, as David Dickson says, drive us to “the rich ransom of Christ’s blood and largeness of his grace” for cleansing.

Further Help

To explore these reflections further, you may find it helpful to read the article Keep Calm in an Age of Anger. Our culture is getting angrier, about a lot of things. It’s the dominant emotion in western societies on a daily basis. How much of this is righteous anger? And how can we resist sinful anger? We need to know. James Fergusson directs us to Scriptural teaching.

 

 

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The Two Greatest Encouragements You Need

The Two Greatest Encouragements You Need

The Two Greatest Encouragements You Need
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.
2 Jul, 2020

If we are discouraged with ourselves it is often because of sin. Here are the great encouragements you need if you are inwardly burdened with the weight of your own guiltiness. They are found in Christ and the promises that are secure in Him for those that lay hold of them in faith, humbly confessing their sin. Hugh Binning explains.

You have two desires for Christ—(1) that your sins may be forgiven and (2) that they may be subdued. He has two solemn obligations to satisfy you—(1) to forgive your sins, and (2) to cleanse you from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

The soul that is truly penitent does not desire pardon of sin alone. That is not the chief or only aim of such a soul in going to Christ. It also seeks to be purified from sin and all unrighteousness; to have ungodly lusts cleansed away. They do not only want to be assured of being delivered from wrath and condemnation. They want also to be redeemed from sin, so that it has no dominion over them. They desire to be freed from death and have the conscience purged “from dead works to serve the living God,” (Hebrews 9:14). They want to have sin blotted out of an accusing conscience and purged out of the affections of the heart.  They want their sins washed away so that they may be washed from their sins (Revelations 1:5).

Now, as the great desire and aim of such a sincere heart is to have sin purified and purged out of us as well as pardoned, so there is a special obligation on God our Father. He promises, not only to pardon sin, but to purge from sin; not only to cover it with the garment of Christ’s righteousness, and the breadth of His infinite love but also to cleanse it by His Spirit effectually applying that blood to purify the heart.

Now, where God has voluntarily bound Himself voluntarily out of love, do not loose Him by unbelief. Strive to receive those gracious promises, and to take Him as He has bound Himself and as He offers. Believe, I say that He will both forgive you, and in due time will cleanse your heart from the love and delight of sin. Believe His promise and this will set a seal to his truth and faithfulness. There is nothing in God to frighten a sinner except His justice, holiness, and righteousness. But if you in humbly confessing your sins flee to Jesus Christ, the very thing which discouraged you, may now encourage and embolden you to come. Because “he is just and faithful to forgive sins.” His justice being now satisfied, is engaged to forgive, not to punish.

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The Most Foolish Thing You’ve Ever Done

The Most Foolish Thing You’ve Ever Done

The Most Foolish Thing You’ve Ever Done
James Durham (1622-1658) was minister in Glasgow for only eleven years but left a considerable number of writings. One of the co-authors of 'The Sum of Saving Knowledge', he is best known for writing what is still regarded as the classic Reformed work on church unity, division and schism, 'A Treatise Concerning Scandal' as well as a highly sought after commentary on the Book of Revelation.
14 Feb, 2020

“I have behaved foolishly”. Politicians and other celebrities seem to find it easy to acknowledge the stupidity of their actions when found out. They now regret what they did due to the consequences. But they often don’t seem to acknowledge the serious moral culpability of what they have done. “Foolish” seems a breathtakingly ego-centred way of trivialising sin. Many people are willing to admit to “foolish” actions. It’s easy to think about doing foolish things in a casual way. Looking back, we can identify things we either regret or are ashamed of. We’re thinking of the exceptions rather than the rule. But let’s take a closer look at describing sin as foolishness. Perhaps it tells us more than we realise at first.

The Bible often describes sin in terms of foolishness (Mark 7:22), especially in the book of Proverbs (19:3; 24:9). The Psalmist confesses his sin in these terms (Psalm 38:5; 69:5). There is a moral aspect to folly and an insanity in sin. James Durham deals with this in the following updated extract from a sermon on Psalm 85:8.

1. SIN IS THE GREATEST FOLLY 

Sin against God is an exceedingly great folly. It is the most foolish and the maddest thing in the world. Therefore, it is called folly here, i.e. folly in the extreme. It is that which most mars and interrupts the peace of saints. What verse 2 calls “iniquity” so graciously pardoned, is called folly here. This is because of the folly and madness that is in sin. This is the reason that the sinner is so often called a fool and simple in the Book of Proverbs (see Proverbs 1:20-33). In Ephesians 5:15 the Apostle exhorts Christians, to walk not as fools but as wise. In Luke 15:17 the Prodigal Son is said, when converted, to come to himself. That is, as if he had been beside himself, all the while he was going on in his sinful way.

(a) Sin is madness in its futility
Is it not folly for a man to sit abusing and wasting away his time, to be given to filthiness, to neglect prayer, to curse and swear, to let his mind rove on things that never were nor will be, and in which there is no profit? There is great futility in sin.

(b) Sin is madness in its consequences
If we look at the sad and bitter fruits of sin and the great harm that comes by it, it is evidently desperate madness and pleasure purchased at too high a price. Such pleasure is only imaginary and not real. It mars the life of grace and peace with God. It treasures up wrath against the day of wrath (Romans 2:5). 

You can see this in Ahithophel, whose counsel to David and Absalom was so shrewd that it was as if one had enquired at the oracle of God (2 Samuel 16:23). The upshot of his deep wisdom was utmost folly, however, when he went and hung himself. The rich man who had been wise to store up lots of good for himself was addressed as a fool. His soul would be taken from him and then whose would these things be (Luke 12:20)? What advantage or wisdom is it for someone to gain the whole world, if they lose their own soul (Mark 8:36)? What a mad and foolish bargain. 

(c) Sin is madness in its appearance
If we look at sin from a spiritual perspective we will see folly in its very appearance. A wicked man in sinning looks as like a fool, as David did, when he played the mad man before the king of Gath (1 Samuel 21:13). Is it not folly to see someone labouring in the fire, and wearying themselves for nothing and pursuing the east wind (Habakkuk 2:13; Hosea 12:1)? They are like a man who is delusional and imagines himself to be a king, riding in great state and triumph, when he is only a poor, pitiful creature, to those who see him. 

(d) Sin is madness in its cause
No just or relevant reason can be given for sin. It is, therefore, no doubt, folly. Can anything demonstrate man’s folly so much, as their contending with God, walking in the way of death and leaving the way of life (Proverbs 1:22)? The Word of God is true wisdom and the way of life is clearly show in it with God as our pattern. Is there anything more reasonable than that we should live in conformity to the Word of God and to Him we ought to follow? But sin opposes the whole Word of God and God Himself. 

Strive to firmly believe this truth; that sin, whether it is doing what is forbidden or neglecting duty, is the greatest folly (Romans 6:21). Ultimately this is what everyone will find out to their cost. If we could discern spiritually the condition of most men and women, who are still unregenerate and despise the offers of grace and will not receive Jesus Christ. The most insane person in the world would not be a sadder and more pitiable sight to us than the lamentable case of such souls who forsake their own mercy and following after lying vanities. 

2. WORDS OF PEACE FOR THOSE GUILTY OF THE GREATEST FOLLY 

Despite the greatness of this folly, even God’s people (“saints”) commit many acts of folly. He speaks peace to them in the following ways.

(a) Inviting them. He urges them to return and assures them that He will heal their backslidings (Isaiah 55; Jeremiah 3; Hosea 14). He preaches peace to them through Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2; Revelation 3:18-20). 

(b) Pardoning them. He requests them to be reconciled (2 Corinthians 5:20). He discharges their debt (Colossians 2:13-14; Jeremiah 50:20; Isaiah 40:2).

(c) Assuring them. He not only makes peace but declares that peace to the pardoned sinner (Mark 2:5; Mark 5:34; Psalm 35:3). He comes in and dines with them and one main dish on the table is peace (John 14:27). 

3. AVOID RETURNING TO THE GREATEST FOLLY AFTER SUCH WORDS OF PEACE

Even those saints who have been given to folly and to whom God has spoken peace may return to folly. After peace was spoken to David, he fell into adultery and murder. After a sweet word of peace was spoken to Hezekiah (Isaiah 38), he falls into the folly of pride and vain boasting (Isaiah 39). After peace was spoken to Peter, he denies his Master. After Jehoshaphat had peace spoken to him he fell several times into the same sin even after he was reproved for it (2 Chronicles 18-20). How soon and how suddenly they fell into sin.

(a) Avoid even comparatively little sins. Beware of saying “it is a little sin”. The devil drives sin and temptation as a carpenter drives a wedge. If you let in the point of the wedge by a little sin it will become a great one before it is finished, just like the thick end of the wedge follows the thin end.

(b) Avoid sins of omission. Some may not commit open sins but instead neglect prayer. They may misspend and trifle away their time.

(c) Avoid formalism. Beware of a cold-hearted way of worshipping God in public or private. God, the all-seeing God observes whether you are whole-hearted, sincere and serious in the duties of religion.

(d) Avoiding neglecting spiritual duties.
These include self-examination, self-denial, putting sin to death and making use of Christ. Neglecting these is gospel folly, not making use of Christ as our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption (1 Corinthians 1:30).

(e) Avoid unbelief.
The heart has a secret, natural inclination to this, especially in difficulties. 

(f) Avoid heart idols. Perhaps you will not give way to grosser sins but your souls will instead be carried away by the idols of the heart. You allow vain, proud, covetous, revengeful, and filthy thoughts. But if Christ gets the heart, He must reign in it and command it completely.

(g) Avoid the love of the world. Guard yourself against excessively pursuing after the things of this world, however lawful in themselves. This can destroy more souls than things that are sinful (Luke 14:16-24). 

4. HELP TO AVOID RETURNING TO THE GREATEST FOLLY 

Durham gives twelve helps to avoid returning to folly after God has spoken peace to us. 

(a) Walk in fear (Psalm 2:11; Proverbs 16:18; Philippians 2:12; 2 Corinthians 7:1)
(b) Watch and pray (Matthew 26:41; Mark 13:37).
(c) Keep your heart (Proverbs 4:23).
(d) Renew your vows to God.
(e) Repent for past folly (Psalm 51:3)
(f) Abide in Christ and His strength (John 15:4-5).
(g) Fulfil your vows (Ecclesiastes 5:4).
(h) Reject all temptations (Hosea 14:8).
(i) Examine your obedience.
(j) Walk humbly, not trusting your heart (Proverbs 28:26).
(k) Help, exhort and edify each other (Hebrews 3:12-13).
(l) Do not sin against conscience (1 John 3:20).

 

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How Do I Know My Sins Have Been Forgiven?

How Do I Know My Sins Have Been Forgiven?

How Do I Know My Sins Have Been Forgiven?
Andrew Gray (1633-1653) was a gifted young preacher who died after a ministry of only 27 months in Glasgow. His sermons were marked by deep spiritual experience. It was said of him, "...never in the history of our country did a man of his years make so deep a mark."
17 Jan, 2020

Guilt is deeply uncomfortable. That’s why most people want to get away from it. It’s the pain that inhibits their pursuit of pleasure. Guilt exists because sin exists. Forgiveness for sin is freely offered in the gospel of Christ (Hebrews 8:12; 1 John 1:9). Some people know this, believe it and have sought the mercy of forgiveness but from time to time they may wonder: do I feel forgiven? Guilt for sin is something that is objective before God’s law. We often think of guilt feelings and the sense of whether or not we are forgiven. It can be a real issue. How do I know I am forgiven? We have to take God at His promise (1 John 1:9) but there is more to it than that. There are also evidences of forgiveness that we can discover.

Andrew Gray gives us 8 helpful evidences of having been forgiven to help us. First, he makes some helpful core principles in relation to forgiveness.

  • There is a difference between granting forgiveness and communicating this to the person forgiven. Christ forgives the man’s sin before he announces it to him (Matthew 9:2).
  • There is also a difference between communicating forgiveness and applying it. David was told that his sins were forgiven by Nathan (2 Samuel 12:13) but in Psalm 51 he prays for it to be applied to him.
  • Many take forgiveness to themselves before God gives it to them. They get this decree from the court of self-love. Many forget their sins before God forgets them. All the ministers and believers in the world may forgive you but what will you do when you get to the judgement? God will ask you “where is my Son’s name on your pardon?” All forgiveness comes from Christ’s goodwill and purchase (Psalm 68:18). We ought to praise Him for pardoning grace but also for restraining grace.
  • Once a sin is truly forgiven it can never be unforgiven (Romans 11:29). But you can lose your sense of forgiveness because of pride which brings us low. If we commit gross sins it will open up the guilt of other buried sins. Forgiveness is a tender plant which we must take great care of. We need to maintain a fresh sense of forgiveness. Otherwise it will become like a document that is old and grimy and cannot be read. Otherwise unbelief and discouragement will make us think that forgiveness has been withdrawn.
  • The best proof of being forgiven is a close, humble walk with God. Pride and slothfulness are the two greatest enemies of a Christian’s growth. They spoil our resolutions and our duties. Nothing hinders our growth more than pride, self-conceit and laziness.

1. If You Have Been Forgiven You Will Highly Esteem the Forgiver

A forgiven sinner has a high estimation of Jesus Christ, the Forgiver. Any who hate the Son of God in their heart do not know what forgiveness is. Why does Micah cry out in wonder at God (Micah 7:18)? It is because He forgives iniquity, transgression and sin. Do you love the creature more than Christ? You have never been forgiven and are not able to commend Christ. Even Christians are forced to swallow up their commendations in silence, wondering in awe at Him for His pardoning mercy.

2. If You Have Been Forgiven You Will Love the Forgiver

Those who have been forgiven love the Forgiver much. We read of Mary, “her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much” (Luke 7:47).

3. If You Have Been Forgiven You Will Praise the Forgiver

Have you experienced such conversion that you dare not praise Him for it by yourself alone but call on others to help you praise Him? This is the experience of Psalm 103:1-3. Blessed is the Christian who can sing this song morning and evening because all his sins are forgiven.

4. If You Have Been Forgiven You Will Hate the Sin

If you can view your sin with delight you do not know the pardon of Christ. Some find their hearts flutter when they see their sin or even an image of it (Ezekiel 8:10-11). When they see their idols portrayed their hearts fall in love with them. A pardoned sinner will look on their sin with hatred and disdain.

5. If You Have Been Forgiven You Will Weep

A forgiven sinner will weep as much (if not more) for the sin afterwards as they did before they received a declaration of being forgiven. There may be mourning without hope when pardon is not yet received but there is mourning with hope after it is received. The pardoned sinner may mourn just as much after their sin is forgiven as before (Luke 7:38 and 47).

6. If You Have Been Forgiven You Will Highly Esteem Forgiveness

A pardoned sinner has a high account of the forgiveness received. No matter what their outward condition may be in this world, all their doubts and fears are answered with the fact of having been forgiven (Psalm 32:1). Who is most blessed? The pardoned man. Forgiveness is one of the sweetest clusters that grow on the tree of life. Have you never esteemed forgiveness of sin?

7. If You Have Been Forgiven You Will Be Sincere

Those who have been forgiven are real and have an honest and sincere spirit. They are without guile (Psalm 32:2). I fear there is a great deal of pretend love, reverence, hope, assurance, faith and forgiveness among us.

8. If You Have Been Forgiven You Will Experience Enlargement

What was your spirit like when you received your pardon? The Christian usually experiences three things after receiving forgiveness. The first is liberty of spirit and an enlarged heart, so that they are constrained to sing for joy. The second is great delight in duty and obedience. The third is great hatred and abhorrence for sin. Have you experienced these?

Encouragements

Here are some encouragements to stir you up to seek forgiveness of sin from Jesus Christ. This is a great matter indeed for some will never get their sins purged from them till they die (Isaiah 22:14).

  • Christ is very ready to forgive (Nehemiah 9:17)
  • God declares forgiveness as part of His very name (Exodus 34:6)
  • There is a promise of abundant forgiveness (Isaiah 55:7). 

Is it not unspeakable folly to lie in prison while the Son of God is saying: “Here is your pardon”? You may use the strongest pleas with God to forgive you “Pardon mine iniquity for it is great” (Psalm 25:11 see also Psalm 40:11-12 and Psalm 41:4).

Further Reading

Other articles that may be helpful include: Forgiveness Does Not Trivialise Sin, Denying Any Wrongdoing?,  How Do I Know if My Repentance is Genuine? and 5 Comforts in Trials for Those Who Have Been Forgiven.

 

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Why Does Our Behaviour Often Contradict Our Morals?

Why Does Our Behaviour Often Contradict Our Morals?

Why Does Our Behaviour Often Contradict Our Morals?
John Brown of Wamphray (1610-1679) was the Church of Scotland minister of Wamphray near Dumfries. One of the great theological writers in the later period of the Second Reformation, he wrote a large number of books and also pastored the Scots Church at Rotterdam.
6 Dec, 2019

70% UK adults think that it’s important for people to have a moral framework in their lives according to a recent BBC survey. Yet only 29% say “I must live by my values all the time”. Why is that? If my values are only defined by me then they are just personal preference. If morality is not objective, we are not accountable to anyone else when we break our own moral code. The same survey revealed that people’s behaviour often contradicts their supposedly strong morals. Half of those who believed it was never acceptable for them to lie admitted they did. Almost half who believed it was never acceptable for them to take illegal drugs had done this. In the midst of such moral confusion we need an objective God-given standard of right and wrong and analysis of the human heart.

Clearly, this is what we need. Despite the contradictions we have noted, 50% of those responding to the survey believed most people are essentially good, with just 4% disagreeing. In the book of Romans the apostle Paul makes unmistakably clear the sinfulness of the human heart. This is why we sin with our fingers in our ears against an accusing conscience. We need a new heart.

In Romans 7 Paul goes on, however, to show how remaining sin still affects those who have been regenerated. It does this to the extent that they even do that which they hate and condemn (Romans 7:15-16,19). They are not immune from a contradiction between the mind, will and the actions either. This is due to the influence of remaining sin within the heart of the believer. Yet it is a different contradiction to what we see in the life and heart of those who have not been regenerated. There is a renewed part within believers that delights in God’s law as holy, just and good. John Brown of Wamphray explains the nature of this contradiction in the heart of believers.

1. A DIFFERENT CONTRADICTION

Those who are strangers to their own hearts and not acquainted with examining themselves usually have too good thoughts of themselves. Serious and sincere consideration of our own hearts will, however, brings us to a right view of our natural corruption. The unregenerate may gain some distant view of their natural corruption but only grace will give a thorough, clear, heart-affecting and soul-humbling sight of it. Paul does this when he says no good thing dwells in his flesh (his remaining sin).

The ungodly may have some willingness to do that which is morally good. Yet they are altogether averse from any spiritual good or even doing moral good in a spiritual way. This is unique to the child of God, only a good tree brings forth good fruit. The love and desire to what is spiritually good is not counterfeit simply because they cannot accomplish their intentions. They may be a will to do that which is good without being able to carry it out.

Although unregenerate people have enough natural conscience within to oppose them when their lusts are carrying them away headlong, they do not have a renewed spirit in their minds resisting. They may have some shadowy knowledge of the principles of righteousness through what it written on their hearts by nature (Romans 2:15). There may also be many within the visible church who are utter strangers to the work of grace who may still have much knowledge of the law of God. Neither have any heart delight in the holy law of God not welcome it heartily as good when it speaks against their corruptions. This is unique to those regenerated that they “consent unto the law that it is good”. It is not a forced necessity but flows from the heart complying with the things commanded or forbidden by the law.  

2. A CONSTANT CONTRADICTION

Since these principles of grace and sin are contrary to each other in their very natures and can never agree, they aim to clash with one another in every action that the poor believer endeavours. What the one wants to do the other will not have done (Galatians 5:17).

Although grace and corruption are irreconcilable enemies and grace constantly seeks to eat away corruption it will still be present in the best to keep them exercised. Sin does not however, reign in them tyrannising and oppressing them as a constant presence but is like a traveller coming and going.

3. A HUMBLING CONTRADICTION

It is evidence of grace within the soul that we get a right view of the corruption within us. This will keep the soul humble and diligent in seeking to exercise and grow in grace. Grace is a heart-humbling thing: the more the soul has of it, the more they are willing to acknowledge their own shame.

4. A MOTIVATING CONTRADICTION

Believers have no cause to be secure but should rather be on their guard because even at their best times when they seek to good “evil is present” with them. It is useful and necessary to consider frequently this conflict in those who are regenerate. We ought to consider how often the worst side prevails over the better in particular skirmishes. This will keep our spirits humble and drive us nearer to Christ to get more grace to subdue and battle with our corruption. It makes us long for the day when we will be beyond its reach. We should also be thankful for any little victory obtained and take it as a foretaste of the ultimate full and final victory.

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Is the Desire to Sin, Sinful?

Is the Desire to Sin, Sinful?

Is the Desire to Sin, Sinful?
James Fergusson (1621-1667) ministered in Kilwinning, Ayrshire. He published a number of expositions of books of the Bible and preached faithfully against the domination of the Church by the civil government.
3 May, 2019

It may sound like a speculative question but a moment’s reflection confirms that it is intensely practical. Can someone disclaim responsibility for their desires to sin? Perhaps they would claim that those desires are part and parcel of a fallen world but not sinful in themselves. Are they free from sinning as long as they don’t act on the desire? These are questions that are currently under intense debate. They need clear answers from the Bible.

It is very clear that our own sinful desires drag us into sinful actions (James 1:13-15). Such desires are all part of “the flesh” (Galatians 5:24). The Lord Jesus Christ makes it clear that the desire to sin is sinful. Sin is not just in the actions but in the heart (Matthew 5:27–28; see Job 31:1). Evil actions and thoughts have their origin in the heart (Matthew 15:18-19; Jeremiah 17:9; Matthew 7:16-18).

There are sinful desires (Colossians 3:5). This is what the apostle Paul came to realise when he understood the real nature of the sin of coveting (Romans 7:7). In Romans 7:8 he explains how sin took the opportunity and advantage of the commandment to produce all kinds of sinful desires in him. An older word used for those desires is concupiscence. It is wrong to be a passive slave to these sinful desires as though it is impossible for a Christian to resist them and put them to death. This is also dealt with in 1 Thessalonians 4:5 which warns believers to avoid the sinful desires and passions of the Gentiles who do not know God. It is especially focussed on sexual sin. James Fergusson draws out the full implications of this verse to help us deal with sinful desires.

He explains how that in urging chastity, the apostle Paul shows how far abstinence from fornication (mentioned v3) reaches. It is not just restraining the external act but also the inward lust. The original word signifies a feverish fit or violent passion of burning desire that boils within, raging in the body (1 Corinthians 7:9). It is like a high fever that produces mental confusion. It stirs up both body and mind to the outward act of filthiness. Otherwise Paul says, they would be like the godless Gentiles, who were for the most part given over by God to be enslaved to their filthy lusts because they did not know God savingly. They do not know Him as He is revealed in His Word nor did they make right use of the knowledge they could have of Him by nature. God therefore gave them over to uncleanness (compare Romans 1:21 with 1:24).

 

1. Sinful desires easily take control

If sinful desires and the first stirrings of lust are not restrained in time they become passionate. They inflame the body and restrain the mind from solid thoughts of anything else except what will fulfil their goal. These violent passions and feverish fits of fleshly sinful desire disable both the body and mind from carrying out any duty of holiness in a way that is honouring to God. Paul shows that sinful desire grows into lust or violent passion and a kind of frenzy, as the word literally means. When lust prevails in this way it is the opposite of possessing the body in sanctification and honour (v4).

 

2. Sinful desires must be resisted

We ought to be diligent in seeking “to know how” to preserve chastity (v4). This will help to allay and root out those feverish fits of burning lust. Unless they are allayed one way or the other it is impossible for someone to possess their body as master of it. They are rather in daily danger of being enslaved to it to fulfil the utmost of those fleshly lusts burning in it. In requiring everyone to know how to possess their body not in sinful lust Paul implies that they are not in full possession of it otherwise. There is skill and knowledge required for keeping the body free of those boiling passions.

 

3. Sinful desires are the root of sin

One and the same sin has various degrees, each one making way for the next.  When we seek to put a sin to death we must not only lop the utmost branches (refraining from the outward act) but also restrain the inward desires of the heart after it. Paul urges us to set ourselves against the inward
lust or passion, of sinful desire as the best way to abstain from sinful desire breaking out into the outward act spoken of in verse 3.

Paul gives them a clear view of the tyranny of sin and of indulging its loathsome filthiness in others. He shows how it prevailed among the pagan Gentiles to warn them from it, “even as the Gentiles” he says.

 

Conclusion

Paul elsewhere plainly describes such sinful desires as sinful in the context of same sex attraction (Romans 1:24 and 26). This has become a contested area due to the trends in our culture. The factors and experience that give rise to those desires may be highly complex but the Bible is clear that such desires are nevertheless sinful. Just like any desire to sin, they are not morally neutral in any way. Thos Christians with a lonely, painful struggle against such desires must seek the help of the Spirit to put sin to death (Romans 8:13). Just as much as those who strive against other sinful desires. An important of this is to put on the new man as well as putting off the old (Ephesians 4:22-24). We need to proactively sow to the Spirit or else we will be sowing to the flesh (Galatians 6:8). It is the great calling of the believer to wage spiritual warfare against all sinful desires (Romans 6:11-12; 1 Peter 2:11; 1 Peter 1:14). How much we all need to be on our guard against sinful desires and to be positively putting on the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 13:14).

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Are All Sins Equal?

Are All Sins Equal?

Are All Sins Equal?
The Westminster Assembly was an advisory body of theologians to the English Parliament which met at Westminster from 1643 to 1648. It produced a new range of standards for church order and government, worship and doctrine for the churches of England, Scotland and Ireland that have been used ever since by Presbyterian churches across the world.
12 Apr, 2019

Is quite common to hear the notion that all sins are the same in God’s sight or that no sin is worse than any other sin. The reasoning behind this is that one breach of God’s law makes us guilty of breaking all commands (James 2:10). Another way this is justified is by saying that all sin meets the same penalty (Romans 6:23) or that its remedy is the same in the cross of Christ. The motivation behind this can be well-intentioned, perhaps not wanting any sin to be seen as small in itself. It deflects unwanted moral judgments by requiring that others must be without sin themselves to avoid hypocrisy. Perhaps the overwhelming emphasis on equality in our culture also steers people towards this idea. But is it right to say that all sins are equal?

It is certainly true that the least sin is an offence against the infinitely holy God and therefore absolutely evil. There is no such thing as a sin that doesn’t matter. But this is not all that can be said. The claim that sins are judged absolutely equally by God does not stand up to Scripture (James 3:1; Matthew 23:14; Matthew 11:24; Luke 12:48; Mark 9:42; 1 Corinthians 3:10-17).  Forgiveness also relates to different levels of sinfulness (Luke 7:41-42, 48). To reason from what sin deserves to what sin is in itself risks ignoring what the Bible says about whether some sins are more sinful than others (1 John 5:16). Christ Himself says that some sins are greater than others (John 19:11).

Let’s be clear that Scripture does say that some sins are worse than others (Exodus 32:30).

  • Some idolatry is even worse than other forms (Ezekiel 8:6, 13,15; Ezekiel 23:11);
  • Some commandments are of greater weight than others (Matthew 5:19; Matthew 23:23);
  • Some sins are worse because they involve sinning wilfully and defiantly (Numbers 15:30 and 15:22, 24, 27, 29);
  • Some sins are worse than others, such as sexual sin (1 Corinthians 6:18);
  • Some sexual sins are worse than other sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 5:1; Romans 1:26-27; Leviticus 20:10-16 compared with 20:17-21)

 

What Makes Some Sins Worse Than Others?

None of this excuses or belittles any sin, it simply gives us God’s perspective on degrees of sinfulness. The Westminster Larger Catechism (Q150), like the Shorter Catechism (Q83) makes it clear that “all transgressions of the law of God are not equally heinous”. Yet some sins “are more heinous in the sight of God than others”. They are either more heinous “in themselves” or because of certain “aggravations”. Aggravations are the things that make a sin more serious. It is a term still used in the law courts to mean an aspect of a crime which increases its guilt over and above the offence itself. Aggravated assault, for example, is different from simple assault depending on the intent, the weapon used or the extent of the injury. In Q151 the Larger Catechism goes on to explain what these “aggravations” are in relation to God’s law. When we consider these we see that the whole subject is much more extensive and challenging than the “all sins are equal” mantra acknowledges.

(a) The Person Sinning Makes Some Sins Worse

  • if we are older and “of riper age” (Job 32:7,9; Ecclesiastes 4:13) it is more serious than in someone younger. Wisdom should have come with years and experience. This is because we have had greater opportunity to learn God’s will, experience His grace and how to overcome temptation.
  • if we have greater experience or grace. Solomon had experienced much from God and the example of his father yet he sinned against what he knew and had received (1 Kings 11:4,9). The greater progress someone has made in holiness and godliness, the less excuse they have and the greater their fall when they sin.
  • if we are “eminent for profession” of Christianity. David made the enemies of God to blaspheme (2 Samuel 12:14) because of the prominent nature of both his sin and relationship with God. The inconsistency of one so committed to serving God made it worse than it would have been in others.
  • if we have greater gifts and responsibility. Where God has blessed us with greater knowledge of the Bible and opportunities to gain this we are more responsible for using these gifts not to sin (James 4:17; Luke 12:47-48). Where we are in a position of responsibility towards others in society, work, church and family we have greater guilt in sinning because our actions carry more weight and influence (Jeremiah 5:4-5. 2 Samuel 12:7-9; Ezekiel 8:11-12. Romans 2:17-24). Higher standards are expected of us and more eyes are upon us.
  • if our example is likely to be followed by others. If we are likely to lead others astray we incur guilt for that as well as our own actions. It can have a significant impact on a lot of others who may follow our example (Galatians 2:11-14).

(b) The Person Sinned Against Makes Some Sins Worse

  • sinning against God is worse than sinning against others (1 Samuel 2:25; Acts 5:4; Psalm 51:4). This is because of the infinite majesty and holiness of God and because our greatest responsibility is to love God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind.
  • sinning against things by which God makes Himself known is worse. This may include His attributes (Romans 2:4) or name (Exodus 20:7). It may also include despising His worship (Malachi 1:3-4) which is meant for displaying His glory.
  • sinning against Christ and His grace is worse. We are warned solemnly against refusing His message, promises and offers of grace in the gospel (Hebrews 2:2-3; Hebrews 12:25)
  • sinning against the witness and working of the Holy Spirit is worse. If we lie to Him or resist, despise and blaspheme Him it is worse (Acts 5:3-4; Hebrews 10:29; Matthew 12:31-32; Hebrews 6:4). If we grieve and quench Him it is worse (Ephesians 4:7; 1 Thessalonians 5:19)
  • sinning against superiors is worse. This is because they have a God-given authority and are to be respected and obeyed (Jude 8; Numbers 12:8-9; Isaiah 3:5)
  • sinning against relations is worse. We have particular family or other social bonds that we must respect and not abuse. We have greater obligations and responsibility towards them (Proverbs 30:17; 2 Corinthians 12:15; Psalm 55:12-15).
  • sinning against the souls of others is worse, such as when we mislead them spiritually especially in matters of salvation (Matthew 23:15; 1 Thessalonians 2:15).
  • sinning against believers is worse because of the bonds and ties of grace. (Matthew 18:6; 1 Corinthians 6:8; Proverbs 6:19).This is especially so in relation to those of the Lord’s people who are weaker (1 Corinthians 8:11-12; Romans 14:13,15,21).
  • sinning against a corporate body is worse (Joshua 7:20, 21, 25; 1 Kings 14:16).

(c) The Nature of the Sin Makes Some Sins Worse

  • the clearer the command sinned against, the greater the sin. The more expressly God has commanded or forbidden something the greater the guilt in disobeying (Romans 1:32; Ezra 9:10-12; 1 Kings 11:9-10).
  • the greater number of commands sinned against, the greater the sin. Some sins break more commands than others. Covetousness is idolatry as well as being against the tenth commandment (Colossians 3:5; 1 Timothy 6:10). Achan’s sin involved coveting and theft (Joshua 7:21). Ahab coveted and took Naboth’s land by perjury, theft, murder and injustice.
  • the greater the impact, the greater the sin.It is a serious thing to stumble and harm others by our sins (Matthew 18:7; Romans 2:23-24).
  • the more openly committed, the greater the sin. Sin is still sin in the heart but when it is expressed in words or actions it brings greater public dishonour to God and damage to others (James 1:14-15; Matthew 5:22; Micah 2:1).
  • the greater the consequences, the greater the sin. We cannot make amends for our sin by our own actions as it relates to its guilt before God as though we could atone for it. But sometimes we can pay back something that was stolen or lost. It is more serious when we cannot make any restitution. David could not restore the life he had taken away or the marriage he had destroyed (1 Samuel 12:9; see also Deuteronomy 22:22 compared with Deuteronomy 22:28-29). Some damage to reputation and honour cannot be removed (Proverbs 6:32-35).
  • the greater the restraints, the greater the sin. God may use various means that ought to restrain us from sinning. Some saw the miracles of Christ and heard His teaching but it did not restrain their unbelief (Matthew 11:21-24; John 15:22). It increased their guilt that they had such privileges. God’s goodness, mercies and deliverances towards us should also restrain us (Isaiah 1:3; Deuteronomy 32:6). It is a serious matter to despise His goodness and forbearance (Romans 2:4). To sin against judgments also increases our guilt (Amos 4:8-11; Jeremiah 5:3; Revelation 9:20-21). Other things that should restrain us are the light of nature and convictions of our own conscience (Daniel 5:22; Titus 3:10-11). Certain things should be obvious to us even without special revelation (Romans 1:20, 26-27; Romans 2:14-16). Outward restraints include the warnings of others in public or private (Proverbs 29:1). Official church discipline (Titus 3:10; Matthew 18:17) and civil punishment (Proverbs 27:22; Proverbs 23:35) ought to restrain us. It is also serious when we sin against our prayers, purposes, promises, vows, covenants, and engagements to God or others (Psalm 78:34-37; Jeremiah 2:20; Jeremiah 42:5-6,20-21; Ecclesiastes 5:4-6; Proverbs 20:25; Leviticus 26:25; Proverbs 2:17; Ezekiel 17:18-19).
  • the greater the wilfulness, the greater the sin. If we sin deliberately, wilfully, presumptuously, boldly, boastingly, maliciously, frequently, obstinately, with delight, continuance, or relapsing after repentance (Psalm 36:4; Jeremiah 6:16; Numbers 15:30; Exodus 21:14; Jeremiah 3:3; Proverbs 7:13; Psalm 52:1; 3 John 10; Numbers 14:22; Zechariah 7:11-12; Proverbs 2:14; Isaiah 57:17; Jeremiah 34:8-11; 2 Peter 2:20-22).  

(d) The Circumstances Make Some Sins Worse

  • sinning in or around the time of worshipping God or on the Lord’s day is worse (2 Kings 5:26; Jeremiah 7:10; Isaiah 26:10; Ezekiel 23:37-39; Isaiah 58:3-5; Numbers 25:6-7; 1 Corinthians 11:20-21; Jeremiah 7:8-10; Proverbs 7:14-15; John 13:27,30)
  • sinning after God has chastised us is worse (Ezra 9:13-14)
  • sinning in public, or in the presence of others is worse. This is especially true if they are likely to be encouraged to sin by it (2 Samuel 16:22; 1 Samuel 2:22-24).

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Keep Calm in An Age of Anger

Keep Calm in An Age of Anger

Keep Calm in An Age of Anger
James Fergusson (1621-1667) ministered in Kilwinning, Ayrshire. He published a number of expositions of books of the Bible and preached faithfully against the domination of the Church by the civil government.
22 Mar, 2019

We’re getting angrier, about a lot of things. It’s the dominant emotion in western societies on a daily basis. That hothouse of anger–social media–is even more ablaze with rage (according to a new study). Frustration and moral outrage explode against a great deal we cannot control or even influence. It’s an emotional contagion where seeing people express anger drives others to display it too. And our own irritability works in the same way. Every outburst legitimises the next. How much of this is righteous anger? And how can we resist sinful anger? We need to know.

One of the clearest verses of the Bible dealing with anger is actually a command telling us to be angry. But the full command is “Be…angry and sin not” (Ephesians 4:26). It goes on to forbid letting “the sun go down on your wrath”. It gives us counsel about keeping righteous anger and killing sinful anger. Later in the same chapter (verse 31) we learn about the different types of sinful anger that people choose to express. James Fergusson has especially helpful reflections on these verses in the following updated extract.

 

1. How to Identify Sinful Anger

Sinful anger or unjust desire of revenge is, when anger is kindled rashly (Proverbs 14:17) for no cause, (Matthew 5:22) or for a very light one (1 Corinthians 13:5). Or it is when it exceeds just bounds (Genesis 49:7).

There are different types of anger. They are brought together in verse 31 which lists bitterness, wrath, anger, clamour, evil-speaking and malice.

(a) Bitterness

This is the lowest degree of sinful anger. It includes all secret, hidden displeasure and alienation of affection. It has more of discontent and grudge, than of revenge in it (Psalm 37:1).

(b) Wrath

This is fierce, impetuous rage, and passionate commotion of the heart and affections due to a felt sense of a perceived or real injury. It prevents and obstructs the use of reason, which being soon up, is as soon allayed, 1 Sam. 25:21, 22. with 32.

(c) Angry Shouting

Clamour means boisterous words, loud menaces, and other inordinate speech. These are the black smoke by which the fire of anger and wrath which has been kindled within first manifests itself (Acts 15:39).

(d) Evil Speaking

Evil speaking (or blasphemy as the word means) is a further fruit of wrath and anger. This is disgraceful and insulting speech by which someone who is incensed seeks to stain the reputation of the person who has done them (real or perceived) wrong (1 Samuel 20:30).

(e) Malice

Malice is rooted anger and continuing wrath. It makes the person consumed by it daily intent on all opportunities for revenge. They are completely implacable until they get their vindictive inclination satisfied (Romans 1:31)

Bitterness, wrath, anger, clamour, evil-speaking and malice grieve the Holy Spirit of God (Ephesians 4:30). They greatly darken the work of grace in the heart by which He seals believers. There are no sins more opposed to the fruit of the Spirit (mentioned in Galatians 5:22). Where such sins are given way to, grace must be in decay. Thus, the apostle immediately adds to the command not to grieve the Spirit “let all bitterness, wrath and anger be put away”. This implies that otherwise they would grieve the Spirit.

Sin is so subtle and we are so weak and unskilled in resisting it that when it gets in, one sin makes way for a further. Thus, it goes from bad to worse. The wisest course therefore is to oppose it in good time, lest it gathers strength by our indulging it. The apostle outlines various degrees of sinful anger. The first makes way for the next and the next is always worse and a step nearer to the worst height.

 

2. How to Have Righteous Anger

Anger is a natural affection, planted in our first parents at the first creation. Indeed it was also found in Christ Himself, who was without sin (Mark 3:5). It is not in itself a sin therefore, nor always sinful. As it is in its own nature it is indifferent. It becomes good or evil, according to its reasons, causes, objects and purposes. Sometimes and in some situations being angry is a necessary duty for a Christian to be angry e.g. when anger flows from zeal to God’s glory (John 2:15 with v17) and love to our brother (Proverbs 13:24).

It is righteous when it is arises from just and weighty causes. Chief of these is God’s dishonour, whether by our own sins (2 Corinthians 7:11) or the sins of others (Exodus 32:19). It is incensed not so much against the person of our brother as against his sin. It is therefore against sin in ourselves, as much as in others (Matthew 7:5). This is clear when it does not hinder other duties of love which we owe to the person with whom we are angry (Exodus 32:19 with 32). It is also clear when it does not impair our access to God in prayer (1 Timothy 2:8). We must not go beyond the bounds of our calling, nor should we give way to private revenge in pursuing our anger (Luke 9:54-55). When the reasons, purposes and behaviour are right, anger is praiseworthy and commendable. The apostle commands anger in the right circumstances.

 

3. How to Restrain Sinful Anger

It is easy to pass from moderation to excess in our natural affections of joy, fear, grief, desire. This goes from what is lawful and in some cases necessary, to what is sinful (Psalm 2:11). When anger is given way to it is most difficult to keep within and not exceed bounds and not to exceed. This happens by transgressing one or other of the limitations of righteous anger mentioned before. He cautions not to sin when we are angry.

 

4. How to Watch Against Sinful Anger

It is possible (even in the child of God) for lawful anger to degenerate into sinful wrath. The mind is embittered and accordingly rages against the person who has done the wrong. But the child of God must not have an implacable spirit which cannot be exhausted by length of time. If their anger at any time should exceed bounds and turn to wrath or bitterness of spirit, he exhorts them to suppress it speedily. They must suppress it even before the sun goes down, not cherishing that evil or indulging themselves in it for the space of one night. The apostle supposes they may have anger but they must not maintain it long. “Let not the sun go down upon your wrath”.

It is not enough for Christians to refrain from the venting of their passions in their inordinate expressions and actions; but they must also, and in order to their refraining from those, set about the rectifying of their inward affections and most secret distempers of their spirit: otherwise, if the flame of anger and wrath doth burn within, it will most readily send up a black smoke of clamour and evil speaking, to the offence of others: for, Paul forbiddeth not only clamour and evil-speaking, but also all bitternesse, wrath and anger.

 

5. How to Deal With Sinful Anger

The child of God is not to be discouraged and give up resisting sin. Nor are they to run away when sin prevails. But, having received a new supply of strength from Christ (2 Corinthians 12:8) by exercising faith in prayer, they must attack sin afresh with renewed courage. In doing this they may recover what was previously lost. Paul instructs that if their anger should at any time be excessive they should set themselves against it without delay and not let the sun go down on their wrath.

It is not sufficient to suppress and weaken our sinful corruptions. We ought to aim at, and rest satisfied with nothing less than totally subduing them. We should remove them by pulling them up by the very roots. He says “Let all bitterness etc….be put away”. The word put away means: “Let it be lifted up, and so destroyed”.

Sins of the tongue and outward actions are to be put away and put to death as well as sins of the heart. They are in some ways more dangerous (Matthew 18:7 because more dangerous to others. They always flow from a defiled heart (Matthew 15:19) and make it worse than it was.

 

Conclusion

In a time of moral outrage we need to be clear about true righteous anger and how and when it should be expressed. The people of God also have an opportunity in an angry age to show the grace of Christ. Watching against and dealing with sinful anger marks out believers as different, especially when we do not join the bandwagon of vitriol. It’s extremely hard to deal with sinful anger, it just seems to come from nowhere. But the more that we seek grace through prayer take steps against it the less we will be defeated by it.  The Holy Spirit who is grieved with all forms of sinful anger has been given to help us put it to death.

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How to Live Without Regrets

How to Live Without Regrets

How to Live Without Regrets
James Durham (1622-1658) was minister in Glasgow for only eleven years but left a considerable number of writings. One of the co-authors of 'The Sum of Saving Knowledge', he is best known for writing what is still regarded as the classic Reformed work on church unity, division and schism, 'A Treatise Concerning Scandal' as well as a highly sought after commentary on the Book of Revelation.
4 Jan, 2019

“No regrets” is probably the most popular life motto currently. Almost everyone seems to be claiming it for themselves. It means living in the moment without thinking before or after about your actions. Get what you want out of life. Don’t admit that any decision you’ve taken was wrong. But such a philosophy is inevitably destructive. The person with no regrets whatsoever is the person with no conscience whatsoever. Can people really walk away from marriage breakdowns etc saying “no regrets”? Aren’t there words and actions we regret? Have we never wronged someone in some way? But there is a right way to live without regrets. One that takes conscience seriously.

The world’s idea of “no regrets” buries conscience and refuses to be impacted by guilt. In fact the only way to truly live without regrets is to take conscience as seriously as possible. It is to live a life with what James Durham calls “a serene and smiling conscience”. He calls it “Heaven upon earth”. Of course none of us are perfect, we will have some regrets. But here is how to live with as few regrets of conscience as possible.

1. What is it to Live Without Regrets?

This is what the apostle Paul set as his goal. He made it his earnest endeavour to strive to have his conscience clear towards God and men (Acts 24:16). Durham says is an excellent example to follow because it sums up the Christian life. He also say that it is the very soul and life of religion and where it is not present there is no true religion.

  • What was Paul’s great aim? To live so as never to offend his conscience or give it cause to make a bad report of him.
  • How far did this reach? Everyone: God and men, he would do duty to both, and be found without offence to either. Everything: in all actions, company, places and times. Not just special times, he aimed to be always constant and consistent in this.
  • How did he do this? It was a serious business. As a man who fighting for his life carefully handles his arms, so Paul behaved himself in all things as if his life depended on every action or word.

2. Why is this Important?

  • There are many sorts of offences both toward God and toward men that we are liable to commit.
  • Everyone has a conscience within that takes notice of every aspect of their conduct. It is influenced by this and influences us.
  • Whatever things are offences toward God or men are also offensive to the conscience, whatever sin strikes against God’s law wounds the conscience.
  • It is an excellent thing for a believer to live so as to keep a conscience always clear of offence toward God and toward men. It is a very bad thing at any time to have offence toward either of them on the conscience.
  • Everyone (especially believers) should live in this way so that they may always keep a conscience clear of offence. It is not only a duty but an excellent means for advancing holiness.
  • It is a demanding thing to honestly aim to keep our conscience always clear of offence.
  • Conscience is left to abound with offences where these demands are neglected and not seriously engaged in.

3. What Does it Involve?

(a) Do Not Commit Any Known Sin

There will be no good conscience if you do. Live in a way that is not contrary to what you know.

(b) Do Not Omit Any Known Duty

Every sin wrongs the conscience, but the sin we know and yet commit and the duty we know and yet omit, strikes against the conscience even more directly. You who know that the sabbath should be kept holy, that you should pray in secret, and in your families, that you should not make one another stumble etc. Beware of running into these dangers that are contrary to your knowledge.

(c) Do Nothing Doubtingly

Those who do something and yet doubt whether they should are sentenced and condemned at to that particular thing (see Romans 14:23).

(d) Do Duties in the Right Way

Strive to do duties in the right way and for the right purpose. It is not enough to pray or do any other commanded duty. That will not keep conscience quiet if you do not seek to do it in the right way and for the right purpose. The activity is lawful but conscience will still convict you because of the way in which you do it.

4. How Does it Help Us Spiritually?

  • It gives much boldness in approaching God (1 John 3:20).
  • It gives reason to expect our prayers to be heard (1 John 3:22).
  • It keeps us from much sin
  • It makes life cheerful (Proverbs 15:15) and the heart guarded with peace (Philippians 4:7).
  • It is sweet in affliction (2 Corinthians 1:12). 
  • It is sweet when death approaches (2 Kings 20:3).

5. How to Live Without Regrets

(a) Strive to be Clear

Strive to be clear in the matters of God and what concerns your own good. “Let every one be fully persuaded in his own mind” (Romans 14:5). It is not possible for those who are ignorant of what God requires to keep a good conscience. They do not know when they sin or when they do duty aright. Many wise and rich men can speak well of the things of this world but are ignorant of the things of God.

(b) Take Heed to Conscience

Most follow what their own reason and will prefer and do it without ever ask what conscience rightly informed by God’s Word would say. This makes many say and do in haste things that they repent of afterwards. Consult seriously with your conscience and do not sin (Psalm 4:4). Do not let the advice of flesh and blood come between God and you and sway you. Of course we should not take everything from conscience without reasons, it is a lesser rule to follow. Listen to what the greater rule of God’s Word says. Test something by bringing it to conscience and then test your conscience by asking it to give a reason from the Word.

(c) Beware of Going Against Conscience

Beware of going against conscience in the least thing. Abstain from everything that seem to come in into conflict with it. Conscience is a very tender thing; if we do not respect conscience we may provoke God to give us up to do what we want.

(d) Listen to Conscience

Listen to what conscience says before you do anything. Consider also how you acted according to your knowledge of what is right afterwards.  Paul puts a good conscience and sincerity together (2 Corinthians 1:12). No matter how many good words we speak and how many good things we do, they will not be accepted if do not have a single eye to God’s honour in them. A good conscience will be lacking where this is not there or where conscience is made subordinate to our interests. Many resolve to do such and duties, as long as they fit in with their own interests.

(e) Go Often to the Blood of Christ

Be frequent and serious in making believing use of the blood of Christ, the blood of sprinkling. Thus, your consciences may be sprinkled and purged from dead works (Hebrews 9:14 and 10:22). The great basis of your peace is not how serious and sincere you are but how He has satisfied divine justice. Many of our works and duties are dead unless they are sprinkled with the power of His blood. They will be like many dead weights on the conscience. There can be no truly good conscience if this is neglected.

Conclusion

Nothing will make your life more truly cheerful and comfortable. But if it is neglected or slighted, all your knowledge, debates about religion, tasting the good Word of God, all your prayers, or whatever else you can name, will be of no purpose. We leave it on you before God and apply it direct to your conscience, to make it your endeavour to always have a good conscience clear of offence toward God and toward men.  

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The Remedy for a World Gone Toxic

The Remedy for a World Gone Toxic

The Remedy for a World Gone Toxic
George Hutcheson (1615-1674) ministered in Ayrshire and Edinburgh and was a noted bible expositor. Like many other ministers he was removed from his congregation in 1662 for refusing to conform to the rule of bishops.
7 Dec, 2018

It’s the Word of the Year–”toxic”. Every year Oxford Dictionaries choose a word or expression to reflect the passing year in language. Their data shows that people used the term to describe a broad range of situations. Things like workplaces, schools, relationships, cultures, and stress. It’s commonly used about political debate and rhetoric, of course. “Reviewing this year in language, we repeatedly encountered the word ‘toxic’ being used to describe an increasing set of conditions that we’re all facing…‘toxic’ seems to reflect a growing sense of how extreme, and at times radioactive, we feel aspects of modern life have become”. Why is this and what is the remedy?

Toxic is defined as “poisonous” and this is the origin of the word. In the Bible it’s often used to describe sin and its effects. In particular tongue operated by sin is untameable and “an unruly evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:8; Psalm 140:3; Psalm 58:4). Poisonous effects are inevitable as sin grows unchecked and dominates the lives of individuals and communities.

It was the same in Israel when it was rebelling against God; the human heart is the same. In the time of Hosea, society had become toxic in the nation of Israel. There were many words but they were empty words. There were promises and agreements but they were deceitful and quickly broken. “They have spoken words, swearing falsely in making a covenant”. They had also broken faith with God in their religious profession; their words could not be trusted in this. God was going to judge them in leaving their sins to go unrestrained. Hosea uses a picture to describe the effects of this. It is like poisonous hemlock taking over and springing up in the furrows of the field rather than wheat (Hosea 10:4). They were overrun with the poisonous effects of their sin.

George Hutcheson comments on this. They used empty words and false oaths in their agreements both with God and men. They kept none of them and so judgment was springing up “as hemlock”. Due to their corruption and unfaithfulness the bitter and deadly fruits of unrighteousness rather than justice were springing up throughout the land. It is a sad picture but later in the chapter we have the remedy for it in repentance and faith towards God and His blessing. This is what our toxic world needs.

 

1. Why Things Become Toxic

(a) Empty Words

God cannot endure the empty words and professions of men, whether in religion or in their private dealings. It was said of Israel, they “have spoken words” – mere words.

(b) Trust Has Disappeared

Wicked men’s oaths and covenants with God or men are no more to be trusted than their words. It is the cause of sad dispute when it is so. This charge is added to the previous one: “swearing falsely in making a covenant” (see also Leviticus 26:25; Ezekiel 17:15; Psalm 15:4).

(c) Lack of Trust Leads to All Unrighteousness

When there is such hypocrisy and deception in making no conscience of oaths and covenants a people are ripe for all unrighteousness. They will be given up to produce so much of the fruits of unrighteousness that it will be bitter and deadly to the oppressed. God will also reckon it bitter and intolerable. Judgment springs up like hemlock in its nature and abundance.

(d) God Sees Beyond Outward Appearances

False and pretended professions and appearances cannot hide the true nature of sin from the all-seeing eye of God.   He uses means intended to make a people righteous, but this makes their unrighteousness appear all the more loathsome. Israel may well have seemed to make an outward profession and make efforts to bring forth good and righteous fruit (like a farmer ploughs a field).  God had provided means for this (like a field which is fertilised). But instead judgment was springing up like hemlock in the very furrows of the field and not just the waste ground.

 

2. The Remedy for a Toxic Condition

The remedy for this is mentioned later in the chapter at verse 12. It continues to use the metaphor of sowing a field but this time it holds out the promise of a true yield. They are told: “Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the LORD, till he come and rain righteousness upon you”. This is an exhortation to repentance and reformation. They are to sow the fruits of righteousness with the promise that they will reap the fruits of mercy. They are to break up and fertilise the hard and wild ground of their heart. This would show their true repentance. He promises to forgive their sins and clothe them with Christ’s righteousness.

(a) God’s Most Severe Threats are Calls to Repentance

When the Lord is most severe in threatening we must consider it to be an exhortation to repentance with implied promises. If they were to heed this, who knows what mercy would make of the worst person or people in the world?

(b) The Fruits of Righteousness are Evidence of Repentance

The fruits of righteousness in relation to the second half of the Ten Commandments are the true evidences of repentance and conversion to God through faith in Jesus Christ. This is why He requires sowing in righteousness, or the duties of righteousness. It is not as if this righteousness summed up the whole of their conversion, but simply its evidences and fruits.

(c) God Requires Diligence in Repentance

Their duty is expressed using terms taken from the hard labours of farming, particularly sowing.  In sowing famers must wait for the reward of their labour and those who repent must be content to wait on God for the blessing (see Psalm 97:11; James 5:7).

(d) God Requires Repentance for Our Benefit

God does not seek obedience because He needs it. The benefit is for those who repent: “sow to yourselves”, He says.

(e) The Harvest of Righteousness May be Delayed

Righteousness may seem to be long forgotten and lost, lying like seed under the earth. In due time, however, it will bring a blessed harvest of grace. He says, “sow” and “reap” (see Psalm 126:6; Galatians 6:9).

(f) Those Who are Truly Righteous Depend on Mercy Alone

Those who truly walk in righteousness flee to Christ in the Covenant of Grace and draw strength from Him for new obedience. They look only to Gods mercy and not their own worth. They expect to “reap in mercy”.

(g) We Need A New Nature to Produce Righteousness

We can reap no fruit (despite our diligence) until our hard hearts which are unused to any good are changed and put in a new and fruitful condition. It also says, “break up your fallow ground”. This metaphor is taken from ploughing to teach that their hearts are as wild as land like not used to being ploughed is hard to plough. Greater effort must be taken to humble themselves and repent.

(h) We Must Not Neglect Opportunities to Repent

“It is time to seek the Lord” in view of how long they had neglected or refused to seek God in the past (see 1 Peter 4:3). As long as sinners are preserved and invited to repentance it is still an acceptable time. Such opportunities should not be neglected.

(i) We Must Not Give Up Seeking God

Those who seek God sincerely to enjoy Him will not give up until He comes. They “seek the LORD, till he come”.

(j) God Promises to Pour Out His Blessings

Those who seek the Lord sincerely and constantly will not only find Him, but He will come over all obstacles that they could not get over. He comes and rains righteousness, freely pouring out blessings, refresh them after all their labours in pursuing after Him.

(k) Christ’s Righteousness is the Great Blessing

God will freely refresh His people by fulfilling the promises they wait for. He will fulfil many of them in a shower together. This will make up for long delays. He will refresh them under the shadow of Christ’s righteousness (their greatest hope,) and its rich fruits. He “will rain righteousness upon you” means both His righteousness in faithfully keeping His promise and His imputed and freely given righteousness. This is the imputed righteousness of Christ, which is witnessed to by the law and the prophets (Romans 3:21-22).

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The Complete Remedy for Human Miseries

The Complete Remedy for Human Miseries

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

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

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

 

1. Human Misery is Comprised of Three Things

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

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

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

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

 

2. The Complete Remedy for Human Misery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Are We Getting Holiness Wrong?

Are We Getting Holiness Wrong?

Are We Getting Holiness Wrong?
James Fraser of Brea (1639-1698) was originally from the Black Isle, Ross-shire. He was imprisoned on the Bass Rock for ‘illegal’ field preaching but survived the times of persecution.
13 Jul, 2018

We can have the right doctrine of holiness; one that takes it as seriously as Scripture does. But in relation to its practical outworking and in our assumptions concerning it, we may have got it wrong. No doubt there could be many ways in which we could do this. We may fall into the error that we can contribute something, that there is a place for our personal merit. Or perhaps we subtly divorce holiness from happiness and find ourselves in a constant conflict between the two. This is a serious mistake because holiness is the only way to true happiness. If we secretly equate happiness with sinful pleasure or our own will rather than God’s, we have gone badly wrong.  We can only look at a few ways in which we may be inclined to get holiness wrong.

James Fraser of Brea takes an honest look at himself, searching into his motives and attitudes. The discovery is startling, while he values holiness he has certain attitudes that are hindering his progress. The evil one is insinuating false notions that confuse and divert. The following are only a few of the many things that Fraser identifies. Of course free unmerited grace must always be in view.

 

1. Thinking Repentance is Only Inward

In thinking that the essence of true repentance consists in contrition for sin more than in turning in heart and practice from it. When I have not found myself in a mourning, sorrowful spirit but limited in my affections, I have not turned from sin. I was still taken up with trying to sorrow for it, thinking there was no true repentance without this. When I have mourned I depended on this, thinking it was sufficient. But repentance mostly consists in turning to God, mourning is only the manner of this act of turning (Joel 2:12; Isaiah 58:6; Proverbs 21:3).

I have neglected the outward practice of repentance under the pretence that the Lord requires the heart. But we should serve the Lord both in body and in spirit. It is true, we should not rest in the outward, or mainly look to that but should look to the heart mostly; yet the outward act should not be neglected.

 

2. Wallowing in Self Pity

After falls and slips, Satan has sought to keep me astonished and confused by what I have done. In this way I was kept from getting up to my feet and going forward. Those who fall when they are running in a race lose much time and are far behind while they think about what to do. The best way is to get up, consider our ways, mourn, seek pardon, and then go to work. This is how it was with Joshua, God told him to get up and do his work rather than lie on his face (Joshua 7:10). When David sinned, he immediately goes to repentance: “I have sinned, yet now, Lord, forgive.”

 

3. Emphasising Holiness But Not Practising it

It is wrong to neglect to obedience in dependence on grace by resting in a resolve to do and it and mere thoughts of how good it is. Either I thought this was enough or else through complacency have not expected difficulty in practice. Yet those who know, approve and teach God’s requirements to other while neglecting it themselves, “say and do not” (Romans 2:13-14, 18; Matthew 7:21; Jeremiah 2:19- 20). Thus my thoughts delighting in obedience have not been so much to practise as to delight the understanding in dwelling on such subjects.

 

4. Rebranding Sin

Satan can transform himself into an angel of light, by gilding vices with the lustre and appearance of virtue, under spiritual pretences. I have been tempted to carelessness and excess under the pretence of avoiding unthankfulness and not using Christian liberty. I have neglected to have the heart rightly affected with the evil of sin, because repentance consists more in turning from sin than in sorrow for it. I have avoided prayer when not in the right spirit in case I make the easy yoke of Christ a grievous burden. Sin has prevailed in these ways and when it has overcome it appeared in its own clothing. The grace of God may be turned into lasciviousness (2 Corinthians 11:14; Romans 6:1). We have been “called to liberty” but we are not to use this to give opportunity for the flesh (Galatians 5:13).

 

5. A Legalistic Spirit

There is nothing does me more damage than a legalistic spirit or spirit of bondage. Satan presses duties in a violent way, presenting God as a hard master and an austere judge. He presents God as one that commands and requires duties in the way that tyrannical rulers make laws to entrap the subjects. He makes it seem as though God is urging hard duties and putting new wine into old bottles with the greatest threats and no promise of help. I am urged to obey hastily without being given time to breathe and extreme perfection is required or else it will not be accepted at all.  Finding the Lord’s yoke so hard, I have either cast it off or sometimes engaged in it disheartened. Nothing has influenced me worse than this. Talents have been slighted because God was viewed as a hard master. The Lord has not been served because our yoke is not made light. There is aversion and lack of love to God due to sinful fear (1 John 4:18).

 

6. Trying to Establish Our Own Righteousness

Satan and my own heart have held me fast for a long time in the snare of seeking to establish my own righteousness. When my heart has been in a good condition, with a felt sense of what I lack and desiring to obey it has resolved to use specific means to obtain this. I have found Satan deceiving me in this by making me love these duties, means, graces and obtaining them because it is the produce of my own desire and resolve. Thus, they have been my own (as it were) and my choice. I have despised other means because they were not my own choice. I have therefore been grieved when favour come in a different way and valued such mercy less. When I have fallen into sins I resolve to avoid I have grieved more because my resolutions have been broken and my will thwarted than because God has been wronged or my soul endangered. Thus God has been provoked to break down these resolutions and cast down the tower that reached to heaven (Proverbs 19:3; Romans 10:3; Mark 14:37; Isaiah 10:7; Psalm 58:3).

 

7. Thinking Holiness is All About Hardship

When difficult duties have been urged such as mourning, fasting, diligence etc. I have been brought to think that the purpose of the command was mostly to bring hardship on myself. I obeyed more often for this reason than to obey God’s command. It was like pagans who cut themselves or Roman Catholics who whip themselves and it did me harm. It engendered hard thoughts of God and made me do duties in a spiritless way and without spiritual benefit because I only sought hardship for myself.

 

8. Not Avoiding “Little Sins”

I have not avoided “little” evils, fearing that this would be like tithing “anise and cumin” (Matthew 23:23).

 

9. Focussing On Outward Sins Rather than Inward Corruption

In striving against the outward acts of sin I have not been considering the inward corruption of the heart. I have been “making clean the outside” but neglecting to cleanse it within; cutting the branches, and sparing the root (Matthew 23:25-26). I have not profited in holiness because the fountain has not been cleansed.

 

10. Depending on Our Own Strength

Going on in duties in my own strength without looking for divine assistance, has done me great harm. When I have gone on in confidence of my own strength the Lord has chastened me for my presumption, as it was with Peter. When duties have been difficult I have become discouraged because I was relying on and looking to my own strength.

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