Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Marrow of Modern Divinity by Edward Fisher

Chapter II, Section III, 3
The warrant to believe in Christ.
Neo. But, sir, hath such a one as I any warrant to believe in Christ?
Evan. I beseech you consider, that God the Father, as he is in his Son Jesus Christ, moved with nothing but with his free love to mankind lost, hath made a deed of gift and grant unto them all, that whosoever of them all shall believe in this his Son, shall not perish, but have eternal life. 1 And hence it was, that Jesus Christ himself said unto his disciples, (Mark 16:15), "Go and preach the gospel to every creature under heaven": 2 that is, Go and tell every man without exception, that here is good news for him; Christ is dead for him; and if he will take him, and accept of his righteousness, he shall have him. 3 Therefore, says a godly writer, "Forasmuch as the holy Scripture speaketh to all in general, none of us ought to distrust himself, but believe that it doth belong particularly to himself." 4 And to the end, that this point, wherein lies and consists the whole mystery of our holy faith, may be understood the better, let us put the case, that some good and holy king should cause a proclamation to be made through his whole kingdom, by the sound of a trumpet, that all rebels and banished men shall safely return home to their houses: because that, at the suit and desert of some dear friend of theirs, it has pleased the king to pardon them; certainly, none of these rebels ought to doubt, but that he shall obtain true pardon for his rebellion; and so return home, and live under the shadow of that gracious king. Even so, our good King, the Lord of heaven and earth, has, for the obedience and desert of our good brother Jesus Christ, pardoned all our sins, 5 and made a proclamation throughout the whole world, 6 that every one of us may safely return to God in Jesus Christ: wherefore I beseech you make no doubt of it, but "draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith," (Heb 10:22). 7
Neo. Oh, but, sir, in this similitude the case is not alike. For when the earthly king sends forth such a proclamation, it may be thought that he indeed intends to pardon all; but it cannot be thought that the King of heaven does so: for do not the Scriptures say, that "some men are ordained before to condemnation"? (Jude 4) And does not Christ himself say, that "many are called, but few are chosen"? (Matt 22:14) and, therefore, it may be, I am one of them that are ordained to condemnation; and, therefore, though I be called, I shall never be chosen, and so shall not be saved.
Evan. I beseech you to consider, that although some men be ordained to condemnation, yet so long as the Lord has concealed their names, and not set a mark of reprobation upon any man in particular, but offers the pardon generally to all, without having any respect either to election or reprobation, surely it is great folly in any man to say, It may be I am not elected, and therefore shall not have benefit by it; and therefore I will not accept of it, nor come in: 8 for it should rather move every man to give diligence "to make his calling and election sure," (2 Peter 1:10), by believing it, for fear we come short of it, 9 according to that of the apostle, "let us, therefore, fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of us should seem to come short of it," (Heb 4:1). Wherefore, I beseech you, do not you say, It may be I am not elected, and therefore I will not believe in Christ; but rather say, I do believe in Christ, and therefore I am sure I am elected. 10 And check your own heart for meddling with God's secrets, and prying into his hidden counsel, and go no more beyond your bounds, as you have done, in this point: for election and reprobation is a secret; and the Scripture tells us, "that secret things belong unto God, but those things that are revealed belong unto us," (Deut 29:29). Now this is God's revealed will, for, indeed, it is his express command, "That you should believe on the name of his Son," (1 John 3:23); and it is his promise, "that if you believe, you shall not perish, but have everlasting life," (John 3:16). Wherefore, you having so good a warrant as God's command, and so great an encouragement as his promise, do your duty; 11 and by the doing thereof you may put it 12 out of question, and be sure that you are also one of God's elect. Say, then, I beseech you, with a firm faith, The righteousness of Jesus Christ belongs to all that believe, but I believe, 13 and therefore it belongs to me. Yea, say with Paul, "I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me, and gave himself for me," (Gal 2:20). "He saw in me [says Luther on the text] nothing but wickedness, going astray, and fleeing from him. Yet this good Lord had mercy on me, and of his mere mercy he loved me, yea, so loved me, that he gave himself for me. Who is this me? Even I, wretched and damnable sinner, was so dearly beloved of the Son of God that he gave himself for me."
Oh! print this word "me" in your heart, and apply it to your own self, not doubting but that you are one of those to whom this "me" belongs. 14
Neo. But may such a vile and sinful wretch as I am be persuaded that God commands me to believe, and that he hath made a promise to me? 15
Evan. Why do you make a question, where there is none to be made? "Go," says Christ, "and preach the gospel to every creature under heaven," that is, Go tell every man without exception, whatsoever his sins be, whatsoever his rebellions be, go and tell him these glad tidings, that if he will come in, I will accept of him, his sins shall be forgiven him, and he shall be saved; if he will come in and take me, and receive me, I will be his loving husband, and he shall be mine own dear spouse. Let me, therefore, say unto you, in the words of the apostle, "Now, then, I as an ambassador for Christ, as though God did beseech you by me, I pray you, in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled unto God; for he hath made him to be sin for you, who knew no sin, that ye might be made the righteousness of God in him," (2 Cor 5:20,21).
Neo. But do you say, sir, that if I believe I shall be espoused unto Christ?
Evan. Yea, indeed, shall you: for faith coupleth the soul with Christ, even as the spouse with her husband; by which means Christ and the soul are made one: for as, in corporal marriage, man and wife are made one flesh, even so in this spiritual and mystical marriage, Christ and his spouse are made one spirit. And this marriage, of all others, is most perfect, and absolutely accomplished between them; for the marriage between man and wife is but a slender figure of this union; wherefore, I beseech you to believe it, and then you shall be sure to enjoy it. 16
Neo. But, sir, if David said, "Seemeth it to you a light thing to be an earthly king's son-in-law, seeing that I am a poor man and lightly esteemed"? (1 Sam 18:23); then surely I have much more cause to say, Seemeth it a light thing to be a heavenly King's daughter-in- law, seeing that I am such a poor sinful wretch? Surely, sir, I cannot be persuaded to believe it.
Evan. Alas! man, how much are you mistaken! for you look upon God, and upon yourself, with the eye of reason; and so as standing in relation to each other, according to the tenor of the covenant of works: whereas, you being now in the case of justification and reconciliation, you are to look both upon God and upon yourself with the eye of faith; and so standing in relation to each other, according to the tenor of the covenant of grace. For, says the apostle, "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their sins unto them," (2 Cor 5:19); as if he had said, Because as God stands in relation to man, according to the tenor of the covenant of works, and so out of Christ, he could not, without prejudice to his justice, be reconciled unto them, nor have any thing to do with them, otherwise than in wrath and indignation; therefore to the intent that Justice and Mercy might meet together, and Righteousness and Peace might embrace each other, and so God stand in relation to man, according to the tenor of the covenant of grace; he put himself into his Son Jesus Christ, and shrouded himself there, that so he might speak peace to his people, (Psa 85:8-10). Sweetly, says Luther, "Because the nature of God was otherwise higher than that we are able to attain unto it, therefore hath he humbled himself for us, and taken our nature upon him, and so put himself into Christ. Here he looketh for us, here he will receive us; and he that seeketh him here shall find him." 17 "This," says God the Father, "is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased," (Matt 3:17); whereupon the same Luther says in another place, "We must not think and persuade ourselves that this voice came from heaven for Christ's own sake, but for our sakes, even as Christ himself says, (John 12:30), 'This voice came not because of me, but for your sakes.' The truth is, Christ had no need that it should be said unto him, 'This is my beloved Son,' he knew that from all eternity, and that he should still so remain, though these words had not been spoken from heaven; therefore, by these words, God the Father, in Christ his Son, cheers the hearts of poor sinners, and greatly delights them with singular comfort and heavenly sweetness, assuring them, that whosoever is married unto Christ, and so in him by faith, he is as acceptable to God the Father as Christ himself; 18 according to that of the apostle, 'He hath made us acceptable in his beloved,' (Eph 1:6). Wherefore, if you would be acceptable to God, and be made his dear child, then by faith cleave unto his beloved Son Christ, and hang about his neck, yea, and creep into his bosom; and so shall the love and favour of God be as deeply insinuated into you as it is into Christ himself; and so shall God the Father, together with his beloved Son, wholly possess you, and be possessed of you; and so God, and Christ, and you, shall become one entire thing, according to Christ's prayer, 'that they may be one in us, as thou and I are one,' (John 17:21)." 19 And by this means you may have sufficient ground and warrant to say, [in the matter of reconciliation with God at any time, whensoever you are disputing with yourself, how God is to be found, that justifies and saves sinners,] I know no other God, neither will I know any other God, besides this God, that came down from heaven, and clothed himself with my flesh, 20 unto "whom all power is given, both in heaven and in earth," who is my judge; "for the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment to the Son," (John 5:22). So that Christ may do with me whatsoever he liketh, and determine of me according to his own mind; and I am sure he hath said, "he came not to judge the world but to save the world," (John 12:47). And therefore I do believe that he will save me. 21
Neo. Indeed, sir, if I were so holy and so righteous as some men are, and had such power over my sins and corruptions as some men have, then I could easily believe it; but, alas! I am so sinful and so unworthy a wretch, that I dare not presume to believe that Christ will accept of me, so as to justify and save me.
Evan. Alas! man, in thus saying, you seem to contradict and gainsay both the apostle Paul, and our Lord Jesus Christ himself; and that against your own soul: for whereas the apostle Paul says, "that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners," (1 Tim 1:15), and doth justify the ungodly, (Rom 4:5), why, you seem to hold, and do in effect say, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save the righteous, and to justify the godly. And whereas our Saviour says, the whole need not a physician, but the sick; and that he came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance, (Matt 9:12); why, you seem to hold, and do in effect say, that the sick need not a physician, but the whole: and that he came, not to call sinners, but the righteous to repentance. And indeed, in so saying, you seem to conceive, that Christ's spouse must be purified, washed, and cleansed from all her filthiness, and adorned with a rich robe of righteousness, before he will accept of her; whereas he himself said unto her, (Eze 16:4-8), "As for thy nativity, in the day that thou wast born, thy navel was not cut, neither wast thou washed with water to supple thee; thou wast not swaddled at all, nor salted at all. No eye pitied thee to do any of these things unto thee; but when I passed by thee, and looked upon thee, behold thy time was a time of love. And I spread my skirt over thee, and covered thy nakedness; yea, and I sware unto thee, and entered into covenant with thee, and thou becamest mine."—(Hosea 2:19), "And I will marry thee unto me for ever; yea, I will marry thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in mercy, and compassion."
Wherefore, I beseech you, revoke this your erroneous opinion, and contradict the word of truth no longer; but conclude for a certainty, that it is not the righteous and godly man, but the sinful and ungodly man, 22 that Christ came to call, justify, and save: so that if you were a righteous and godly man, you were neither capable of calling, justifying, or saving by Christ; but being a sinful and ungodly man, I will be bold to say unto you as the people said unto blind Bartimeus, (Mark 10:49), "Be of good comfort; arise, he calleth thee," and will justify and save thee. 23 Go then unto him, I beseech you; and if he come and meet thee, [as his manner is,] then do not you unadvisedly say, with Peter, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!" (Luke 5:8); but say, in plain terms, O come unto me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord! Yea, go on further, and say, as Luther bids you, Most gracious Jesus and sweet Christ, I am a miserable, poor sinner, and, therefore, do judge myself unworthy of thy grace; but yet I, having learned from thy word that thy salvation belongs unto such a one, therefore do I come unto thee, to claim that right which, through thy gracious promise, belongs unto me. Assure yourself, man, that Jesus Christ requires no portion with his spouse; no, verily, he requires nothing with her but mere poverty: "the rich he sends empty away," (Luke 1:53); but the poor are by him enriched. And, indeed, says Luther, "the more miserable, sinful, and distressed a man doth feel himself, and judge himself to be, the more willing is Christ to receive him and relieve him." So that, says he, in judging thyself unworthy, thou dost thereby become truly worthy; and so, indeed, hast gotten a greater occasion of coming to him. Wherefore, then, in the words of the apostle, I do exhort and beseech you to "come boldly unto the throne of grace, that you may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need," (Heb 4:16).
Neo. But, truly, sir, my heart, as it were, trembles within me, to think of coming to Christ, after such a bold manner; and surely, sir, if I should so come unto him, it would argue much pride and presumption in me.
Evan. Indeed, if you should be encouraged to come unto Christ and to speak thus unto him, because of any godliness, righteousness, or worthiness, that you conceive to be in you; that, I confess, were proud presumption in you. But to come to Christ, by believing that he will accept of you, justify, and save you freely by his grace, according to his gracious promise, this is neither pride nor presumption: 24 for Christ having tendered and offered it to you freely, believe it, it is true humility of heart to take what Christ offers you.
Nom. But, by your favour, sir, I pray you give me leave to speak a word by the way. I know my neighbour, Neophytus, it may be, better than you do; yet I do not intend to charge him with any sin, otherwise than by way of supposition: as thus, suppose he has been guilty of the committing of gross and grievous sins, will Christ accept of him, and justify and save him for all that?
Evan. Yes, indeed; for there is no limitation of God's grace in Jesus Christ, except the sin against the Holy Ghost. 25 Christ "stands at the door and knocks," (Rev 3:20). And if any murdering Manasseh, or any persecuting and blaspheming Saul, (1 Tim 1:13), or any adulterous Mary Magdalene, "will open unto him, he will come in," and bring comfort with him, "and will sup with him." "Seek from the one end of the heavens to the other," says Hooker; "turn all the Bible over, and see if the words of Christ be not true, 'Him that cometh unto me, I will in no ways cast out,'" (John 6:37).
Nom. Why, then, sir, it seems you hold, that the vilest sinner in the world ought not to be discouraged from coming unto Christ, and believing in him, by reason of his sins.
Evan. Surely, if "Christ came into the world to seek, and call, and save sinners, and to justify the ungodly," as you have heard; and if the more sinful, miserable, and distressed a man judge himself to be, the more willing Christ is to receive him and relieve him; then I see no reason why the vilest sinner should be discouraged from believing on the name of Jesus Christ by reason of his sins. Nay, let me say more; the greater any man's sins are, either in number or nature, the more haste he should make to come unto Christ, and to say with David, "For thy name's sake, O Lord, pardon mine iniquity, for it is great!" (Psa 25:11).
Ant. Surely, sir, if my friend Neophytus did rightly consider these things, and were assuredly persuaded of the truth of them, methinks he should not be so backward from coming to Christ, by believing on his name, as he is; for if the greatness of his sin should be so far from hindering his coming to Christ, that they should further his coming, then I know not what should hinder him.
Evan. You speak very truly indeed. And therefore I beseech you, neighbour Neophytus, consider seriously of it; and neither let your own accusing conscience, nor Satan the accuser of the brethren, hinder you any longer from Christ. For what though they should accuse you of pride, infidelity, covetousness, lust, anger, envy, and hypocrisy? yea, what though they should accuse you of whoredom, theft, drunkenness, and such like? yea, do what they can, they can make no worse a man of you than a sinner, or chief of sinners, or an ungodly person; and so, consequently, such an one Christ came to justify and save; so that in very deed, if you do rightly consider of it, they do you more good than hurt by their accusations. 26 And therefore, I beseech you, in all such cases or conflicts, take the counsel of Luther, who, on the Galatians, [p. 20,] says, "When thy conscience is thoroughly afraid with the remembrance of thy sins past, and the devil assaileth thee with great violence, going about to overwhelm thee with heaps, floods, and whole seas of sins, to terrify thee, and to draw thee from Christ; then arm thyself with such sentences as these: Christ the Son of God was given, not for the holy, righteous, worthy, and such as were his friends; but for the wicked sinners, for the unworthy, and for his enemies. Wherefore, if the devil say, Thou art a sinner, and therefore must be damned; then answer thou, and say, Because thou sayest I am a sinner, therefore will I be righteous and saved. And if he reply, Nay, sinners must be damned; then answer thou, and say, No, for I flee to Christ, who hath given himself for my sins; and, therefore, Satan, in that thou sayest I am a sinner, thou givest me armour and weapons against thyself, that with thine own sword I may cut thy throat, and tread thee under my feet." 27 And thus you see it is the counsel of Luther, that your sins should rather drive you to Christ than keep you from him.
Nom. But, sir, suppose he hath not as yet truly repented for his many and great sins, hath he any warrant to come unto Christ, by believing, till he has done so?
Evan. I tell you truly, that whatsoever a man is, or whatsoever he hath done or not done, he hath warrant enough to come unto Christ by believing, if he can; 28 for Christ makes a general proclamation, saying, "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters; and he that hath no money, come, buy and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money, and without price." This, you see, is the condition, "buy wine and milk," that is, grace and salvation, "without money," that is, without any sufficiency of your own; 29 only "incline your ear and hear, and your souls shall live"; yea, live by hearing that "Christ will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David."
Bold type & underlining is mine.

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