God's Word and Man's Evidences

Hebrews 12:6‑7,11  •  12 min. read  •  grade level: 4
A. Good afternoon, Mr.-. You have been very unwell, I hear.
B. Yes, indeed, I am laid aside for the present.
A. Well, these things do not happen to us by chance, do they?
B. O, no, there is an overruling hand in all these things, I am sure.
A. And He knows best when we need discipline. " Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth." But it is comforting to know, that the stroke is measured by a Father's hand. No father likes his child to be chastised by a stranger. Hence we read, " My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord....For what son is he whom the Father chasteneth not?" (Heb. xii.)
ò. Yes, I can understand all that. It is all very beautiful; but the great thing is to know that we are His children. A. Truly, Mr. -, but every believer in Jesus is a child of God. And you would not, surely, rob yourself of the consolation given to the children, by doubting that you are one of His.
B. Well, I must say, that I am one of those who have never got above doubts and fears, at times. I have had my seasons when I thought that I was a child of God, but, at other times, I have thought that I had no just ground to conclude that I really was one of His.
A. Of course, if you go by your own thought, you can never be sure. So long as you keep looking at self, you will believe the one day and doubt the next; we are so changeable; but if you go by the word of God, you will always believe, and never doubt. God's word never changes. And that is the only thing to go by. The word of the Lord is "forever settled" in heaven. If you trust to that word you will be as " settled" as it is. But if you are guided by your own thoughts, you will be as changeable as they are.
B. Yes, I can hear all that, but if I am a child of God, I ought to have thoughts and feelings answering to that, and if I have not those experiences, what right have I to conclude that I am His child? There is a superficial way of speaking about these things by some, now-a-days, that I cannot go with at all. They talk about full assurance, and perfect peace, and yet I do not see that they are much better than their neighbors. I like evidences.
A. So do I, Mr.-. I admit that nothing can be more flimsy, more detestable to an upright mind than to hear high-sounding professions and witness low practice. But, for the present, we will confine ourselves to the word. It will never contradict itself. But do the Scriptures ever appeal to us by saying, "Art thou a child of God? " Do they not rather put the question as to faith in Christ? Such as, " Dost thou believe on the Son of God?" Now, if you can answer truly, " Lord, I believe," the question, " are you a child of God?" will never be asked. Simply because the Scriptures affirm, that all who have faith are the children of God. " Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God.'' " For we are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus." (1 John 5:11Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him. (1 John 5:1); Gal. 3:2626For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:26).) Surely nothing can be plainer than these texts. If I am a believer in Christ, I am born of God. I am possessed of eternal life. I am a partaker of the divine nature. A child has the same nature as its father. The connection between parent and child, is not one of mere opinions, or doctrines, or the like; but of life. And surely the connection between God and His children, is a vital one. They are His children in the power of an endless life. Once a child, always a child. We may not always be as subject, or as obedient as we ought to be, but we are children still. And having the two natures, being born again, you must expect a variety of experience. Sometimes the old is uppermost, and sometimes the new. We do not always mortify the old, and live in the power of the new nature as we ought. Still, we must not judge of our state before God by the workings of our own old corrupt nature. Thousands have been brought into bondage by so doing. The flesh is always contrary to the Spirit.
B. But may not God hide His face from His children, and leave them in clouds and darkness, to try them and prove them? We read of Abraham being under " an horror of great darkness." How do you account for that?
A. That had nothing whatever to do with the question of Abraham's own salvation. It was typical of the afflictions through which his seed was to pass in Egypt, as the very next verse shows. And it is in that very chapter, the fifteenth of Genesis, where it is said, "and he believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness."
You see how dangerous it is to he led away by the mere sound of words without examining their meaning and application. If you read the fourteenth and fifteenth chapters, you will see how truly, at this very time, Abraham was walking with God in power. It is quite true, that his seed was to pass through Egypt's furnace; but all God's people have more or less of that. But you will see, in the same place, that along with the " smoking furnace" there is the " burning lamp." The bright shining lamp of God's salvation, to cheer, comfort, and sustain His dear people when in the furnace, that they may glorify Him even in the fire. How could we glorify Him in the day of affliction, and say, " thy will be done," if we had not the joy of His salvation, and the full assurance of His unchanging love?
B. Well, what do you make of Job? I am sure he passed through great darkness, and conflicts in his soul. At least, I have always understood so. Would you not allow that in his case?
A. Indeed I would not, in the sense you understand it. I admit that Job passed through deep exercise of heart, when God was working in his soul, and teaching him what he really was in His holy presence. And that is what we all need so much, Mr.-. But he was not exercised as to whether he was a child of God or not. The history of Job affords no sanction whatever to the doubting and fearing state that you are in. Indeed, the very opposite, for we see God's tender love and care for His dear child all through. And then there is that sweet word at the end, " The Lord accepted the person of Job" (see margin). If He could not accept his works, He could and did accept his person, forever blessed be His name! Job abounded in good works, but his heart had never been thoroughly sifted in the presence of God. And there is nothing more common in the present day. There is a great deal more working than sifting going on. If you read the twenty-ninth and forty-second chapters, you will see what Job was before, and after these exercises. In the former, he speaks about the " candle of the Lord shining on his head." In the latter, it shines into his heart, and that made all the difference. His failing was self-righteousness, and it appears to have been very deeply and firmly rooted in his heart, as it was very troublesome to get out. And so it is with us all, I am sure. But what a mercy to have it out. How gracious of the Lord to take the trouble.
B. Well, you and I do not agree on these matters at all. I cannot see them in that light. Of course, I know, that all who really are God's people are safe, but the thing is to be sure that we are His. I have never, myself, got beyond a hope; you seem to be sure. I know, that / do not always feel and act as I ought to do. Far from it. I have often too good reasons to doubt that I am one of His. It has always been so with me. And my idea is, that it has always been so with the best of men. I have known many myself; and look at David, and many others. Why, even our Lord Himself experienced the hiding of His Father's countenance....
A. Oh!—Come!—Mr.-. That is going a little too far, surely! I have never heard the Lord's cry of sorrow quoted in that way before. But so far you are right, in this instance—He was forsaken of God. But did His faith fail? Oh, no! blessed be His name. His faith, which was always perfect, never appeared more perfect than at this moment. He held fast His confidence in God, even when drinking the bitter cup, and when the ineffable beams of the divine complacency were, for the time, withdrawn. But why was the blessed Jesus forsaken? Just that we might never be forsaken. In the greatness of His love, He took the place of the forsaken one, and consequently experienced that which was due to us. " For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.'' (2 Cor. 5:2121For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. (2 Corinthians 5:21).) So that a true knowledge of the cross, in place of giving any countenance to such a system, would wither up, root and branch, all the doubts and fears in Christendom, excepting in cases where they proceed from natural infirmity, " For by one offering he hath perfected forever, them that are sanctified." (Heb. 10) If I believe that, how could I ever doubt? That is, if I have faith in Christ's work. But if your faith rests on your feelings, in place of Christ, no wonder that you doubt, and this is really the grand point after all. In place of faith in Christ, who is always in the presence of God for us, as our righteousness, it is faith in your own state of mind. That is not Christ. We are the righteousness of God in him and perfected forever" And God Himself says, " their sins and iniquities will I remember no more." Is there a point, in the condition or history of the believer, which the sacrifice of Christ has not reached, and answered for to God? Not one!
Β. I know that I have nothing to trust in but Christ. I know that very well. Nothing but His precious blood puts away sin. And I do hope that my trust is in Him alone. I have reason to believe that the Lord called me many years ago—as far back as the year eighteen hundred and nine. In this very neighborhood, He met me in His grace, and, I trust, turned me to Himself. He wrought a great change in me then. I can remember it very well, and I have been trying to follow Him ever since. But......
A. Well, Mr. -! you do surprise me! why, that is forty-nine years ago! And have you been doubting and fearing all that time?
B. Yes, I have, all that time. Sometimes very happy, at other times just the opposite; but I desire, through His help, to hold on to the end.
A. What a miserable system of theology yours must be! Certainly, your religion has not done much for you. I certainly should not like to belong to your school. Why, it is not faith in Christ at all. It is faith in a certain state of mind. I do not say you have not faith in Christ. I believe you have. But what a state of things! Forty-nine years a doubting Christian, and about the half of that time a preacher! Oh! if you were done with self, and occupied with Christ, you would find yourself in a new world altogether. Your system teaches faith in feeling, in place of Christ. Were it simply faith in Christ, you would judge of your state by Him. Faith answers every question by referring to Christ. For example, if the question of righteousness is raised, faith answers, " The Lord is my righteousness." If of life, " Christ is my life." If of acceptance, " I am accepted in the Beloved"—and so on. Christ is faith's standard, because He is God's. Faith knows, that nothing short of Christ will meet the mind of God, therefore, faith has done with self, and is occupied with Christ.
B. Well, after all, the whole thing appears to be this, " you are certain that you are saved, and I am hoping to be saved;" and the scriptures speak about being " saved by hope." Thank you for calling to see me.
A. True, Mr.-. But that does not mean, that we are saved by " hoping to be saved;" but that " WE ABE SAVED," and hoping for glory, which is still future, as the whole context clearly shows. (See Rom. 8:16-2516The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: 17And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. 18For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. 19For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. 20For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, 21Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. 23And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. 24For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? 25But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it. (Romans 8:16‑25).) Good afternoon, I trust you will soon be better. The Lord give you peace. He will be better to you than all your fears.* * The above is given, not as verbally, but substantially correct. The heads, or main points, of the conversation are correct, and have been given, in the hope that they may be useful to many precious souls, who are in a condition similar to " B."
On Christ, salvation rests secure;
This Rock of Ages must endure,
Nor can that faith be overthrown,
"Which rests upon the " Living Stone."
"If you want to be miserable, look within.
If you want to be distracted, look abound.
If you want to be happy, look up."