LAWTON CHURCH OF GOD, LAWTON OKLAHOMA

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DISCOURSE VII.  

 

EXCEEDING GREAT AND PRECIOUS PROMISES.

 

“Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises; that, by these, ye might be partakers of the Divine nature; having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”—2 Peter 1:4.

 

IN the verse preceding, we are informed that God, in giving us a revelation of Jesus Christ, has furnished us with a knowledge of everything which “pertains to life and godliness.” In the text, we are informed, that, in the same revelation, he has given unto us “exceeding great and precious promises;” that these promises are conferred upon us for this purpose, that through them, or by embracing them by faith, we may become “partakers of the Divine nature,” and escape the “corruption that is in the world through lust.” A promise is a pledge of good. In every promise of Divine grace, Christ discloses to us the good which he stands pledged to confer upon us, on condition that we look to him, by faith, for the blessing presented in the promise. Now, the success of all our efforts after holiness depends upon the use we make of the promises. I propose, therefore, in the following discourse, to illustrate the following propositions:

I. I will present to the contemplation of the reader some of the “exceeding great and precious promises” of Divine grace.

II. Show what is implied in our becoming “partakers of the Divine nature, having escaped the corruptions that are in the world through lust.”

III. Show the manner in which the promises must be used, in order that we may obtain the good which they present to us.

I. I am to present to the contemplation of the reader some of the “exceeding great and precious promises” of Divine grace. As much that I should otherwise say upon this part of our subject has been anticipated in preceding discourses, my remarks under this head will be very brief. In presenting the reader with a slight view of these “exceeding great and precious promises,” I would remark in general, that Christ has pledged to us an eternal exemption from all that would be to us, on the whole, a real evil, and the possession of everything, in time and eternity, the possession of which would be to us a real blessing. “Not a hair of your head shall perish.” “And nothing shall by any means hurt you.” “No good thing will be withheld from them that walk uprightly.” These promises belong alike to all Christians, in all ages and circumstances. For their fulfilment, they are required, with full and humble confidence, to cast themselves upon the power and faithfulness of Christ. But, to be more particular, I remark,—

1. That Christ has promised, to all who will believe in him, an eternal exemption from all the condemnation which they deserve on account of their sins, and which actually will fall upon the wicked. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand.” “Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that heareth my words, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life.” “There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.”

2. A sure title to all the blessedness enjoyed by the pure spirits around the throne of God. “Ye are come,”—“to an innumerable company of angels, and to the general assembly and church of the first-born which are written in heaven.” “I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish.” “Who shall separate us from the love of God?”

Suppose, reader, that you were introduced within the veil of eternity, and were permitted to look down into the gulph of death, until you should fully apprehend the infinite wretchedness of a lost spirit, as he wanders on, through ceaseless ages, amid the gloom and despair of the eternal sepulchre; suppose you were then permitted to raise your vision to those infinite heights of purity and blessedness to which redeemed spirits in heaven will ascend, as eternity rolls on its endless years. While these depths of gloom and heights of bliss were distinctly before your mind, suppose Christ should pledge himself to you, that he would free you from all exposure to the former, and give you a sure title to the full possession of the latter. What an “exceeding great and precious promise” that would be! Such is the promise of Christ now before you. “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.”

3. Entire freedom from all sin, and the transformation of our entire character into a likeness to his own. “I,” says Christ, “will sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean; from all your filthiness, and from all your idols will I cleanse you.” “And thou shalt call his name Jesus; for he shall save his people from their sins.” “But we all, with open face beholding, as in a glass, the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” This is held before us as a promise. Such a change Christ stands pledged to produce in us if we will believe in him.

4. He promises to subdue our lusts and propensities, to guard us against all temptation to sin from within or around us, and to give us a full and perfect victory over “the world, the flesh, and the devil.” “If Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin.” “Walk in the spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh.” “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold all things have become new.” “This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” “Fear not, I have overcome the world.” “He is able to succour them that are tempted.” “Who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”

5. Consolation in every affliction. “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings to the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to comfort all that mourn; to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.” “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

6. The constant fruition of the Divine presence and love, and all the blessedness which he himself enjoys, as far as our capacities will permit. “We will come and make our abode with him.” “I will dwell in them, and walk in them.” “Peace I leave with you, my peace”—i.e., the peace which I enjoy—“I give unto you.” “That they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves.” “The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your heart and mind through Christ Jesus.”

7. The privilege of going to God, at all times and under all circumstances, in prayer, with the use of Christ’s name, and with the certain pledge that whatsoever we thus ask, that will be a good to us, shall be granted. “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.” “If ye shall ask anything in my name, I will do it.” “Ask and it shall be given you, that your joy may be full.”

8. The constant presence and illumination of the Holy Spirit. “He shall abide with you for ever.” “He shall lead you into all truth.” “He shall take of mine and show them unto you.”

9. Not merely grace to make us holy and keep us from all sin, but an infinite reward for every expression of love that he shall receive from us, and every act of obedience that we shall render to him. “And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive a hundred fold, and shall inherit everlasting life. And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only, in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.” Such is the infinite and incomprehensible love and grace of Christ. By his grace we are rendered holy, and are then to be rewarded infinitely for being what the grace of Christ has rendered us.

10. Great success in our efforts to advance his cause. “He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit.” “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go to my Father.” Christ has not only promised to render us thus successful, but to bestow an infinite and eternal reward upon us for all that we accomplish for him. “They that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and they that turn many to righteousness, as the stars for ever and ever.”

11. Christ promises to us a peaceful death, and a glorious immortality. “Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright; for the end of that man is peace.” “I will come again and receive you to myself, that where I am, there ye may be also. “We know that when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” “And there shall be no more curse; but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him; and they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads.”

Such are the promises of Christ to his people. And, reader, are not these promises “exceeding great and precious?” To you they all belong; and Christ invites you to come to him, and receive your purchased and promised inheritance. We will now inquire,

II. What is implied in our being “made partakers of the Divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” This implies two things,—

1. That we become entirely emancipated from the power of sin. No person, not thus emancipated, but still, in any degree, under the power of sin, could be said to have “escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”

2. It implies that we, to the full extent of our powers, be rendered partakers of the holiness and blessedness of God. This is the only sense in which any intelligent being can be a partaker of the Divine nature. “But he,” says the apostle, “for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.” To be partakers of the Divine holiness, and consequently of the Divine blessedness, is of course the same thing as to be rendered partakers of the Divine nature.

That we might thus escape the corruptions that are in the world, and be “made partakers of the Divine nature,” is the declared object for which the “exceeding great and precious promises” were given. When we come to Christ by faith for a fulfilment of these promises, his power stands pledged to fulfil in us the glorious object for which they were given. I am now,

III. To show the manner in which we are to use the promises, in order that we may obtain the good which they present to us. As the design of the promises is to free us from the “corruptions that are in the world,” and render us “partakers of the Divine nature,” they are addressed and adapted to every possible condition in which we may be placed, and as a remedy for every evil, natural and moral, in which we may be involved. They descend to the sinner in the lowest depths of guilt and depravity, for the purpose of lifting him out of the “horrible pit and miry clay,” and rendering him a partaker of the “Divine nature.” They meet the Christian, in a state of partial holiness, for the purpose of raising him to a state of “perfect love,” and then of carrying him upward and onward, from glory to glory, through time and eternity. Now, to use the promises so as to become possessed of the blessings which they proffer to us, four things are necessary,—1. That we know our need. 2. That we apprehend the particular promise of Christ, which was designed to meet that particular necessity. 3. That we repose full confidence in Christ’s ability and faithfulness to fulfil the promise which he has spread before us. 4. That we cast our whole being upon him, for the specific purpose of securing a fulfilment of the particular promise before us. For example, the sinner is brought to feel himself to be in a lost condition. Here he is met with the declaration of Christ, “I came to seek and to save that which was lost;” together with the promises, “Look to me and be ye saved;” “Whosoever cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” Let the sinner cast himself at once upon Christ, for the definite purpose of securing a fulfilment of those specific promises. Are you in darkness, reader? Go directly to Christ for the fulfilment of the promise, “I will lead the blind by a way which they know not.” Is your heart hard and unfeeling? Go to Christ with the definite promise, “I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh, and will give you a heart of flesh,” and cast yourself upon his faithfulness for the fulfilment of that promise. Are your appetites, or your propensities the “occasion of stumbling” to you? Carry these particular objects to Christ, and plead the definite promises, “If Christ be in you, the body is dead, because of sin,” and “If any man be in Christ he is a new creature; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new.” Do temptations beset you? Go to Christ with the promise, “Who will not suffer you to be tempted above that you are able; but will with the temptation make a way for your escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” Are you about to enter into new and untried scenes, or spheres of action? Go to Christ with the specific promises, “Lo, I am with you always,” and “My grace is sufficient for thee.” Are you “hungering and thirsting after righteousness?” This promise you may now plead with Christ, “They shall be filled.” Does the water of life begin to flow in your heart? This promise now rises before you, “Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him, shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him, shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” In short, whatever your condition or state of mind may be, remember that you are addressed by your Saviour with some specific promise, perfectly adapted to your peculiar case. Your life depends upon your casting yourself at once upon the faithfulness of Christ, for a fulfilment of that promise. In so using the “exceeding great and precious promises,” you may, with absolute certainty, be rendered a “partaker of the Divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”  

 

REMARKS.  

 

I. We will notice the great truth, of which we need to have a full and distinct apprehension, in order that all the promises may rise before our minds as living realities. It is the infinite love of God in the gift of Christ for our redemption. In Christ, “all the promises are yea and amen.” “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him freely give us all things?” For the want of such an apprehension of the love of Christ, the promises are, to the great mass of the Church, almost as a “dead letter.”

II. We notice one of the first lessons which should be taught to the young convert. He should first of all use the promises as a sovereign remedy to every ill that may press upon him. Let his eye be directed to these; let him become accustomed to apply to them in every possible exigency, and he will ascend upwards upon them, as upon Jacob’s ladder, from glory to glory, to eternal heights of purity and blessedness.

III. We see how it is that the peace of the young convert is very commonly destroyed, and his growth in grace prevented, by the instructions which he receives from older Christians. When the convert, alarmed at the discovery of inward corruptions, and of the numerous occasions of stumbling, in himself, arising from his temper, his appetites, his habits of sin, as well as the hardness of his heart, comes for counsel to those who ought to be able to point him at once to the remedy, and thus lead him to the “fountain of living waters,” there is commonly a direct attempt to comfort him in his present state. He is told that such discoveries of inward corruption are the highest evidence of our conversion, that he must not be alarmed when he “finds the Canaanite in the land,” that these foes will never be dislodged from his bosom till his dying day, and that Christ will very soon teach him the “plague of his own heart,” by letting him slide down from the warmth and blessedness of his first love, into the valley of spiritual death, misnamed the valley of humiliation. Well might the convert reply to such guides, “Miserable comforters are ye all.” If, now, he will turn from all such directions to the “exceeding great and precious promises” of Christ, and with humble confidence cast himself upon his faithfulness, then shall his “righteousness go forth as brightness, and his salvation as a lamp that burneth.” Then shall he prove, by blessed experience, the truth of the promise, “Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall; but they that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up on wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”

IV. We may understand the object which the Christian should have in view, in searching his own heart. It should be the same as the physician has in examining the symptoms of his patient; i.e., to determine the nature of the disease, for the purpose of applying the appropriate remedy. So the Christian should examine himself to determine what he is, and what he needs, for the purpose of looking away to some definite promise as the remedy to that necessity. How profitable seasons of fasting and prayer would be, if spent in this manner with the Physician of souls. The want of this definite object is the great reason, I suppose, why such seasons are so generally almost profitless to Christians.

V. We see why it is that Christians apply to Christ for sanctification, &c., almost without success. Their object is commonly general and undefined, and no thing specific is presented. Let an individual, on the other hand, who finds his temper, his appetites, his propensities, or worldly pursuits, the occasion of falling, take one or more of these definite objects to Christ, and cast himself, in view of some definite promise, upon his faithfulness, to have that particular cause of sin removed; let him thus bring all his powers and propensities to Christ, and how soon would all his faculties and susceptibilities be so sweetly and perfectly subjected to the will of God, that all occasion of stumbling would be taken away! In all instances, reader, when you go to Christ with some definite object, resting also upon some definite promise, you are sure to be heard.

VI. We see how it is that Satan often destroys the confidence of Christians in the promises, in their application to themselves. It is by directing their attention to some promise that is not applicable to their present state, and pressing them to attempt to believe in that. Said one, I often thought of the promise,—“Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted;” and, because I was not in the state upon which that promise was conditioned, I thought there was no other promise in the Bible that belonged to me, or upon which I could lay hold. Before that individual could mourn, it was necessary for her to “look on him whom she had pierced.” Quite another promise belonged to her in the state referred to, to wit,—“Look to me and be ye saved.” By casting herself upon this, she would soon have been brought into a state to which the promise first referred to was addressed. As long as Satan can keep the mind from the promises addressed to our particular state, and fixed upon others inapplicable, he will hold us, in spite of ourselves, in unbelief.

VII. We see why it is that, to most professors, the thought of being entirely sanctified in this life appears so chimerical. Their minds have ranged, in the darkness of unbelief, amid their own wrongdoings and shortcomings; and not upon the boundless provisions, and “exceeding great and precious promises” of Divine grace, till they have apprehended the riches of the glory of Christ’s inheritance in the saints. If Christ has made provision for our entire holiness, and has promised, on the condition of simple faith in his word, that he will himself sanctify us wholly, and preserve our whole spirit, and soul, and body, blameless unto his coming and kingdom, how reasonable to expect that his power shall effect what his love has provided and his truth has promised!

VIII. We see, why it appears to most persons so impossible to exercise that faith which would result in a state of entire sanctification. They do not believe that provision is made in the Gospel for the attainment of that state, or that Christ has promised it to us, on condition of our faith in him for that blessing. If Christ has made such provisions, and given such promises, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to account for the existence of that faith in an individual which induces partial and not perfect holiness, when he has those provisions and promises distinctly before his mind.

IX. In what sense all Christians are expected and required to be witnesses for Christ. They are expected and required so to trust Christ in respect to the fulfilment of all his promises, that they can say, from blessed experience, that in all those promises Christ is a faithful and true witness. Take the following promise as an example:—“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusteth in thee.” Now, we are expected and required to “stay ourselves upon God” in such a manner that we can affirm, from experience, that the effect of trusting in God is all that it is here affirmed to be. So of every other promise in the Bible. If we cannot thus testify for God, we are found to be false witnesses for him. It is in giving such testimony that we are chiefly to glorify Christ, and benefit our fellow-men. How melancholy is the fact, that most professors, instead of being able to speak for Christ, as his faithful and true witnesses, can only give an opinion, that if they should embrace the promises, they would find them true; which is no more than the impenitent can say, and, of course, is no testimony at all.

X. We see that if, as is commonly supposed, God has so arranged the dispensations of his providence and grace, that no one will attain to a state of entire sanctification in this life, he has made such arrangements that he shall never have a witness on earth that can bear full testimony to the truth of his promises. Many of these promises are, as we have seen in a former discourse, conditioned on the existence of this state in the subject. How infinitely absurd is the supposition that God has made definite arrangement, by which he is never to have a witness on earth who can bear full testimony for him! “Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord.” See to it, Christian, that you, by availing yourself of proffered grace, become perfectly qualified to bear full testimony for God. How reasonable is the supposition that God should make full provision for the perfect qualification, i.e., sanctification, of his own witnesses! How perfectly unreasonable the opposite supposition!

XI. We may also perceive the perfect absurdity of the supposition, that if a Christian were entirely sanctified, he would not be permitted longer to live on earth; but would be taken directly to heaven. In other words, if an individual were fully qualified to bear testimony for Christ, he would not allow him to testify at all.

XII. We perceive the infinite obligation resting upon us, to be entirely free from care and perplexity, and to be always, and under all circumstances, in a state of perfect peace and blessedness. We have only to rest down upon the “exceeding great and precious promises,” and every care, every perplexity, and every burden is necessarily rolled from our minds. We are led into the “banqueting-house” of the Redeemer, “where his banner over us is love.” We are conducted forth “into the green pastures, and beside the still waters.” We range along the banks of the river of life, and our peace and blessedness will be like the broad, and deep, and crystal flow of that river.

Reader, what is the character of your religion? Is it a life-giving and a peace-giving religion? Your body, you say, is the “temple of the Holy Spirit.” What are the fruits of the spirit that actually dwells in that temple? Are they, “love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance?” “If any man have not the spirit of Christ, he is none of his.”

XIII. In the light of this subject, we are also led to contemplate and adore the infinite love of God to us. This love is manifested in the bestowment upon creatures, infinite in guilt and vileness, of the highest blessing that infinite wisdom could conceive, that infinite love could desire, and infinite power confer—the eternal possession of the “Divine nature”—the holiness and blessedness of God. Reader, dwell upon this thought. In it learn to comprehend your own privileges, and the boundless love of God. For the bestowment of this blessing, full provision is made in the Gospel. For its full accomplishment in you, the Son of God is “standing at the door,” and the Spirit of grace is now in your heart. If you will open the door, the Son of God will enter in and confer this blessed inheritance upon you.

XIV. Finally, we perceive the infinite obligation that rests upon us, not to remain under the power of any sin; but to have our temper, our appetites, our propensities, habits, and all the powers and susceptibilities of our being, subdued and brought into sweet and perfect subjection to the will of Christ, so that there shall be “none occasion of stumbling in us.” For the accomplishment of this, full provision is made in the Gospel of the grace of God, and we have only to cast ourselves upon Christ for the fulfilment of the “exceeding great and precious promises” which he has given us, and all this blessedness is ours. It is your blissful privilege, reader, in the use of these promises, to be made a “partaker of the Divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” Remember what God has said—“Now the just shall live by faith; but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.” “See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven.”