It’s been dawning on me for the past few months that all the books I’ve personally found most helpful have been written by English authors – Ryle, Bunyan, also Thomas Goodwin although I don’t mind admitting he was something of a struggle, and Spurgeon on and off.
Obviously, if a thing is true, it doesn’t matter who said it. But I’ve been starting to feel I should make more use of more home-grown talent. Theologically speaking, I don’t know if you can beat Thomas Boston or George Smeaton, but I should really branch out into other practical works in addition to The Christian’s Great Interest.
So yesterday I had a look at the works of Robert Traill, which I’d heard good things about, and instantly gleaned some very heart warming things. He was talking about coming to ‘the throne of grace,’ meaning approaching God in prayer, and in more than one place in the couple of sermons I managed to read he made the point that some people were more specially welcome at the throne of grace than others. Those who come to the throne of grace early and often, he said, are especially welcome. Also those who come when they have no other source of support whatsoever. Although he said it was a sad sign of unbelief that people don’t go to God for help until they have absolutely nowhere else to turn, he still said those people were welcome when they did come, because their faith would be the more undiluted, the fewer props were available to them.
Another category of people who he said were especially welcome at the throne of grace were those who come “to get, and not to give.” You might think it was obvious that your prayer wouldn’t include anything by way of self-help – by definition, it should be a going out of yourself to another for help. But he went on:
“Take heed to your spirits in this matter. When you come to the throne of grace, come to receive out of Christ’s fullness, and come not to bring grace with you to add to Christ’s store. He loves to give, and glories in giving, but he scorns to receive grace from you, and in truth you have none but what he gives. Bring your wants to him to supply, but bring not your fulness to brag of. Spread your sins before this throne with shame and sorrow, and plead for a gracious pardon, but take heed you bring not your sorrow, tears, and repentance; nay, your faith itself, as a plea for that pardon. How abominable it is to Christians’ ears, and how much more to Christ’s, to hear a man plead thus for pardon: ‘Here is my repentance; where is thy pardon? Here is my faith; where is thy justification?’ I know men abhor to say so. But take good heed, lest any thought bordering on it enter into thy heart. Faith is the tongue that begs pardon – faith is the hand that receives it, it is the eye that seeth it; but it is no price to buy it. Faith uses the gospel plea for pardon, but itself, neither in habit nor act, is the plea itself. That is only Christ’s blood. Christ’s blood goes for the remission of your sins, if ever they be forgiven, and it is the only plea to be heard at the throne of grace.”
Traill was a covenanter and I think (if I remember) it mentioned in the brief account of his life that he was a friend of William Guthrie (author of the Christian’s Great Interest). All I managed to read yesterday was Sermon I and Sermon II on the throne of grace, in the first volume of his works published by the Banner of Truth (ie, I didn’t take a note of the page numbers, but that’s where to find these quotes if you wanted to track them down!).