specially welcome

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!).

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incontestable and unquestionable

This is a piece from Matthew Henry’s Communicant’s Companion – it’s not the quote I’d intended to post next, but the one I’d made a mental note of, I can’t actually find now that I’m looking for it.

Here [at the Lord’s table] we must confide in his power, trusting in him as one that can help and save us. He has an incontestable authority – is a Saviour by office, sanctified and sealed, and sent into the world for this purpose; help is laid upon him. We may well offer to trust him with our part of this great concern [ie salvation], which is the securing of our happiness, for God trusted him with his part of it, the securing of his honour, and declard himself well pleased in him.

He has likewise an unquestionable ability to save to the uttermost. He is mighty to save, and every way qualified for the undertaking. He is skilful, for treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hid in him; he is solvent, for there is in him an inexhaustible fulness of merit and grace, sufficient to bear all our burdens, and supply all our needs.

We must commit ourselves and the great affairs of our salvation unto him, with a full assurance that he is ‘able to keep what we commit to him against that day,’ that great day, which will try the foundation of every man’s work.

We must confide in his promise, trusting in him as one that will certainly help and save us, on the terms proposed. We may take his word for it, and this is the word which he has spoken – ‘Him that cometh unto me I will in nowise cast out,’ a double negation, ‘I will not, no, I will not.’ He is engaged for us in the covenant of redemption, and engaged to us in the covenant of grace, and in both he is the Amen, the faithful witness. On this, therefore, we must rely, the word on which he has caused us to hope. God has spoken in his holiness, that he will accept us in the Beloved, and in that ‘I will rejoice…’.

There is not salvation in any other but in him; trust him for it therefore, and depend upon him only.

From Chapter 10, ‘Helps for the exciting of those pious and devout affections which should be working in us while we attend this ordinance;’ the second section.

for sinners only

From Owen on Psalm 130.

The proposal of repentance is a thing fitted and suited, in its own nature, to beget thoughts in the mind of a sinner that there is forgiveness with God. Repenting is for sinners only. ‘I came not,’ saith our Saviour, ‘to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.’ It is for them, and them only. …

O sinners, come and deal with God by repentance! Doth it not openly speak forgiveness in God? and, if it were otherwise, could men possibly be more frustrated or deceived? would not the institution of repentance be a lie? Such a delusion may proceed from Satan, but not from him who is the fountain of goodness, holiness, and truth.

His call to repentance is a full demonstration of his readiness to forgive. … God deceives none: whoever comes to him on his proposal of repentance shall find forgiveness. It is said of some, indeed, that he ‘will laugh at their calamity, and mock when their fear cometh.’ … But who are they? Only such as refuse his call to repentance.

From John Owen, Practical Exposition of Psalm 130, p203. What he’s saying here is more or less an expanded version of what it says in the Shorter Catechism – repentance involves among other things, some glimpse or apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ. Your conscience could tell you that you should turn from your sins, but it’s another thing to realise that there’s the possibility of turning from them to God. But the gospel call on sinners to repent is itself an assurance that salvation is available, that sinners can be reconciled to God, that ‘there is forgiveness with him,’ as Psalm 130 says.