Co-ordination of Grace and Duty
From The British and Foreign Evangelical Review, April 1883.
There is an extraordinary amount of light to be found in Phil. 2:12-13, as to the nature and connection of the Divine and human agencies in the sanctification, perseverance, and final salvation of the people of God. The Divine agency is asserted as a gracious and blessed fact; the human agency is enjoined as a solemn duty; and the one is made the basis of, or the ground or argument for calling forth, the other.
In the first place, the Divine agency is asserted. “It is God that worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” “You hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and in sins, and hath raised you up together with Christ, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in him when he raised him from the dead.” The ever-blessed God, who is the self-sufficient One — who requireth neither you nor your service, and can be profited by neither — hath been pleased, in his sovereign grace, according to the counsel of his own will, and the unprompted beneficence of his own nature, to look upon you in mercy, and in the day of your misery and his power, he said unto you, “Live.” Of his good pleasure he hath begotten you again, by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead; and, by the renewing might of his Holy Spirit, he hath created you anew in Christ Jesus, as his workmanship, — a spiritual man, — a holy temple for himself. And he hath entered his intended habitation; the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwelleth in you. “Ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” Infefted into the accomplishment of this promise, ye abide in God, and God in you. Christ is formed within you and dwelleth there by faith. The Holy Spirit, whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him, hath come, according to the promise of Jesus, to abide with you for ever; and ye know him, and he dwelleth with you. and shall be in you. And the Father also is present with you, for ye are interested in the other promise of the Savior: “If a man love me, he will keep my words; and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” It is not to be supposed that the glorious triune Godhead will spiritually and graciously inhabit a renewed and quickened soul, without manifesting the Divine presence by operations worthy of the Divine nature. The living God in a living soul is not inactive, worketh all in all. Into his regenerated children God hath arisen as into his resting-place — “he, and the ark of his strength”; and his mighty power is put forth upon them in a manner consistent with their nature, and to an extent which takes account of all their power. Formerly naturally inclined to evil and to earthliness, their wills are now otherwise bent and directed by him who is the Father of their spirits, and hath their hearts in his keeping: they are delivered from that yoke of bondage in which they were held when sin had dominion over them, and they fell in with the will of their tyrant and destroyer, being carried captive by the devil at his will: and now molded, strengthened, sanctified by the Spirit of God, their will is in harmony with God’s: they are willing in a day of his power, for he worketh in them to will. And, again, naturally without strength, as was their state, when in due time Jesus died for them, they are now filled by the indwelling Spirit, with new-born power and energy; and they are strengthened with all might in the inner man; and they are enabled to say, “In the Lord have I righteousness and strength.” God worketh in them also to do. For, now that they are inclined to the path of holy and heavenly aspiration and obedience, they are not left utterly without power to follow out the dictates of a renewed and regenerated will. Nor is he who hath given them a new heart left to receive at their hands merely the will for the deed; but he gives the deed also: he communicates the power as well as the inclination: he both persuades and enables. He gives them both the willing heart and an able hand for his service. He graciously “worketh in them both to will and to do.” In this way the text asserts the agency of God in the preservation and perseverance of his people.
In the second place, the human agency is enjoined, as distinctly as the Divine agency is affirmed. “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” Think it not enough that you have found grace to enter in at the strait gate: run with patience the race set before you. Think it not enough that you have been reconciled freely by the blood and regenerated powerfully by the Spirit of Christ; learn daily to put off the old man, to die daily unto sin, and live more and more unto righteousness. Account not your restoration to the favor and the family of God to be your full and your final salvation. You have but found the right direction and the right path, — follow on to know the Lord. Evil still dwells within you, and must be subdued and extirpated. Satan still tempts, and must be resisted and overcome; ungodliness has a strange and magic power over the children of men, and will cast its withering spell over you again, if ye be not watchful to set the Lord always before you, and walk humbly with him. Wrestle for the mastery: labor for the Bread of Life: grow in grace: be instant in prayer: search the Scriptures: do good as ye have opportunity: be patient in tribulation: part with every idol: do all to the glory of God: press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling in Christ Jesus: hold fast that thou hast; look that ye lose not the things which ye have wrought, but that ye receive a full reward: endure steadfast to the end: work out and work off from your nature that sin which cleaves so closely to the inner man: make your calling and election sure: gird up all your energies for a persevering and prolonged — a life-long — conflict, if you would have an abundant entrance administered to you. The stake is great: the prize is noble: the fight is arduous; no energy you can at all muster up and put forth can be dispensed with: stand in awe, and sin not. “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”
In the third place, the two clauses which thus constitute one text, are so united as to form an argument or step of reasoning. The one is made a ground or basis for the other. The certainty and gracious nature of the agency of God is laid as a foundation for that agency of the Christian’s own to which he is here exhorted. The fact that God worketh in his people is assumed as a powerful argument, or call, or motive for them to work. “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for (because) it is God who worketh in you to will and to do of his good pleasure.” The beautiful connection which is thus established between the effectual and gracious work of God and the solemn and persevering work of the believer himself, first demands our attention.
It will prepare us gradually for understanding the subject, if we take notice at the outset of the two objections which have frequently been offered to the doctrine of a Divine and irresistible agency, as such an agency is held by us to be concerned in the salvation of sinners. We hold that men are naturally in a state of spiritual death — from which they have not power, even the least, to deliver themselves; and that all who escape from this condition, do so in virtue of an exercise of efficacious and creating energy put forth upon them by the Spirit of God, whereby the predominance of the carnal mind is destroyed, the evil principles of their nature in so far subdued, and a spiritual nature communicated to them, tending in its desires and affections to the God who gave it; insomuch that the subject of this great change infallibly chooses God now for his chief good, returns to him in repentance and faith, and cleaves to him with humble and affectionate allegiance. And the scripture before us affirms that the high place of supremacy which God, by his Spirit, has thus assumed for himself in and over the soul of his own creature, chosen as the object of redeeming love, is not abandoned after this conversion has been effected, but is still maintained by the same God who “worketh” there “to will and to do.” Against this, however, it is objected: —
1. In the first place, that, if one being exert over another such a mastery and supremacy as is thus assigned to God over the souls of his people, whereby he certainly and invincibly works out his own purposes in them, then the subject of such an operation is not treated as a free and reasonable agent, but as a mere machine, being made the helpless instrument of blindly accomplishing the designs of another.
A variety of answers might be given to show the unfounded and untenable nature of this objection. I shall ask your attention only to those which are afforded by the text, for this objection is in flagrant contradiction both to the spirit and the letter of this passage.
(1.) It is flagrant contradiction to the spirit of the text, which contains a solemn exhortation to Christians to watch over and work out their own salvation, and which supports this exhortation by urging a very solemn motive to obedience. Now, it is not treating a man as a machine to urge him to the performance of a duty, and press on his attention those considerations which ought to determine his line of conduct. It takes for granted that he has an understanding, and appeals to it when his faculty of intelligently comprehending what is said to him is sought to be awakened and informed. It supposes he is possessed of a conscience, and to that spiritual power within it entrusts, or seeks to lay on, a sense of obligation in the thing enjoined. It views him as possessed of a will or power of choice, and attempts to determine it in the desired direction, by the influence of motives which, it is believed, if rightly seen and understood, would secure his concurrence in the end proposed. And it further presupposes him to be endowed with power of action and emotion which will also come into exercise should he follow the course recommended to him. This is not to treat the man as a machine, but as a free and intelligent agent, and it is thus that he is treated when the text is addressed to him. It is further to be observed, that while this is precisely the way to deal with man regarding him as possessed of reason and of freedom, this style of treatment is so little dispensed with or set aside by the doctrine of the Spirit’s agency in effectually renewing and sanctifying the believer, that, on the contrary, the consideration of that agency is just the starting-point of the apostle’s address in so dealing with his readers. Instead of the effectual working of God’s power superseding or dispensing with the necessity of an appeal being carried to the understanding and the will of the Christian, that effectual working is itself made the topic of exactly such an appeal to the Christian considered as dealt with and as capable of an intelligent choice. The invincible operation of Divine grace is so far from violating the individual intelligence and power of choice which must belong to every responsible being, that it is itself presented as soliciting his intelligent consideration, and as claiming the honorable right of receiving the unconstrained homage of his unenslaved will. When we read the first clause of our text, we can reply to the objection that Scripture deals with believers not as machines, but as free and reasonable agents, notwithstanding the supremacy and infallible efficiency of the agency of God within them. But when we read the whole verse, and find in what connection and on what grounds Scripture thus exhorts and reasons with its believing readers, we can not only reply that although omnipotent grace be within them, they are not thereby acted on formally and mechanically — but further, that they are dealt with rationally and spiritually precisely because omnipotent grace worketh in them mightily. So utterly is this objection in opposition to the whole scope and spirit of the text.
(2.) But, secondly, it is in equally flagrant contradiction to the express language of the text. In describing the nature of the Divine agency, the text forever precludes the idea of that agency operating on the believer in such a manner as to carry him blind, unconscious, or indifferent in the path of holiness. Indeed, the only possible conception we can entertain of “holiness” is itself enough to set aside any such idea as absolutely inconsistent with itself, and as really inconceivable to any mind that will pause and attempt to realize it. But however this may be, the words before us are so accurately selected with manifest design to prevent the possibility of such a misconception, that it is amazing the objection which we are considering should ever have been raised. It is declared in these words that God worketh in his people to will. He secures that their own free choice shall be exercised: he renews and reforms their desires: he guides and directs their inclination. In all to the performance of which he carries them, he carries their will also along with him. He makes them willing in a day of his power. If he wrought in them “to do,” without working in them “to will,” then indeed there might be some color for the allegation that the doctrine of effectual grace supposes man to be dealt with as a machine, for a machine has no will. But if every godly action which God worketh in the Christian is preceded by a godly desire, inclination, and will to do that action, this is exactly the condition which prevents the action from being mechanical.
If it be said that it is in renewing and differently inclining and disposing the will that the asserted violation of man’s freedom as an accountable being takes place, we may confidently answer, that if when the Spirit of God in the first creation brooded on the face of the deep, he offered no violence to the nature of matter by assigning to it such weight, consistency, extension, and form as it pleased him, — there is a little violation done to the nature of the mind in general, or the will in particular, when the same all-forming Agent, moving on the face of a wilder and more repulsive chaos, developed from it a far more glorious creation, in the godly desires, dispositions, and inclinations which he impressed on the revived and regenerated will of man. For dispositions and inclinations are as much the natural attributes of will as weight and extension and form are properties of matter. And the matter of the globe is not more the creation of God and the product of his power than the human will is. If he can modify the one changing its form, he can modify the other by altering its inclinations. To assert otherwise would be to make the human will absolutely independent of God, or, in other words, to claim for it a Divine prerogative — the self-sufficiency which belongs only to Jehovah. And if the Father of our spirits may thus mold and influence them at his gracious pleasure, as surely as the Creator of the ends of the earth gave form and substance to the solid globe — then as little is the will of man tampered with or dishonored when grace effectually recalls and rectifies it, as the globe itself will have its material nature violated when God shall purge out the curse from it and all its emblems, and instead of the thorn shall come up the fir-tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle-tree. The home and the inhabitant shall alike be perfected, and perfected in fullest harmony with their respected natures, — the one by a change of outward form, the other by a change of its inward bent and inclination. And this is precisely the change which the will must undergo, in order that it may be modified in accordance with its nature. This is actually the very thing required, in order that the objected and dreaded violation may not take place.
II. But again: It is further objected against the doctrine of invincible, prevailing, and controlling grace, that it is calculated to relax the diligence and energy of those who believe themselves the subjects of it. If it be true that the Almighty Spirit of God, dwelling in the Christian, infallibly and effectually secures his sanctification, nothing (it is argued) can be more natural than for the man himself to remit all his anxiety and sense of responsibility, and indolently leave to this omnipotent Agent the accomplishment of a work, for the furtherance of which any little energy of his can add nothing to that omnipotence already engaged upon it. The doctrine, it is said, will lead to indolence. In answering this objection we shall confine ourselves, as in the former case, to the considerations afforded by the text; and we shall find this second objection also to be in direct contradiction to the scope or spirit of the text, as well as to its express terms.
(1.) In the first place, then, it surely cannot with any show of reason be asserted that the Divine agency is fitted to lead the believer to carelessness, when we consider the scope and object of this verse as addressed to those who are experiencing that agency. We have already seen that the whole spirit of this text overturns the objection that the prevailing power of Divine grace treats man as a machine, when we find that those who are the subjects of it are exhorted, and reasoned with, and urged to make a certain choice and follow a certain line of conduct; and the motive addressed to them to secure their consent and concurrence as intelligent and free agents is actually the operation of that grace which is said to deal with them as inanimate matter. But we will see just as clearly that the whole spirit of this text as fully overturns the objection that the prevailing power of Divine grace is calculated to supersede the believer’s own energy, when we observe the nature of the exhortation which is here pressed on his acceptance, and the source and design of the motive by which it is enforced. A man is not treated as a machine when exhortation and motives are addressed to him; and surely as little is he tempted to indolence when exhorted and moved to “work.” Such, however, is the particular exhortation of the text, and such the object intended to be gained by urging its motive on the believer’s will. The call addressed to him is a call to “work;” the motive brought to bear upon him is one designed to set him a-working. And when such is the exhortation given forth, and such the motive plied in the very passage which asserts the efficacy of the grace of God in his people, it surely cannot, without the grossest irreverence, be asserted that that grace is fitted to teach them to despise the very exhortation which, on the ground of it, is addressed to them. There must at least be no inconsistency. But there is not only no inconsistency, no want of harmony; there is a very profound and positive harmony revealed, when we consider the ground on which the exhortation to work is based, and the source from which its enforcing motive is drawn. The exhortation to work is not only contained in the same text which asserts the Divine agency, but is made to rest upon the assertion of that agency. And not only is a motive to labor pressed upon the Christian although almighty strength is on his side, but the possession of that indwelling and almighty strength is itself made the motive which the Spirit of God urges: “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God that worketh in you.” And if such be the obvious construction and scope of the text, anyone inclined to entertain this objection against the prevalence of Divine grace may well be alarmed to find himself in a state of mind so opposed to the mind of the Spirit speaking in the Scripture, as that the fact or truth which the living God urges as an argument to labor, he is stigmatizing as a motive to indolence!
(2.) But the objection which is thus diametrically opposed to the spirit of the text, is a direct denial also of its letter. In reply to the assertion that the agency of God makes man a machine, it is enough to say that where God worketh he “worketh in you to will.” And in like manner, in replying to the assertion that the same doctrine of God’s certainly successful work of grace in his people is calculated to subdue and dispense with their own activities, it is enough to say that where God worketh he “worketh in you to do.” The very thing which the Divine agency accomplishes is the expulsion of indolence and indifference, the replenishing of all the active powers with spiritual life, and the directing of them in and towards spiritual action. How therefore an operation which, from its very nature, is intended and calculated to result in the production of energy — an operation which is no otherwise and no further exerted than as it gives birth to energy — how this can beget the contrary inactivity it is impossible to comprehend; and hence indeed the objection ought not so much to be styled an objection to the doctrine of Divine agency, as an utter misconception of that doctrine, and a total denial of it in the only sense in which it is affirmed in Scripture, or held by intelligent Christians. The energetic Christian working out his salvation successfully, you are aware, can take no credit to himself, because, according to the doctrine of the text, it is God that worketh in him. But as little can the slumbering Christian, not working out his own salvation, take any warrantable comfort, just because, according to the same doctrine, his inactivity is a proof that God is not working in him to will and to do. This conclusion is indeed nothing more than the statement of his actual inactivity in another form; and hence the doctrine of effectual grace as surely overturns all his consolation. That God worketh in his people effectually to will what is good and holy, and so as infallibly to secure their salvation, can minister no delight to the man who, by his conscious disinclination to Divine things, must know that the Divine Spirit has been so grieved away as to be no longer “working in him to will.” And in like manner, the fact that God worketh in his people to do, to act spiritually, energetically, and successfully, so that they shall ultimately overcome and gain the prize, can afford no comfort to the man whose spiritual indolence tells him that God is not working in him to do. So little is the doctrine calculated to lead to indolence, that it is the direct assertion of the text that the Divine agency energizes those who are under its gracious influence; and hence the man who is giving way to indolence and inactivity in the things that pertain to his peace and holiness, ought immediately to take the alarm, being led to feel, by that very token, that the agency is not at work which alone can effectually and finally save him.
The answers which the text thus so obviously affords to the two leading objections, so often urged against the Scripture doctrine of God’s converting and sanctifying effectual grace, obviously tend to throw light upon the text itself, and to illustrate that connection between the Divine and human agencies against which, in point of fact, these objections are leveled. 1. Which is first in order of nature? 2. Which is first in point of time? 3. Which is first in point of importance? 4. Which is first in point of extent? It may tend yet further to illustrate this subject if we now reply to this short series of questions which an intelligent and reverential inquirer might be supposed to put.
1. And, first, it may be asked — Whether is the Divine agency or the human agency first in the order of nature, i.e. of cause and effect? If man’s agency is closely related to God’s, and yet is, as we have seen, voluntary — which is the cause of the other? or are they, though connected, yet not bound together by the tie of cause and effect at all? To this we answer, that the Divine agency is first in action in the order of nature. It is the sole cause of the believer’s own agency. The whole of the believer’s agency is the issue or effect of God’s action. The text, in asserting that God worketh in you to will and to do, attributes to him every godly action you perform, and every godly inclination which prompts you to the performance of it. It assigns to his agency the work of quickening, strengthening, controlling, and directing your powers of action, so that you “do” his commandments or act out his will. And it further assigns to his agency the work of quickening and spiritually energizing and righteously guiding your power of choice, so that you “will” what he wills, and delight yourself in his desires. The godly deed, and the godly will from which it flows, are alike the gift, the inwrought work of God. His Spirit is the sole cause of a new heart and the sole cause of a new life. He does not assist you to work, but worketh in you the whole work of doing. He does not assist the will, but forms it afresh; frames a new will, bestows a clean heart, and renews a right spirit within you. This is creative work; this is quickening and raising up the dead. And hence the Divine agency which accomplishes it is assuredly first in the order of nature. God doth prevent or anticipate his people with his mercy and gracious power.
2. But, secondly, it may be asked — Whether is the Divine agency or the human agency first in point of time? And to this I answer, that neither of them precedes the other in point of time. Though the agency of God precedes the agency of the believer in the order of nature, yet in respect of time they are simultaneous. For, consider what it is that the Divine agency accomplishes as soon as it comes into operation. God worketh in you to do. He actually works that; not merely proposes and attempts that; but does it. It is not only the intention of God’s working that you should work. But the certain effect of God’s working is that you do work. Your working is the immediate and inevitable product — yea, the very essence or substance — of God’s work. The Divine agency cannot operate for a moment without operating human energy; for such, by the very terms of the text, is the nature of effectual grace. It works in you to will and to do. Take an instance or two. When the Spirit of supplications descends on the believer, working according to the meaning of that name which he hath been graciously pleased to assume, the immediate result is that the believer prays in the Spirit. The Spirit maketh intercession for him, and how but by prompting the desires of his heart, which in their existence and necessary heavenward tendency constitute the very essence of prayer? Again, when the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation is poured out and acts as an enlightening agent, “shining in the heart,” the very meaning of this act implies that immediately the believer, with open face, beholds the glory of the Lord, and in the Spirit’s light doth he see light. When the same Spirit comes in another aspect of his gracious character, even as a Spirit of adoption sent forth into the believer’s heart, instantly the Lord hears the cry, “Abba, Father.” And exactly so with the general relation between the human agency and the Divine: the same thing is true which we behold in these particular cases alluded to. There is no interval of time between them. Their nature is such as to preclude this. If at any moment God is working in you, then at that very moment you are willing and doing. Your present godly will or work is not the result of God’s past, but of God’s present working in you. And God’s present working in you is not the cause of any future godly will and deed, unless God shall work in you then as well as now. Your work and his are simultaneous. Neither of them is first in point of time.
3. But, thirdly, it may further be asked — Whether is the Divine agency or the human agency first in point of importance? If by this be meant, Whether could God’s agency or the believer’s be more easily dispensed with? I reply that neither of them exceeds the other in importance, but that they are each alike indispensable. The Divine agency is indispensable, for we are not sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God. And evidently also the human agency is equally indispensable, for if we are not thinking, willing, acting after a godly manner, it is clear that nought of God’s sufficiency has been communicated to us, and nothing has been accomplished. Keeping in remembrance the answer to our first question, namely, that God’s agency is the cause of man’s, and hence that the Lord is not obstructed in the sense of needing to wait ere he put forth his power on a soul on the ground that it is not yet willing or doing, and that no such idea is meant to be conveyed when we say that the human agency is absolutely necessary, we may now, without any disparagement to that which is the cause of the other, affirm that the one is just as indispensable as the other. “Without me,” said Jesus, “ye can do nothing.” And so without irreverence may we suppose him saying, “Without you I can do nothing.” “He did not many mighty acts there because of their unbelief.” The fact is — and it is to this that all our thoughts and reasonings on the subject are tending — the fact is that the agency of God in and through the believer, and the believer’s own voluntary and energetic godly agency in and under God, are inextricably united and intertwined with each other — so much so, indeed, that in strict propriety they are not to be regarded as two things ultimately distinct, but when viewed more closely resolvable into one, called at one time human agency, and at another time Divine agency, according to the point at which we stop in our inquiry into its nature, and especially its origin. In the one case, when I am working out my salvation, and a spectator sees only me working, he traces my work to my will; and attributing the work to me, which is perfectly correct, he denominates the work mine, or the agency human. But if that spectator is a spiritual man, and so is led to trace the matter a step or two further, or could he see into the ongoings of the spiritual world in some such way as Elisha’s servant had his eyes opened to behold the cause of his master’s courage and safety, he would in like manner behold a now hidden cause of my spiritual power; he would now attribute my spiritual action, and the very will which prompts them, to the God who gave them by working in me to will and to do. And what he formerly and rightly called human agency, he will now, and as correctly, call the agency of God. And most properly and beneficially may this alternating view be taken of the great work whereby a converted man is ultimately freed from all the power and wiles of Satan, all the vestiges of inward corruptions and all the corruption and temptation that are in the world. At one time, and for certain purposes, he is to look upon the work as his own. And at another time, and for other ends, he must feel and acknowledge that the work is God’s. For deepening my sense of responsibility, I must bear in remembrance that I and not another have to do this work; that I myself, and no other, must work out my salvation with fear and trembling; and then for bearing me up under the overwhelming impression that I have such a work to do, and in order to encourage myself in the Lord, I am to call to mind that it is God who performeth all things for me, and of his gracious pleasure worketh in me to will and to do. For purposes of duty, I must never forget that the work is strictly mine, — my own work, as truly as my own salvation. For purposes of praise, I must joyfully acknowledge that all the work is his, that no flesh should glory. And is not this the full explanation of these passages in which the apostle appears so often, as it were, to correct himself, and substitute another statement for the one which he apparently condemns and parts from, but to which he again returns as being quite defensible and accurate after all? He is only alternating between two expressions or assertions, both of them true, but which would indeed be contradictory were it not that they are to be resolved into one. “I live, yet not I, Christ liveth in me; and yet I live a life of faith on the Son of God.” “By the grace of God I am what I am.” “I labor, striving according to his working that worketh in me mightily.” “I labored more abundantly than they all, — yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.” “I can do all things through Christ that strengtheneth me.” It is thus also we are to harmonize those numerous passages in which the very same work is attributed in one to the agency of God, in another to the believer himself. For on this principle it is at one time said that God purifies his people’s hearts, and at another time that they have purified their own souls by obeying the truth; at one time they give praise to God because he alone has cleansed them, and at another there is laid on them the duty of cleansing themselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit; at one time that God keeps every regenerated disciple through his own name, and at another that every one who is begotten of God keepeth himself.
4. There is yet another question which may be put on this subject, viz., Whether the Divine agency or the human agency is first in point of extent? Whether does God’s agency or man’s accomplish most in this great undertaking in which they are so intimately united? The answer to this is, that neither of them exceeds the other in extent, but they are co-extensive. Man does as much when he works out his salvation as God does when he works in him to will and to do. They are mutually the measures of each other. This must be obvious from the views already taken of the relation which subsists between them, involving, as that relation does, a deep and ultimate identity. The Spirit of supplication is operating in me, just so far as I pray in the Spirit; the Spirit of wisdom is enlightening me to that extent, and no more, to which in his light I behold light; the Spirit of adoption is given me up to the measure of that filial confidence with which I can say, “Abba, Father;” the Spirit who worketh all in all is given me so far as I labor according to his working; and the Spirit of the fear of the Lord is mine, so far as, working with fear and trembling, I stand in awe and sin not. It is God alone who energizes the Christian; and so God does all. But he energizes the Christian for the whole Christian life, and so the Christian himself does all. He cannot take a single step in advance of the efficacious grace of God, for that grace alone is sufficient for him, and Divine strength only can be perfected in his weakness; but to the full extent of that strength he is strong when he is weak, for grace does not take a single step beyond him, or without carrying his will and his work along with it. It is because man have not chosen to observe, or understand, that the Divine and the human agencies in man’s sanctification are exactly co-extensive, that the two objections which we formerly noticed were ever raised, or have so often been revived. The one supposes the action of God to go beyond the action of the believer’s will; to that extent it would be dealing with him as a machine. The other supposes the Divine agency in like manner to go beyond the quickening and forthputting of the believer’s energy, and to that extent leaving and encouraging him to be indolent. But these things are not so; neither let any be deceived, for to what extent God is working in you to will and to do, to that same extent will ye willingly and cordially work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. And the conscious reality and measure of will with which you are working out your salvation is the only and the sure index of the measure or reality of that grace wherewith ye may infer that God is working in you. “And the God of peace make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever.”
Having now considered the great principles involved in and bearing on the harmony and mutual relations of the Divine and human agencies in the believer’s sanctification, we shall devote a portion of our space to the simpler work of applying and enforcing the exhortation.
The exhortation calls upon the Christian to “work out his own salvation with fear and trembling.” The motive by which the exhortation is enforced is the gracious fact that “it is God who worketh in him, both to will and to do of his good pleasure.”
It is taken for granted that the individuals addressed are regenerated persons — already brought by the grace into the Divine family, and partakers of the Divine favor. Those whom Holy Scripture urges to work out their own salvation are in such a spiritual state as results from the fact that God is already working in them. They are quickened from their death in trespasses and in sins; and the Spirit of God, who hath caused them to pass from death to life, dwelleth in them, and fills them with spiritual energy. Directly, and at first-hand, such an exhortation cannot be, and is not, addressed to the unconverted, for of them it cannot be said that “God is working in them to will and to do”; neither does it give any countenance to the idea that such a man, by working, can secure his own salvation. Such a man must first be justified by faith without works. And being also renewed without works by the Spirit of God, he, not a workman in that matter, but himself the workmanship created again unto good works, which God hath ordained that he should walk in them, is then to become, in all new-born and Heaven-given energy, a fellow-worker with God, not receiving the grace of God in vain, but securing by Divine grace, through the forthputting of his own will and action, his daily progress in holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.
For this is the great difference between justification and sanctification. In the former God does all and man nothing. In the latter God does all and man does all. In justification God can do nothing unless man absolutely and entirely abstain from putting his hand to the work, leaving the Lord to justify him freely and fully by grace without the deeds of the law. In sanctification God can do nothing except in so far as the believer cordially and devotedly puts his hand to the whole work, so that God sanctifies him wholly by his grace in and by his own thorough obedience to the truth. These are the two great mysteries — yet practical mysteries — of the gospel, hidden from the wise and prudent, but revealed to babes — to the meek and lowly, the humble in heart, to whom God giveth grace, and more grace. In the matter of justification the great difficulty is to prevent men from seeking to co-operate with God; their desire, while not yet fully humbled, being, at least partly, to justify themselves. In the matter of sanctification, on the other hand, the great difficulty is to persuade men to co-operate with God, or even to convince them of the reasonableness or possibility of such a thing. And it is a melancholy, yet instructive, view of human nature, in its unrenewed condition, to behold the mind of man thus not only misunderstanding the great scheme of God’s sovereign grace in Christ Jesus, but, as it were, ingeniously and perseveringly contradicting reversing it throughout, — insisting on works where God has excluded them, restraining them where God has called for them. But be not deceived. If you are to work for justification, God can never justify you. If you are not to work unto sanctification, God can never sanctify you.
The exhortation, it is very obvious, addresses itself to believers, and it is accordingly to them we would now speak in applying and enforcing the doctrine.
You have entered into the household of God; and both as sons and as servants you have to walk by the rules laid down for you by your Lord and Master, you heavenly Father. You are freely forgiven all trespasses in the blood of Jesus, you are frankly reconciled to the Lord, you are fully accepted in the Beloved, you are fairly entered into the friendship of God. And ye shall not come into condemnation, for never will God recall his forgiveness: the grace from which it flows, the freeness with which it is conveyed, forbid the idea of its being retracted. Ye received it without any worthiness in you, ye received it in all your unworthiness, and the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. Ye are entered into a family from which ye shall never be expelled — into a state of safety and salvation which never can be shaken. But ye are far from being perfected in your nature, though blessed beyond measure in your prospects. Ye are not as the angels of God, or as the spirits of just men made perfect. Ye bear about with you a body of death — the old man with his affections and lusts, which, though put off, is not utterly put out — which rather strives continually for the mastery, and reinforces his strength from various quarters. The world that lieth in wickedness is on his side. Satan’s wiles and rages inflame and direct the corruption that is within you, and your soul, you well know, unless guarded by prayer and watching, tends downwards continually, cleaving to the dust. Refreshing ordinances are great means of quickening, elevating, and controlling aright the desires of your heart. You have your seasons of precious and close intercourse with God; and, then, it is a marvel to you that you should ever lose the spirituality of heart and heavenly-mindedness which at these times you are privileged to attain. Yet heavenliness of affection wears down, and well-nigh wears out in contact with the world. Spirituality of mind in converse with unseen things becomes difficult to maintain amid the bright glare and pressing urgency of the things that are seen and temporal. Self-denial for Jesus’ sake and the gospel’s, easily and willingly pledged and promised in the hour of high Christian privilege and enjoyment, looks rough and stern and hard when, in the hour of worldly care or worldly interest, the actual claim is made, and the call and opportunity for fulfillment comes. Provocations come — forbearance and forgiveness are needed; afflictions come — patience and resignation are required; temptations come — prayer, watchings, strivings, faithfulness, incorruptible integrity, are called for. And, in a multitude of constantly-recurring incidents in your daily life, you feel, while by entering into God’s family and friendship freely, by the blood of Jesus, all your despair has been forever dispelled, yet your anxieties and labors, instead of being set aside, are now only truly begun. You have a great work on hand, and you can give it up only with your expiring breath. You cannot enter on your rest, with any possibility of fitness or capacity of enjoying it, till your work is done. Till you are made meet for the inheritance which has freely and fully been given over to you in Jesus, you cannot be infefted into the actual possession of it; nor, though you could, would you be qualified to derive from it the blessedness which it is designed to yield. Your salvation is indeed completed, if by “salvation” you mean only your escape from condemnation, and the wrath of God, and the danger of falling into hell. But if by “salvation” be meant the entire blessedness of your immortal soul in all the powers and faculties of your intellectual and moral nature, as these are assimilated to the glorious holiness of God, and exercised in unbounded love and admiration and enjoyment of God as their portion, purged of all that interrupts, darkens, distresses, or checks and limits you in fellowship with them, and that shades from you the full beauty of his strength and majesty, or restrains the full exercise of that surpassing honor or supreme esteem in which we ought ever to regard the Holy One of Israel — then your salvation is but begun, and the high course on which you are entered in that of completing it — of “working out your salvation with fear and trembling.”
And what can possibly stimulate you in this high and holy accomplishment more than the thought that “it is God that worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure”?
1. For, in the first place, this is an argument which addresses itself to your sense of awe. If you have any sense of the awful and the solemn, here is a consideration fitted deeply to awe and solemnize you. “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him will God destroy: for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.” Well may the apostle enjoin fear and trembling, and urge the propriety of such emotions, when he can adduce for them a call so truly urgent. God worketh in you, brethren! Ye are “the dwelling-place of God.” “Know ye not that Christ is in you, except ye be reprobate?” And the Spirit abideth with you, for hereby ye know that ye are Christ’s, by the Spirit, the Comforter, whom he hath sent to make his abode with you. What an aspect of solemn grandeur this fact imparts to the youngest or humblest of Christians! To a spiritual eye there are few things more solemnizing than the contemplation of a large crowd of fellow-creatures congregated by some common interest — whether of piety or of pleasure. We behold a multitude of immortal beings, who have every one of them to stand before the judgment seat of Christ, and to confront the great Judge of the quick and the dead. We look forward a few years, and every one of them is gone — some of them to lie down in everlasting burnings, some to wear a crown of glory. Ah! how solemnly they seem to stand out to the thoughtful mind in the light of the advancing eternity. Their future and fast-coming destiny makes them awfully important. But the present state of some of them, if rightly considered, is also fitted to solemnize, apart even from the thought of the prospects that lie before them. The Christians that are among them — in them God is even now dwelling! And what a value does this give them, not only in the anticipation of the coming solemnities through which they have to pass, but even in the view of their immediate condition! We look at them again in this light. They are temples of the living God, and he hath said, “I will dwell in them, and will walk in them, and I will be their God.” The great God hath taken up his special residence in their hearts. Do you ask, “Will God in very deed dwell with men on the earth?” We point you to these Christians in the crowd for a reply; and of them we say, These are creatures in whom God is willing to dwell. And ah! with what an altered state of feelings may you regard the concourse of immortals! Even the wicked, in whom, for aught you know, God may yet dwell in grace and love and glory: even they become valuable, precious, in your own estimation. And the godly, in whom God dwells already, — is there not something sublime, awful, and overpoweringly important now in your view of them? And if a spectator, in looking abroad upon his fellow men, may well be solemnized when he regards the believer in the light in which this thought presents him, surely it may be expected that a yet more thrilling sense of awe and holy fear will pervade the mind of the believer himself, when he realizes the truth that “God worketh in him.” When his mental eye is bent inwardly on himself, and the thought is brought home that if he indeed be the Lord’s, and since he became the Lord’s, the High and Holy One hath not disdained nor abhorred the home of his heart, but hath dwelt there in fatherly favor, and sovereign grace, and sanctifying power, and is even now (now, while he is meditating the matter), dwelling there by the gracious and peculiar presence of his Holy Spirit — can there be imagined a more constraining argument for solemn ponderings of heart, for standing in awe and sinning not, for watching unto prayer — for purifying himself from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of the Lord? Consider what God is; what God hath said; what God hath done; and then think — that God dwelleth and worketh in you; contemplate the character of God as revealed in creation, in providence, in Scripture, and in the cross of Christ; and then think — that this God dwelleth and worketh in you! He who by stupendous power created this globe and hung it upon nothing, and gathered its waters in the hollow of his hand, and weighed its mountains in scales and its hills in a balance; who powdered with shining brilliants the deep blue heaven above — lighting there ten thousand fires; who “rounded in his great palm” these spacious orbs, and “bowled them flaming through the dark profound”; who can, at his sovereign will, put check to all their motions, and fold the whole heavens as a vesture; — this same God dwelleth within you! He who cursed the serpent, and promised the Messiah; who called Abraham, and wrestled with Jacob; who protected Joseph and gave him honor; who raised up Moses, and made his glory appear to him in the gleam of fire in the bush; whose mighty hand divided the sea for Israel, and who spoke to them in darkness and lightning from Mount Sinai; who gave them their own land, having slain kings for their sakes, and rebuked great kings; who established his law and his testimony in Judah for many generations, and whose glory dwelt between the cherubim; who smote the armies of the Assyrian with death, and rolled back from Israel the tide of battle while they were faithful, but gave them captive to the oppressor when they proved disobedient, and hath now peeled and scattered them through all the nations; — this God dwelleth in you! He who spared not his own Son; who laid sin, and curse, and death, and woe upon him — and for sin was pleased in unchanging holiness to bruise him whom he loveth evermore and heareth always; who his all favor from his eyes, and left him to bear the burden of a world’s atonement discountenanced, and avenged upon by the Judge of all the earth; he who hath given this last and crowning demonstration, that he cannot dwell with iniquity, is pleased to dwell in you! And as you realize the amazing fact — as your mind rises to the majesty of this great truth, that your very soul hath been constituted the guest-chamber and the banqueting-house of the King of Glory — oh! how should you be filled with fear and trembling! When Jehovah took possession of Moriah’s temple in the day when Solomon gave it up in holy dedication to his father’s God, God was pleased to accept the offering and consecrate it for his resting-place by solemn symbol of his glory. For “when Solomon had made an end of praying, the fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt-offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the house. And when will the children of Israel saw how the fire came down, and the glory of the Lord upon the house, they bowed themselves with their faces to the ground upon the pavement and worshipped.” “Now, ye are the temple of the Lord; and what agreement hath the temple of the Lord with idols?” Well may ye stand in awe and sin not. “Ye are not your own.” If God had been pleased to put any seal upon you, marking you as his property, then there would have been sufficient ground for the declaration, “Ye are not your own”; and sufficient ground for the call, “Glorify God in your bodies and your spirits, which are his.” But how much more so now that he hath sealed you by the indwelling of his own Spirit, who is in you, and shall be in you! Did Christians always rise to the height of their position — their awfully exalted position in the sight of him who hath chosen them as his rest — would they not be, like Israel of old, “a people separated from all people,” a “peculiar people,” a “holy nation,” a “kingdom of priests” ministering to the God of the temple, the God of the whole earth — the God of their own heart, a sanctified and consecrated home? And should any one conceive of this as a species of solemnity fitted to quell all action, and inspire with terror, then let it be remembered that though God is a “consuming fire,” yet he dwells in his people’s souls as he dwelt in the bush, which “burned yet was not consumed.”
2. This will be more evident if we consider the argument advanced in another view, as addressing itself to the Christian’s hope, and fitted to inspire him with energy and courage. Great is the achievement which you have to accomplish, and mighty is the stake at issue, — your eternity, to wit, and your right preparation for it. Numerous and active, and violent and sagacious and combined, are your enemies in the unceasing task to rob you of your integrity, your grace, your Christian character, your heavenly rest. Great is the ardor, courage, energy, dauntless perseverance, and deathless hope by which you must fight your way to the crown. It is through much tribulation that you will enter into the joy of your Lord. A slothful world fancy they may sleep into heaven at last, but ye know that it is otherwise, and that the girding up of the loins of your minds, and the girding on of all heaven-proved armor, are needed for the contest. And as you survey your ground, and the multitude that are come out against you, the principalities and powers of darkness, and the spiritual wickednesses in high places, your heart may be well-nigh ready to give way. “But when thou goest out to battle against thine enemies, and seest horses and chariots, and a people more than thou, be not afraid of them: for the Lord thy God is with thee, which brought you up out of the land of Egypt. Hear, O Israel, ye approach this day unto battle against your enemies: let not your hearts faint; fear not, and do not tremble, neither be ye terrified because of them: for the Lord your God is he that goeth with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.” Imposing as the undertaking may be, and momentous the issues, yet work ye hopefully, for the Lord worketh in you. This is your unfailing guarantee for ultimate and abounding success. If called to it in your own strength, nothing could argue greater temerity than to answer the call with one single ray of hope or the least expectation of coming off as conquerors. But if the Lord is with you, ye shall be more than conquerors, doing all things through Christ strengthening you. When once the faith of Gideon was established in the trustworthy nature of the vision which he had beside his father’s threshing floor, he must have become altogether a new man through the force of the salutation addressed to him, “The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valor.” What thrilling hope, what perpetual buoyancy of spirits, what energy of action, what quenchless perseverance, what holy heroism, must that single assurance have inspired into him who so lately quailed before the Midianites, and stole out from his concealment only under covert of the dusk! Strung to deeds of highest courage, bearing about with him in the body a charmed life, and a conviction, more sure than fate, that no evil could befall him till the work of liberating his country from the tyrant was accomplished, he could see his little band successively diminished, because still the Lord was on his side, and the oath by which God ordained him to the work fell perpetually as heaven’s own music on his ear — “The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valor.” And similar in spirit to the conquering Gideon was Asa, king of Judah, who, with little more than half his enemy’s force, encountered a million of Ethiopians in the valley of Zephathah. His courage also sprang from the fact that God was with him, and his battle prayer has been put on record for all generations: “And Asa cried unto the Lord his God, and said — Lord, it is nothing with thee to help, whether with many, or with them that have no power: help us, O Lord God, for we rest on thee, and in thy name we go against this multitude. O Lord, thou art our God; let not man prevail against thee.” So Jahaziel and Jehoshaphat, “The battle is not yours, but God’s” (II Chron. 20:15). It is precisely in the same spirit, believer, that you are warranted and bound to entertain unshaken confidence in the favorable issue of the work in which you are engaged. The fear and trembling which is here enjoined — and, as we have already seen, no wonder that fear and trembling should thus have been enjoined — are not the fear of terror, or the trembling of dismay. Such a thought is at once excluded by the full assurance afforded for ultimate success, arising, as that assurance does, from the same indwelling of the Spirit of God, which is so fitted to fill the soul with solemn awe. For if God is working in you, then you cannot fail of a triumphant issue, unless Omnipotence itself shall fail. “If God be for you, who can be against you?” The Lord is on your side, you need not fear. Rebel not against the Lord, neither fear the people of the enemies’ land: their defence is departed from them, and the Lord is with us: fear them not. It is no scanty measure of strength that is allotted to you. You shall be strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power: you cannot exhaust this source of strength, your own strength. For “hast thou not known, hast thou not heard, that the Creator of the ends of the earth fainteth not, neither is weary? He giveth power to the faint, and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. And they that wait upon him shall renew their strength.” “Fear not, for I am with thee: be not dismayed, for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee: yea, I will help thee: yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” If this power is working in you, you can put no bounds, no measure to its action. He is able to do “exceeding abundantly above all that you can ask or think, according to his power that worketh in you.” Did ever any Christian, in the hour of temptation, find himself incapable of overcoming, when he realized himself as the dwelling-place of God’s power — and God’s power in pledge to him for wielding it against his foes? No; it is impossible. No man ever did humbly and on right grounds realize that God was “working in him to will and to do,” without feeling that the thought was an inspiring one, and that it nerved with a might and power to quell temptation, to scatter the fanciful allurements of sin, to burst the nets and snares of worldly compromise as cobweb-nets and nothing better, and to rescue him from the contact of that evil which was, perhaps, well-nigh obtaining the mastery over him. And so will you find it on every fresh occasion an exhaustless foundation of hope and of encouragement, a perpetual spring of nervous energy and undying perseverance, an endless source of conquest and of triumph. Work, then, believer, while it is called today; whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might. Work the work of him who sent thee into the world, as the Father sent Him into the world, who will never leave you alone, but will be with you himself, as the Father was ever with Him. Work out your own salvation solemnly, yet cheerfully, with awe, yet with hope; with an overpowering sense of a fearful responsibility, yet with the exulting assurance that you are enabled to meet and to discharge it. God dwelleth in you — let your soul be filled with holy fear and humble tremblings at his presence. God worketh in you — let your soul return unto her rest, convinced that he will perform all things for you most faithfully and well. Engage in every duty, resist every temptation, undertake every task, set out on a higher range of spiritual attainment, strive for a higher and a rising level of Christian character, impelled by the well-formed belief that nothing which God hateth can long withstand you, and nothing which God approves can long evade your prayers and labors to attain it. God himself “worketh in you to will and to do of his good pleasure.” You have only to acquiesce in this wonderful arrangement — to yield yourselves the willing, active instruments whereby God shall work out his own will — yourselves the living, willing agents who shall work out God’s will, — and the work shall as surely be done as God is the agent of it, — and, ultimately, as well done as to suit the agency employed on it. “Fear not, thou worm of Jacob: thou shalt thresh the mountains. Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain.” For God in his people assuredly shall triumph, or his people in him shall be conquerors and more, just as the work which you propose to yourselves to accomplish cannot be accomplished unless God does it.
The fact that God worketh in you to will and to do should urge you to work out your salvation in another way, viz., by the consideration that the work which God proposes to himself to accomplish cannot be accomplished unless you do it. We might here bring under your notice again the views formerly brought forward of the ultimate identity subsisting between God’s work and yours. But passing from these, we may present the subject in another light. God hath set himself to the work of glorying himself in you; but this cannot be done, unless you set yourselves to the work of glorifying him. Without your intelligent and active co-operation the purpose of God must fail; and are you prepared to counteract the gracious object which he has in view? That object cannot be attained, that glory cannot be reaped, unless you devote yourselves to promote and secure it. And what, then, is your duty? Consider what it is that God means to do; and how you are concerned in its accomplishment. Consider both the subject in whom he works to his own glory, and the special glory which he designs to secure, and you cannot fail to see the call which is made upon you to work out your salvation.
1. The subject wrought upon is such that it cannot receive the manifestation of Divine glory, intended to be exhibited, in any other way than by active co-operation. In the work of Creation God may glorify himself by simply laying down upon his creatures the proofs of his glory without any action on the part of the creatures in receiving them. He can show his power and wisdom and unparalleled skillfulness in garnishing the heavens, without the myriads of stars being his fellow workers. He can paint the watery clouds with all the glories of the transient rainbow, without the action of any other will than his own. He can clothe the lily with more than Solomon’s glory without the little flower agreeing to put on its robe of beauty. But when he deals with living souls, and seeks in them to reveal his glory, it is impossible the work can proceed, unless through the action of their own moral nature, through the exercise of conscience, and understanding, and will, and the active powers with which he has endowed them. Your very nature is such that unless you willingly fall in with God’s design, and put to your helping hand, the work stands still and cannot possibly proceed. And then —
2. In the second place, the same thing is evident from the consideration of the particular glory which is to be exhibited. The special elements of his glory, the attributes or perfections or views of Divine character and nature to be revealed, are precisely such as can only be revealed in and through a living, intelligent, responsible, and active agent, once righteously condemned and spiritually dead, but now graciously accepted and powerfully quickened to newness of life and holiness of action. On inanimate creation God may lay down and lavish, and glorify his power and wisdom, and much of his goodness or beneficence. But manifest the power and freeness of his grace and its operations, reveal his pardoning love and mercy and its effects — this he cannot do; this is a glory which cannot be revealed, a work that cannot be accomplished, except in and by an agent who gives proof of his pardon and acceptance by love and liberty, and energy and joy; who gives proof of quickening grace, by life and action, of a gracious, and spiritual, and holy nature, — a life and action corresponding to the quickening and energizing power which the Lord purposes to display. It appears, then, that if you would not utterly foreclose and counteract the divine design, you must devote yourselves with zeal and energy to be fellow workers with God, not receiving the grace of God in vain. The fact is, you are put upon your honor with God, and you may be assured that he will stand upon his honor with you.
(1.) You are put upon your honor with him. God has put you upon your honor. He is here, in this world, in an enemy’s country, and he hath generously committed himself to you: he hath committed his honor to yours, he hath given you large credit for loyalty and faithfulness. He hath wrought in you a new heart, and now he hath fearlessly given himself into its keeping. He hath taken you at your word, when in the day you found him knocking at the door you opened unto him, that the King of Gory might enter. He hath not distrusted the promise and the pledge you made when you gave him entrance and welcome into the soul which is his own. He hath come in to dwell with you and sup with you; and with his coming, as in the dawning of the morning, darkness fled away and the light of life and joy and bounding hope came with him, and in his holy presence the extinguished lamp of your darkened mind is fed with the light of everlasting life. He hath not abhorred the offered dwelling place. He hath arisen at your request, and, according to your faith, into his resting place, “he and the ark of his strength”! And now, therefore, what is your duty, but to shield the ark of God, and protect it with your life, to cover its sacredness and honor at the price of your very soul which holdeth it? Betray not the King! Deliver not his strength into captivity, nor his glory into the enemies’ hand! Adventure not the ark into the arena of worldly war; carry it not rashly into the field among the Philistines; ward off, in sensitive and holy apprehension, every touch that would pollute it, and let all temple service, every work that is in keeping with its holiness, and every vigil which should be maintained where it dwelleth, be most carefully observed. And as all thine honor in the sight of God is derived from its presence, and is imperiled on its safety, see that ye stand upon your honor with the King of kings.
(2.) And all the more that he hath put himself upon his honor to you, and permits you to put him on his honor. For as it is now yours to defend the ark at the price of your soul, which holdeth it, it is his, in like manner, to defend your soul, its dwelling-place, with all the shielding care and protection with which he would defend the ark, which is enshrined, and dwells within it. “The Lord shall keep thy soul; he shall preserve thee from all ill. Henceforth thy going out and in God keep for ever will.” This is your safety — that now, sacred in the eye of God in all the sacredness of the symbol of his presence — nay, not the symbol of his presence, but his real presence — you are now safe in the safety of the ark itself, of the Lord himself. For this is the blessed exchange — your honor for his; yours in pledge to him; his to you. You are permitted now to plead with him on this high and holy ground, that, dwelling and working as he dwells and works in you, real evil befalling you befalls your God, and that honor and glory of his own that he has lodged and imperiled in you. It was thus that Asa knew his high position, and his heart pleaded to heaven as from the very summit of his vantage-ground. Realizing God in Israel, he prayed no longer that man might be preserved from conquering Asa and his little band, but “O Lord, let not man prevail against thee.” Ah! how well Moses, the servant of God, knew how to wield this mighty argument, which overcometh even the Mighty One of Jacob. For when God threatened rebellious Israel and said, “I will smite them with the pestilence and disinherit them; and will make of thee a greater nation and mightier than they” — instantly the quick-eyed spiritual man saw that his only weapon was the honor of the Lord, his only appeal was to put the Lord upon his honor. “And Moses said unto the Lord, Then the Egyptians will hear of it (for thou broughtest up this people in thy might from among them). And they will tell it to the inhabitants of this land: for they have heard that thou, Lord, art among this people; that thou, Lord, art seen face to face; and that thy cloud standeth over them, and in a pillar of fire by night. Now, if thou shalt kill all this people as one man, then the nations which have heard the fame of thee will speak, saying, Because the Lord was not able to bring his people into the land which he sware unto them, therefore he hath slain them in the wilderness.” Ah! how nobly he thus intertwined God’s honor with Israel’s forgiveness! Surely, too, his mantle fell on Joshua, and a double portion of his spirit, when, the men of Ai having smitten Israel, their leader now, like his heroic forerunner, proceeded to put God upon his honor: “O Lord, what shall I say when Israel turneth their backs before their enemies? For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land shall hear of it, and shall environ us round and cut off our name from the earth.” “Our name!” — ah, that was little! “And what wilt thou do unto thy great name?” Oh that we knew this Divine art of so making our calling and election sure, as to know of a truth that God is in us and with us, and then improving his presence, and putting him fully on his honor! ourselves standing on our honor, guilelessly, uprightly, with openness of heart, and integrity of soul — with all aboveboard, and fully understood between our God and us, — and then, claiming his faithfulness, seeking his glory dutifully, clinging with the instinct of spiritual life to Jesus as all our desire and plea, and recognized, acknowledged safety; interchanging our worthless yet upright sense of honor with his all-worthy and unfailing; guarding his honor as dwelling in our souls, and he guarding our souls from evil as its dwelling-place: he working in us, and we working in and by him and his mighty power. Oh what progress, what protection, what bliss might we not enjoy! The Lord is his people’s portion. Jacob is the lot of his inheritance. He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye. As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings; so there was no strange god with them. They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint. A great work to do, but a great God to do it. “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God which worketh in you, both to will and to do his good pleasure.”