Liberty: Who Gets it? And
It is ever God's way to produce a sense of
need in the soul before He meets it. No sinner gets the forgiveness
of his sins, for example, until, as a self-condemned offender,
he is brought to feel the need of it.
It was not enough for the prodigal to be needy
and hungry; before he was induced to take a single step homeward,
the cry had to be wrung out of him, "I perish with
hunger." And so with a new-born soul thirsting for liberty;
he must not only be brought to wish for it, but be reduced to
the sense of absolute helplessness, before, by the power
of another, he is really and experimentally set free.
Take an illustration. A little bird attempts to
build his nest in your chimney and, finding himself unable to
ascend, comes down, all blackened, into your sitting-room. At
once, he discovers two sets of eyes upon him--your own and the
cat's; and his little bosom throbs again with fear. You see his
real enemy--the cat--and long that he may escape unhurt, and with
your own hand you act as his deliverer, by throwing open the door
which leads to liberty. He does not understand, however, that
you are no enemy, but a true friend, and begins to rush here and
there in great fright, seeking, in frantic haste, a way of escape.
From the window to the mantel-piece he quickly dashes; then, with
a stunning bump, he is back once more at the window; and it is
not until he can positively do no more, and sinks down through
weariness and disappointment, that he sees what before he had
not noticed, viz., the wide-open door, and free access to it.
Another moment he is outside, and enjoying full liberty. (In that
the bird, however, had enjoyed a life of liberty before, the illustration
Now, undelivered believers may be divided
into three classes:
1. The uninstructed class. These know next
to nothing of what the Word of God says about this subject, though
they may have felt something of the exercises that lead to it.
2. The enlightened class. These could
possibly explain, in a very orthodox way, the terms of this deliverance,
and are yet in such a sleepy, self-satisfied moral state that
they are quite content with knowing the letter of it, while thoroughly
destitute of its power. It is one thing to be told, by
those who have experimentally learnt it, that by throwing your
head back, keeping your hands beneath the surface, and lying quietly
on your back in the water, your body will float, and quite another
thing to find yourself, in ten fathoms deep, putting it into practice.
We may think we know all about it as we stand on the bank.
But in the water, we must either trust its buoyancy, lie still,
and float; or, for want of confidence, vainly struggle, and sink.
3. The consciously needy class; and how
great their number! Some of these have, perhaps, for long years
been in perplexity. How often have they struggled and sunk, to
use our figure. They have buffeted with grave difficulties as
to their personal state before God, until they have become a daily
puzzle even to themselves; and earnestly--oh, how earnestly!--do
they long to see their way out of it.
It is for the help of such that these few pages
are written. Oh that the Lord, in His rich and precious grace,
would be pleased to bless it to them!
THREE SOLEMN DISCOVERIES
There are three great soul-affecting discoveries
which every truly converted person is sure to make sooner or later:
(1) that he has committed sins and offences against a holy God;
(2) that not only has he done evil things, but that
he is thoroughly sinful in himself; and (3) that, with
true desires to do the right thing, he constantly finds himself
doing the wrong, and often does the worst when he means the best.
To put it more briefly--He is guilty in what he has done;
he is sinful in what he is; he is helpless
in what he feels he ought to do--a slave of
The first difficulty is met when we find that the
blessed Son of God has been "delivered for our offences,"
and "raised again for our justification," Rom.
4:25; that He "bare our sins in His own body
on the tree," 1 Peter 2:24; "Whom God hath set forth
to be a propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare His
righteousness in respect of the passing by the sins done aforetime,
through the forbearance of God; to declare at this time His righteousness:
that He might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth
in Jesus," Rom. 3:25,26. Yes, it is because "He
was wounded for our transgressions," and "bruised
for our iniquities;" because "the chastisement of
our peace was upon Him;" that "with His stripes
we are healed," Isaiah 53:5. "The blood
of Jesus Christ," God's Son, "cleanseth us from all
(or every) sin," 1 John 1:7.
Faith can sing--
"'Tis finished!’" cried His
And I my title see;
I was the guilty sinner,
But Jesus died for me."
Thus does His precious blood give us righteous
peace about our sins. God is well satisfied, and the believer
stands clear. But there is more in it than being cleared by the
blood of Christ. God is now righteously free to express to any
poor returning prodigal, confessing his sins, all the pent-up
love of His large and tender heart. The father "ran, and
fell on his neck, and kissed him." And if the prodigal
cannot enter into the depth and enormity of his sin against such
a God, there is One who has done it fully. Yes, Jesus has felt
about our sins as they ought to be felt about. He has
fully confessed them, and voluntarily borne their full penalty.
His loving heart was "straitened" till it was "accomplished."
Oh, what a circle of love the repentant sinner is brought
into! Grace, grace, ALL GRACE! How hateful sin becomes
in the light of it!
The next two discoveries are of a different character,
and are often beset with far deeper exercises. They involve our
having to face all kinds of contradictory experience in ourselves.
Let us then carefully consider the various struggles
It is helpful to see, in the latter part of Romans
7, that the experimental struggles and difficulties which characterize
the undelivered soul are carefully mapped out, and this by one
who has been brought out of them into the full liberty of the
grace of God. You will find that the one in this conflict has
his eye turned in two directions--outward upon God's just claims,
the law giving the measure of this, whereby he finds what he ought
to be for God; and inward upon himself, whereby he
finds what he really is. God is not known in the activities
of His precious grace. The renewed soul, while owning the
righteous claims of God, finds itself totally incapable of meeting
them. Satan harasses, and the soul is launched into a sea of misery.
Now, this kind of self-examination and legal exercise
brings with it two serious disappointments. These we hope to consider.
But before speaking of this matter, it may be as well to take
into consideration the source of all disappointments. We must
remember that there can be no disappointment without expectation;
these two are as closely bound together as the light of day
is with the sun-rising. For example, a friend asks, "Did
you receive a letter from the Sandwich Islands this morning?"
You answer, "No." "Were you disappointed
when the postman passed your door without leaving one?" "No,
I was not disappointed, because I did not expect one."
Exactly. Now, had there been even a little expectation,
there would have been a little disappointment; and similarly,
great expectations precede great disappointments; but when there
is no expectation there can be no disappointment.
DISAPPOINTMENT NO. 1
"I expected," says the poor, tried
soul, "that the new birth would put everything right within
me, and that what was meant by an inward change (which
I really hoped I had experienced) was my evil nature being changed
into a good and holy one; and now to find evil still within, as
bad or even worse than before! How alarming! Can I be real? Was
my conversion genuine? or my profession then and since only a
hollow sham?" Such questioning as this, in an earnest soul
thoroughly desirous of being right with God, is no light matter.
God is holy. "The law is spiritual," he says, "and
I hoped that I was spiritual too, but I find that I am carnal,
sold under sin." How depressing! How disappointing!
Now, what is the secret of this first disappointment?
The cause is twofold; a wrong thought of the true character of
our fallen nature, and a mistaken idea as to what is really brought
about by the new birth.
An illustration from the Old Testament may help
us. You will call to mind, no doubt, that first incident in the
history of Samson, in the Book of Judges; how that as he journeyed
to the land of the Philistines, and drew near to the vineyard
of Timnath, a young lion came out, and roared at him, and that
Samson caught him, and rent him as though he had been a kid, leaving
him dead by the wayside.
After a time, we read, Samson paid the Philistines
a second visit, and passing by the same place, he turned to see
the carcass of this young lion, when, to his surprise, he found
that life had entered the dead beast--another kind of life--and
that something had thereby been produced which all the lions in
the world could not have produced. You will know what I refer
to. A swarm of bees had entered the dead carcass, and deposited
Now to apply this figure. When a man is born again,
a new life is produced in him by the Spirit of God through the
instrumentality of the Word received by faith--a life and nature
as distinct from the old as the nature of the bee was distinct
from that of the lion; nay, as distinct as the fallen human nature
is distinct from the divine; for we are made "partakers
of the divine nature." Moreover, the old is no more
improved by the impartation of the new than the lion's carcass
was by the entrance of the bees, or the deposit of the honey.
Hear the Word of the Lord to Nicodemus, "That which is born
of the flesh is flesh" (the old man, which is corrupt);
"and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit," John
The mistaken notion in the minds of many professing
Christians as to this is a fruitful source both of mischief and
of misery--mischief for the unconverted and indifferent; misery
for those born of the Spirit, and really in earnest. Endless pains
are bestowed upon the improvement of the dead lion (to use our
figure); i.e., upon bettering man in the flesh; and every kind
of moral disinfectant resorted to to
make him more bearable in decent and religious
society; but the lion is the same lion still, adorn him as you
On the other hand, who can estimate the misery
which has resulted in honest, newborn souls from the mistaken
idea that the new birth either improves the flesh, or gets rid
of its presence? It does neither; and hence the experimental discovery
of its unimproved existence is most distressing. They are not
prepared to find old tastes coming up again, and are shocked to
find, after their first joy, perhaps, has abated, that their old
habits are re-asserting themselves with increased power. Again
and again, they are tripped up; deeper and deeper grows their
inward distress, until they discover that the source of all the
mischief is "the flesh" within ever lusting against
the Spirit, and that conversion has not removed or changed it
in any sense. Hence the discovery recorded in Romans 7:20, "If
I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin
that dwelleth in me." That is, there is the "I"
in connection with the newborn life which hates the inward
evil, and deplores its workings; and there is also the evil nature--indwelling
"But how is it," says the troubled
soul, "that I can't make myself any better?"
I try hard enough to be different, but it is fruitless, disappointing
work, and I am often ready to give all up in despair. I know that
the flesh still lusts within me, and that every trace of evil
in me springs from it; but still I feel I must have goodness
for God, and how can this be if I can't in some way overcome
the badness of the flesh?" This is the language of thousands of
perplexed believers. Let us, by the Spirit's help, seek to meet
First, then, we must learn that God is not expecting
to improve man in the flesh, or looking for goodness in him
of any kind. "The carnal mind" (or "mind of
the flesh," as it really is), is now declared to be "enmity
against God" (enmity itself); "it is not subject
to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they
that are in the flesh CANNOT please God;" Romans
8:7,8. Take a New Testament illustration. The "fig-tree"
was a picture of the nation of Israel; i.e., of man under
the most favorable circumstances, man under God's own culture.
When the Lord came to the fig-tree, and found no fruit thereon,
He pronounced this solemn sentence upon it, "Let no fruit
grow on thee henceforward forever," Matt. 21:19. Passing
by the same road the day following, the disciples found it "withered
away," "dried up from the roots," Mark 11:20. Now,
who would expect to get fruit from it after that? What would you
have thought of the disciples commencing some new method of pruning
and cultivating that tree, with the hope of getting fruit from
it after all? Oh, but they knew better; they knew that the tree
was hopelessly gone, and that they must look to some other
tree for fruit, or figs they would never see again. So with
man, as man, even at his best. The end of all hope in him came,
when at Calvary he crucified the Son of God, and refused the grace
He brought. But God has found another "tree," One
that "bringeth forth His fruit in His season," and
whose "leaf shall not wither." That ever fair, ever
fruitful One, is Christ.
Yes, God has Christ before His eye, and finds all
His pleasure in connection with Him. He would have us to learn,
therefore, that He has set man aside, as in the flesh, and begun
a new order, an entirely new race, in Christ, the last Adam, as
its Head, and those who live through Him. This, however, we are
very slow to learn, and consequently have often to be brought
through the bitterest experiences before we are made willing to
submit to the fact that
"No good in creatures can be found,
All, all is found in Thee."
We are like a man who has lost his way at night
in some extensive slate-quarry. Finding himself in complete darkness,
and totally unable to grope his way out (to say nothing of the
peril of trying to do so without a light), he remembers, with
thankfulness, that he has in his possession a box of matches,
and sets to work at once to get a light. One by one they missfire.
Still he has plenty left, and will go on trying more carefully
for the future. More than half the matches have now been struck,
and yet no light. He begins to fear they are damp or worthless;
but surely, he thinks, one good match will be found among
the number. So, with increased painstaking, he continues the striking.
Eventually, the very last is reached. It is his only hope; and
when he puts it to the test it is no better than the rest. It
is all over now! Alas! alas! what can he do? He must give up his
efforts, and throw away his box in despair. But no sooner has
he done so, than he finds coming toward him, in the hand of another,
the very thing he was trying to get by his own hand; viz., a light.
What a welcome and timely discovery! The way out is now made clear.
As with this man so with us; we do not believe
that there is no goodness to be got out of the flesh, and
are therefore allowed to go on with our fruitless "trying"
until, like the man in Romans 7, we are brought, by heart-breaking
experience, to the humbling confession, "I know that in
me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing."
And then it is that we find, to our joy, that what we could
not find in ourselves for God, God has found in
Christ for us, and that if we look there for what is "good,"
we shall never be disappointed.
What a relief, then, after all one's efforts to
make the flesh better, to find that God cannot find a good thing
in it, and does not expect me to do so. Never again, then,
need I look for any good in myself; never again be disappointed
at the discovery of any depth of evil.
DISAPPOINTMENT NO. 2
I know what is right, but have no power to do
it. "To will is present with me; but how to perform
that which is good I find not," Rom. 7:18.
To see the right thing to do; to have a wish to
do it, and yet so constantly to fail in the performance of it,
is galling indeed. Nor is the bitterness diminished, but rather
increased, when one sees in others a thorough contrast to one's
own state. "They seem to have devotedness; they
have evidently got the secret of power for a holy walk; but
as for myself, there seems to be nothing but defeat and disappointment,
do what I may."
We have seen that God has to show us what total
bankrupts we are as to goodness, that we may find all we
want--nay, more, all He Himself wants--in Christ. And He
must next bring us to realize our perfect weakness that we may
find our strength in Christ as well. "Apart from
Me," saith the Lord, "ye can do nothing."
On the other hand, Paul could say, "I can do all things
through Christ which strengtheneth me" (or "who gives
me power"), Phil. 4:13. And when Paul had learned the lesson,
he could even glory in his infirmities, and do it "gladly,"
because he knew that his weakness only made the more room
for Christ's power, as he says, "That the power of Christ
may rest upon me," 2 Cor. 12:9. He does not
make me conscious of having power; but in the consciousness
of my weakness, I avail myself of His power. "I take
pleasure in infirmities . . . for when I am weak, then am I
strong," v. 10.
The fact is that we are, when really put to the
test, as powerless to keep ourselves, as a bit of thistledown
is unable to stand its ground before a driving northeast wind.
Stand in the current and hold it if you will, but the instant
you relax your hold it is gone. Yet how slow we are to learn this
What we naturally do, after a fall, is to
resolve more solemnly to try the harder next time. But this is
not the way of true power; and it is only when we find, through
perhaps a sad series of crushing disappoint-ments, that we really
have no power of our own, that we submit to look to Him
as our alone sufficiency. Peter could not, by any amount of effort,
have walked on the water, even had it been ever so smooth. It
was only with his eye upon his Master that he could do it.
A few years since, while the Royal Charlotte
was being launched, a gentleman was standing by. Hundreds
at the same time were crowding a small bridge to witness the event,
when suddenly the bridge gave way, precipitating numbers of them
into the water. Mr. S— stood looking on, not offering to go to
the rescue, though he was well known to be an expert swimmer.
"How is this, Mr. S—?" exclaimed one
of the bystanders. "How is it that such a powerful swimmer
as you are, and one so well able to save some of these people,
can stand so calmly looking on?" "The time has not come yet,"
he replied; "I am waiting till some of them have done
struggling." Then, pulling off his coat, he
jumped in, and bravely rescued several.
As with those drowning ones so with us. We never
really get out of this second disappointment until we find that
struggling means sinking, and until, having done
with it as utterly fruitless, we look for deliverance altogether
in Another. Naturally we want to make self better, and
get nothing but heart-sickening disappointment every time we try.
And as for the law, while exposing the wrong and condemning us
for it, it gives no more power to do what is right than does the
lighthouse, which discovers to some exhausted boatman that in
battling with adverse currents he has missed his way, but gives
him no power of rowing his leaky, disabled boat to the wished-for
harbor. His only chance now is in an outside deliverer. Not that
he gives up the thought of deliverance--he dare not do that; but
for the first time he feels that it must come from another
source. His hope is not in being himself made stronger, or better
able to cope with the tidal currents, or of bringing to land in
any way his fast-filling boat. No; but lighting his flaring signal
of distress, he is soon out of his sinking craft and on board
a rescuing steamer, no longer to trust to his own boat or his
own strength for reaching the desired haven.
This is the point reached in Romans 7:24: "O
wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me?" It is not,
"Who shall help me to deliver myself?" or, "Who
shall help me to make myself better?" but, "Who shall
deliver me from myself altogether?" And the
answer is found in God Himself. "I thank God, through Jesus
Christ our Lord." Deliverance does not come through his
battling for the victory, but by finding that he is in Christ,
through whom before God he now lives; that he has died to sin,
and is no longer in the flesh before Him. He now stands
before God in the life of Another--Christ--and is victorious in
the power of Him whose grace has placed him there.
The point of deliverance being in principle thus
reached, we are then free, in the details of daily life, to put
it into practice. We learn to look to the Lord in helpless
dependence for everything; and in that happy confidence, of
which the Spirit of God is the power, we find in Him our entire
Not long since, a man who had led a very dissipated
course was converted. He had got the name among his comrades,
of "Bull-dog Tom," because he kept and trained a
number of fighting dogs. One day, he was met by a fellow-Christian,
who enquired after his spiritual welfare; and in the course of
their conversation, Tom made the following remark: "When
I had a dog in training, I only allowed him a certain kind of
food at certain times in the day. Sometimes, while walking with
me, he would see a bone, and, of course, instantly make toward
it. 'No!' I would say, firmly; and at once he would turn away
his eye from the bone to look at me. Then he would slyly turn
toward the bone again, until I once more spoke, and got his eye.
And so I found in this way, that while he was looking at me, there
was a power in me that kept him from the very thing which of all
others a dog likes best. And thus it is with myself," he
said. "If I would be kept from my old besetments, my only
power is in looking to Him." Full well he knew that these
old habits were far too strong for him to conquer in his own strength.
Of course, like other human illustrations, this
one falls short; for, after all, there was nothing in the dog
but the nature which loved the forbidden thing, unless it was
the fear of consequences if he took it; whereas in every converted
soul there is. He can say, "I delight in the law of God
after the inward man;" so that there is a nature which
takes pleasure in doing His will, though he finds no power
in himself to accomplish it. He is like lame Mephibosheth, who
ardently wished to accompany his royal benefactor during
his exile, but was robbed by Ziba of the means of doing so, 2
Let us now consider the question, How is this
Deliverance brought about?
It may simplify the matter somewhat, perhaps, to
put what is said under three headings; viz., learning from
God; reckoning with God; yielding to God, Rom.
1. LEARNING FROM GOD
We have seen that conversion neither improves nor
removes the sinful flesh, and this at once suggests another question;
viz., "How can such an evil thing escape the judgment of
God?" There is but one answer. It cannot, and what is more,
it has not escaped; for already has it had its condemnation.
"What the law could not do, in that it was weak through
the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh
and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh."
There is an immense difference between a criminal
escaping, or even being forgiven, and his getting the full penalty
of his wickedness. Now, sin in the flesh has not escaped.
Its full judgment was awarded when He who knew no sin was
made a sacrifice for sin on the cross. And thus, if God has already
judged this evil thing in the death of Him who is now my life,
then in God's account I am associated with Him in that judgment,
and my life is in Him beyond it. The apostle can therefore write
to the believers in Colosse, though he had never seen their faces,
and say, "Ye are dead (or, "ye have died"),
and your life is hid with Christ in God," Col. 3:3.
When faith has received from God this wondrous
fact, the language of Romans 6:6 becomes consciously ours; we
are entitled to count all that happened to Him as having happened
to us-- "Knowing this, that our old man is (or "has been")
crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that
henceforth we should not serve sin." This verse says nothing
about our feeling it, though when the fact is learned from
God by faith, we become morally affected by it, and know the blessed
power of it. But it may be asked--What is meant by our "old
man"? It is our entire standing as fallen children of Adam,
our state as characterized by the flesh, and it is this which
faith now sees, and which we now own, has come to an end in judgment
before God at the cross; and deliverance is ours, experimentally,
2. RECKONING WITH GOD
"Our old man," then, we have seen,
has not escaped, was not forgiven (though our sins have
been forgiven), but has been crucified--"crucified with
Christ." I learn from the Word that this is the way
God reckons, and what I have to do is to reckon with Him.
"Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead
indeed unto sin, but alive unto God in Jesus Christ
our Lord," v. 11. There is no other life for me before
God but the life of Christ. As in the Flood, all flesh was
either in the waters of death and judgment outside the ark, or
alive inside, so is it now. See John 12:31; Gen. 6:13. I am either
alive to God (and that can only be in Christ) or
I am alive in self under judgment. A soul must quit
the ground of self to be clear of condemnation, and this he can
only do as by faith he reckons with God.
But now comes a practical difficulty. Some troubled
one may say, "How can I go and reckon myself dead to sin
when I daily find the actual workings of the flesh within me?
What shameful hypocrisy do I find in myself, what pride, what
unworthy motives, what unclean thoughts! Yea, even in the attitude
of prayer, what vain and unholy feelings will spring up within
me! How, then, can I reckon myself to be dead unto sin?"
God does not ask us to feel that "our
old man" is dead; for, as an actual fact, the flesh is
still within us, and will be to the end of the story; but He does
ask us to reckon with Him about it, and to remember that
He counts it as having already had its judgment.
A story is told of an old Scotchman who might be
seen reading his Bible, and that after a very interesting fashion,
too; for while doing so, he would slowly run his finger along
each line, saying, "I think Thy thoughts after Thee,
O God." Now, here was a simple, bright specimen
of faith. Consider it well, my reader. Faith gets God's thoughts,
and thinks with Him; faith learns how He reckons, and reckons
with Him; and does this even when appearances, or even experiences,
may go dead against it. May like wisdom be ours!
Now, it is because God reckons us as dead with
Christ that we are privileged to reckon ourselves as having
died with Him.
After the prophet Daniel had been brought out of
the den of lions by the very king whose unalterable law had put
him in, he had nothing more to fear from that side. Let the accusers,
if they will, repeat their charges against him. The king himself
can now give a righteous answer, and Daniel be free to echo the
same. "He has already been into the den, and having
thus endured the full penalty, it is now behind his back forever."
So also with the three Hebrew children; they could say, "We
have been into the furnace at its hottest, in company with one
like unto the Son of God; we have passed through it, and come
out of it, and all that the fire did was to sever the cords that
Now, we repeat, it is not that we have been bodily
into the judgment, but our blessed, adorable Substitute has, and
God holds us as identified with Him there, and alive in Him at
the other side of it; and here come in for us the reckonings
of faith, Rom. 6. In other words, faith reckons that the judgment
of death (like the fire) has severed the tie which bound me to
my old self as a fallen child of Adam, and I live now before God
in Christ beyond both death and judgment. If that old Christian
who, in the writer's hearing, once said, "I dare not
even tell myself how bad I am," had known this,
she could have well afforded to face the worst about herself.
Mark well, then, that there is a double reckoning,
and that both sides must go together: (1) that we are "dead
to sin;" (2) that we are "alive to
God in Christ Jesus."(N.T.)
Not only, therefore, are our sins gone on the cross,
but our status as in the flesh too. We have lost our old position,
and are now set before God in the life of Him who died for us.
"The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath
made me free from the law of sin and death,"
Rom. 8:2. It is a new life, and a free life.
A distressed lady once remarked to the writer,
"I'm so worried with what I find in myself that I often
feel I should just like to jump out of my own skin into some one
else's." So, making use of her figure, I replied, "That
is exactly what I have done." Or, I might rather
have said, what God's grace has done for me. Let me explain. I
once saw a little salamander in a small aquarium belonging to
some children in Ireland. A few days before my visit, they had
been greatly interested in seeing him perform the feat of casting
off his skin, and coming out in his bright scarlet new one. But,
after all, you see, this little lizard had only got the same kind
of skin over again--brighter looking and fresher, it is true,
but still the same kind.
Now, if the lady just referred to could really
have done what she wished, all that could have been said to
her would be, "Be sure you find a better, and remember that
the whole of Adam's race cannot furnish you with one, for
God has reviewed the whole, and pronounced that there is no
But it is not with us as with the salamander; for
though, by our death with Christ, we have got out of our old state,
yet, instead of only getting into a better one after the
first Adam type, we have come into a new one altogether;
i.e., in the life of Christ risen. We are "alive to God
in Christ Jesus." As another has put it, "Christ having
died, we reckon ourselves dead, as though we had done so. He who
has become our life, the true I, has died. I have died, have been
crucified with Him, and, as a Christian, do not own the flesh
to be any more alive at all. I speak of all that has happened
to Christ as if it had happened to me, because He is become my
life, and I live by Him. As a son (whose father has not only paid
his debts, but made him partner) would speak of ‘our capital,
our connection,’ because he is partner, though he brought nothing
in, and all was done and acquired before he became partner; so
we, in much truer, because living, association with the
The great difficulty arises from not seeing that,
while the evil principle still exists in us, it is no part
of the Christian's new status before God. Until this has been
learnt, the soul must, if honest, be constantly deploring that
he is not what he ought to be; for in the state of his
soul, he is still in connection with the flesh, and, as we have
seen, that never can be what it ought to be, never be bettered.
But when he is taught of the Spirit to look upon the flesh as
having only to do with his former state (as the salamander might
regard his cast-off skin), that death has severed the tie between
the old and the new, and that he is set in a new position before
God--alive in Christ BEYOND CONDEMNATION--what a relief
it is! what a deliverance! May the comfort of it be yours, dear
Let us now come to the third thing:
3. YIELDING TO GOD
In the history of David, in the first Book of Samuel,
we are told that on one occasion, when pursuing the troop of Amalekites
who had burned Ziklag, they found in the field a young Egyptian,
abandoned three days before by his master, an Amalekite, because,
as he said, "I fell sick." David's men brought him
to their master, gave him food and drink, and thus saved his life.
When David asked if he could conduct him to their retreating foes,
he made entreaty that he might not be delivered into the hands
of his old master. To this David consented, and
henceforth the young man willingly yielded himself to the service
of his deliverer.
This will serve to illustrate our present subject.
The young Egyptian had before his mind two masters, the old and
the new. The old master's service would have landed him in death
but for the timely interference of the new. He owed his life to
the new master, and nothing but death to the old. To which, then,
should he now yield himself to serve and obey? Yield to his old
master? Never! The
question was as quickly settled as it was proposed.
Grace, kindness, and power were all on the side of the new master,
and to his service he would gladly and instantly yield himself.
In doing so, next to death itself, his greatest fear was being
given up again into the power and service of the old, though both
his fears were groundless.
Now, our old master was "sin," and
to his service we once yielded ourselves as willing slaves, and
the end of it was, as with the young Egyptian, death; "for
the wages of sin is death." But a deliverer has come in
out of pure grace, and has by the Lord Jesus Christ wrought deliverance.
Thus I am set free, "free from sin" (Rom.
6:18); not in the sense, as pointed out elsewhere, of being free
from its presence, as a horse is sometimes spoken of as being
"free from vice;" but free from its dominion, as
the young Egyptian was free from his old master. I am set free
by death; am free in the life of Him who on my account once "died
to sin." Being thus set at liberty, the question
arises, "To which master shall I now yield myself?"
And then how agreeably to the renewed heart comes the answer by
the Spirit--"Yield yourselves unto God, as those
that are alive from the dead," v. 13. Now, we do
not yield to get freedom. This exhortation clearly supposes
that we have got it. We yield because we are free, though
only in yielding thus do we enjoy our true liberty; only
thus have we "our fruit unto holiness," v. 22.
To God, then, we are debtors, and "not to
the flesh, to live after the flesh;" for we are alive in
the life of Christ, and not in our own; and this blessed position
of being "alive" out of death is entirely
of grace, and not of legal effort, and therefore He can add, "Sin
shall not have dominion over you; for ye are not under law,
but under grace," Rom. 6:13,14; 8:12. The claims of the
law supposed that I had power to obey its commands, or that I
thought I had; grace supposes that I have none at
all, but teaches me, as in the life of Another, now my life
by the Spirit, to yield myself to God, thereby getting His victorious
power in place of my own utter helplessness. "When I am
weak, then am I strong."
A young miner in Yorkshire, who had recently been
converted, was being closely watched one day by an overlooker
in the pit, who stood unobserved at a little distance. This young
collier was in difficulty. A little truck of coal had got off
the rails at a point where the metals curved, and he was trying
hard to get it on again. The overlooker noticed that when he lifted
the truck on at one end, it jumped off again at the other. Then
he would go round and lift once more, when off went the wheels
from the opposite end! Now, the watchman knew what a violent tempered
young man this collier had been, and how rash he had often been
with his tongue, so he thought to himself, "I'm sure he'll
break out directly." And break out he did, as we shall
Once more he went round the truck, and with more
than usual care he was seen to lift the wheels on to the metals,
when, lo! how wearying! how annoying! the other wheels immediately
left the rails. And then it was that he "broke out"--but
broke out with what, think you? He broke out singing—
"I need Thee every hour."
In the moment of need, he turned to Him whom he
had learned to know as his sufficiency. How blessed! Oh that all
our "outbreaks" in moments of trial were of this
kind! What praise would redound to our blessed Lord! What joyful
victories for us!
"As weaker than a bruised reed,
I cannot do without Thee,"
should be our constant cry, as in absolute weakness
we cling to Him alone.
Another word as to this "yielding." There
are many true, earnest souls today who are seeking what is called
a "higher life." No doubt what they are really seeking
is the deliverance we have been speaking of, but they hope to
reach it by an act of entire consecration, thus beginning altogether
at the wrong end. But look at Rom. 6:13 again. We are here exhorted
to yield ourselves to God as those that are alive from
the dead. In other words, we do not yield to get this blessing,
but because, through grace, it is ours already. We hold ourselves
to be such. On the other hand, we cannot have peace and joy by
the Holy Spirit in our souls unless there is unreserved surrender
to the Lord. It is thus that we prove "what is that good,
and acceptable, and perfect, will of God," Rom.12:2.
Thus must be the practical every-day exercise
of our souls before God: "Always bearing about in
the body the dying of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might
be made manifest in our body," 2 Cor. 4:10 (N.T.). The
more our souls are set upon this, the more shall we look forward
with joy to the day when our very bodies shall be conformed like
to His body of glory. Then we shall enjoy the "liberty
of the glory of the children of God." But now He would
have us enjoy the liberty of grace. And, oh, what liberty
it is! Liberty to look at my sins in the light of His judgment
throne, and know that I am justified from them all, and that the
very One who will sit in judgment has done it. Liberty to look
at all the evil of my corrupt Adam nature, and not only know that
God expects no good thing from it, but that its condemnation has
taken place once for all upon the cross. Liberty to reckon with
God as to indwelling evil, and to regard it as having been condemned
in the cross, and that my new standing before Him is in Christ;
the old man, the flesh having no place before Him at all, save
as a thing whose judgment is passed already. "There is therefore
now NO CONDEMNATION to them which are in Christ Jesus,"
Liberty to look away from self for everything,
knowing that all God could wish for in a man He finds in Christ,
and that "as He is, so are we in this world," 1 John
4:17; John 14:20. Liberty to regard myself as entirely connected
with the renewed nature, the old "I" no longer, but
Christ my life, and the Holy Spirit the power of occupying my
heart with Christ, in whom is all my expectation. Liberty to regard
God no longer as a judge taking notice of what I am in myself,
but as having put me in Christ's place as a son, so that by the
spirit of adoption I cry, "Abba, Father;" and as
finding His delight and joy in blessing me, and making me happy.
Liberty to know that if the Son has made me free, I am free indeed;
John 8:32-36. Liberty to look at the glory shining in the face
of the Lord Jesus, and to be at home in that blessed place of
holiness and love. Liberty to remember that every blessing comes
to me through and in Christ in such unmerited grace that I need
never henceforth search my own heart for a single reason why He
should or should not bless me, either here or hereafter. Liberty
to serve, in the constraint of loving gratitude, the blessed Deliverer
Himself, and His beloved saints for His sake, until the return
of His Son from heaven. This is liberty indeed, dear reader. Is