Friday, February 26, 2010

The Characters of a True Believer

Here are some excerpts from my reading in Andrew Gray's A Door Opening Into Everlasting Life - an excellent book! I just found all the sermons in this book online, click here to read the rest of the sermon.

" A true believer is deeply and dearly enamored of Jesus Christ. He advances Him highest in his thoughts as the only jewel and joy of his heart, without whom he accounts all he hath worth nothing at all. All his knowledge is brutishness, all his hope is presumption, and all his happiness is misery without Jesus Christ; He prefers and prizes Christ far above the riches, pleasures, and the glory of the whole earth. Many esteem Him not; they value a good farm, a fair house, etc., more than Jesus Christ. With the Gadarenes, they esteem their swine above the Saviour of the world. But to the true believer, Christ is better than all and infinitely more than all. He chooseth Christ rather than all, or any other thing whatsoever. He would rather possess Christ than all things else. He prefers the poorest condition with Christ above the highest condition without Christ. He can take joyfully the spoiling of his goods, rather than to be deprived of Jesus Christ. He so remembers, so esteems, and so longs after Christ that he remembers, prizes, and desires nothing in comparison to Christ, be it otherwise never so dear or precious."

"A true believer delights in Christ. He delights in the person of Christ; in His incomparable beauty, "who is fairer than the children of men," clothed with all spiritual excellencies, the brightness of His Father's glory, and the express image of His Person (Cant. 2:3). He delights in the offices of Christ. Christ is become his Prophet, effectually to enlighten the eyes of his soul, and to instruct him in heavenly and divine mysteries. Christ is become his Priest, to purge away his sins, to reconcile him to God, and to make continual intercession for him. Christ is become his King, to rule in his heart by His grace, and to subdue all his enemies, both inward and outward. He delights in the ordinances, to see the King in His beauty in His sanctuary. He delights in His answers of prayer, and in all the disclosures of His love and power. His heart is warmed with heavenly joy, when in his private meditations he recounts with himself what great things Christ hath done, and will do for his soul. He is warmed with heavenly joy when he thinks how mightily Christ wrought in him by His Spirit to make him alive, when once dead in trespasses and sins. He delights when he thinks what happiness he has in his favor for the present, and what happiness He will one day bring him unto, when He shall make him like Himself, most glorious in his body, most righteous in his soul, most blissful in all, and that forever. In a word, he so delights in Christ that he looks and longs for more of Christ every day."

"A true believer accounts his life to be in God's favour. He saith with the Psalmist, "In Thy favour is life." His life is not so much in what he hath received from God, as in what he is in God's favour. Hypocrites desires are only for the enjoyment of mercies, and if they enjoy what they desire they are contented, though they have no presence of God in them at all. If they enjoy health, strength, peace, and plenty, then the enjoyment of God's favour they regard not. But the true believer is not contented with the most precious mercies without the favour of God with them. If he have health from God, but lacks a warm heart to God, if he have peace among men, and not peace with God, it does not satisfy him. His cry is, as in Psalm 4:6-7, "Lord, lift thou up the light of Thy countenance upon us..." The light of God's countenance is more to him than the plentiful affluence of corn, and wine, and oil. If he have abundance of creature-comforts, but see not the light of God's countenance with them, they cannot cheer his soul. But if he have God's countenance, he can be cheerful without them. "Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines, the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls. Yet, I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation" (Hab. 3:17-18). A true believer looks upon religion, not as a burden which he must be forced to endure, but as a privilege which it is his happiness to enjoy. There is nothing in the world which he more passionately desires than that he could live exactly and precisely according to the excellent precepts of religion. The holy ordinances and exercises of religion (which unto an ungodly man are tedious, dry, unsavoury things), to a good man are very pleasant and satisfactory He is not forced to his duty, but does willingly delight in it and in that law that prescribes it. "I have esteemed the words of His mouth more than my necessary food" (Job 23 12) He knows the Word doth maintain a more noble life than that which is maintained by bodily food and is more necessary and sweet than any creature-comforts. He knows it will sweeten all other smart and cold entertainments, and therefore he prizes it more than his daily bread. He prefers a day spent in the courts and service of God before a thousand employed in balls or plays, or any other of the toys and trifles of human life. A true believer is adorned with a meek and quiet spirit. He sits down with a becalmed spirit amidst crosses of all sorts. "He sitteth alone and keepeth silence, because he hath borne it upon him; he putteth his mouth in the dust, if so be there may be hope" (Lam. 3:28-29). His boisterous passions are soon laid aside. Excessive heats either rise not or are easily cooled. He commits himself to God's supreme sovereignty, to will or to nill at God's pleasure. "If I shall find favour in the eyes of the Lord, He will bring me again, and shew me both it, and His habitation: but if He thus say, I have no delight in thee; behold, here I am, let Him do to me as seemeth good unto Him" (2 Sam. 15:25-26). "Let God lift me up," saith he, "or cast me down; let Him tread me to death, or write my name in the dust, if He will. I refer myself to His wisdom." Just as he can endure patiently what the hand of God more immediately lays upon him, so he can suffer wrongfully at the hands of men. He can do well, and suffer for it when he has done it. He can cleave to Christ, notwithstanding all the hard usage, all the evil entreatings and cruelties of the world. As Christ suffered for him, so he is resolved to suffer with Christ, to take his lot as it falls, to follow Christ through rivers and flames, to mortify, deny, and renounce self, and to follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth.The true believer is known in the day of adversity by three characters. First, he is content under every affliction; let it be fashioned for nature, measure, time, continuance, as God will. He welcomes the cross and embraces it. If God suffers the spiteful tongues of graceless persons to slay his good name with slander, if the Lord break him with breach upon breach, and his children and friends die one after another, he sits down and says as old Eli in I Samuel 3:18, "It is the Lord: let Him do what seemeth Him good." He will sooner die than blame God. Yea, if his affliction be lined with pain, and overlaid with shame, "yet he endureth the cross, and despiseth the shame" (Heb. 12:2). Secondly, he rejoicingly thanks God for afflictions, as in Job 1:21, "The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the Name of the Lord." Thirdly, he reveals as little of his sufferings by his expressions, or his actions, as he can. He would gladly swallow down God's medicines, without making any noise. Indeed in some cases it is lawful to reveal one's grief, as when it glorifies God's justice for some scandalous sin or when a poor Christian stands in great need of counsel and advice. Oh, but there are some who tell almost everyone they meet of their weary nights and sore pains. All their discourse, from first to last, is most commonly spent in the history of their sufferings, which is not to be approved of. If this be by way of complaint, then it is rank impatience. If it be out of a secret desire to show how patient and calm their spirits lie under it, is it not horrible pride? And so food becomes Poison, and that which should humble them puffs them up."

"A true believer seeks to enjoy God in His ordinances. It is not the empty formality in ordinances which he prizes, but to meet with God (Ps. 63:2). The profane, blind world neither careth for ordinances, nor God in ordinances. The formal hypocritical part of the world rests satisfied with the bare ordinances, but the sincere Christian seeks to find God, and His lively operations upon his heart there. It is Christ in a sermon that the spiritual soul feeds on. Some are taken with rich, magnificent, painted, and pompous words, with that art, learning, and elegancy of style with which sermons are compounded, but yet they neglect Christ. This is like children feeding on ashes. As a morsel of gold will not satisfy an hungry stomach, no notion in a sermon will (unless accompanied with the power and Spirit of Christ) stay the appetite of the soul. Oh, but Christ is savoury meat, such as the gracious soul loves to feed upon. Nothing without this can give contentment. Absalom thought it a small thing that he lived at Jerusalem. Nay, he esteemed his life as nothing, unless he might see the king's face. So the true believer esteems it a small thing to live at Jerusalem, that is, to enjoy all God's ordinances, unless he enjoys the face of Christ with them. His very life without this seems but a burden. When the face of God shines, there is exceeding joy and rejoicing, but when the face of God is hid there is a cry with much mourning and lamentation."

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"Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it."
Isaiah 55:6,8-1