I pray that in this extended time of social distancing we might have a time of spiritual nearing. Affliction refines the affections.
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way…
— Isaiah 53:6
Little by little as time goes on, many of us do not believe that the standards established by God are relative to our age. We discard His directions for living. We ignore His instructions for our conduct. We tum each to his own way only to find that our difficulties deepen. We see ourselves caught up in a worldly way of existence. Life becomes a meaningless mockery. God’s absolute values of integrity, loyalty, justice, honour, love, and fine nobility are cast aside. And in their place we find ourselves an impoverished people left only with discouragement and despair. We are robbed blind and left destitute with broken lives, broken hearts, broken minds, broken homes, broken bodies, and a broken society. Jesus was speaking a truth we should pay attention to when He said that it was possible for us to be pillaged and plundered by the false philosophies and crass materialism of our times. Unhappily most people simply won’t believe Him. They know better, or so they think. But they end up broken and beaten.
(Phillip Keller, The Shepherd Trilogy, 213).
But [Christ] was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.
— Isaiah 53:5
Question: What are the signs of our growing in grace?
Answer: When we have a more spiritual frame of heart.
- When we are more spiritual in our principles; when we oppose sin out of love to God, and because it strikes at his holiness.
- When we are more spiritual in our affections. We grieve for the first rising of corruption, for the bubbling up of vain thoughts, and for the spring that runs underground. We mourn not only for the penalty of sin, but for its pollution. It is not a coal only that burns, but blacks.
- When we are spiritual in the performance of duty. We are more serious, reverent, fervent; we have more life in prayer, we put fire to the sacrifice. ‘Fervent in spirit’ (Romans 12:2): We serve God with more love, which ripens and mellows our duty, and makes it come off with a better relish.
A Body of Divinity
Though he sheweth a glorious power in his wrath in condemning men, yet he sheweth a greater riches of glory, of mercy and of all attributes else, in saving men and bringing men to heaven. The power that God will shew in glorifying his saints will infinitely exceed the power he sheweth in condemning wicked men. The power that love stirreth up is a greater power than what wrath stirreth up in God.
I will give you the reason of it: nothing commandeth power and strength more than love; it commandeth it more than wrath, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy strength” (Mark 12:30). Doth God love thee? He loves thee with all his strength, as thou lovest him, and art to love him. “I will rejoice over them to do them good, with my whole heart and with my whole soul” (Jer 32:41); his love makes him to love them with all his strength, with all his heart. Now, when he sheweth forth the power of his wrath when he cometh to condemn men, yet let me tell you this, it is not with all his heart, there is something that regrets within him; for he considereth that they are his creatures, and he doth not will the death of a sinner simply for itself, for there is something in him that makes a reluctancy; there is not his whole power in this, though it be the power of his wrath. But when he cometh to shew forth his power out of love, that draws his whole heart; therefore you shall find in Scripture that mercy is called God’s strength, because when he will have mercy, all the strength and power of God accompanieth it. “Let the power of my Lord be great.” What to do? To destroy them? To do some great work for them? No, but “according as thou hast spoken,” saith he, “saying, The Lord is long-suffering and of great mercy; pardon, I beseech thee, the iniquity of this people, according to the greatness of thy mercy” (Num 14:17). His mercy is there called his strength, because that love doth draw forth all the strength of God.
Christ is comprehensive of all things that are lovely. He seals up the sum of all loveliness. Things that shine as single stars with a particular glory, all meet in Christ as a glorious constellation. “It pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell” (Colossians 1:19). Cast your eyes among all created beings, survey the universe, observe strength in one, beauty in a second, faithfulness in a third, wisdom in a fourth; but you shall find none excelling in them all as Christ doth. Bread hath one quality, water another, raiment another, physic another; but none hath all in itself as Christ hath: He is bread to the hungry, water to the thirsty, a garment to the naked, healing to the wounded; and whatever a soul can desire is found in Him.
Adapted from Works, 2:216.