“I, therefore, confess that all our righteousness, by which we are acceptable to God, and in which alone we ought wholly to rest, consists in the remission of sins which he purchased for us, by washing us in his own blood, and through that one sacrifice by which he appeased the wrath of God that had been provoked against us. And I hold the pride of those intolerable who attribute to themselves one particle of merit, in which one particle of the hope of salvation can reside.
Meanwhile, however, I acknowledge that Jesus Christ not only justifies us by covering all our faults and sins but also sanctifies us by his Spirit, so that the two things (the free forgiveness of sins and reformation to a holy life) cannot be dissevered and separated from each other. Yet since until such time as we quit the world, much impurity, and very many vices remain in us, (to which it is owning that whatever good works we perform by the agency of the Holy Spirit, have some taint adhering to them,) we must always betake ourselves to that free righteousness, flowing from the obedience which Jesus Christ performed in our name, seeing that it is in his name we are accepted, and God does not impute our sins to us.
I wish the reader to understand that as often as we mention faith alone in the question, we are not thinking of a dead faith, which worketh not by love, but holding faith to the only cause of justification (Galatians 5:6; Romans 3:22). It is, therefore, faith alone which justifies, and yet the faith which justifies is not alone” (John Calvin).
Robert Annan was an evangelist who roamed the streets of Dundee in Scotland back in 1834-1867. He was converted from a life of drunkenness and complete debauchery. He became the Lord’s and was used very much in winning many souls to Christ as result of his street preaching and personal ministry to poor lost souls. He wrote this letter to a Minister who needed correction for his unfaithfulness in the service of men’s souls.
Dear Friend in Jesus,
I hope you will not be offended at me for writing you this note. Every since I left — I have been troubled about you and the people over whom God has made you overseer, as I do think few of them have tasted that the Lord is gracious. You may think otherwise; but dear friend, before God I would say, “You will have to preach the gospel more faithfully.” I do think you flatter your people. I have heard you say. “If there are any unconverted ones here,” as if your people were all true Christians; whereas, had you said, “If there are any Christians here,” it would have been a great deal nearer the mark. I know the people, and few of them can give a practical reason of their hope for eternity, although they can give you the theory of it. For instance, there is John — and his wife, and —, and your Deacon —, and old —, and Mrs C —, who is hardening her neck, and many more whom I know.
I have read the works of those men who have been most used of God in the salvation of souls, and I cannot find an “if” in their sermons where you put it. I heard a man of God, much blessed in the awakening of sinners, say, “I am determined, God helping me, that no unworthy communicant shall sit down at the Lord’s table here, unless they are amongst those who would, if possible, deceive the very elect” – very black hypocrites these.
Dr John Love of Glasgow points out the error of Ministers that I speak of. You will find no such way of speaking in McCheyne’s sermons. Whitfield, Wesley, Bunyan, Baxter and many living preachers, owned of God above others, never preached as if the people were all converted. I do hope you will clear yourself of the blood of souls, and make a distinction between the clean and the unclean, as God has done by the Apostles and Prophets. It is fearful to think that sinners are flattered into hell by their Ministers. God help you to clear yourself of that great sin. Oh to realise more and more the dreadful eternity to which sinners are going! Friend, friend, I ask you to think of your poor flock, lest some of them should rise and curse your ministry on the great day. Get your soul filled with compassion for sinners. Get your own soul steeped in the love of God, and get the burden of other souls laid upon you, and I am sure you won’t flatter sinners as I have heard you do. Read Jeremiah 6:14; Isaiah 22:4; 56:10-11; Galatians 4:19; Acts 20:31. Faithful preaching would empty your church of Pharisees but would fill it with living Christians. May God greatly bless yu.
“My dear Christian friends, do not be afraid to graciously write in these terms to Ministers whom you know to be being unfaithful in their oversight of the perishing souls of men” (The Street Preacher).
“The Bible must be accepted as absolutely inerrant and authoritative on all matters with which it deals at all. Otherwise, it is not really the word of God! If any man, or group of men, are empowered to tell us authoritatively what God’s word means, then we may as well entrust them with a commission to write the Bible altogether. Man seeks to become God if he (whether he is a theologian or scientist or anyone else) insists that his wordmust be accepted authoritatively as to what God’s word means.
We do not question that God “speaks” through his creation, but such natural revelation must never be considered equal in clarity or authority to his written revelation, especially as it often is “interpreted” by fallible human scholars, many of whom do not even believe the Bible. The Scriptures, in fact, do not need to be “interpreted” at all, for God is well able to say exactly what he means. They need simply to be read as the writer intended them to be read, then believed and obeyed. This applies to their abundance of “factual” information as well as to their religious and practical instructions.
By the same token, we must also recognise that God’s world must always agree with God’s word, for the Creator of the one is the Author of the other, and ‘he cannot deny himself’ (2Timothy 2:13). God’s revelation in nature can often amplify and illustrate his word, but his written revelation must always inform and constrain our interpretation of nature.
With such premises to caution us, we soon see that the Bible contains numerous statements affirming that God does, indeed, speak to us through his creation. A few of these, for example, are abstracted from such scriptures as the following:
“But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens and they will tell you, or the bushes of the earth and they will teach you, and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Whom among all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? Job 12:7-9).
“The heavens declare the glory of the God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1).
“Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14:17).
God’s revelation in nature, therefore, must always supplement and confirm his revelation in Scripture. It cannot be used to correct or interpret it. If there is an apparent conflict, one that cannot be resolved by a more careful study of the relevant data of both science and Scripture, then the written word must take priority….Even though the Bible is not a scientific textbook, it does speak authoritatively on the fundamental principles of science. Furthermore, it speaks correctly even on details of science whenever it refers to them at all.” (Henry M. Morris)
The constant theme of this beautiful song of triumph is God himself. Who he is, his uniqueness (Deuteronomy 6:4). His majesty and his activity on behalf of his people whom he has redeemed. It is a call to us to consider much the God with who we have to do with, “the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him” (Habakkuk 2:20). It is not just the past, the present but the future also that is his. There is prophetic vision here (v13-18). This is the reason we ought must trust him because all is in his good and strong hand. What God has done in the past is a guarantee of the promised land to the people of Israel. And is a guarantee of the real promised land, heaven itself, of which Canaan is a type, for us today. Already the nations are a tremble because Israel is on the march (v16). Remember when the spies got to Jericho and were hidden by Rahab and what she told them? “Before the men lay down, she came up to them on the roof and said to the men, “I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt” (Joshua 2:8-10). Just as declared here (v16). All that is required of us to trust him, “he delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him, we have set our hope that he will deliver us again” (2 Corinthians 1:10). Because it is impossible for his enemies and ours to separate us from him (Romans 8:35-39). We can all as God’s people join in heartily and sing this song, with a resounding finale, “The LORD will reign forever and ever” (Exodus 15:18). The song has a very definite purpose, as should all that we sing in praise to God. This is not just to give the congregation an emotional fix until they gather again to praise God. Nor it’s purpose so Miriam and the other musicians can get their gear out and use their “gifts.” It is theologically sound, it is sober, it is thrilling, it fits the occasion, their foes have just been overthrown, once and for all. When they were faced with what they thought was an impasse, and there was no hope, and why? Because they did not exercise faith. To live with a God-consciousness takes the effort of faith. It is only when we do so we can live in peace. The sovereignty of God is not just a theological concept, it is a practical reality. If we truly believe God is sovereign that will affect how we react to all the stuff life has to throw at us.
So this is a proper response (v20-22). Worship! It was Miriam and the other women-folk with their tambourines that led this particular offering of praise. It is worth noting that the Old Testament worship of Israel is cultic, this is not New Testament worship, neither can you project this into the New Testament church. But you certainly can project the heart response into the New Testament church. Surely if the Lord has redeemed us at the cost of his Son’s precious blood, then our call as his gathered folk, is to stand up and bless the Lord. For we are the people of his choice, and so with heart and soul and voice to praise and thank the Lord. Not just simply going through the motions of a worship service, but as the New Testament has it, in Spirit and truth (John 4:24). This is our reasonable service, our spiritual worship, “I appeal to you, therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2). Because the Lord has delivered us from our worst enemy, our sinful selves. Alas God’s temporal blessings, as we walk through this vale of tears, doesn’t remove all our trials, there is always more to come. In fact, they may well increase, they often do. He saves us now in the midst this earthly scene, but then he begins to teach us, to discipline us. As we come to the concluding verses of this chapter we see Israel faced with yet another test of their faith. Three days into the desert and no water is a serious situation. What will they do, what should they do, what would you do? It seems as they violently assail Moses they demand of him what only God can provide.