Rev. K.M. Watkins
November 11, 2019
And thus they returned us answer, saying, We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth, and build the house that was builded these many years ago, which a great king of Israel builded and set up.
…. This was the answer the Jews gave to those neighbours around that asked them (and not in a friendly way, but in a way to try to stop the work). They said, “We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth, and what we’re doing: we’re building the house that was built these many years ago, the house which a great king of Israel built and set up”. That was their answer to them… No doubt those arrayed against them, humanly speaking, were more powerful, more influential. …They were coming to seek to hinder the work and to hold it back when they were seeing that the work was going fast on and prospering. They were saying, “Oh, who commanded you to build this house and to make up these walls?” [They answered,] “Who commanded us to do that? The God of heaven and earth did.”
There are [also] times in our day (and they are increasing) when we are to be saying, “We must obey God rather than men, because our God is the God of heaven and earth; and if things go on as they are, we are to be more and more put to it – “backs to the wall”, as it were, where the only defence we’re going to be able to give for what we say, and what we do, and what we refuse to say and what we refuse to do, is to say, “We are the servants of the true God who speaks in His Word, the Bible.” O friend, are you anywhere near that? Is that yourself? Well, that was them in that day. And their advantages and privileges and light were very small compared to ours. And the difficulties that they were facing were much greater than ours. What a confession they’re making in that historical situation. “We are servants of the God of heaven and earth, and we build the house that was builded these many years ago. We’re not starting something new here. We have the God of heaven and earth on our side and we have history on our side. We’re just following on in a train of those that went before.” Yes, there was an interruption. Yes, this temple was pulled down, but, as they acknowledge in the next verse, “that’s because our fathers provoked the God of heaven and earth to wrath, and He chastised us as a nation, and He came out against us. But all we’re doing now, we’re just restoring what was there before. We’re just continuing in the old paths of the true people of God; we’re just following on in the footsteps of the flock of the past; we are building the house that was built these many years ago. And the temple that we’re setting up, the work of rebuilding is the temple that was here on this very spot centuries ago.” And that’s another thing (is it not?) in the day we’re in, if we bring it to now, is this: Are we seeking to build a different kind of house, a different kind of church, to the one of those that went before us? We surely hope not. And we have no warrant whatsoever but the reformed church, the church manifest in such a purity as we see in the Scottish Reformation. “We build the house that was builded these many years ago,” and whatever breaches that have been made in those walls of this house, whatever parts of the professing visible church might seem to be in ruins, yet bring it here now, we’re only building what was built before. We’re only holding fast, surely, and that’s our duty to the principles of the past.
Rev. Alfred MacDonald
From The Believer’s Love to Christ, and Christ’s Delight in That Love, 2019
Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?
Peter had love to Christ and Christ knew of his love. He ventured himself into danger. We read of the high priest’s palace on that night when the Lord was betrayed, when Jesus was captured and all that was ignominious about it. There fell Peter, knowing that his master had gone into that place to be cruelly treated and eventually sentenced to death. But Peter’s love was ardent. That night, before the night was out, Peter fell into a snare that was almost inevitable, by going into that place which he knew was full of enemies.
He was soon entrapped when they said to him, “Are you a follower of Jesus?” He said, “ I do not know him… I do not know the man…I do not know the man.” Three times. We may think that Peter had failed terribly, but little do we know what it cost Peter to make that fall. It was love to Christ that took him there and nothing less. He fell there and was snared, to give advantage to dishonour Christ.
(In the text, John 21:15-17) Here now, God brings home to him thoughts of that night and that transgression, when He asked Peter a third time. Now we are told Peter was grieved. (V. 17, “Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me?”)
1. Peter was grieved to be reminded of his sin. And God would make us remember our sins with grief. That is a sign of love to Christ. Surely, as the Lord was speaking to him, what did he feel but grief? He had grief already after the resurrection, and during the period of Christ’s death, and at the grave. Eventually, he went out and wept bitterly. When he committed the sin again, it was not long before he was shedding tears for he was bruised very deeply.
Nevertheless, the Lord reminds him. It would damage Peter, and therefore it says here, Peter was grieved to hear the Lord say to him now “Lovest thou me?” But that is the great issue: The question is still there, “Lovest thou me?” And good for those it is, who, whatever they have passed through, whatever failures they have, whatever times they may have failed to show their love to Christ, if they can say as Peter said here, “Thou knowest that I love thee.” [Like him, they may feel] “I have gone away; I have failed at times to make sure to show the world that I love Christ, but I love my Saviour.
Peter failed by failing to profess his love to Christ. But see what it cost him. [The Lord’s people], they do like Simon Peter to God: whatever they may have fallen into, even putting aside as it were that they were one of His disciples, they should be brought to repentance. They should be brought to grief and sorrow. They’ll be like Peter here. He was grieved and vexed that Jesus’ words, like an arrow, came into his soul. To hear the voice of Jesus ask, “Simon Peter, lovest thou me?”
2. There is much in our lives which we must examine. Each one of us [who are] in need of salvation surely ought to be asking ourselves this question. If we are not asking, the Lord is asking. As sure as you are here tonight, so it is the case, that the Lord is saying to you, “Lovest thou me?” And if you are right with Christ, you’ll be saying to yourself, “Do I love the Lord? Can I say I love the Lord?” We are bound to that. We are bound to ask the question that is given to us here. Simon looked at Him, and the Lord Jesus asked him, ‘Lovest thou me?” That is the essence of the gospel. That is the essence of whether we will have a lost eternity. Can we tell our soul, can we speak to our own soul, and can we say, “Thou knowest that I love thee?”
It is inevitable. You cannot know Christ without loving Him. You cannot know the Lord without desiring to love Him, and without desiring to make it manifest that you do love Him. Many who profess Him may be most desirous of that love. Although they are saying they love the Lord, they themselves know deep inside they are troubled. Like Peter here, they are troubled that they should in any way give a picture to the world and a picture to Christ Himself, as if they do not love him. They desire to walk in such a way that He knows they love Him.
This is His delight: to know that He is loved by His people. It may seem small to think that Jesus to be so troubled with Peter denying Him. The Saviour when abandoned sought out abundantly His disciple. This is one of the things that grieves Him most. Therefore, He meets with Simon Peter to bring home the question, “Lovest thou me?” The child of God sees plenty in Christ to make him love Him. That is the first thing in the salvation of the sinner. The sinner is brought to see in Christ what is desirous to love in Him, drawing love. They see in Christ what is drawing the love of the soul. That is brought before you most clearly in the Song of Solomon itself, where the church of God professing was telling the daughters of Jerusalem about the love she had for Christ, about the love she was feeling toward Him. There we find out about how much she loved Him. She gives there in the song a clear indication. “If you wish to hear why I love the Lord, why I know I love the Lord: I know the beauty I see in Him. He is altogether lovely, fairer than the sons of men, fairer than all, more beautiful than all. Nothing can compare to Christ.
3. And that is what is here in the question, “Lovest thou me?” This is the kind of love Christ would have from His people, and shall have from all His true people. They love Him above and beyond all; above father, mother, son or daughter. The true child of God sees in Christ what is lovable. What more could they see? They make clear how worthy of love He is. Is there anyone so full of power to attract sinful man to Himself as the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ?…
Jesus told Simon Peter what was going to happen to him afterwards in this world. “Simon, Son of Jonas, Lovest thou me? If so Simon, I have sad news for you, but good news: an honour.” He went on to tell Simon, “You are young now. You put on your own clothes, you walk where you want to walk. But when you are old, your hands will be stretched out and your feet will be bound. You will be crucified as I was crucified. You will be old and they will carry you where you wouldest not, something you would never choose.” But that is what is in the love of Christ. Simon Peter, hearing these words, did not feel any loss of love to Christ, but rather considered it an honour and a privilege to be able to show his love unto Him, even should it be to the point of death. This was spoken showing “by what death he should glorify God.” (John 21:19.) Though it is said by some (true or false, I do not know) that when he was to be crucified, he did not feel he could be crucified in the same style as the Saviour. But rather, he thought he should be crucified head-down. So it has been said and may be true. He felt himself unworthy of doing this because His love was burning in his soul. His words were true when he said to Christ, “Thou knowest that I love thee. No trial or difficulty is going to interfere with that love. But rather, I would delight in doing anything that thou wilt call me to do.”
“Lovest thou me?” said Jesus. How deserving He is of love. What a fearful thing that so few love Him. They see no beauty in Him; why they should desire Him? All the Bible is full of genuine beauty of the Saviour. There is no beauty like the beauty of Christ. No love like His love! He has love to give to the sinner. He is ready to love. And that love He showed when He came suffering and death on the cross of Calvary, and His whole life in this world. He came into this world. Why did He come? Why did He ever take up place in this world? Because He loved. He loved those whom He purposed to love, and how much more should they endeavour to be saying like Peter here, “Thou knowest I love thee. I desire to love thee. I love thy worship. I love thy day. I love thine ordinances. I love thy commandments. Thy commandments are not grievous to me.”
They are grievous to others. They are grievous to natural man. They don’t wish to be bound by commands. They don’t wish to be bound by any restrictions. They say that they can judge themselves what it is to please God, or please themselves. But the true church of God will be as we hear Simon Peter say, “Thou knowest that I love thee.” He was able to say what it counted to love Christ, unto death. He had that desire of and that witness. He was able to say with the Saviour that he would lay down his life; and he did lay down his life, for the sheep. That is a little of what the Saviour deserves. The Saviour’s love was so great. It is so wonderful to know the love of Christ, it passeth knowledge. It passeth knowledge to know this, to feel the love of Christ. And for you yourself to find in your soul and heart that love to the Saviour, carried away from everything else — nothing to be compared with the loveliness of Jesus Christ. Nothing. Let me gaze upon it; and gaze upon it you shall — to all eternity. That is all we shall be doing in heaven: gazing upon the love of Christ. It is there you’ll understand more and more, forevermore, why you love Him. Before His throne in heaven, the object of their love. It says elsewhere, on the mount of configuration, they saw none but Jesus only, and so it should be. His love is so wonderful that nothing should interfere with our loving Him, not elsewhere, but to be found loving Him, who first of all, loved us…
4. Where is He tonight? Where is the Lord Jesus tonight? You know where He is; He is at the throne of God. And what is He doing there? He is making continual intercession for His people. You cannot get near to God without going through Him. You cannot get close God without Jesus Christ. He is the way to the Father, He is the way to God. And He is intermediate between you and God. He pleads for you. He presents your worship, He presents your prayers, and it is because of Him that you have anything of the power of the Holy Spirit in you. The Spirit of God comes when the Son of God prays to the Father to send the Spirit of God into the soul of a sinner, and your soul when you pray in the Holy Spirit. How are you going to get the Holy Spirit? You get the Holy Spirit when you plead with the Lord that He would entreat the Father, that He would give the Holy Spirit. It is in the Bible, the wonderful love of Christ. “Lovest thou me?” The question (that’s the big question for me tonight) is “Lovest thou me?” He desires to be loved; is that not wonderful? He desires to be loved by you, and by me – brutish creatures, filthy, sinful, worldly, everything.
And yet, He is desiring, more than anything, to be loved by your soul, hat you would enter into a loving fellowship, a loving communion. You cannot love somebody at a distance. It’s a loving one that is near, by the power of His Spirit. He comes near. As the church of God puts it, “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth”. There is such a thing, though it is not common, as communion with the Lord Jesus Christ: nearness, Him speaking, and you speaking to Him, telling Him of your love, and more and more that you cannot love Him as you desire. A sense of sin. “How little I love Him who has done so much for me.” For it can never be repaid what He has done for sinners. It’s not going to be repaid. He got the reward. The reward He got is those for whom He died. They shall all be brought at last to be with Him in heaven above for an eternal blessedness. He will not have to say to them, ” Lovest thou me?” It is in this world only that Jesus is saying to the church, “Lovest thou me?”
Rev. Roderick Macleod
2014, Sante Fe, Texas
My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent. But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.
In the third verse, there is more than the words of the one verse embraced, because it stands with the word “but.” “But thou art holy.” So, that casts our mind to what goes before; and what goes before is this cry of desertion, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? … . “What has become of the covenant between us? What is become of the promises? Where is the upholding? My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Why art thou so far from helping me?” …. But he cried in the daytime and he was not heard, and in the night season and he was not silent. “But thou art holy.” What is the connection? What is the connection between verses 1 and 2 and the “but” in verse 3? “But.” Ah, is it not this?: that if the Lord was not so holy – if God was not so holy, then His [i.e., Christ’s] sufferings would not be so intense. The darkness would not be so intense. The desertion would not be so sore. The sword striking Him would not be so deep. But, oh, this explains it. “Thy holiness explains the greatness of my sufferings. But thou art holy. That is why thou forsakest me. That is why thou smitest me. That is why thou sayest, ‘Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, against the man that is my fellow. Smite the shepherd.’ That is why my sufferings are so great – because thy hatred of sin is so intense!” Ah, dear friend, child of God: these are not theories, abstract notions, information simply for our minds. This is your Saviour, child of God! This is your Saviour. This is your sin; this is your sin, that brought Him to this “but.” Oh, the “but.” “But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.” …
And before we finish, we ought to notice how He suffered — the frame of His soul in His suffering and the language of faith. “But thou art holy.” He says, “Thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.” Israel is a people redeemed by the blood. Israel is the church of the firstborn, under the shelter of the blood. The firstborn in Egypt were redeemed by the blood of the paschal lamb. That is what Israel is. It’s the language of faith. He knows that the Lord will carry him through; that there will be an Israel; that there will be clouds of praise rising up as clouds of incense; and that Jehovah will dwell in the midst of the praises of Israel. It’s the language of faith, in the darkness, when God, His Father, is hiding His face from Him, He’s believing, He’s trusting. The more dark it becomes, the more lustrous His faith shines! And then it is the language of adoration. That is how Christ suffered. That is what was happening in His heart when He was suffering. He was believing. He was trusting. And He was adoring. But thou art holy, thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel. Thou art holy. There was fire, there was hail, [and] brimstone, round about Him. Hail, fire, and brimstone, furious storms raining down upon the Substitute of sinners. And what was happening in His heart? There was a small still voice of adoration, worshipping the divine nature. “Thou art my God.” How can a divine person worship the divine nature? Ah, dear friends, never was there a worshipper like Christ! There was never worship like the worship that Christ worshipped His Father with! “But thou art holy.” Yes, and Christ is holy. He is holy, holy under the sword of avenging justice. “But thou art holy, thou that dost inhabit the praises of Israel.” That is the One that we remember. That is the work that we remember. That is the Friend who has loved you. That [is the] friend that loves at all times, child of God. That is the brother born for adversity. A perfect, sinless sacrifice, to satisfy divine justice, and let us keep the feast, in a way that corresponds to the worthiness of Him who died.
Rev. Donald Maclean
And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.
1 Corinthians 10:4
… that spiritual rock, says Paul, followed them. Now how did the rock follow them? Well, it is obvious the rock itself did not move. But the rock followed them in the waters gushing forth, following the camp of Israel, down through the wilderness. Now, let me pause there for a moment. Let me say to you, here is an Israelite, who is in the camp, following the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night, on their way to the land of promise, and he takes a drink out of these waters that are following. What would he say? Well, Paul tells us what he would say. He would say, “The Rock is still following.” And so it is true with regard to the people of God in this world. When they get a drink out of the water of life, when they get a drink out of the wells of salvation, it is refreshing to them, yes, I know it is. Very refreshing. But bound up with their spiritual enjoyment is this assurance: “Christ is still following me.” Now, is that not what you want tomorrow [on the Communion Sabbath]? Do you not want a drink out of the well of salvation? And if you get a drop in your soul – “Well”, you’ll say, “after all my doubts, my fears, I am overwhelmed by this or that or the other thing, [yet] Christ is still following me.” And that will be true till the end of the journey, because this is what David says. David, who was asking to be led to the Rock – this is what he says: “Goodness and mercy all my life / shall surely follow me.” Where do you get the goodness and the mercy, David? “Oh, I got it in Christ. And Christ was following me with goodness and mercy all my life.” Now therefore, therefore – “in God’s house for evermore/my dwelling place shall be.”
Rev. Donald Maclean
from the book, Unsearchable Riches (pgs 45, 47-49, 51 & 52), preached in the 1960’s
Marvel not that I say unto thee, Ye must be born again.
[The Saviour said to Nicodemus], ‘Marvel not that I say unto thee, Ye must be born again.’ Here was this man Nicodemus, this teacher in Israel, this man who was highly thought of, ruling over others, preaching the Word of God to others – here he was, and he did not know what it meant to be born again. That was the darkness, that was the ignorance, that was the blindness of this man… Nicodemus was a religious man – a very religious man… he was ready to say, ‘We have Abraham for our father.’ He was ready to say, ‘We have the Bible. We have the temple in Jerusalem. We have the priesthood according to the house of Aaron. We have the synagogues… Similarly, he rejoiced in the sacraments…We do not know what tribe Nicodemus belonged to, but certainly he belonged to one of the tribes of Israel and he would have thought highly of that – ‘a Pharisee of the Pharisees’, one who was engaged in serving the God of their fathers. As he was here, Nicodemus with all his heart had the full expectation that when time should be no longer, he would sit down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven above.
But the Saviour says to him, ‘That which is born of the flesh is flesh.’ All of that arises from the old nature – the old nature dressed up in religion, the old nature dressed up as a Jew, the old nature dressed up as a teacher, however great the zeal may be. … this is one of the grave dangers in which people stand. They lose sight of what the Saviour says here, ‘Marvel not that I say unto thee, ye must be born again’ – and so they go about dressing up the old man, making the old man a religious man and exercising carnal zeal and carnal religion under the cloak of the hope of going to heaven. But the Saviour said, ‘That which is born of the flesh is flesh.’ He [the old man] can never rise above his old nature, he can never be pleasing to God, and he cannot bring his soul into the kingdom of God.
That means too, that unless a man is born again, he cannot see the King of the kingdom. We were speaking this morning on the words, ‘Thine eyes shall see the King in his beauty.’ Now, you cannot see Christ in his beauty unless you are born again. The reason for that is that there is no such thing as faith in the flesh. The flesh can never bring forth faith. You see, one of the great objections that I have to modern evangelism is that it encourages a most dangerous form of religion, one which comes from the flesh. For Billy Graham to say to some poor creature who does not know his right hand from his left, in connection with the things of the Spirit of God, ‘Now you say this prayer after me,’ and he gives them some prayer to say, and then he says to them, ‘You are born again’ – what kind of religion is that? And then these people take up a Christian profession, and especially the young people — they take up a Christian profession, then they begin to go to the crusades, then they join the choirs. They have the kind of religion which is purely of the flesh. That is not the new birth. But the new birth is absolutely essential. You see this [i.e., the new birth] is the very reverse of what Billy Graham believes. He says, you believe in Christ and then you are born again, but the Saviour says, ‘Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ He cannot see the King of the kingdom, and he cannot have faith until he is born again. Faith is the first exercise of the living soul, the soul that is born again: a living soul exercises living faith in a living Saviour. …
The movement of the Spirit of God is described here in these highly significant words, ‘The wind bloweth where it listeth, but that canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth.’ However, you can tell that it has been there by the effect that it has. When you saw the leaves begin to shiver in the trees, you knew that this gentle breeze was passing through. So it is with regard to the Holy Spirit. He comes and He goes. He comes according to the sovereign pleasure of God. He comes in virtue of the blood of Christ that was shed for the remission of the sins of many. And when He comes and breathes on the Word of God, it has an effect in the soul of a sinner. …It is bound up with the new nature being imparted to the soul of a sinner that the Word of God is also made effectual in convincing the soul of sin and misery. And the Word of God is also made effectual in presenting Christ to the soul as the Saviour who is able to save to the uttermost. This gentle breath is seen in the soul of the sinner. It is seen especially in the will of the sinner – making the sinner willing to receive Christ, and to rest upon Him alone for salvation as He is set forth in the glorious gospel of the blessed God.
But what does modern evangelism teach us? That a dead soul exercises faith in a living Saviour and then it becomes alive. That is a delusion. What the Saviour says here is, ‘Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again,’ because if we are not born again, we cannot see the kingdom of God, and we cannot see the King of the kingdom.
Rev. Donald Maclean
June 28, 1990 sermon
My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.
1 John 2:1-2
You remember when Cain slew his brother Abel, that God said that “the blood of thy brother Abel calleth unto me in heaven”. …every sin that is committed, in thought, word or deed, is registered in heaven. The all-knowing God, the heart-searching God, He knows every sin. And all these sins cry to God in heaven. Now, if we enquire how this takes place, while we confine ourselves just now to the murder of Abel by Cain, the blood of Abel cried to God in heaven because the law of God, the sixth commandment, which said “thou shalt not kill,” had been broken. Therefore, this act of Cain, in breaking the sixth commandment – the sixth commandment had a voice in heaven because the law of God, the moral law of God, which is summarily comprehended in the ten commandments, we must ever remember is not just a revelation of the will of God, but it is a revelation of the divine nature. The holiness, the spirituality and the good of the law is a revelation of God’s divine nature. … The law of God was saying, … “there is a man called Cain and he is guilty of this sin.” It was heard in heaven. God said it was heard in heaven.
Men are ready to conclude that God does not take to do with sin. Because they don’t take to do with it themselves, they are ready to conclude that God does not take to do with sin. …Therefore, we know on the day of judgment that the books will be opened, where every sin, where every un-forgiven sin is registered. Now, when you consider that, then surely it is a most solemn and indeed appalling thing to think of the streams of sin that are flowing into the court of God. Streams of sin from this world. Every sin – of thought, word and deed, [is a] breaking the law of God, [a] coming short of the law of God. They are all registered in heaven. They all have a voice in heaven. Just like the sixth commandment had a voice in heaven in the days of Cain. Now you consider the generation in which you and I live. What a voice in heaven with regard to murder. In our day and generation, is it not a wonder that we are spared at all, when the sixth commandment is witnessing the regard to murders innumerable in our day and in our generation? And the same [is true] with regard to the seventh commandment. The sins with regard to that commandment — of fornication, adultery and sodomy — are just legion. And to think of it – to think of it! Every one of these sins is registered in heaven. Registered in heaven. God does not overlook sin. He says, “though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not go unpunished.” The same with the other commandments: the fifth commandment: dishonour to parents; and the fourth commandment: people say “oh, we’ll open the shops on the Lord’s Day,” on “Sunday” as they call it. “There’s nothing in that. Most people want it. They want to do it, and nobody’s going to quarrel with it but some old-fashioned narrow-minded people.” …Breaches of the Sabbath day are a voice in heaven, as I remember reading a sermon of Lachlan Mackenzie of Lochcarron, one of the well-known ministers of the Highlands. He was preaching on one occasion in Aberdeen; he said: “I hear a voice behind me, and that voice is the Sabbath crying, ‘I’m murdered, I’m murdered.’ But I hear another voice arising, and that voice is saying, ‘Wait, Sabbath day, and I will avenge you of your murder.’ You see, that’s the same principle. All our sins, thought, word and deed, are recorded in heaven. They are in the court of heaven. They are all there. All the sins of this generation. And if Jonathan Edwards said, when he was under conviction of sin with regard to himself, he said, “I can find no words to explain my view of my sins, but infinitude upon infinitude.” That’s the sins of one man. What about the sins of the race? What about the sins of this generation? And they all have a voice in heaven. The voice of the law of God, witnessing against sin, and the voice of the law of God requiring that the justice of God would deal with these sins according to the terms of God’s justice, and that is, “the soul that sinneth, it shall die.” Now if we have any proper view of that, then this is a great thing, that in the court of heaven there’s an Advocate. We’ll come to deal with that in a moment.
Now I want to refer to another court, and that is a court that is in your own bosom. You needn’t go to heaven for this court. This court is in your own bosom. It is the court of your conscience. Very little is heard about that nowadays. I should say very little reality is heard about it nowadays. But man’s soul is so constituted that he has certain faculties. Now these faculties are not compartments in the soul: the conscience, the understanding, the memory, the affections, the will. These are the faculties of the soul. Now, we are not to conceive of these faculties as though they were separate compartments in the soul, because the soul is a spirit. What they are is separate exercises of the soul. So that when we speak about the understanding, we speak about the capacity of the soul to understand things, to discern things. When we speak about the affections, we speak about the capacity of the soul to love and to hate. When we speak about the will, we speak about the capacity of the soul to choose or to refuse. When we speak about the conscience, we speak about that capacity in the human soul to pass judgment. And in particular, to pass judgment on ourselves. So that, when we sin, when we realize that we have sinned, we have pain in our conscience. Now the word of God teaches us with regard to the conscience; we read in the epistle to the Hebrews that the blood of bullocks and of goats could not take away sin – it can’t take away sin. It didn’t take away sin from the court of God. No! And it doesn’t take away sin from the court of the conscience. Now he says here, “how much more shall the blood of Christ… purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” “Dead works to serve the living God.” These are sins, and the guilt of sin, lying on the conscience. So, there is a court in heaven, yes, where sins are registered. There’s a court in your soul where sins are registered, too. The court of conscience. When we commit sin, that sin is registered in the court of conscience. Now, when we consider the court of conscience, we are to remember that the conscience is guided by the understanding.
The judgements made by the conscience are guided by the understanding. Now, as man is by nature, his understanding is blind. His understanding is dark. Therefore his conscience at times calls good evil and evil good. It calls good evil and evil good because of the darkness of his understanding. So that, say, for instance, if you think of a Roman Catholic worshipping the virgin Mary, and doing that conscientiously, that is because of the darkness of the understanding. Nevertheless, the sin is there. The sin is there, and the sin is registered on the court of conscience. Dead works. Works that came from spiritual death, and works that deserve eternal death. They are registered in the court of conscience. Now you may say, “Well, I don’t feel that.” You may say that. “I don’t feel that.” Well, you better ask Saul of Tarsus about that. And he’ll explain to you this: “I was alive,” he said, “without the law once.” “Alive without the law once.” That is to say, he did not discern the spirituality and the holiness of the law. But here he was. And he was saying with regard to the law that he was blameless. He did not feel dead works in his conscience, when he was a Pharisee, when he was entertaining the hope at the feet of Gamaliel, that whoever would be in heaven, with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Saul of Tarsus would be. He was sure of that. But then – but then: “I was alive without the law once.” Dead! No thought of my sins. “The commandment came and sin revived.” Sin had a resurrection in his soul. Sin had a resurrection in his soul.
Now there’s nobody here this morning but this must happen to them, on this side of death or on the other side. But sin will have a resurrection, and these dead works, lying on a dead conscience, once the conscience is quickened by the power of the Holy Ghost, the sinner feels sins. They have a resurrection. They were there all the time – he did not know it. What a terrible thing! If you are to journey through time, and it’s on the other side of death that your sins have a resurrection in your conscience, because, if that be the case, you will know in the twinkling of an eye, when you die, that there’s no place for you but hell. No place in the universe of God for you, but hell. And therefore, we must remember that we have consciences. We have dead works in these consciences. And we need, that our consciences would be purged from these dead works before we die. We need that. We need that.
Rev. Roderick Macleod
I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.
The converted child of God has great joy when receiving the pardon of sin, but then they have great confusion of mind when they find corruption still in them. There are two things in sin: the guilt of it and the filth of it. So, because justification takes away the guilt of sin, they have great joy; but then they discover that the defilement of sin is not taken away and so they have great sorrow. They are broken-hearted along with their joy. It is the love of Christ that breaks the heart. They are broken-hearted because of their meanness to him, who has been infinitely, incomprehensibly kind to them. They think of the hell that Christ waded through in their room and place, and they are broken hearted along with their joy. And it is not a sorrow without joy, nor a joy without sorrow, but it is a joy commingled with sorrow. It is the sweetest sorrow, so sweet a sorrow, that Thomas Watson said that if it were possible to miss anything out of heaven, it is that there is no repentance in heaven. People say, “Well, why would a believer mourn when he has got his sins forgiven?” There is more to it than forgiveness. He has the forgiveness of his sins, but he doesn’t have the destruction of his sins. Not yet. So he is a mourner and he is a dove. “O my dove, that art in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the stairs, let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely” (Song of Solomon 2:14). Thou that dwellest in the clefts of the rock, in the smitten Saviour, in the wounds of Jesus Christ, thou that dwellest in the secret places of the stairs, in the degrees, thou that dwellest there, let me hear thy mourning voice. It might be a weariness to graceless sinners, but it is a song, the most beautiful song in the whole of creation, to the Lord Jesus Christ. O my dove, let me hear thy voice for sweet is thy voice and thy countenance is comely.
Rev. John MacLeod
May 14, 2017, Chesley, Communion Sabbath
Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man!
Although Pilate makes his judgment, there was a greater Judge present than Pilate. It was that the One who had covenanted with Him who was here scourged to lay down His life. And He was to lay down his life. “I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.” (John 10:18) Well. He knew that there was to be no way by which He was to be delivered from that death which He was under the obligation of dying. Having from all eternity entered into that covenant with obligations, He is brought to the dust of death. And the judge present here is the Father that sent Him. And He, having entered into these covenant obligations, to fulfil them, all the divine attributes demanded it. For God cannot speak and lie if this was fixed in the terms of the covenant from everlasting. If the death of the surety was bound to take place, then there could be no release as far as the covenant surety was concerned. And therefore, we find him handed over to be crucified.
And we look at Him again and here is our Creator, who created the heavens and the earth, the seas and all that is in them. Look, look, see, behold the man! Is this He? Is this He of whom the first promise spoke? The seed of the woman. Has He come at last? Eve thought that He had immediately arrived when she bore Cain. “I have gotten a man from the Lord”. Was the promise then fulfilled? It was not. Four thousand years it would be before we find “the” man, the representative man. Adam was representative of his seed. “All sinned in him and fell with him in his first transgression.” He fell by disobedience. But we have the Second Adam, the Lord from heaven, and he has been perfectly obedient to divine law. Not a trifling thought did pass through the mind of the holy Immanuel, the Lord Jesus Christ. He was born without sin. How is that? All descended from Adam have original sin, have they not? Are they not coming into the world, born in sin and shapen in iniquity? How can we get over the difficulty that if anyone is to take the place of a substitute, it has to be arranged according to the sovereignty of God, and who can go into that? But how is the difficulty to be overcome? How shall we find a man who is free from original sin? And not only free of original sin, but free of actual sin? If He has sin of His own to answer for, he cannot possibly take the place of others. That would disqualify him immediately. And so we then find the virgin birth. What an important doctrine it is – that He was conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the virgin Mary, born of her yet without sin. “Yet without sin”. So is He without original sin. So we solve that difficulty. He can take the place of others as far as original sin is concerned. What about actual sin then? And we solve that by thinking of him as “Immanuel”. He is the lawgiver himself. Who can possibly conceive of the Lawgiver himself coming short of that obedience which that law demanded. It was impossible for the Lord Jesus to sin. Some have been bold enough to assert that He was in that condition, that it was possible for Him to sin. But we dismiss the thought. [It is] impossible that the eternal God in our nature should be in any way guilty of transgressing, coming short of the standard of Immanuel by His own law.
So what have we now? The representative man. We have the man that has come into the world. And he has no original sin. And we have a man holy, harmless and undefiled, separate from sinners…Behold the man! Behold him! His blood is flowing. He has been brought into the hands of those who are without pity. “I looked for one to pity me, comforters found I none.” “Away with him.” That is the cry that was heard! But he is being dealt with in this manner fulfilling all that was written beforehand of him. Ought not Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into his glory?
Although Pilate makes his judgment, there was a greater Judge present than Pilate. It was the One who had covenanted with Him who was here scourged to lay down His life. He was to lay down his life. “I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.” (John 10:18) Well, He knew that there was to be no way by which He was to be delivered from that death which He was under the obligation of dying. Having from all eternity entered into that covenant with obligations, He is brought to the dust of death. And the judge present here is the Father that sent Him. And He, having entered into these covenant obligations, to fulfil them, all the divine attributes demanded it. For God cannot speak and lie if this was fixed in the terms of the covenant from everlasting. If the death of the surety was bound to take place, then there could be no release as far as the covenant surety was concerned. And therefore, we find him handed over to be crucified.