Friday, October 3, 2008

A Gem from an Old Casket

From the Presbyterian Magazine, September 1858. Rev. C. Van Rensselaer, editor. Pages 405-406. [edited by SML – or shall I say, (lightly) freshened?]

“A Gem From An Old Casket.”

... “The desire of novelty,” says Mr. Hamilton of London, writer of The Mount of Olives, “is not in itself blameworthy; but there is one form of it which we would like to see more frequent. To freshen old truths is nearly as important as to discover new ones; and instead of telling or hearing some new thing, our time would often be as advantageously occupied in thinking over and brightening up some old thing.”...

“One often thinks what a pity that so excellent a work as the “Westminster Shorter Catechism,” greatly as it is prized, should not be prized and used far more than it is. Let us freshen it up. Let us commend it, not only to the young, but to the old too. Let us point out its beauties and dilate upon them. Take for instance the answer to question thirty-six.

“The benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification, are assurance of God’s love, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Ghost, increase of grace, and perseverance therein to the end.”

What a cluster of diamonds! What an assemblage of glorious things! Is it possible in any other words of the same compass to set forth so much of the blessedness of the Christian’s portion this side of heaven? Poor, sorrowing, lost, afflicted soul; sometimes you are sorely tempted almost to despair. But cheer up. Think of your portion—not of that unspeakable one in sure reserve, but of that now in hand. No matter what your lot. It may be you are overwhelmed with ills under which mere nature cannot sustain you. But think a moment. You have a title to—nay, you have possession of—priceless blessings. Think over these five benefits.

Assurance of God’s love. –Not his general love, his love of benevolence merely, but of complacency too. He delights in you for what he has wrought in you. Amazing grace! And to be assured of this benefit; to have a warrant to say, I know in whom I have believed, and am persuaded he is able to keep what I have committed to him, against that day. Not everyone attains to this blessing; but God has graciously made it accessible to all; and what but the Christian’s own fault hinders his actual possession of it.

Then, Peace of conscience. –Ah, you are somewhat sensible to your ill desert and sinfulness. But the gracious covenant is so ordered as to make full provision for you. God in Christ is not only reconciled to you, but He has in a measure removed your unholy opposition to Him. And since you are reconciled to God, you know the import of the blessed word—peace. John, 14:27.

Your glorious Advocate has so triumphantly interceded for you, that the next benefit in order, Joy in the Holy Ghost, follows as a matter of course. And when it pleases God to grant a large measure of this earnest of heaven, then it does not matter what the outward accidents of the humble soul may be,--lofty or lowly, honoured or despised in the world’s regard, living in a palace, embracing a dunghill, or pining in a dungeon—it is all one. That soul has within itself a fund of life and joy. Who shall harm it? No wonder it joys in God.

But full conformity to the image of Christ will not be attained to in this life. It is therefore a blessed provision that the lineaments of that image shall be growing more and more distinct and symmetrical. Child of God, you will never be satisfied with your attainments here, and if you think you are now perfect, you have not yet learned your first lesson in the school of Christ. Reach forward. Despair not. God will grant thee Increase of grace.

As the outward man perishes, the inward man shall be renewed, day by day. And this by logical sequence involves the next benefit, Perseverance to the end.—Practically considered, this is the culminating point. What would it avail to have the blessedness of heaven in prospect, and desires awakened for its fruition, if, as a matter of fact, the gracious soul may come short of the prize? You know full well, humble child of God, that of yourself you could not persevere. But you shall be held up—kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation—being confident of this very thing, that He that has begun a good work in you will perform it till the day of Jesus Christ. Is not this a most blessed truth?

“The soul that to Jesus hath fled for repose;
He will not, he will not forsake to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavour to shake,
He’ll never, no never, no NEVER forsake.”

Perseverance to the end! And that end, though it may seem dark, and clouds may gather around it, and for a time terrors may encompass the soul in view of it, yet darkness, and clouds, and terror shall soon vanish. That sad end shall be but the bright beginning of immortal blessedness—the portal of eternal life and joy.

Thus have I worked to freshen one of the beauties of the old Catechism. But in that Casket of Gems there are a hundred and six beside, all rich and polished. True, they are somewhat old-fashioned, but not a whit for the worse for that; nay, the better....”