November 6, 2009

O' How highly we think of our own importance.

Just yesterday I was reading an article about a new book by Michael Horton and the article started out by stating:

"What, exactly, is “Christless Christianity”? First of all, it is not a claim that all the churches in America are Christless. It’s certainly not a claim that we have reached a point where Christ is no longer being preached. Rather, it’s motivated by a concern that there’s this creeping fog of what sociologist Christian Smith called “moralistic-therapeutic-deism.” This has turned God into a tool we can use rather than the object of our faith and worship. I’m concerned that the gospel is being taken for granted, that Christ is a sort of life coach, but not the Savior. With the general shallowing within the culture, there is a shallowing of Christian faith and practice. We don’t really know what we believe and why we believe it.

Then just last night we were reading from a book by John Flavel on the Providence of God and came to the section copied below. Ponder these things.

"...I cannot but make a pause, and desire you with me to stand in holy amazement and wonder at the dealings of God with such poor worms as we are. Surely God deals familiarly with me; His condescensions to His own clay are astonishing.

All that I shall note at present about it shall be under these three heads, in which I find the matter of my present meditations summed up by the Psalmist: ‘Lord, what is man, that thou takest knowledge of him, or the son of man that thou makest account of him!’ (144. 3).

In this Scripture you have represented the immense and transcendent greatness of God, who is infinitely above us and all our thoughts. ‘Canst thou by searching find out God? canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection? It is as high as heaven; what canst thou do? deeper than hell; what canst thou know? The measure thereof is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea’ (Job 11. 7-9). ‘The heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain him’ (2 Chron. 2. 6). He is glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders’ (Exod. 15. 11).

When the Scripture speaks of Him comparatively, see how it expresses His greatness: ‘Behold, the nations are as the drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing. And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor the beats thereof sufficient for a burnt offering. All nations before him are as nothing; and they are accounted to him less than nothing, and vanity (Isa. 40. 15-17).

When the holiest men have addressed Him, see with what humility and deep adoration they have spoken of Him and to Him! ‘Who is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts’ (Isa. 6. 5). Nay, what respects the very angels of heaven have of that glorious Majesty: ‘Each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said: Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory’ (verses 2 and 3).

Secondly, you have the baseness, vileness and utter unworthiness of man, yea, the holiest and best of men, before God: ‘Verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity’ (Ps. 39. 5).

‘Every man,’ take where you will; and every man ‘in his best state,’ or ‘standing in his freshest glory,’ is not only ‘vanity,’ but ‘altogether vanity,’ literally ‘every man is very vanity.’ For do but consider the best of men in their extraction. ‘By nature the children of wrath even as others’ (Eph. 2. 3). The blood that runs in our veins is as much tainted as theirs in hell.

Consider them in their constitution and natural disposition, and it is no better, yea, in many there is worse disposition than in reprobates. And though grace depose sin in them from the throne, yet, O what offensive and God-provoking corruptions daily break out of the best hearts.

Consider them in their outward condition, and they are inferior, for the most part, to others. ‘I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes’ (Matt. 11. 25; cf. 1 Cor. 1. 26-28).

And now let us consider and marvel that ever this great and blessed God should be so much concerned, as you have heard He is in all His providences, about such vile, despicable worms as we are! He does not need us, but is perfectly blessed and happy in Himself without us. We can add nothing to Him: ‘Can a man be profitable unto God?’ (Job 22. 2).

No, the holiest of men add nothing to Him; yet, see how great account He makes of us. For does not His eternal electing love show the dear account He made of us (Eph. 1. 4, 5)? How ancient, how free, and how astonishing is this act of grace! This is that design which all providences are in pursuit of, and will not rest till they have executed.

Does not the gift of His only Son out of His bosom show this, that God makes great account of this vile thing, man? Never was man so magnified before. If David could say: ‘When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars which thou hast ordained; what is man?’ (Ps. 8. 3, 4), how much more may we say, ‘When we consider Thy Son, that lay in Thy bosom, His infinite excellence and unspeakable dearness to Thee, Lord, what is man, that such a Christ should be delivered to death for him! for him, and not for fallen angels (Heb. 2. 16), for him when in a state of enmity with God (Rom. 5. 8).

Does not the assiduity of His providential care for us show His esteem of us? ‘Lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day’ (Isa. 27. 3). ‘He withdraweth not his eyes from the righteous’ (Job. 36. 7), no, not a moment all their days; for if He did, a thousand mischiefs in that moment would rush in upon them and ruin them.

Does not the tenderness of His providence show His esteem of us? ‘As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you’ (Isa. 66. 13). He comforts His own by refreshing providences, as an indulgent mother her tender child. ‘As birds flying’ (Isa. 31. 5), viz., to their nests when their young are in danger, so He defends His. No parental tenderness in the creature can shadow forth the tender affection of the Creator.

Does not the variety of the fruits of His providence show it? Our mercies are ‘new every morning’ (cf. Ps. 40. 5; Lam. 3. 23). It is a fountain from which do stream forth spiritual and temporal, ordinary and extraordinary, public and personal mercies, mercies without number.

Does not the ministry of angels in the providential kingdom show it? ‘Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?’ (Heb. 1. 14).


Does not the providence of which this day calls us to celebrate the memory, show the great regard God has for His people? O if not so, why were we not given up ‘as a prey to their teeth?’ ‘If it had not been the Lord who was on our side,’ then wicked men, compared to fire, water, wild beasts, ‘had swallowed us up quick’ (Ps. 124).

John Flavel

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