Posts Tagged ‘Horatius Bonar’

The following is taken from Horatius Bonar’s God’s Way of Holiness.

Forgiveness of sins, in believing God’s testimony to the finished propitiation of the cross, is not simply indispensable to a holy life, in the way of removing terror and liberating the soul from the pressure of guilt, but of imparting an impulse, and a motive, and a power which nothing else could do.

Forgiveness at the end or in the middle, a partial forgiveness, or an uncertain forgiveness, or a grudging forgiveness, would be of no avail; it would only tantalize and mock. But a complete forgiveness, presented in such a way as to carry its own certainty along with it to every one who will take it at the hands of God–this is a power in the earth, a power against self, a power against sin, a power over the flesh, a power for holiness, such as no amount of suspense or terror could create.

A forgiven man is the true worker, the true lawkeeper. He can, he will, he must work for God. Re has come into contact with that part of God’s character which warms his cold heart. Forgiving love constrains him. He cannot but work for Him who has removed his sins from him as far as the east is from the west. Forgiveness has made him a free man, and given him a new and most loving Master.

Forgiveness, received freely from the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, acts as a spring, an impulse, a stimulus of divine potency. It is more irresistible than law, or terror, or threat. A half forgiveness, an uncertain justification, a changeable peace, may lead to careless living and more careless working, may slacken the energy and freeze up the springs of action, (for it shuts out that aspect of God’s character which gladdens and quickens); but a complete and assured pardon can have no such effect.


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Well, there are certainly different ways one could answer that question.  But there are nevertheless a few underlying themes or central ideas which motivated the whole Reformation.   And one of those was the concept of salvation utterly and entirely (not just partly) by grace: Sola Gratia.  This glorious thought granted hope and comfort to weak and miserable souls free of charge, inviting them to look to Christ alone and receive his righteousness which comes only by faith (Phil 3:9).

Read some Horatius Bonar on the Reformation.

“The awakened conscience of the sixteenth century betook itself to “the righteousness of God.” There it found refuge, at once from condemnation and from impurity. Only by “righteousness” could it be pacified; and nothing less than that which is divine could meet the case. At the cross this “righteousness” was found; human, yet divine: provided for man, and presented to him by God, for relief of conscience and justification of life. On the one word τετέλεσται, “It is finished,” as on a heavenly resting place, weary souls sat down and were refreshed. The voice from the tree did not summon them to do, but to be satisfied with what was done. Millions of bruised consciences there found healing and peace.

The belief of that finished work brought the sinner into favour with God; nor did it leave him in uncertainty as to this. The justifying work of Calvary was God’s way, not only of bringing pardon, but of securing certainty. It was the only perfect thing which had ever been presented to God in man’s behalf; and so peculiar was this perfection, that it might be
used by man in his transactions with God, as if it were his own.

The knowledge of this sure justification was life from the dead to multitudes. All over Europe, from the Apennines to the Grampians, from the Pyrenees to the Carpathians, went the glad tidings that man is justified freely, and that God wishes him to know he is justified. It was not merely a new thought for man’s intellect, but a new discovery for his soul, (1) As to the true source of spiritual health, viz. the setting of man’s conscience right with God; (2) As to the continuation of that health, viz. the keeping of the conscience right.

The fruit of this was not merely a healthy personal religion, but a renovated intellect and a noble literature, and, above all, a pure worship. It was an era of resurrection. The graves were opened; and the congregation of the dead became the church of the living. Christendom awoke and arose. The resurrection-dew fell far and wide; nor has it yet ceased to fall.

For ages Christianity had groveled in the dust, smothered with semipagan rites; ready to die, if not already dead; bound hand and foot by a semi-idolatrous priesthood, unable to do aught for a world which it had been sent to regenerate. Now “it was lifted up from the earth, and made to stand upon its feet as a man, and a man’s heart was given to it.” A new conscience was born; and with a new conscience came in new life and power. Nothing had been seen like this since the age of apostles.

The doctrine of another’s righteousness reckoned to us for justification before God is one of the links that knot together the first and the sixteenth centuries, the Apostles and the Reformers. The creeds of the Reformation overleap fifteen centuries, and land us at once in the Epistle to the Romans. Judicial and moral cleansing was what man needed; and in that epistle we have both the imputed and imparted righteousness; the former the root or foundation of the latter. Not the one without the other; both together, inseparable; but each in its own order.

It was not Luther merely who took up the old watchword, “The just shall live by faith,” and thus found the answer of a good conscience toward God. To thousands of hearts it came like a voice from heaven, they knew not how. Sunshine from above had fallen upon one grand text; the text which the age needed: men recognized the truth thus supernaturally lighted up. “The nations came to its light, and kings to the brightness of its rising.” The inquiring men of that age, though not borrowing from each other, betook themselves to this truth and text.
From every kingdom of Europe came the same voice; and every Protestant Confession bore witness to the unanimity of awakened Christendom. The long-needed, long-missing truth had been found; and eureka was the cry of gladness were heard announcing its discovery.

Our fathers saw that this truth was the basis of all real spiritual life. That which was superficial, and morbid, and puny, and second-rate, might do with some less deep, less broad foundation; but all that is healthy, and noble, and daring, and happy, and successful in religion must rest here. “The just shall live by faith.”

“Men with their feet firmly set on Luther’s rock, “the righteousness of God,” filled with the Spirit, and pervaded with the peace of God, do the great things in the church; others do the little. The men of robust spiritual health are they who, like Luther, have made sure of their filial relationship to God.”
– Taken from Everlasting Righteousness

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These are some great quotes on the nature of faith by Horatius Bonar. (HT: Shane Lems)

“Faith may seem a slight thing to some; and they may wonder how salvation can flow from [simply] believing.  Hence they try to magnify it, to adore it, to add to it, in order that it may appear some great thing, something worthy of having salvation as its reward.  In doing so, they are actually transforming faith into a work, and introducing salvation by works under the name of faith.  They show that they understand neither the nature nor the office of faith.”

“Faith saves, simply by handing us over to the Savior.  It saves, not on account of the good works which flow from it; not on account of the love which kindles it; not on account of the repentance which it produces; but solely because it connects us with the Saving One.  Its saving efficacy does not lie in its connection with [our] righteousness and holiness, but entirely in its connection with the Righteous and Holy One.”

Taken from ‘The Blood of the Cross’.

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Bellow is an excerpt from the Heidelberg Catechism.  And I must say, it clearly describes what it means to be justified before God.  And without this view of justification, I don’t think we will ever understand the gospel. In fact, if one’s idea of the gospel doesn’t include the following, I don’t think it is the gospel at all. Without this understanding, every false gospel which presents itself to men’s ears, despite it’s many features and allurements, will allow for no sinner to have real peace with God (Rom 5:1).

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

And how to we enter this blessed peace? This rest? Well the previous passage gives us the foundation, without which we have no hope.

“Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”” (Rom 4:4-8)

Perhaps a false-gospel may offer feigned peace, but no true rapture in the glory of the free grace of God in the face of Christ. Rather, every distorted gospel will ever keep human hearts in an endless mire of doubt, confusion, and fear. If not leading them into a legalistic form of works-righteousness, it will keep them in a laze fare, disinterested, agnostic, apathy regarding the whole issue.

To quote one of my beloved theologians:
“When the glow of justification is ascribed to another, and a snare is laid for the consciences of men, the Savior no longer occupies his place, and the doctrine of the gospel is utterly ruined.” – John Calvin

Read now the Heidelberg (w/scripture proofs)

60. How are you righteous before God?

Only by true faith in Jesus Christ:(1) that is, although my conscience accuses me, that I have grievously sinned against all the commandments of God, and have never kept any of them,(2) and am still prone always to all evil;(3) yet God, without any merit of mine,(4) of mere grace,(5) grants and imputes to me the perfect satisfaction,(6) righteousness, and holiness of Christ,(7) as if I had never committed nor had any sins, and had myself accomplished all the obedience which Christ has fulfilled for me;(8) if only I accept such benefit with a believing heart.(9)

(1) Rom 3:21-28; Gal 2:16; Eph 2:8-9; Php 3:8-11; (2) Rom 3:9-10; (3) Rom 7:23; (4) Dt 9:6; Ezek 36:22; Tit 3:4-5; (5) Rom 3:24; Eph 2:8; (6) 1 Jn 2:2; (7) Rom 4:3-5; 2 Cor 5:17-19; 1 Jn 2:1; (8) Rom 4:24-25; 2 Cor 5:21; (9) Jn 3:18; Acts 16:30-31; Rom 3:22, 28, 10:10

To quote on of my other favorite pastors:

“Righteousness without works to the sinner, simply on his acceptance of the Divine message concerning Jesus and His sufficiency,–this has been the burden of our good news…It is one message, one gospel, one cross, one sacrifice, from which nothing can be taken and to which nothing can be added. This is the…beginning and the ending of our ministry.” – Horatius Bonar.

John Calvin elsewhere points out:

“When Satan does not venture openly to attack doctrine, his next stratagem is to diminish its influence by indirect attacks.” –John Calvin

This is so much the case I believe in the Church today.  Few may outright deny the doctrine of justification by faith alone, yet overall it seems not many care about it.

And furthermore, from another modern pastor of whom I am quite fond:

“The strength or weakness of our grasp of justification by faith and it’s domination of our hearts is bound to be the index and the measure of the liberty of God’s children that we enjoy.” – Sinclair Ferguson

More quotes:

“Failure to distinguish between the gospel and all the effects of the gospel tends, on the long haul, to replace the good news as to what God has done with a moralism that is finally without the power and the glory of Christ crucified, resurrected, ascended, and reigning.” – D.A. Carson

Further Calvin quotes:

“The righteousness of God, therefore, shines in us in so far as He justifies us by faith in Christ, for Christ was given in vain for our righteousness, if there were no enjoyment of Him by faith.” – Calvin

“[God] deigns to embrace the sinner with his pure and freely given goodness, finding nothing in him except his miserable condition to prompt Him to mercy, since he sees man utterly void and bare of good works; and so he seeks in himself the reason to benefit man. Then God touches the sinner with a sense of his goodness in Read Moreorder that he, despairing of his own works, may ground the whole of his salvation in God’s mercy. This is the experience of faith through which the sinner comes into possession of his salvation when from the teaching of the gospel he acknowledges that he has been reconciled to God: that with Christ’s righteousness interceding and forgiveness of sins accomplished he is justified.” – Calvin

Lastly, since I believe this is such an central and imminent issue facing the church today, I will leave you with another quote from modern day preacher:

“Justifying faith is inseparable from the other graces of salvation, and yet faith is the alone instrument of justification. There is no other way, no other instrument whereby a sinner receives Christ for justification. Repentance does not justify. Our good works do not justify. Our obedience does not justify… God declares a sinner righteous by grace alone, through faith alone, on account of Christ alone. The church must gain a renewed appreciation and affection for this truth. For here is the heart of the gospel. If we lose it, or, worse, renounce it, then we will bring ruin to our churches and destruction to our own souls. May Christ grant us mercy to guard this truth against error, boldness to proclaim this truth in its fullness, and, most of all, grace for sinners to believe this truth unto justification and life.” -Stefan Lindblad ‘Justifying Faith and the Application of Salvation’ Banner of Truth issue 479-80, Aug-Sep. 2003, 20.

Soli Deo Gloria

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“The objections against imputation all resolve themselves into
objections against substitution in any form. Vicarious suffering is even
more unreasonable to some than vicarious obedience; and the arguments
used in assailing the former apply with greater force against the latter.
Yet human law recognizes both; the “laws of nature” show the existence
of both; and the divine law, as interpreted by the great Lawgiver Himself,
acknowledges both. Man is willing to act on the principle of substitution
or representation by another in earthly transactions, such as the
payment of debt, or the performance of duty, or the descent of property;
but he is not so willing to admit it, or proceed upon it, in the great
transaction between him and God as to condemnation and
righteousness. That to which he objects not in temporal things, he
repudiates in spiritual as unjust and unreasonable; giving one man the
benefit of another’s doings or another’s sufferings; treating the man who
has not paid the debt as if he had done so, because another has paid it
for him; or recognizing the legal right of a man to large wealth or a vast
estate, no part of which he had earned or deserved, but which had come
to him as the gift and fruit of another’s lifetime’s toil. Men object not to
receive any kind or amount of this world’s goods from another, though
they have done nothing to deserve them, but everything to make them
unworthy of them; but they refuse to accept the favor of God, and a
standing in righteousness before Him, on the ground of what a
Substitute has done and suffered. In earthly things they are willing to be
represented by another, but not in heavenly things. The former is all
fair, and just, and legal; the latter is absurd, an insult to their
understanding, and a depreciation of their worth! Yet if they prized the
heavenly as much as they do the earthly blessing, they would not
entertain such scruples nor raise such objections as to receiving it from
another as the result of his work. If God is willing that Christ should
represent us, who are we, that we should refuse to be represented by
Him? If God is willing to deal with us on the footing of Christ’s
obedience, and to reckon that obedience to us as if it had been our own,
who are we, that we should reject such a method of blessing, and call it
unjust and impossible? This principle or theory of representation, of one
man being treated far beyond his deserts in virtue of his being legally
entitled to use the name or claims of another, runs through all earthly
transaction; and why should it not in like manner pervade the heavenly?

Rejection of “imputed righteousness” because the words do not
actually occur in Scripture, is foolish and weak. Such terms as
Christianity, the Trinity, the Eucharist, Plenary Inspiration, are not to be
found in the Bible; yet, inasmuch as the thing, or object, or truth which
these words truly and accurately cover is there, the term is received as
substantially accurate, and made use of without scruple. Such an
objection savors more of little-minded caviling than of the truth-seeking
simplicity of faith.[23]

Refusal to accept the divine “theory” or doctrine of representation in
and by another, indicates in many cases mere indifference to the blessing
to be received; in others, resentment of the way in which that doctrine
utterly sets aside all excellency or merit on our part. Men will win the
kingdom for themselves; they will deserve eternal life; they will not take
forgiveness or righteousness freely from another’s hands; or be indebted
to a Substitute for what they are persuaded they can earn by their
personal doings. Because the plan of representation or substitution is
distasteful and humbling, they call it absurd and unjust. They refuse a
heavenly inheritance on such terms, while perhaps at the very moment
they are accepting an earthly estate on terms as totally irrespective of
their own labor or goodness.”

Horatius Bonar, Everlasting Righteousness

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“On our part there is unrighteousness, condemning us; on God’s part
there is righteousness, forgiving and blessing us. Thus unrighteousness
meets righteousness, not to war with each other, but to be at peace.
They come together in love, not in enmity; and the hand of righteousness
is stretched out not to destroy, but to save. It is as the unrighteous that
we come to God; not with goodness in our hands as a recommendation,
but with the utter want of goodness; not with amendment or promises of
amendment, but with only evil, both in the present and the past; not
presenting the claim of contrition or repentance or broken hearts to
induce God to receive us as something less than unrighteous, but going
to Him simply as unrighteous; unable to remove that unrighteousness, or
offer anything either to palliate or propitiate.[17]

It is the conscious absence of all good things that leads us to the
fountain of all goodness. That fountain is open to all who thus come; it
is closed against all who come on any other footing. It is the want of
light and life that draws us to the one source of both; and both of these
are the free gifts of God.

He who comes as partly righteous is sent empty away. He who comes
acknowledging unrighteousness, but at the same time trying to
neutralize it or expiate it by feelings, and prayers, and tears, is equally
rejected. But he who comes as an unrighteous man to a righteous yet
gracious God, finds not only ready access, but plenteous blessing. The
righteous God receives unrighteous man, if man presents himself in his
own true character as a sinner, and does not mock God by pretending to
be something less or better than this.

For then the divinely provided righteousness comes in to cover the
unrighteous, and to enable God to receive him in love, and justify him
before earth and heaven.”

– Horatius Bonar, from Everlasting Righteousness

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“Poor as my faith in this Substitute may be, it places me at once in the
position of one to whom “God imputeth righteousness without works.”
God is willing to receive me on the footing of His perfection; and if I am
willing to be thus received, in the perfection of another with whom God is
well pleased, the whole transaction is completed. I AM JUSTIFIED BY HIS
BLOOD. “As He is, so am I (even) in this world,”–even now, with all my
imperfections and evils.

To be entitled to use another’s name, when my own name is
worthless; to be allowed to wear another’s raiment, because my own is
torn and filthy; to appear before God in another’s person,the person of
the Beloved Son,this is the summit of all blessing. The sin-bearer and
I have exchanged names, robes, and persons! I am now represented by
Him, my own personality having disappeared; He now appears in the
presence of God for me (Hebrews 9:24). All that makes Him precious and
dear to the Father has been transferred to me. His excellency and glory
are seen as if they were mine; and I receive the love, and the fellowship,
and the glory, as if I had earned them all. So entirely one am I with the
sin-bearer, that God treats me not merely as if I had not done the evil
that I have done; but as if I had done all the good which I have not done,
but which my Substitute has done. In one sense I am still the poor
sinner, once under wrath; in another I am altogether righteous, and shall
be so for ever, because of the Perfect One, in whose perfection I appear
before God. Nor is this a false pretense or a hollow fiction, which carries
no results or blessings with it. It is an exchange which has been
provided by the Judge, and sanctioned by law; an exchange of which any
sinner upon earth may avail himself and be blest.”

– Horatius Bonar, Everlasting Righteousness

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