Bulletin Edition July 2021

The desires of the righteous!

(John MacDuff, “Brief Thoughts for the Followers of Jesus” 1855)

“For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you cannot do the things that you wish.” Galatians 5:17

How true is this! How exactly does it accord with the experience of the believer! “As in water, face answers to face,” so in God’s Word, we have the inmost feelings of His people clearly reflected.

O, what would the Christian do — if he could! He would serve God perfectly. He would have his way directed to keep all His statutes. He would have all his faculties and feelings in complete subjection to the Divine Will. He would live, not to himself — but to Him who died for him and rose again. He would consecrate every moment to His service, and employ every breath in His praise.

In a word, he would rise to the seraphic sanctity of the Paradise above, and present to God those offerings which would be unmixed with any earthly dross; which would be uncontaminated and untinctured by any of the frailties of his fallen nature.

Could the Christian do as he would — there is not a glorified spirit before the Heavenly throne, who would excel or outstrip him! He would love as they do — serve as they do — admire and adore as they do. But here, alas! his infirmities are a constant clog about him — and hence his longings for that better world, where his desires and his doings will be one and the same!

Do we want a striking emblem of the child of God, as he is situated at present? We have it in that majestic bird, the eagle; not as it roams at large in the enjoyment of its native freedom — but when, as a poor captive, it is fastened down with a chain! It is an interesting object, under any circumstances, to gaze upon; but especially so, when its former soarings are contrasted with its present fettered state. The fire of its eye clearly indicates its longings for those lofty regions, far beyond the clouds, where it felt so much at home, and where its wings were often bathed in the burning splendoUrs of the sun’s meridian rays. But no sooner is the attempt made to mount aloft; no sooner does it begin to ruffle its plumes, and spread its wings, in order to prepare for the flight — than the touch of the chain is instantly felt!

Just so with the believer. At times how soaring are his aspirations! How would he rise, as on eagles’ wings, above earth’s turmoils on the one hand, and his manifold imperfections on the other! But, alas! how the chains of time and sense fetter his soul, and fasten it down to this earth! Then his cry is, “My soul cleaves unto the dust! Quicken me according to Your Word!” “O that I had wings like a dove, for then I would fly away and be at rest! I would hasten my escape from the stormy wind and tempest!”

A person is known — by his doings. But, in addition to this external and practical proof, a man’s desires may be regarded as a strong index of his character. “As he thinks in his heart — so is he.” There is undoubtedly sin — in the desire of sin; the actual commission of the outward act not being requisite to render us guilty in the sight of God. And there is undoubtedly grace — even in the desire of grace!

What then are the desires of my soul? Am I of the number of those who are walking according to the course of this world, and who are gratifying the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature? Or are my desires God-ward and Heaven-ward?

Let me remember, for my encouragement, that the Lord will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him. Let me seek Him then; let me trust in Him, and wait patiently for Him. “Delight yourself in the Lord — and He shall give you the desires of your heart!” “The desire of the righteous will be granted!” Proverbs 10:24

“What will you see in the Shulamite? As it were the company of two armies.” Song of Solomon 6:13


Are you not often a mystery to yourself? Warm one moment, cold the next; abasing yourself one hour, exalting yourself the following; loving the world, full of it, steeped up to your lips in it today; crying, groaning, and sighing for a sweet manifestation of the love of God tomorrow; brought down to nothingness, covered with shame and confusion, on your knees before you leave your room; filled with pride and self-importance before you have got down stairs; despising the world, and willing to give it all up for one taste of the love of Jesus when in solitude; trying to grasp it with both hands when in business.

What a mystery are you! Touched by love, and stung with enmity; possessing a little wisdom, and a great deal of folly; earthly-minded, and yet having the affections in heaven; pressing forward, and lagging behind; full of sloth, and yet taking the kingdom with violence!

And thus the Spirit, by a process which we may feel but cannot adequately describe, leads us into the mystery of the two natures, that “company of two armies,” perpetually struggling and striving against each other in the same bosom. So that one man cannot more differ from another than the same man differs from himself.

But do not nature, sense, and reason contradict this? Do not the wise and prudent deny this? “There must be a progressive advance,” they say, “in holiness; there must be a gradual amendment of our nature until at length all sin is rooted out, and we become as perfect as Christ.” But the mystery of the kingdom of heaven is this–that our carnal mind undergoes no alteration, but maintains a perpetual war with grace–and thus, the deeper we sink in self-abasement under a sense of our vileness, the higher we rise in a knowledge of Christ; and the blacker we are in our own view, the more lovely does Jesus appear.

To walk after the flesh

(J. C. Philpot, “No Condemnation” 1862)

“There is therefore now no condemnation to

 those who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not

 after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” Rom. 8:1

To walk after the flesh carries with it the idea of

the flesh going before us—as our leader, guide, and

example—and our following close in its footsteps,

so that wherever it drags or draws, we move after

it, as the needle after the magnet.

To walk after the flesh, then, is to move

step by step in implicit obedience to . . .

  the commands of the flesh,

  the lusts of the flesh,

  the inclinations of the flesh,

  and the desires of the flesh,

whatever shape they assume,

whatever garb they wear,

whatever name they may bear.

To walk after the flesh is to be ever pursuing,

desiring, and doing the things that please the

flesh, whatever aspect that flesh may wear or

whatever dress it may assume—whether moulded

and fashioned after the grosser and more flagrant

ways of the profane world—or the more refined

and deceptive religion of the professing church.

But are the grosser and more manifest sinners the

only people who may be said to walk after the flesh?

Does not all human religion, in all its varied forms and

shapes, come under the sweep of this all-devouring

sword? Yes! Every one who is entangled in and led by

a fleshly religion, walks as much after the flesh as

those who are abandoned to its grosser indulgences.

Sad it is, yet not more sad than true, that false

religion has slain its thousands, if open sin has

slain its ten thousands.

To walk after the flesh, whether it be in the

grosser or more refined sense of the term, is

the same in the sight of God.

What a believer would do — if he could

(Letters of John Newton)

“For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh. These are contrary the one to the other — so that you cannot do the things that you would!” Galatians 5:17

This is a humbling but an accurate account of a Christian’s attainments in the present life, and is equally applicable to the strongest and to the weakest. The weakest need not say less — the strongest will hardly venture to say more.

The Lord has given His people a desire aiming at great things — but they cannot do as they would. Their best desires are weak and ineffectual, not absolutely so — but in comparison with the noble mark at which they aim. So that while they have great cause to be thankful for the desire He has given them, and for the degree in which it is answered — they have equal reason to be ashamed and abased under a sense of their continual defects and the evil mixtures which taint and debase their best endeavors!

It would be easy to make out a long list of particulars, which a believer would do if he could — but in which, from first to last, he finds a mortifying inability. Permit me to mention a few, which I need not transcribe from books, for they are always present to my mind.

He would willingly enjoy God in prayer. He knows that prayer is his duty; but he considers it likewise as his greatest honor and privilege. In this light he can recommend it to others, and can tell them of the wonderful condescension of the great God, who humbles Himself and opens His gracious ear to the supplications of sinful worms upon earth! The believer can bid others to expect a pleasure in waiting upon the Lord, different in kind and greater in degree than all that the world can afford. By prayer he can say: “You have liberty to cast all your cares upon Him who cares for you. By one hour’s intimate access to the throne of grace — you may acquire more true spiritual knowledge and comfort, than by a week’s converse with the best of men, or the most studious perusal of many books.” And in this light he would consider it and improve it for himself.

But, alas; how seldom can he do as he would! How often does he find this privilege to be a mere task, which he would be glad of a just excuse to omit! and the chief pleasure he derives from the performance — is to think that his task is finished! He has been drawing near to God with his lips — while his heart was far from Him. Surely this is not doing as he would, when (to borrow the expression of an old woman here,) he is dragged before God like a slave, and comes away like a thief!

Though we aim at this good — evil is present with us!

Alas! how vain is man in his best estate! How much weakness and inconsistency, even in those whose hearts are right with the Lord! What reason have we to confess that we are unworthy, unprofitable servants!

It were easy to enlarge in this way — would paper and time permit. But, blessed be God, we are not under the law — but under grace! And even these distressing effects of the remnants of indwelling sin are overruled for good. By these experiences — the believer is weaned more from SELF, and taught more highly to prize and more absolutely to rely on Him, who is our Wisdom, Righteousness, Sanctification and Redemption! The more vile we are in our own eyes — the more precious He will be to us! A deep repeated sense of the evil of our hearts — is necessary to preclude all boasting, and to make us willing to give the whole glory of our salvation where it is due!

Again, a sense of these evils will (when hardly anything else can do it) reconcile us to the thoughts of DEATH! Yes, they make us desirous to depart — that we may sin no more; since we find depravity so deep-rooted in our nature, that, like the leprous house, the whole fabric must be taken down before we can be freed from its defilement!

Then, and not until then — we shall be able to do the thing that we would! When we see Jesus — we shall be transformed into His image, and be done with sin and sorrow forever!

“Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept your word.” Psalm 119:67

Octavius Winslow

THERE is infinite wisdom in the Lord’s restorings. This perfection of Jesus is clearly revealed here: in the way He adopts to restore, we see it. That He should make, as He frequently does, our very afflictions the means of restoration to our souls, unfolds the profound depth of His wisdom. This was David’s prayer—”Quicken me according to Your judgments:” and this was his testimony—”Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now have I kept Your word.” The season of trial is not infrequently the sanctified season of revival. Who that has passed through the furnace has not found it so? Then the declension of the soul has been discovered—then the hidden cause of that declension has been brought to light—then the spirit has bowed in contrition before the Lord—then grace has been stirred up in the heart, a new sweetness has been given to prayer, a new impulse to faith, a new radiance to hope, and from the flame the gold and the silver have emerged, purified from their tin and dross. But for the production of effects like these, why the many peculiar and heavy afflictions that we sometimes see overtaking the child of God? Do not think that our Heavenly Father takes pleasure in chastening us; do not think that it delights Him to behold the writhings, the throes, and the anguish of a wounded spirit; do not think that He loves to see our tears, and hear our sighs and our groans, under the pressure of keen and crushing trial. No: He is a tender, loving Father; so tender and so loving that not one stroke, nor one cross, nor one trial more does He lay upon us than is absolutely needful for our good—not a single ingredient does He put in our bitter cup, that is not essential to the perfection of the remedy. It is for our profit that He chastens, not for His pleasure; and that often to rouse us from our spiritual sleep, to recover us from our deep declension, and to impart new vigor, healthiness, and growth to His own life in the soul.

Adam and Christ – 1 Corinthians 15:22

Two men represent the whole race before God. The first man, Adam, represented all men in a covenant of works. What Adam did, we all did in Adam. While he stood, we stood. When he fell, we fell. — “In Adam all died.” All who were in Adam died in Adam. The second Man, Christ, the God-man, represented all of God’s elect in a covenant of grace. What he did, all of God’s elect did in him. When he lived in righteousness, we lived. When he died under penalty of the law, we died. When he arose, we arose. “In Christ shall all be made alive.” All who are in Christ must forever live.                                     

Don Fortner

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