Familiar Conversations on Romanism

J. N. Darby.

First Conversation

Faith is in God and His Word, not in the Church.

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N*. Well, James, I hear you have been visited by some Roman Catholics, and are in some perplexity.

James. I have, and they spoke very fair; and I cannot deny that I do not see clear. Christ surely left a church on earth, and some authority to guide us poor people, and instruct us in the right way. It is a great comfort to feel assured that one is of the true church that Christ founded. And, after I had been reflecting awhile on what they said, I began to feel that I have got no proof that the Bible is the word of God.

N*. And did you ever doubt it before, James?

James. No, I cannot say I did; I have always believed it to be the word of God; and, though I am afraid I have sadly neglected it many a year, still I, and my wife more than myself, used to find comfort in it; and the children too used to read a chapter when they came from school; and I think it used to do us all good, and bring God home to us somehow, and keep our consciences alive; and the children took wonderfully to beautiful histories that are in it, and so indeed did we, and it made our home happy. There was only Jem that paid no heed to it; and he was an unruly boy: I have had a deal of trouble with him. But, since I have got more serious and anxious in my mind, I have found the Bible bring trouble into my conscience. I hardly know where I am with God — it condemns me: I see there is goodness and wonderful grace in Jesus; but then I have no peace in myself, and now I see there is a deal I do not understand, and I should like to know the bottom of it.

Bill M. (my neighbour, who has turned Catholic), says he has never been so happy in his life, his soul never got rest till now. He never thought much about religion, it is true, and those ladies that visit were wonderfully kind when his lass was sick; but he says he knows some who never get a minute's rest in their souls, that were always seeking it, till they found it in the true church. It was he that asked me how I knew it was the Bible; and if the true church had not kept the Bible and given it, who could say it was the word of God? and how did I, an ignorant man, know it was the word of God, as I called it? And that has dashed me uncommonly, because, though I never doubted it a moment before, and saw in infidels that there was no good nor godliness in their ways, yet I felt I had no proof to give, and what am I to do? I know it speaks of a church that Christ would build on the rock, and I think if that would give me certainty it would be a great rest to me. But my Mary says she could not think of such a thing; that she could no more doubt it to be the word of God than that the sun shines, and less, if that were possible: that there is more light and comfort to her soul in the Bible than there is light for her eyes and warmth in the sun. And she is a rare wife to me, and I see she has great sense in the things of God, and is a comfort in the house, and wonderful to the children — very civil to those black ladies that visit, but shy of them and of the way they try to get into the family.

277 I do not think that I doubt at bottom that it is the word of God; my conscience and my heart too, I think, make me feel it is. But since this talk with Bill M. my mind is all in perplexity, and I feel I have no proof it is the word of God: and just because I have begun to be anxious about it, and about my soul, I should like to have something certain to rest upon. You will forgive, I am sure, sir, my saying everything, and telling you all that is in my mind, because I have known you so long and your kindness, and I am in perplexity, and, to say the truth, glad to open my mind to some one I can trust, though I do not rightly know what to trust now. I thought I could entirely trust the word of God, and what am I to do now? You will excuse me.

N*. I am very much obliged to you, James, for telling me what was passing in your mind, and grateful for the confidence you have shewn me, and thankful to God that He disposed your heart to do so, and we could not do better than take up the subject: there cannot be a more important one. The faith, or, to speak more truly, Christ, is everything for us poor sinners, and we do want some sure ground on which to believe. Our faith must be a divine faith, in its nature and source, as well as in the things which it reveals; and for a divine faith we must have divine testimony. But there is, in what you say, one thing which strikes me much, namely, that your Roman Catholic friends have only led you to doubt of the authority of the scriptures, which yet they believe to be divine, or they are infidels themselves. They have not ventured to say the scriptures are not divine: that would be infidelity, and, as far as man went, straightforward infidelity; but they have sought to make you doubt of the certainty of their being divine. This may be all very well to bring you under their influence, and to make you believe that they only can give you this certainty; but I confess that I do not see the honesty of making you uncertain as to the authority of the scriptures, when they own that authority themselves.

278 James That is true. If they do believe they are the word of God, I do not see why they should seek to make me doubt as to how I can be sure of it.

N*. Just so; and in respect of such a matter as the word of God, it is something approaching to blasphemy. It is saying, that when God has spoken to men, His word has no certain authority of itself over their consciences. They deprive your soul of certainty in the word of God on one side, and they deprive the word of God of its authority over your soul on the other. This, I must say, seems to me a wicked course, seeing they do not dare to say it is not the word of God. Now an upright heart can very often judge of a thing by the conscience, when it is quite unable to meet argument. These men seek, as to what they believe is the word of God, and which they believe ought to exercise authority over your conscience, to make you doubt whether you have any proof whereby you may know it to be such when you read it. Is not this the course your infidel acquaintance took with you? Only they took it openly.

James. Well, it is just the same.

N*. The word of God, James, carries its own authority in the heart of him in whom it has wrought. And, mark this, if it has not wrought in a man's heart, though all the churches in the world should accredit him, that man is lost. If they believe it to be the word of God, why not take it and see what it says? They dare not: it is too plain, it condemns their whole system. For instance, you know that it is said, "Where remission of these (sins and iniquities) is, there is no more offering for sin" (Heb. 10:13). Now their whole system depends upon there being still offerings for sin. The very way a Roman Catholic is described is — he goes to Mass. Now the Mass is an offering for the sins of the living and the dead. And when the word says there is no more offering for sin, and the most important distinctive point in their doctrine, and the keystone of the system they belong to, is, that there is still an offering for sin, it is easy to understand why they try to shake your confidence in the word, or to make you think that you cannot understand it. It is because it is very plain indeed, for the poorest, that they do not like it.

279 You are a poor man, but it does not require much learning to understand that the declaration that "there is no more offering for sin" upsets a system which is built upon offering one continually. They may quote Fathers of all names to prove that there ought to be one, or that there was one; but, if the word of God has authority, they cannot say there is one according to the authority of God. There is a kind of learning, James, learning such as your wife has, being taught of God — a learning from Him according to the promise of that word, the only learning that saves — which gives a weight and power to the truth I am referring to, which all the sophistry of Romanists or infidels cannot shake — I mean the knowledge of the unchangeable value of the one offering of Christ, offered once for all. A man taught of God knows that it is in force for ever, that it gives peace to the conscience, that Christ suffered agonies in accomplishing our salvation in that offering; and that, as is expressly said, if it had to be repeated, Christ must suffer repeatedly; that if it be an offering wherein Christ does not suffer — an offering wherein He does not shed His blood — it is an utterly worthless sacrifice--a base pretension to be an offering — a mockery, really, of the solemn truth of the sufferings and agonies of the Son of God for us.

It is said (Heb. 9:25), "Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place with blood of others, for then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world; but now once, in tile end of the world, hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And, as it is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment, so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many." Mark the words "ONCE" and "bear the sins." Does Christ bear sins in the Roman Catholic Mass? If not, it is a new way of getting forgiveness, which sets aside the unspeakably gracious but heart-bowing way in which God has wrought salvation out for us, namely, the dreadful but infinitely precious sufferings of His own Son. If Christ does suffer in the Mass, He is not glorified at the right hand of God. True Christianity and the doctrine of the Mass cannot go together. And the more you examine chapters 9 and 10 of the Epistle to the Hebrews, the more you will see how the truth of God is set aside by the Mass. For the apostle is shewing the value of Christ's offering because it was only once, in contrast with the Jewish offerings which were repeated. Those offerings, he says, were a remembrance of sins, brought them to mind; the sins were still there, or why would the offerings for sin not have ceased to be offered? But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins, for ever sat down at the right hand of God. And then mark, he shews how we know it: "Whereof also the Holy Ghost is a witness to us . . . their sins and iniquities will I remember no more." And note, how blessedly this chapter presents it to us. First, the will of God giving His Son, instead of all these useless sacrifices which could never take away sins. Thus I see His thoughts and love. Then, again, the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. Thus I see (not only Christ willing, in the same love, to come, but) the needed work actually accomplished. And lastly, the Holy Ghost bearing witness about it. I have the divine will and thoughts, the divine work; and, that I may have divine faith about it, and peace in my soul through it, I have a divine testimony about it.

280 And note, James, that this testimony is the written word of God; that is, he quotes a passage of scripture as the witness which the Holy Ghost has given. Now that is what as a poor sinner I want, and which I get only by this truth — the efficacy of this one offering testified of by the Holy Ghost Himself. And that is the reason I said that one taught of God knows it with a certainty and blessing which Romanists and infidels cannot shake. And no man that possessed this would, for a moment, think of giving up the divinely-witnessed and known efficacy of the sacrifice by Christ of Himself, once for all, for the vain profitless repetition of it [sacrifice] where Christ does not nor can offer Himself, for He is at the right hand of God, where He does not suffer or bear sin, for this He cannot do now He is in glory.

And note, this repetition of it, if I admit it, denies the lasting, perfect, efficacy of the offering He Himself made. For if it be lasting and perfect, why repeat it? My objection to the Roman Catholic system on this head is that it is built on a pretended offering which Christ does not offer, in which no blood is shed, in which Christ does not suffer, in which Christ does not bear sins, which is therefore utterly worthless; but which, by the pretension to offer Christ again, denies the abiding efficacy of Christ's one real offering of Himself. What a fraud of Satan's, to be sure, it is!

281 James. But then do we not commit sins (not only after Christ has died, but even) after we come to have part in the sacrifice of Christ?

N*. Surely we may; but scripture does not speak of the repetition of Christ's sacrifice for that: this was once for all. His blood cannot be shed again, and without shedding of blood there is no remission. It was not our sins up to a certain day which Christ bore, if indeed we have part in that sacrifice. God knows all beforehand the same as at the time, and we had committed none of our sins when Christ died for them: so that it is not the time when they were committed that makes the difference, save that they are worse when we have Christian light and life. Do not think that I count them slight; but we must not confound the efficacious work done about our sins, which was done once for all, and that work of grace and of God's Spirit in the heart which produces in us right thoughts and feelings about our sins and brings us into communion with God. The remedy practically, as to our hearts, if we do sin, is not a new sacrifice, for a new sacrifice to put them away is IMPOSSIBLE; but, "if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the propitiation for our sins." Christ is our righteousness, and this and the worth of His propitiation remain always before God; and when we fail, in which we never can excuse ourselves, Christ intercedes for us, and the Spirit of God makes us feel the sin, and we are humbled and contrite, and thus Christ restores our souls, and we are again in communion with God. It is beautifully pictured, let me add, by that blessed expression of the Saviour's condescension and love in washing the disciples' feet. He that is washed — truly born of God — needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit. God may use His written word, or a sermon, or the warning of a friend, as means — but it is the work of Christ's grace in the soul.

James. Well, I feel greatly comforted by what you say, but all is not clear to my mind yet; still this grace of Jesus Christ does give rest to one's spirit, and makes one think of Him and of God's goodness and of His love to poor sinners like me; so that one likes to think of Him. Besides, I think it takes hardness and pride out of one's heart, and puts away bad thoughts, and makes one love other people too, whoever they may be.

282 N*. It does, James. It gives rest, and does what you have spoken of — sheds the love of God abroad in the heart, and purifies the heart by faith. It is a blessed thing to think that God commends His love to us, in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.

James. Yes, that is a comfort, and I like to think of it better than of my doubts. Still, sir, you will forgive me, but they come back like a chill on my heart; and, as I said, I am not clear yet, for if I might take a wrong meaning out of the scriptures, and I feel I am very ignorant, I mean no offence to you, sir, but one wants something sure for one's soul.

N*. All right, James; I have not forgotten our subject. You only make me feel more keenly the wickedness of those who seek to cast a doubt into the mind of a poor man, poor or rich either, as to the purity and source of these blessed wells of salvation, so that he is half afraid there may be poison in them, or that at any rate they do not suit him, while they know, or (at any rate) profess all the time to believe, that they are divinely given, and divine well-springs of health. I will treat this point in a direct manner by and bye, but you will let me, I am sure, pursue the subject in my own manner. It is well, you know, when a person is disposed to take a step, say to go into a house or a farm, to know what the house or the farm is. He is warned at any rate. All well that he should inquire afterwards what authority there is for what he has heard, and take care there is a title.

James. Ay, that is true. Go on, sir, as you think best. I shall listen, and I have heard what you have said gladly.

N*. I shall say a few words more about the Mass. You are aware that the church, as they call it, does not permit the laity to partake of the cup.

James. Don't they! Why not?

N*. Well, it is for them to say why they change Christ's ordinance, but it exalts the priest who does take the cup. They allege the danger of a drop of what they declare to be really the blood of Christ falling to the ground; though it would be hard to tell why there is more danger of this with the layman than with the priest. However such is their rule; laymen do not partake of the cup. They allege, to prove that they lose nothing, that the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ are in each species, that is, in each part — in the bread by itself, and the wine by itself; they call this the doctrine of concomitancy. Never mind the hard words; the sense is that the bread is a complete Christ, no longer bread at all, and nothing else but Christ, save in appearance. But see how the enemy has mocked them, for if the blood be in the body now, there is no redemption at all. Christ shed His blood to redeem and save us. Hence they were to drink as well as to eat.

283 I will not dwell on this, but what a pretension this is, that the priest, on pronouncing the formula — "This is my body," turns the bit of paste into God, or (as it is constantly expressed by themselves) the priest makes God; for this is the expression familiarly used among them when they have the courage to speak freely. Now I knew a very poor man in Ireland tell his neighbour, a staunch champion for his church, when he was arguing for this doctrine, that he was contending for what he did not believe; for if that was true, the priest could do what God could not do, for God could not make God. And this is true enough. A poor man, James, if taught of God, often hits right and wrong — truth and error — right on the head better than your learned men that make all kinds of fine distinctions. Nor would their distinctions serve here. They cannot say Christ comes into the bread as God was incarnate, because there the manhood was, and remained manhood; but, according to their doctrine, the bread does not remain at all. And therefore it is called transubstantiation; that is, the substance of the bread is changed into the substance of Christ, and the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ are all there. They make a Christ out of the bread — a whole Christ, divinity and all. It must indeed be a new Christ. You cannot change it into the Christ that is already.

James. But, dear me, can all this be true! Why, I knew nothing of all this. They did not speak of all this to me. The true church! well, it is well to know things. And yet, sure enough, the Mass is the great thing with them. But I did not know what the Mass was; I thought it was the sacrament with them.

N*. Well, so it is. I shall, as I said, come to the question of the church's authority; but knowing what people teach is one very good way of knowing what authority they can have. They anxiously seek to puzzle you about the church, that, having fixed you on the ground of authority, you may receive everything they say without conscience, without personal responsibility, and without faith in God: for faith in a priest or in the church is not faith in God. You are to believe them, they say; yet if God has spoken by an apostle, you cannot believe that, nor understand it without them. I suppose they know better how to speak of divine things than the apostles and inspired writers did. But this is the point we have to speak of by and bye. Only remark this well, James, you are to believe them. You cannot understand what God has said, nor even believe He said it, without them. You must depend on them. Can they answer for you in the day of judgment?

284 James. No, of course they cannot. I should be sorry to trust them.

N*. Of course they cannot. Then do not depend on them now. You must answer for yourself without them before God. This is just as true now, though that day be not come, for it is for what you do now that you will have to answer. You are individually responsible. You must assure yourself that the ground you are standing on now will be a sure and solid one in that day. Another cannot do it for you: you are personally responsible. They cannot pretend to relieve you from this. They would have you trust them blindly now, but they must abandon you when the real need comes, when you have to answer for yourself, and they for themselves.

James. That is true though.

N*. Surely it is true; but, mark, if you believe in Christ, and rest your soul on Him, He never will abandon you. If He who of God is made unto us righteousness is your righteousness now, He will be your righteousness when sitting on the throne, before which you have to appear.

James. Is this in scripture — that He is our righteousness?

N*. It is, James, in 1 Corinthians 1:30: "Of him [God] are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption."

James. Well, that relieves my heart, however, more than all I have heard. Christ our righteousness! why that changes everything, and makes a man love Him too; and He bore our sins to be so! I think I do see it. I understand why Mary is happy now, though I am not like her; and I am afraid I may not keep it as she does. Is there more like that? I know the Bible but too little, and then one heeds it, after all, so little, till one finds one really wants it.

285 N*. Well, James, as we are on this subject, and a blessed one it is, before our going on with the question of the true church, or Romish doctrines, I will refer to some of the passages you inquire about. You will remark in the one I quoted to you that it says, "Of him are ye"; that is, that these blessings belong to one who is a Christian at heart, one who in his soul (as a sinner who has need of Christ) believes in Him, a man whose conscience has been before God, in whom (as scripture speaks) there is truth in the inward parts, who does not believe merely because he has been brought up in it, however sincerely, as far as that goes, he may have done so; but who has believed for himself, has come to Christ in his heart, because he wants Him. God will have realities, not notions, be they false or true. When the truth is really received, it is received in the heart and conscience. It convicts of sin, shews the heart to itself, and makes it know the need of the truths which, perhaps, it had learned before, perhaps had never heard of.

James. Yes, yes. I understand that. I have not, I am sure, felt my sins as I ought, but I know I am not right. I am uneasy, I know I am not right with God. That is what made me listen to what they said about the true church and the rest a man might get there; but I do not see, what I think ought to be, in those who go there either. I know I am a sinner. Whatever the Bible is, it has made me see that: sometimes angry with myself, sometimes (God forgive me!) almost angry with the Bible itself and Him that gave it; and yet I am ashamed of that, because it makes me see I am a sinner. I see I could not but be lost if I am judged as I am; yet I hope too it won't be so.

N*. A word about this rest, James. I do not deny that the Roman Catholic system gives rest to some persons. Suppose a child had been at mischief, and was uneasy, and some one was to appease its parent, or its master, and it was let off, or its schoolmaster was to pardon repeated faults which shewed a bad disposition, and not tell the parent: the child would be at ease, and have its conscience quiet, and think no more about it; but it would not have a purified conscience. A little penitence might be added to keep up appearances, but the evil would be unhealed. That is the church's absolution as contrasted with God's pardon. It quiets the conscience, but it does not purge it. This will not do for God, nor for a soul in which true desires after Himself are awakened. The doctrine of absolution and the sacrament of penance is an unholy doctrine. It is professedly a means of having forgiveness where the heart has not attained to true contrition. This is the express doctrine of the Catechism of the Council of Trent, a work of absolute authority for all Roman Catholics. According to that the sacrament of penance is a less precarious and less difficult means of reconciliation and salvation than contrition, afforded by the Almighty by giving to the church the keys of the kingdom of heaven.* Thus the conscience gets tranquillity without that true contrition which alone restores the soul to true communion with God. It is, in my judgment, a horribly wicked doctrine, to say nothing of its accompaniments connected with confession. The practical result is that thousands and thousands sin all the year, get cleared off by absolution for communion at Easter, and begin to sin again as soon as Easter is over.

{*The words of the catechism are given from J. Donovan's (a Professor at Maynooth) Translation, Dublin, 1839. It is thus translated in his edition published at Rome, and printed, Latin and English, at the Propaganda Press: "But as this is a degree of contrition which very few could reach, the consequence, also, was, that very few could have hoped to obtain through perfect contrition the pardon of their sins. It therefore became necessary that the Almighty, in His infinite mercy, should provide by some easier means for the common salvation of men: this He did, in His admirable wisdom, when He gave to His church the keys of the kingdom of heaven," etc. — Vol. }, p. 535, "Confession; its Importance." — Cath. Conc. Trid.}

286 James. But it is impossible an awakened soul, one that wanted really to be in communion with God, could be contented with such rest for his conscience as that; nay, he could not get any rest that way, because he knows he has to say to God, and God's presence awakens the sense of sin when he comes to it, and he cannot rest in his soul till his conscience is purged.

N*. Impossible, James, as you say: but many a natural conscience is uneasy that has never got into the presence of God, and such a fear may be quieted without God, as it was felt without Him. But what has made you feel that it is impossible for an awakened soul which desires to be at peace with God to content itself with such rest as that?

287 James. Well, it is the word of God, I suppose, by His goodness, because it has made me see my sinfulness and want to have peace with God Himself.

N*. Then the word of God is true, James, and has power. It has proved itself true to your conscience, told you what you have done, and revealed God to you. It is God's word. It has shewn you to yourself in His sight, and revealed Him. And none could do that but God. You do not want it proved, you do not want it judged. It has judged you in revealing God to you, by His grace surely, but as His word.

James. That is true, I see it now. It has, by grace, power in itself.

N*. Just so. "The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life." But a word more. There is another kind of rest a man may get. When he is not clear as to truth, and is harassed about it, when the truth has not power in his soul as known to himself, he would like to find it out, and be satisfied about it. And he cannot get clear, he is uneasy, and (instead of waiting humbly in the exercise of his own soul to be taught of God, so that his own heart, and soul, and conscience get established in the present truth), he rests through weariness upon authority; he does not know the truth himself in his inward parts, but takes whatever he is told as true. It is rest from the fatigue of his mind, but his soul has not the truth for itself at all. He does not believe for himself. Another (whom, out of weariness, he trusts to) has told him it is true, and he believes him.*

{*It is just this that distinguishes between true ministry and a superstitious priesthood. True ministry, by the power of the Spirit of God, brings God and His word to the soul. A false priesthood gets, and gets as man, between God and the soul. Hence it shuts out the soul from God, while Christ has given Himself to bring us to God.}

James. That I see. That is just where I was in danger of coming, sure enough. But that is not having the truth from God at all; it is not having it. I feel I must have it for myself and in myself to have it really at all; but I was almost tired of the conflict, and, as I said to you, sir, they spoke fair, and I saw Bill M. had rest, and I had not, and I wanted to get sure ground for my soul, something certain. I can't say I have rest in my heart yet, but I am a deal lighter, and I see God is good, and I see that His word is the truth, and sure it must be so if it is His, and they don't deny that. So I have something I can surely trust in, and I can understand some of it plain enough. Not all, it is true; but maybe I will more in time. Mary herself does, a deal more than I do, but everything is clearer to me than it was.

288 N*. You cannot have real rest and peace of soul, James, till you really know Christ as your righteousness before God. The goodness of God makes light and hope shine in, by grace, on the soul; and confidence in Him and His goodness springs up in the heart, which is an immense matter. Still God is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, and cannot look at sin; and hence the conscience once in His presence feels it must be cleansed and forgiven, and find a righteousness which our sinful lives surely have not given us.

James. I know it is said the blood of Christ cleanses us from all sin; and that, if a man's sins were as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow. That comforts and encourages me, but I have not rightly peace by it. I am not quite sure it is for me: for I am a poor sinner after all. I find sin in myself still, and I think that troubles me more than my past sins.

N*. It always does when grace has wrought in the soul. You do quite right to judge it, and yourself for it. Sin becomes hateful to us if we are really born of God, and we are ashamed of ourselves for it. Nor can we ever excuse ourselves, and especially the true Christian, because the grace of Christ is sufficient for him to make him walk aright. But you will find, James, that power against sin will come when you know what it is to be cleansed from it. Not that it will not always require vigilance and prayer for grace; but, when your soul is in communion with the Lord through the peace He gives, you will find there the strength for victory, and for holding your evil nature in subjection. That communion gives happiness and strength. Hitherto you have been more learning your need of cleansing than the efficacy of Christ's blood for it: and that is all right, because, as we were seeing already, God will have realities, and have inward purification and judgment of sin along with peace with Himself, and so shews us the sin we have to be cleansed from. But now remember what we were referring to in Hebrews 9 and 10, how the blood of Christ purges the conscience.

James. Yes, yes, I see that more and more, and that it is done once for all on the cross, and cannot be repeated; I see, too, more how it applies; yet I cannot apply it entirely to myself.

289 N*. Well now, as God has brought you to see and judge your sin — though I am sure, as you know Christ better, this feeling will even deepen; but as He has brought you to repentance, I do fully trust — let me ask you, Is it from your righteousness or good deeds that you have to be cleansed?

James. Well, no; nor have I any either.

N*. Well, it is from your sins, then?

James. Yes.

N*. From those you have, or those you have not?

James. Why, from those I have, of course.

N*. What are those you are feeling, I trust hating too are they not those you have?

James. To be sure, and I can say I hate them, any way. But they overcome me still, and sometimes I think I am worse than ever.

N*. All right, as I said, James, to judge yourself. God has shewn you the evil of sin. It must be so if we are brought into His presence in the light. But do you not see that those are the sins you have, for which Christ gave Himself that you might be cleansed in God's sight from them, bearing our sins in His own body on the tree? God has made you feel the guilt and unholiness of them. Now He shews you the full atonement for them, that in His sight the blood of Christ cleanses perfectly from them; that when God sees the blood, He cannot charge them on you, whom He has taught to trust in that blood, or your faith would be in vain. Thus He said to Israel in that solemn night when God went through Egypt to smite the firstborn, and commanded the blood to be put upon the lintel and the two doorposts. You remember that account in Exodus 12.

James. Yes, yes, the night of the passover.

N*. Well, God said then, "when I see the blood, I will pass over." Now, if a man had not believed God, he would not, of course, have had the refuge, and so it is now with us but so God now sees the blood of our true paschal lamb, and passes over. He cannot see the true Christian's sins as on him, because He sees the blood which has put them away for ever.

James. I see it all now. He gave Himself for my sins, and suffered agonies and wrath for them on the cross, that I may be clear from them. Well, it is blessed grace. To think — why one can't think as one ought of it — one is bought with a price, as it is said! I see why Mary is so happy, and no wonder. Why, how blind I was!

290 N*. And yet God has been gracious to you, James.

James. Ay, gracious to me, that He has. It is I that have to say so; but you will excuse my saying much more about it now, sir. It is too wonderful, and I hardly know how to get my heart to contain it all rightly; but I see it, and thank you, sir, too. Oh, it is all plain, and it is now I see that the word of God is true, and what a book that blessed book is. Yet I have all to learn in it. I did not just doubt it till they spoke to me, but it is a different thing when it is light in one's own soul. It convicted me before; but then I could hardly delight in its being true enough. It judged-me, but now it is light to my soul.

N*. So the apostle John speaks, James: "He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself. He that believeth not hath made God a liar, because he believeth not the record that God hath given concerning his Son." This last you did not do, James, though you were in danger of it; but, as a system, Romanism and infidelity does. I say as a system, because I do not impute it to all the poor souls in the system, as if they did it wilfully. Now you have, as I fully trust, got the other part, the witness in yourself. You see what forgiveness is, but you have yet to learn more fully what divine righteousness is — what it is to be made the righteousness of God in Christ. You will find that there is a fulness in the deliverance of which God has made you partaker, of which you are hardly yet quite aware. You see that there is a perfect forgiveness, and that the blood of Christ has blotted out all the wretched sinful fruits of your old nature; that He has borne your sins and died for you as a sinner, and that all that you are as such is done away by His death, in God's sight; for sin in the flesh has been condemned in the sacrifice He has made for sin, as well as sins atoned for. But, besides that, Christ is risen, and has taken a new place as an accepted Man, who as such is God the Father's delight, and this is your place before God. You are accepted in Him; as well as the sins of your old man, and all its guilt, put away. He has been raised again for our justification.

And this connects itself, you see, with a new life in us, the power of which has been displayed in His resurrection. It was divine power, no doubt, which was displayed in that, but in the way of the energy of life, and that life is made ours in Christ. We are quickened together with Him, and raised up together, and made to sit together in heavenly places in Him. We are made the righteousness of God in Him. This perhaps you cannot fully understand yet; but, as we were speaking of what is given to us in being justified through Christ, I have just mentioned it. It is fully opened out in Paul's Epistle to the Romans, in the second chapter of that to the Ephesians, in the third of Colossians, and in the Epistle to the Galatians. You will find there that the fleshly religion, so largely now developed in Romanism, was what opposed Paul in his day; only his energy, through the power of the Holy Ghost, kept it down. If you humbly study the word of God, looking to Him to help you, He will lead you on in these things. I now only just point them out to you.

291 A remarkable image of these truths is found in the history of the children of Israel, which may help you to understand what this deliverance is which I speak of. When God passed through Egypt in judgment, the blood on the doorposts protected them against that judgment, and most blessed it was; but Israel was still in Egypt. But when they arrived at the Red Sea, God said by Moses: "Stand still and see the salvation of Jehovah." Then Israel, as you remember, passed through the Red Sea dry-shod, and got out of Egypt, and into an entirely new position: as a people accepted of God, having a great deal to learn, but with God, and all their former state behind them. So it is not all, that the precious blood of Christ protects us, as the Lamb slain for us, from the righteous judgment of God; but His death and resurrection bring us into a new place, accepted before God in Him, who is risen up from among the dead after having paid the wages of sin for us. But I must leave you, James, thankful that you see that Christ has made peace by the blood of His cross. You can rejoice with your dear wife: it will be a cheer to her, and lead your children on. A poor man is the happiest being on the earth when he has the Lord with him in his peaceful, if humble, home. It is not that you will not find questions and difficulties arise in your mind, and temptations to overcome, and sin to resist; the Lord has warned us it will be so — but we have One to go to, whom you, as I trust, now know for yourself, James.

We have, what is a less pleasant part of our intercourse (but may be useful as you are circumstanced), your questions with Bill M. to settle about Romanist views, and I will try and see you again.

292 James. Thank you, sir, I shall be glad to see you. I am right glad to have seen you to-day, and I do not mind so much about those questions now, but it is as well to look into them, as I meet some of them often. I do not understand all you said about righteousness, but I see that it is there in the word, and that Israel was not only spared in the judgment but got into a new place with God. But my heart has not got in itself into it yet.

N*. Well, good-bye. Search the word, James, now your heart is in it. It strengthens the heart, and it keeps the conscience alive. A dull conscience is apt to be more or less a hardened one, and leaves the soul open to temptations and the assaults of the enemy. And pray continually to God, your Father in Christ, for grace to help and keep you. The Bible has been a blessing to you, even though you long had no divine light on it, James. I often think it is like the fire that is laid, but not lit. The truths it contains cannot take effect till grace puts the fire to them; but the truth, divine truth, is there to be kindled, any way, though it may be increased condemnation if a man give no heed to what God has said. So Paul speaks to Timothy, speaking of the safeguard in the last days, "that from a child thou hast known the scriptures." God bless you, James; I hope to see you again.

James. Farewell, sir.