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  • Samuel at Gilgal

    This year I will be sharing brief excerpts from the articles, sermons, and books I am currently reading. My posts will not follow a regular schedule but will be published as I find well-written thoughts that should be of interest to maturing Christian readers. Whenever possible, I encourage you to go to the source and read the complete work of the author.

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The Trinity and Creation

How was the initial work of creation divided among the Trinity? According to these excerpts from Thomas Boston:

Isa. Chapter 45:12, “I have made the earth, and created man on it. My hands; stretched out the heavens, and all their host I have commanded.” Chapter 40:12-13, “Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, Measured heaven with a span And calculated the dust of the earth in a measure? Weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance? Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD, or as his counselor has taught him?” Job 9:8, “He alone spreads out the heavens, and treads on the waves of the sea.”

These are magnificent descriptions of the creating power of God, and exceed everything of the kind that has been attempted by the pens of the greatest sages of antiquity. By this operation God is distinguished from all the false gods and fictitious deities which the blinded nations adored, and shows himself to be the true God. Jer. 10:11 “Thus you shall say to them: ‘The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth shall perish from the earth and from under these heavens. He has made the earth by His power, He has established the world by His wisdom, and has stretched out the heavens at His discretion.’” Psalm 96:5, ” All the gods of the nations are idols: but the Lord made the heavens.” Isa 37:16, “You are God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth.” None could make the world but God, because creation is a work of infinite power, and could not be produced by any finite cause: For the distance between being and not being is truly infinite, which could not be removed by any finite agent, or the activity of all finite agents united.

This work of creation is common to all the three persons in the adorable Trinity. The Father is described in Scripture as the Creator, 1 Cor. 7:6, “The Father, of whom are all things.” The same claim belongs to the Son, John 1:3, “All things were made by him,” [that is to say] the Word, the Son; John 1:3 “All things were made through Him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” The same honor belongs to the Holy Spirit, as Job 26:13, “By His Spirit He adorned the heavens.” Job 33:4 “The Spirit of God has made me,” says Elihu, “and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” All the three persons are one God; God is the Creator; and therefore all the external works and acts of the one God must be common to the three persons. Hence, when the work of creation is ascribed to the Father, neither the Son nor the Holy Spirit are excluded; but because as the Father is the fountain of the Deity, so he is the fountain of divine works. The Father created from himself by the Son and the Spirit; the Son from the Father by the Spirit; and the Spirit from the Father and the Son; the manner or order of their working being according to the order of their subsisting. The matter may be considered in this way: All the three persons being one God, possessed of the same infinite perfections; the Father, the first in subsistence, willed the work of creation to be done by his authority: “He spoke, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast.” In respect of immediate operation, it peculiarly belonged to the Son. For, “the Father created all things by Jesus Christ,” Eph. 3:9. And we are told, that “all things were made through him,” John 1:3. This work in regard of settlement and ornament, particularly belongs to the Holy Ghost. So it is said, Gen 1:2, “and the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters,” to embellish and adorn the world, after the matter of it was formed. This is why it is also said, Job 26:13 “By His Spirit He adorned the heavens.” (“God Alone Created the World”)

In the Beginning. . . .

God created all things, the world, and all the creatures that belong to it. He attributes this work to Himself, as one of the particular glories of His Deity, exclusive of all the creatures. “Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, who formed you from the womb: ‘I am the LORD, who made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself. . . .’” (Isaiah 44:24 ESV) Thomas Boston writes:

The world could not make itself; for that would imply a horrible contradiction, namely, that the world was before it was; for the cause must always be before its effect. That which is not in being can have no production; for nothing can act before it exists. As nothing has no existence, so it has no operation. There must therefore be something which has existence in itself, to give a being to those things that are; and every second cause must be an effect of some other before it is a cause. To be and not to be at the same time is a manifest contradiction, which would infallibly take place if any thing made itself. That which makes is always before that which is made, as is obvious to the most illiterate peasant. If the world were a creator, it must be before itself as a created thing.

The production of the world could not be by chance. It was indeed the extravagant fancy of some ancient philosophers that the origin of the world was from a fortuitous concourse of atoms, which were in perpetual motion in an immense space, till at last a sufficient number of them met in such a happy conjunction as formed the universe in the beautiful order in which we now behold it. But it is amazingly strange how such a wild opinion, which can never be reconciled with reason, could ever find any entertainment in a human mind. Can any man rationally conceive, that a confused jumble of atoms, of diverse natures and forms, and some so far distant from others, should ever meet in such a fortunate manner, as to form an entire world, so vast in extent, so distinct in the order, so united in the diversities of natures, so regular in the variety of changes, and so beautiful in the whole composure? Such an extravagant fancy as this can only possess the thoughts of a disordered brain. (“God Alone Created the World”)

Procuring Acceptance Of Our Prayers

Thomas Boston

Why Must We Pray in the Name of Christ? We pray in the name of Jesus because we are sinful creatures with no access to God. Sin has set us at a distance from God. His justice rejects the criminal, his holiness the unclean sinner, unless there is an acceptable Mediator to go between Him and us. Christ alone is our great High Priest. None but he has satisfied justice for our sins. Thomas Boston explains in more detail how this works:

To pray in the name of Christ is to pray, first, at his command, to go to God by his order, John 16:24, “Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive.” Christ as God commands all men to pray, to offer that piece of natural duty to God; but that is not the command meant. But Christ as Mediator sends his own to his Father to ask supply of their wants, and allows them to tell that he sent them, as one recommends a poor body to a friend, John 16:24, just cited. So to pray in the name of Christ is to go to God as sent by the poor man’s friend. So it implies, the soul’s having come to Christ in the first place, John 15:7, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. . . .”

The soul’s taking its encouragement to pray from Jesus Christ, Heb 4:14, “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

The way to the throne in heaven is blocked up by our sins. And sinners have no confidence to seek the Lord. Jesus Christ came down from heaven, died for the criminals, and gathers them to himself by effectual calling. He, as having all interest with his Father, bids them go to his Father in his name, and ask what they need, assuring them of acceptance. And from thence they take their encouragement, viz. from his promises in the word. And he gives them his token with them, which the Father will own, and that is his own Spirit, Rom 8:26-27, “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. . . .

Praying Christ’s name is depending wholly on Christ’s merit and intercession for access, acceptance, and a gracious return:

1. Depending on Christ for access to God, Eph 3:12, “In whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him.” There is no access to God but through him, John 14:6 “No one comes to the Father except through Me.” They that attempt otherwise to come to God will get the door thrown in their face. . . .

2. Depending on him for acceptance of our prayers, Eph 1:6 “He has made us accepted in the Beloved.” Our Lord Christ is the only altar that can sanctify our gift. . . .

3. Depending on him for a gracious answer, 1 John 5:14, “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. . . .” (“Praying in the Name of Christ”)

Thomas Boston On God’s Providence

Thomas Boston

God’s providence is often difficult for us to understand intellectually or experimentally. We simply do not see things in the moment as God sees them in eternity. Therefore, we should not judge the providence of God harshly. Thomas Boston offers below some sound advice concerning the providence of God:

Beware of drawing an excuse for your sin from the providence of God; for it is most holy, and is in no way any cause of any sin you commit. Every sin is an act of rebellion against God; a breach of his holy law, and deserves his wrath and curse; and therefore cannot be authorized by an infinitely-holy God, who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity without detestation and abhorrence. Though he has by a permissive decree allowed moral evil to be in the world, yet that has no influence on the sinner to commit it. For it is not the fulfilling of God’s decree, which is an absolute secret to every mortal, but the gratification of their own lusts and perverse inclinations, that men intend and mind in the commission of sin.

Beware of murmuring and fretting under any dispensations of providence that you meet with; remembering that nothing falls out without a wise and holy providence, which knows best what is fit and proper for you. And in all cases, even in the middle of the most afflicting incidents that happen to you, learn submission to the will of God, as Job did, when he said upon the end of a series of the heaviest calamities that happened to him, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord,” Job, I. 21. In the most distressing case, say with the disciples, “The will of the Lord be done,” Acts, 21:14.

Beware of anxious cares and fearfulness about your material well-being in the world. Our Lord has cautioned his followers against, Matt. 6:31. “Take no thought, (that is, anxious and perplexing thought,) saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?” Never let the fear of man stop you from duty, Matt. 10:28, 29; but let your souls learn to trust in God, who guides and superintends all the events and administrations of providence, by whatever hands they are performed.

Do not think little of means, seeing God works by them; and he that has appointed the end, orders the means necessary for gaining the end. Do not rely upon means, for they can do nothing without God, Matt. 4:4. Do not despair if there be no means, for God can work without them, as well as with them; Hosea 1:7. “I will save them by the Lord their God, and will not save them by bow, nor by sword, nor by battle, by horses, nor by horsemen.” If the means be unlikely, he can work above them, Rom. 4:19. “He considered not his own body now dead, neither yet the deadness of Sarah’s womb.” If the means be contrary, he can work by contrary means, as he saved Jonah by the whale that devoured him. That fish swallowed up the prophet, but by the direction of providence, it vomited him out upon dry land.

Lastly, Happy is the people whose God is the Lord: for all things shall work together for their good. They may sit secure in exercising faith upon God, come what will. They have good reason for prayer; for God is a prayer-hearing God, and will be enquired of by his people as to all their concerns in the world. And they have ground for the greatest encouragement and comfort in the middle of all the events of providence, seeing they are managed by their covenant God and gracious friend, who will never neglect or overlook his dear people, and whatever concerns them. For he has said, “I will never leave you, nor forsake you,” Heb. 13:5.

The Coming Judgment

Have you considered the great “Judgment of Man”? What will happen on that day? In his work on “Human Nature in its Fourfold State,” Thomas Boston outlines the agenda of that coming event:

When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, He will sit on His throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on His right and the goats on His left. Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.’ (Matthew 25:31-34)

Then He will say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’ Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life. (Matthew 25:41, 46)

The general judgment is plainly and solemnly described in this portion of Scripture. We shall take notice of the following particulars:

The coming of the Judge. “When the Son of Man comes in His glory,” etc. The Judge is Jesus Christ, by whose almighty power, the dead will be raised. He is also called the King, verse 34, the judging of the world being an act of the royal Mediator’s kingly office. He will come in glory; glorious in His own person, and having a glorious retinue, even all the holy angels with Him, to minister unto Him at this great solemnity.

The mounting the tribunal. He is a King, and therefore it is a throne, a glorious throne, “He will sit on His throne in heavenly glory,” verse 31.

The appearance of the parties. These are–all nations; all and every one, small and great, of whatever nation, who ever were, are, or shall be on the face of the earth. All shall be gathered before Him, summoned before His tribunal.

The separating of them. He shall separate the elect sheep and reprobate goats, setting each group by themselves. The godly He will set on His right hand, as the most honorable place; the wicked on the left, verse 33.

The sentencing of the parties, and that according to their works; the righteous being absolved, and the wicked condemned, verse 34-41.

The execution of both sentences, in the driving away of the wicked into hell, and carrying the godly to heaven, verse 46.

Human Nature Is Blind To Christ

Thomas Boston

Christians should admire the freedom and power of grace, which came to them in their condition of helplessness and brought them out of the state of sin and wrath. In such a condition they would certainly have perished if God had not been merciful. The natural man is totally unable to muster up the strength to come to Christ, unless he is drawn. Thomas Boston writes:

For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. (Romans 5:6)

No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him. (John 6.44)

A man that is fallen into a pit cannot be supposed to help himself out of it, but by one of two ways; either by doing all himself alone, or taking hold of, and improving, the help offered him by others. Likewise an unconverted man cannot be supposed to help himself out of his natural state, but either in the way of the law, or covenant of works, by doing all himself without Christ; or else in the way of the Gospel, or covenant of grace, by exerting his own strength to lay hold upon, and to make use of the help offered him by a Savior. But, alas! The unconverted man is dead in the pit, and cannot help himself either of these ways; not the first way, for the first text tells us, that when our Lord came to help us, ‘we were without strength,’ unable to recover ourselves. We were ungodly, therefore under a burden of guilt and wrath, yet ‘without strength,’ unable to stand under it; and unable to throw it off, or get from under it: so that all mankind would have undoubtedly perished, had not ‘Christ died for the ungodly,’ and brought help to those who could never have recovered themselves. But when Christ comes and offers help to sinners, cannot they take it? Cannot they improve help when it comes to their hands? No, the second text tells, they cannot; ‘No man can come unto me,’ that is, believe in me (John 6.44), ‘except the Father draw him.’ This is a drawing which enables them to come, who till then could not come; and therefore could not help themselves by improving the help offered. It is a drawing which is always effectual; for it can be no less than ‘hearing and learning of the Father,’ which, whoever partakes of, come to Christ (verse 45). Therefore it is not drawing in the way of mere moral suasion, which may be, yea, and always is ineffectual. But it is drawing by mighty power (Eph. 1.9), absolutely necessary for those who have no power in themselves to come and take hold of the offered help.

Hearken then, O unregenerate man, and be convinced that as you are in a most miserable state by nature, so you are utterly unable to recover yourself any way. You are ruined; and what way will you go to work to recover yourself . . . ?

[A]lthough Christ is offered in the Gospel, yet they cannot believe in Him. Saving faith is the faith of God’s elect, the special gift of God to them, wrought in them by His Spirit. Salvation is offered to them that will believe in Christ, but how can you believe? (John 5.44). It is offered to those that will come to Christ; but ‘no man can come unto Him, except the Father draw him.’ It is offered to those that win look to Him, as lifted on the pole of the Gospel (Isa. 45.22); but the natural man is spiritually blind (Rev. 3.17); and as to the things of the Spirit of God, he cannot know them, for they are spiritually discerned (1 Cor. 2.14). Nay, whosoever will, he is welcome; let him come (Rev. 22.17); but there must be a day of power on the sinner, before he can be willing (Ps. 110.3). (Human Nature In Its Fourfold State, Chapter 3, pp. 183-197)

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