The True Grace of God wherein we stand.

We have thought quite long enough about ourselves. Let us now think about Him who thought about us with thoughts of good, not evil, long before we even existed, and had any thoughts of own at all. May we see what God’s thoughts of grace about us are, and echo the words of faith in Romans 8:31, ‘If God be for us, who can be against us?’ I am entitled to forget myself; I am entitled to forget my sins; I am NOT entitled to forget Jesus.
True humility does not so much consist in thinking badly of myself, as in not thinking of myself at all. I am too bad to be worth thinking about.

JohnNelsonDarbyBy Silvanus, a faithful brother unto you, as I suppose, I have written briefly, exhorting, and testifying that this is the true grace of God wherein ye stand. (1 Peter 5:12)

God is the ‘God of all Grace’ (1 Peter 5:10), but how hard it is for us to believe that the Lord is gracious. Our natural feelings may be expressed by the servants’ statement ‘I know that thou art an austere [or hard] man’ (Luke 19:21). We need to understand the Grace of God.

Some think that grace implies God’s passing over sin. That is completely wrong – God cannot tolerate sin. If I could, after sinning, patch up my ways and mend myself in order to stand before God, there would be no need of grace. The Lord is gracious because I am a sinner: my state is utterly ruined and hopeless, and nothing but free grace can meet my need.

The moment I understand that I am a sinful man or woman, and that the Lord knew the full extent and how hateful my sin was to Him, and that He came to me, I understand what grace is. Faith makes me see that God is greater than my sin, not that my sin is greater than God. The Lord, who laid down His life for me, is the same Lord I have to do with every day of my life. His dealings with me are on the principle of grace. How strengthening it is to know, at this very moment, that Jesus is feeling and exercising the same love towards me as He had when on the cross.

For instance, I have a bad temper that I cannot control. I bring it to Jesus as my Friend: virtue goes out of Him and meets my need. My own effort will never be sufficient. Real strength is in the sense of the Lord’s being gracious. The natural man in us will never believe that Christ is the only source of strength and blessing. If my soul is out of communion, I think, ‘I must correct the cause of this before I can come to Christ’. But He is gracious: the way is to return to Him at once, just as I am, and then humble myself before Him. Humbleness in His presence is the only real humbleness. If I own myself to be just what I am, I shall find that He shows me nothing but grace. True humility does not so much consist in thinking badly of myself, as in not thinking of myself at all. I am too bad to be worth thinking about.

Faith never thinks about what is in me myself: it looks to Jesus to give rest to my soul. Faith receives, loves and apprehends what God has revealed, and what God’s thoughts are about Jesus. As I am occupied with Him,I will be prevented from being taken up with the vanity and sin around. This will be my strength against the sin and corruption of my own heart too. As I am alone in communion with God, I am able to measure everything according to His grace. Nothing, not even the state of the Church, will shake me. I am entitled to forget myself; I am entitled to forget my sins; I am NOT entitled to forget Jesus.

The moment I get away from the presence of God, I rest on my own thoughts, which can never reach up to those of God about me. If I attempt to know God’s grace outside of His presence, I shall only turn grace into licentiousness.

What God is towards us is LOVE. Our joy and peace are not dependent on what we are to God, but on what He is to us: this is grace. All the sin and evil that is in us has been put away through Jesus. A single sin is more horrible to God than all the sins in the world are to us. Yet, despite what we are, God is pleased to be towards us in LOVE.

In Romans 7 we find a person, though quickened, whose reasoning centres in himself. It is all “I,” “I,” “I.”  He stops short of grace, the simple fact that GOD IS LOVE. I have got away from grace if I have the slightest doubt or hesitation about God’s love. I say, ‘I am unhappy because I am not like what I want to be’. Instead I should be thinking of what God is, rather than what I am. All this looking at myself is really pride, not admitting that I am good for nothing. Till I see this I will never look away from myself to God.

Faith looks towards God, who has revealed Himself in grace. Grace relates to what GOD is, not to what I am, except that the greatness of my sins magnifies grace of God. At the same time, grace brings my soul into communion with God, knowing God and loving Him. Knowledge of grace is the true source of sanctification.

We have thought quite long enough about ourselves. Let us now think about Him who thought about us with thoughts of good, not evil, long before we even existed, and had any thoughts of own at all. May we see what God’s thoughts of grace about us are, and echo the words of faith in Romans 8:31, ‘If God be for us, who can be against us?

 

Adapted by Sosthenes from J N Darby’s tract of the same name. Similar to, perhaps extracted from, ‘Why do I groan?‘ Collected Writings volume 12 – Evangelical 1, page 186.

J N Darby – French Letter No. 149 – God’s Testimony convinces the Soul of Sin

149

Plymouth – 17th June 1846

To Mr B R

I do not know how much you would have official news, since I am not written to in French on our side; but I am not the less aware of your goodness. Thank you very much. I am just as aware that I do not merit anything like this from my dear brethren but happily affection is not merited. It grows in the good ground of the grace of our God. I have taken up again my work on the translation[1]. But there is no lack of business which has accumulated during my illness; perhaps God has desired that this work should be interrupted.

And now, in reply to your question about evangelisation, I rejoice at the thought that you are occupied with souls; this always does us good ourselves. One would not know how to answer in a categorical way to such a demand, because I would act differently in different cases. In general, the gospel is set in its simplicity before the soul, without committing it to prayer, like our dear brother R desires it, because souls always put something between themselves and their salvation, and attach to this something of importance, as to all that they do. One would desire something in the soul before it is loved and washed; this is the case with most evangelical Christians, while it is necessary to present Christ as wisdom, justification and righteousness[2]. So that, generally speaking, I agree with R. But this is where another principle enters, not only in the case of an atheist, but rather with others. I present Christ to the soul; in consequence of which it is exercised by it, but not yet set free. Here therefore, I add something that you seem to me to leave out in what you say to me, whether on your part, or as being the views of R.

It is not only “believe and thou shalt be saved”, for God’s testimony convinces the soul of sin. This is a fact, and a fact which must be come to absolutely if the soul is truly penetrated by the gospel. It is not the presentation of faith as the means of salvation which does this, but the revelation of Christ to the conscience, of Christ who as light makes the soul aware of what is within. Faith in this sense produces the healthy, but sorrowful conviction, but not peace. Often, there is quite a long interval (I do not say there has to be; for this is not the case when the Spirit acts in power) between the conviction of sin and being set free. There is another effect of faith to present; not only the person of Jesus who has already produced the conviction of sin of which we speak, but the efficacy of His work. It is this which must always be put forward, but which still answers in this case to a need produced.   But here the effect of faith is presented to the soul, to know the propitiation and love which has been given to it. I do not urge the soul to pray for faith. But what does not seem to me to have its place in your thoughts, or in those that you give me of R, is the conviction of sin. To stop there with the teachers urging them to pray – that is bad. I agree here with dear brother R. But I seek this firm conviction in my discussions with a soul and, if it is not there, I try to produce it by the truth. It makes one cry: this soul prays (not: ‘must pray’). To this cry, the fullness of the gospel is the answer. The sins of which it weeps are not imputed to it because of the blood of Christ. What I seek with a heathen or a nominal Christian is the conviction of sin. I seek it in announcing pure free grace and the efficacy of God. Where this conviction is found, I present what grace has accomplished. It is very important to present all this as an accomplished thing on which one believes, without which it would be a question neither of prayer or anything else. But if I find some obstacle, something which hinders the soul making progress, whatever sincerity there may be (and this happens sometimes), things which the Spirit of God must drive from the heart before giving it peace – then I could urge it to pray. In the state of mixture and confusion where we are, this is what happens. Only care must be taken not to put prayers or whatever between the soul and Christ, for faith is only the view which one has of Him. ‘Faith’, in Scripture, often means the doctrine which faith embraces, or the system of faith, in contrast to law.

I therefore present Christ as He as an object of faith, and where the Holy Spirit acts in power, the knowledge of the Lord displaces and replaces every obstacle; the soul is set free.

Cases arise where I would urge one to pray, because of something which makes an obstacle. In general, one hardly needs to urge such a soul. As to election, it is not a matter of this in preaching the gospel. I preach Christ, God will act in His counsels of grace. I do not preach Christ dying for the elect, although among believers it may be important to develop the special links between His death and the elect. Without this, their thoughts about His work are vague, lacking stability and mixed with the work of the Holy Spirit in their souls. I announce Christ as propitiatory victim for sin, the glorious Son of the Father and One with Him, His sufferings and His glory, and this on account of sin. I show them perhaps the darkness of the soul, in showing them what He is, Him, [both] light and grace. And I announce to them that whoever believes is saved, pardoned, and enjoys eternal life.

I explain, as needed, efficacy for those who believe because, in nominally Christian countries, this is what is needed, and efficacy announced shows them that they do not believe it. To God’s children, election is useful to make them humble, for all is grace; to reassure them, for grace is efficacy and flows from a source that does not dry up, from a counsel which does not waver. Here the work and joys of the Holy Spirit can be preciously developed.

Here I am, dear brother, at the end of my letter for this occasion. The more there is simplicity, the more there will be blessing. It is Christ that must be preached, Christ the Saviour of souls, and of sinful souls in their needs and their sorrows, the fruit of God’s free love.

May God be blessed; I have good news in general of the work in Switzerland and France.

The difference of the preaching now is that the story is generally known; one has to announce the efficacy, and the glory, but at the beginning this story presented the glory of it to souls by the power of the Holy Spirit. Now, it is necessary to attract attention. The effect of it will always be the same, where the Holy Spirit acts.

Farewell, beloved brother. May God direct you and strengthen you. Greet the elderly ones, T, G, and all our precious brethren. It is only by a letter from G that supposed I already knew that I have learned that our beloved Tapernoux has gone in peace. He is happy. I long ardently for the time; yes, ardently. However, one fulfils one’s day as a hireling. Assure his widow and his family of all my sympathy. Yes, he is happy! Oh! may that day come when we will all be reunited in the presence and glory of Jesus, without sin.

Yours affectionately

Plymouth – 29th June 1846

 

I am sending you a notebook. I fear it betrays a little haste, because in getting over illness, I have found a mass of letters and business awaiting me, and I have been a bit crushed with fatigue.

 

 

[1] the Lausanne version – see note in Letter No 147

[2] possibly referring to 1 Cor 1: 30

Letter originally written in French, translated by Sosthenes, 2013

Click here for original – If you have any comments on the translation, feel free to let me know.

J N Darby
John Nelson Darby