Arthur W. Pink
Chapter 4 - It's Marvel
This is an aspect of our subject which has received far too little attention from those who have written and preached thereon. Amid all the dust which controversy has raised up, only too often one of the grandest wonders of Divine grace has been hidden from the sight of the theological contestants: alas, how frequently is this the case, that being so occupied with the shell we reach not the kernel. Even those who have sought to defend this truth against the assault of Papish and Arminian antagonists did not sufficiently hold up to view the glorious miracle which it embodies. The security of the saint concerns not only the Divine veracity and faithfulness but it also exemplifies the workings of Divine power. The believerís cleaving unto the Lord, despite all hindrances and temptations to the contrary, not only manifests the efficacy of Godís so-great salvation but displays the marvels of His workmanship therein. That the gates of Hell shall not prevail against the Church of Christ, that Satan is unable to destroy a single member of it, that the weakest shall be more than conqueror through Him that loved them, should fill us with admiration and adoration.
All the blessings of the Christianís life may be summed up in two eminent ones, for they include all the others of which he is the recipient from the moment of the new birth to his arrival in Heaven, namely, regeneration or instating him into life and the preservation of that life through all the difficulties and dangers of his pilgrimage to the safe conducting him unto glory. Hence it is we so often find them linked together in Scripture. Just as the work of creation at the first and then the upholding of all things by Divine power and providence are yoked together as works of like wonder (Heb. 1:2, 3) so we find regeneration and preservation joined together as the sum of the operations of grace. "Hath He not made thee and established thee" (Deut. 32:6); "I have made and will bear, even I will carry and deliver you" (Isa. 46:4). In Psalm 66:9 both are comprehended in one word "who putteth (margin) thy soul in life" and "who holdeth thy soul in life," first imparting life and then sustaining it. So also in the N. T.: "I give unto them eternal life and they shall never perish" (John 10:28); "begotten us again unto a living hope. . . kept by the power of God through faith" (1 Pet. 1:3, 5): "sanctified by God the Father and preserved in Jesus Christ" (Jude 1).
This great marvel of Divine preservation is enlarged upon and celebrated in Psalm 66. After saying "O bless our God, ye people, and make the voice of His praise to be heard: which holdeth our soul in life, and suffereth not our feet to be moved" (vv. 8, 9) the Psalmist pointed out first, they had been proved and tried "as silver is tried" (v. 10), which denotes the sorest of trials (Ezek. 22:22). Second, God had brought them "into the net" and had "lain affliction upon their loins" (v. 11): that is, He had so encompassed them round about with afflictions that there was no way of escaping out of them (cf. Isa. 5 1:20). Third, God had caused men to "ride over their heads" (v. 12): that is, they were delivered to the will of cruel enemies, who treated them as slaves. Fourth, they had gone "through fire and water" (v. 12), which denotes the extremity of evils. Nor were these various dangers perils to their outward man only, but tryings and testings of their faith, as "Thou, Lord, hast proved us" (v. 10) intimates. Yet through all of them they had been sustained and preserved. God had supported their faith and upheld them under His sorest chastenings.
Having blessed God on behalf of other saints and invited his readers to do the same, the Psalmist added a personal testimony, recounting the Lordís goodness unto himself. "Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what He hath done for my soul" (v. 16), which confession continues to the end of the Psalm. That testimony is not to be divorced from its context but regarded as the continuation of what he had affirmed in the preceding verses. It was as though he said, what I ask you to praise the Lord for is not something with which I have had no firsthand acquaintance but rather of that I have experienced in my own checkered history. The Lord put and held my soul in life during the many buffetings I have passed through. He did not suffer the waters to completely submerge me but kept my head above them. Give me an audience, ye fellow pilgrims, while I recount to you the wonder workings of the God of all grace with me. Let me review the whole of my wilderness journey and tell of Godís failing not to show Himself strong on my behalf: "I cried unto Him. . . blessed be God who hath not turned away my prayer nor His mercy from me" (v. 20).
Ah, could not each child of God emulate the Psalmist in that. We are greatly interested and delighted when we read or hear of how different ones were brought Out of darkness into Godís marvelous light. We marvel at and admire the variety of the means and methods employed by Him in convicting of sin and discovering Christ to different ones. We are awed and rejoiced when we learn of how some notorious rebel was brought to the foot of the Cross. But equally interesting, equally wonderful, equally blessed is the story of each Christianís life after conversion. If the mature believer looks back at the whole of his journey and reviews all Godís gracious dealings with him, what a tale he could unfold! Let him describe the strange twistings and windings of his path, all ordered by infinite Wisdom, as he now perceives. Let him tell of the tempests and tossings. through which his frail craft has come and how often the Lord said to the winds and waves "be still." Let him narrate the providential help which came when he was in sore straits, the deliverances from temptation when he was almost overcome, the recoveries from backslidings, the revivings after deadness of heart, the comfortings in sorrow, the upliftings when borne down by difficulties and discouragements, the answers to prayer when things appeared hopeless, the patience which has borne with dullness, the grace with unbelief, the joys of communion with the Lord when cut off from public means of grace. What a series of miracles the Christian has experienced.
The saint is indeed a marvel of marvels: without strength yet continuing to plod along his uphill course. Think of a tree flourishing in the midst of a sandy desert, where there is neither soil nor water; imagine a house suspended in mid-air, with no visible means of support above or below; conceive of a man living week after week and year after year in a morgue, yet maintaining his vigor; suppose a lone lamb secure in the midst of hungry wolves, or a maid keeping her garments white as she ploughs her way through deep mud and mire, and in such figures you have an image of the Christian life. The new nature is kept alive between the very jaws of death. Health of soul is preserved while breathing a fetid atmosphere and surrounded by those with the most contagious and fatal diseases. It is like a defenseless dove successfully eluding droves of hawks bent on her destruction. It is like a man subsisting on a barren wilderness where there is neither food nor drink. It is like a traveler on some icy summit, with unfathomable precipices on either side, where a false step means certain destruction. 0 the wonder of Christian perseverance in the face of such handicaps and obstacles.
1. This is seen in the character of those who are chosen by God. We would naturally conclude that if He determined to have a people in this world through whom He would show forth His praises, that He will select the most promising and excellent: those of strong intellectual power, those of noble birth, those of sweet disposition, those of outstanding moral character. But His ways are different from ours. He singles out the most unlikely and unworthy ones to be the vessels of mercy. Thus it was in the O. T. era. Why were the Hebrews taken to be the most favored of all nations? Had they a stronger natural claim than others? Assuredly not. The Egyptians were a more intelligent race, as the monuments of their industry attest to this day. The Chaldeans were more ancient, more numerous, more civilized, and albeit exerted a much greater influence on the rest of the world. Was it then because the Israelites were more spiritual, more likely to prove amenable to the Divine government? No, for ere they set foot upon Canaan it was expressly declared unto them "Understand therefore that the Lord thy God giveth thee not this good land to possess it for thy righteousness, for thou art a stiffnecked people" (Deut. 9:6).
It is the same thing in the N. T. dispensation. "For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, and things which are not to bring to nought things that are" (1 Cor. 1:26-28). How remarkable is this: the ones chosen to successfully resist Satan, overcome the world, persevere in the difficult path of faith and obedience and finally win through to Heaven, are the feeble, the weak, the base, the despised, and the mere nobodies. This has ever presented a stumblingblock to the proud Pharisee: "have any of the rulers believed on Him?" (John 7:48). That the priests and scribes be passed by and publicans and harlots called to feast with Christ, that heavenly things should be hidden from the wise and prudent and revealed to babes, evokes the sneer of the learned "Christianity is only suited to old women and children." And why is this Godís way? "That no flesh should glory in His presence" (1 Cor. 1:29), that the crown of honor should he placed on the head of Him who alone is entitled to wear it, that we may learn the marvel of perseverance is the result of sovereign and miraculous grace.
2. This is seen in the fewness of them. There is but "a remnant according to the election of grace" (Rom. 11:5) even among those who bear the name of the Lord, and in comparison with the hundreds of millions in heathendom who worship false gods and the vast multitudes in Christendom who make no profession at all, the real people of God constitute such an insignificant handful as to be almost lost to view. One had naturally thought that if the Lord purposed to have a people on earth who should glorify His name that they would be conspicuous in size, commanding attention and respect. Is it not a maxim of worldly wisdom that "there is strength in numbers" and did not Napoleon give expression thereto in his satirical dictum "God is always on the side of the biggest battalions"? Ah, but here too Godís thoughts and ways are the very opposite of the worldís, for His strength is "made perfect in weakness" (2 Cor. 12:9) and the things which are highly esteemed among men are "abomination in the sight of God" (Luke 16:15). Turn, my reader, to Judges 7:2 and ponder anew the lesson Jehovah taught Gideon when He said, "The people that are with thee are too many for Me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel vaunt themselves!"
Not only have the Lordís people always been in the minority but they have never included more than a fractional percentage of earthís population. Only eight were delivered from the flood. From the days of Noah unto Moses ó a period of roughly eight and a half centuries ó we may count upon our fingers those recorded in Holy Writ who gave evidence of spiritual life. It requires no courage or resolution to follow the tide of popular opinion, for one is likely to encounter less opposition when he is on the side of the majority. What a miracle that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob preserved their piety in Canaan when surrounded by the heathen! The principle which we are now engaged in illustrating was emphasized by Moses when he said unto Israel "The Lord did not set His love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye are the fewest of all people" (Deut 7:7). It is the same in this N. T. dispensation. Near the close of Paulís life Christians were referred to as a sect "everywhere spoken against" (Acts 28:22). The Lord Jesus declared that His flock was a "little" one (Luke 12:32), which increases the wonder of its survival, and though in recent years the membership of the "churches" swelled to huge proportions, more and more it is now becoming apparent that with rare exceptions they were but nominal professors and that only a "few" tread that Way which leadeth unto Life (Matt. 7:14).
3. This is seen in Godís leaving them in this world. We might well suppose that since the Father hath set His heart upon them He would take them Home as soon as they are brought from death unto life. Instead they are left down here, most of them for many years, in a hostile country in the Enemyís territory, for "the whole world lieth in the Wicked one" (1 John 5:19). And why? that they may have opportunity to manifest their love for Him, that despite ceaseless opposition and innumerable temptations to cast off their allegiance they will, by His grace, remain faithful unto death. We marvel that Noah was preserved in the ark, when the devastating flood without swept away the entire human race from the earth and when he was surrounded by all manner of wild beasts within. Why was he not torn to pieces by the lions and tigers? or poisoned by the stench from the dung of all the animals? Though he remained there no less than a year, yet at the end thereof he and all his household stepped forth alive and well. Not less wonderful is the survival of the Christian in a world where there is nothing to help spiritually but everything to the contrary.
The believer may be compared to an individual who has thrown off allegiance to his king, has disowned his country, and refuses obedience to its laws, yet continues to dwell in the land he has renounced and hard by the sovereign he has forsworn. The grace of God has called us out of the world, but the providence of God has sent us into the world. We may therefore expect nothing but hatred and hostility from it. The world will never forgive the act by which we broke from its thralldom, renounced its sway, relinquished its pleasures and resigned its friendship. Nor can it look with complacency upon the godly, self-denying and unworldly life of the Christian, which is a constant rebuke of its own carnality and folly. First it will veil its opposition and conceal its malignity beneath smiles and flattery, seeking to win back the one it has lost. But when that effort proves unavailing it changes its course and with venomed tongue, tireless zeal and devilish tactics seeks by detraction and falsehood to wound and injure the people of God. We marvel at the three Hebrews not being destroyed in Babylonís fiery furnace, but it is not less a miracle for a believer to persevere in the path of holiness amid the contagious sinfulness, seductive allurements and relentless persecutions of an evil world.
4. This is seen in the old nature being left in the saint. Since God is pleased to leave His people in this howling wilderness for a season, where everything seems to be dead against them, surely He will rid them of that which is most of all calculated to lead to their fatal undoing. If He requires them to be "holy in all manner of conversation" (1 Pet. 1:15), will He not purge them of all inward corruptions? If the sons of God are to be "without rebuke in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation," among whom they are to "shine as lights in the world" (Phil. 2:15), will He not remove all darkness from their understanding? And again we are made to realize how worthless is all human reasoning upon spiritual matters. Indwelling sin remains in the believer: the flesh is neither eradicated nor transformed. But how can we expect those with a sink of iniquity still within them to maintain a godly walk? Ah, therein we are brought to see again the marvel of the saintís perseverance. If a lorry has to pass down a street where the buildings on either side are burning fiercely, would it not greatly augment the wonder of its journeying through successfully when we learned that the lorry was laden with barrels of gunpowder and dynamite?
This is precisely the case of the believer: there is that in him which is responsive to the evil without him. The world and his heart are in a confederacy against the good of his soul, so that he can neither eat nor drink, work nor sleep in safety because of enemies without and treacherous lusts within. For a holy angel to dwell here would involve him in no danger, for in freedom from all inward corruptions there would be nothing in him to which the allurements of the world could appeal. But the Christian has a stack of dry tinder ready to ignite as soon as the sparks of temptation alight thereon. 0 the policy and power, the strength and prevalency, the nearness and treachery of indwelling sin. It is something which cleaves to all the faculties: not only in us but part and parcel of us. It dwells there (Rom. 7:17) ever seeking our overthrow. Such is our native depravity that it is capable of transmuting blessings into cursings, making things lawful into snares and entangling us with everything we meet with. Ah, my reader, if it was a miracle when Elisha caused iron to swim (2 Kings 2), not less so is it when our affections are set upon things above and our minds stayed on Jehovah.
5. This is seen in graceís dwelling place. In what uncongenial and inimical surroundings is the new nature set ó in the depraved soul of a fallen creature. Not only is there nothing in man capable of nourishing the principle of holiness but everything which is directly opposed thereto: "the flesh lusteth against the spirit" (Gal. 5:17). Birds do not fly beneath the waves nor will fish live on dry ground because they are out of their native element: then what a wonder it is for grace to be preserved and grow in a heart which by nature is desperately wicked. Would trees grow if their seeds were planted in salt: why then should communicated grace take root and bring forth the fruit of the Spirit when planted in the midst of corruption? That is truly a miracle of Divine horticulture: a miracle which is far too little attended unto and admired. Well may each believer exclaim "I am a wonder to many" (Ps. 71:7) not failing to add "but Thou art my refuge." The Christian is a mystery to himself, an enigma to the unregenerate, who cannot understand his denying himself the things they delight in and finding pleasure in what they loath: but he is a "wonder," a prodigy of grace, unto his brethren and sisters in Christ.
The miracle of the survival of the principle of grace in a human soul will be the more manifest if we contrast the present case of the believer with that of Adam in the day of this pristine purity. Grace was connatural with our first parents when their Maker pronounced them "very good;" if then they so quickly lost their grace when it was placed in a pure soil, what a wonder it is that it should be preserved in a heart which is essentially evil! When the Son of God became incarnate Herod moved the whole country in a determined attempt to slay Him: and when Christ comes into the heart the whole soul rises up in opposition against Him. The carnal mind, the lusts of the flesh, an intractable will, are all antagonistic to every breathing after holiness. The preservation of grace in the saint is more remarkable than for one to succeed in carrying an unprotected but lighted candle across an open moor in a boisterous wind. Yea, as the Puritans were wont to say, it is as though a fire were kept burning year after year in the midst of the ocean. Grace is not only preserved but maintains its purity amid indwelling sin: as gold cannot be altered in its nature by the dross or transmuted into the rubbish amid which it lies, neither can the new nature be defiled by the mass of corruption wherein it dwells.
6. This is seen in their exposure to Satanís attacks. If there were no Devil at all it would be a miracle that any believer should persevere in the path of obedience while living in such a world as this. Surrounded as he is by the ungodly, ever seeking to allure him into their own sinful ways, carrying within him lusts which are in full accord with the evil around him, it is a wonder of wonders that he should remain steadfast. But over and above that, he is called upon to resist the arch-enemy of God, the mightiest of all His creatures, who is filled with enmity against him and bent upon his destruction. We are plainly warned "your adversary the Devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour" (1 Pet. 5:8): how then shall feeble lambs hope to successfully resist him! We are told that when the woman brought forth the "man-child who was to rule all nations" that, the red dragon "stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered for to devour her child" (Rev. 12:4). As the dragon acted thus toward the Head Himself so does he still seek to vent his malice upon the members of His mystical body.
Who is capable of estimating the power of Satan and the hosts of evil spirits he commands. And who can adequately describe the weakness and frailty of those called upon to withstand his attacks. If Adam in with no lust within to entice and no world under the curse all around him, fell under the very first assault of Satan upon him, who are we to engage him in conflict. Fallen man could as well move a mountain with his finger as overcome the Prince of this world. Nevertheless of renewed men it is written "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against wicked spirits in the heavenlies" (Eph. 6:12). Satan with all his wisdom, his power, his myrmidons are marshaled and exerted in tremendous opposition to the interests of the children of God, as the histories of Job, of David (1 Chron. 21:1), of Joshua, (Zech. 3:1), of Peter (Luke 22:31), and of Paul (1 Thess. 2:15) clearly show. We have often marveled at the deliverance of Daniel while spending a night in the lionsí den, no less a miracle is the Christianís preservation from the continuous attacks of Satan and all his demons. "They overcame Him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony" (Rev. 12:11).
7. This is seen in the renunciations they are required to make. "If any come to Me and hate not his father and mother, and wife and children, and brethren and sisters, yea and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross and come after Me, he cannot be My disciple. So likewise whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be My disciple" Who can be expected to accept Christian discipleship on such exacting terms as these! No wonder that man of all shades of theological opinion have invented terms which are easier and pleasanter to the flesh, yet such are only blind leaders of the blind. Christ will receive none who refuse His yoke. God will not own as His people those who refuse to give Him their hearts. Sin must be hated, lusts must be mortified, the world must be renounced. A Christian is one who repudiates his own wisdom, strength and righteousness. A Christian is one who holds himself and all that he hath at the disposal of the Lord. As Abram at the call of God turned his back on the old manner of life, so those who are his believing children are made willing to sacrifice all their temporal interests, counting not their lives dear unto themselves. What a marvel is this that grace enables its possessor to pluck out right eyes and cut off right hands, yea which empowers timid women and children to go to the stake rather than apostatize.
8. This is seen in the Way they are required to walk in. It is a "narrow" way, for it is shut in on either side by the Divine commandments, which forbid all that is contrary to the Divine will. It is the way of "holiness," without which no man shall see the Lord. It is the way of obedience, of complete and continuous subjection to the Lord, wherein my own will is set aside. It is a difficult way, hard to find and harder still to traverse, for the whole of it is uphill. It is a lonely way, for there are but few upon it. It is therefore a way which is entirely contrary to flesh and blood, which presents no attraction to fallen human nature. Yet it is the only way which leadeth unto life. That narrow way of self-abnegation is the one which Christ trod and sufficient for the disciple to be as his Master. He has left us an example that we should follow His steps, so that there is no following of Christ without walking in the way He went, and that way was one of sacrifice, of bearing reproach, of enduring suffering. "Whosoever will save his life (for himself) shall lose it, and whosoever will lose his life for My sake shall find it" (Matt. 16:25). No cross, no crown. What a marvel it is for any sinful creature to voluntarily choose such a path, to accept the cross as the dominant principle of his life.
9. This is seen in the frailty of the Christian. We would naturally think that since God requires His people to overcome such formidable obstacles, perform such difficult tasks and wrestle with such enemies, He would make them strong and powerful. Surely if they are to maintain their piety in a world like this, discharge duties which are contrary to flesh and blood, resist the Devil and all his hosts, the Lord will make each of His saints as mighty spiritually as Samson was physically. If one of them shall chase a thousand and two of them put ten thousand to flight must it not be because of their superior might. How shall they endure opposition, overcome temptations, be fruitful unto every good work unless they be endued with abundant grace. But here again the Lordís thoughts are the very opposite of ours. His people are so frail and helpless in themselves that He declares "without Me ye can do nothing" and sooner or later each of them is made to realize this for himself. Apart from the Lord the believer is as weak as water. Power for the conflict lies not in himself, but in Another: "be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might" (Eph. 6:10). Peter thought he was strong enough in himself to overcome temptation, but he soon discovered that though the spirit was willing the flesh was weak.
But is there not such a thing as growing in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord? Certainly there is, but such progress is of a very different nature from what many imagine. Growth in grace is a deepening realization of where our strength, our wisdom, the supply for every need is to be found. Growing in grace is not an increasing self-sufficiency but an increasing dependency upon God. Those who are spiritually the strongest are they who know most of their own weakness. It is the empty vessel which God fills. "He giveth power to the faint, and to them that have no might (of their own) He increaseth strength" (Isa. 40:29). Surely none of us can hope to attain a higher measure than that of the most favored of the apostles: yet he acknowledged "when lam weak then am I strong" (2 Cor. 12:10). Here then is truly a miracle: that one who is compassed with infirmity, who is not sufficient of himself to think any thing as of himself (2 Cor. 3:5)óand therefore still less able to do anything goodówho has "no might" of his own, who is utterly helpless in himself, should nevertheless fight a good fight, finish the course and keep the faith. "God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty."
10. This is seen in the fruits which the Christian bears. We have already called attention to the survival of the principle of grace despite the uncongenial soil in which it is placed and the foul atmosphere of this world where it grows, and equally wonderful is that which issues from it. This line of thought might be extended considerably, but space requires us to abbreviate. What a marvel that the Christianís faith should be preserved amid so many trials and buffetings, betrayals by false brethren, and even the hidings of Godís face: that notwithstanding the most painful crosses and losses it affirms "yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil." Not only have Godís saints remained steadfast under persecution, but after being "beaten" they rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for the name of Jesus" (Acts 5:40, 41), while others "took joyfully the spoiling of their goods" (Heb. 10:34). What a marvelous fruit is this, to "glory in tribulation" (Rom. 5:3), to "sing praise unto God" (Acts 16:25) while lying in a dungeon with backs bleeding. Such fruits are not the products of nature. To hope against hope (Rom. 4:18), to acknowledge "it is good for me that I have been afflicted" (Ps. 119:71), to cry "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge" (Acts 7:60) while being stoned to death, are the fruits of Divine grace.
11. This is seen in their submission under and triumph of faith over the severest chastisements. It is natural to murmur when everything appears to go wrong and the face of Providence wears a dark frown, but it is supernatural to meekly submit and say "the will of the Lord be done." When "fire from the Lord" went out and devoured Nadab and Abihu because of their presumptuous conduct, so far from their father making an angry outburst at the severity of their punishment we are told that he "held his peace" (Lev. 10:3). When the awful tidings was broken to the aged Eli that both of his wayward sons were to be smitten by Divine judgment on the same day, he quietly acquiesced saying "It is the Lord: let Him do what seemeth Him good" (1 Sam. 3:18). When Jobís sons and daughters were suddenly stricken with death and his flocks and herds carried away by thieves, he exclaimed "The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord" (1:2 1), and when his own body was smitten with "sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown," so far from losing all confidence in God and apostatizing he declared "though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him" (Job 13:15).
12. This is seen in their perseverance in piety when deprived of all public means of grace. When the under-shepherds are taken away what shall the poor sheep do? When corporate testimony breaks down what will become of the individual? When Zion is made desolate and the Lordís people are carried captives into a strange land, will they not pine away? True this is an exceptional state of affairs, yet at various stages of history it has pleased God to deprive numbers of His people of all the external means of grace and preserve them as isolated units. It was thus at a very early stage. Behold Abraham, the father of the faithful, dwelling alone amid the heathen, yet maintaining communion with the Lord. Behold Daniel in Babylon, in the face of deadly peril, preserving his piety. Some of us used to sing as children "Dare to be a Daniel, dare to stand alone, dare to have a purpose true, and dare to make it known." Is not our own lot cast in a day when not a few of the scattered children of God have to lament "I am as a sparrow alone upon the housetop" (Ps.102:7)! Even so, as God miraculously sustained Elijah in the solitudes of Cherith so He will preserve each of them.
13. This is seen in their deliverance from apostasy. What numbers have been fatally deceived by Romanism. What multitudes of the outer-court worshippers have been stumbled by the multiplication of sects in Protestantism, each claiming to take the Scriptures for their guide yet often differing on the most fundamental truths. What crowds have been attracted by the false prophets and heretical teachers, especially in America, during the past century. But though the real children of God may have been bewildered yet it drove them to search His Word more closely for themselves, for they know not the voice of strangers (John 10:5). In our own day, because iniquity or lawlessness abounds the love of many has waxed cold and tens of thousands who a little time ago appeared to "run well" have gone right back into the world. Yet there is still a remnant who cleave unto the Lord, and the very fewness of their numbers emphasizes the marvel of their preservation. It is a miracle of grace that any "hold fast the confidence and rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end," never more so than in this dark day.
What an amazing thing it was that Jonah should be cast overboard into the sea, without a lifebelt and with no boat to rescue him, and yet that he was not drowned. Still more remarkable that he should be swallowed by a whale and remain alive in its belly for three days and nights. Most wonderful of all that the whale disgorged the prophet not in the ocean, but vomited him out on the land. So amazing is this that it has been made the favorite subject of jest by infidels. Yet it presents no difficulty to the Christian, who knows that "with God all things are possible." We not only believe the authenticity of this miracle but have long been convinced it is a designed type not only of the resurrection of the Redeemer but of the preservation of the redeemed. The case of Jonah not only adumbrates a backsliding believer, but an extreme case of backsliding at that: showing that when a saint yields to self-will and forsakes the way of obedience, though he will be severely chastened yet the arm of the Lord will reach after and restore him to the paths of righteousness.
14. This is seen in Godís manifold workings in and for them. This necessarily follows from all that has been said under the preceding heads. The perseverance of saints must be the consequence of the Divine preservation of them: since believers have no spiritual wisdom and no spiritual strength of their own, God must work in them both to will and to do of His good pleasure. His preventing grace: as the martyr observed a murderer on his way to the gallows he exclaimed "there goes John Bradford but for the grace of God." From how many temptations and sins on which their hearts were set are Christians delivered, as David from slaying Nabal. Protecting grace: "mercy shall compass him about" as a shield (Ps. 32:10). Quickening grace, whereby the principle of holiness is enlivened: "the inward man is renewed day by day" (2 Cor. 4:16). Confirming grace, whereby we are kept from being tossed to and fro: "Now He which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God" (2 Cor. 1:21 and cf. 2 Thess. 2:17). Fructifying grace: "From Me is thy fruit found" (Hos. 14:8). Maturing grace: "make you perfect in every good work to do His will" (Heb. 13:22). These and other operations of Divine grace are all summed up in that acknowledgement "Thou also hast wrought all our works in us" (Isa. 26:12) to which every saint freely ascribes and which alone explains the marvel of his perseverance.