Gospel of Grace Alone 57

As newness of life is necessary, so it is as necessary that we should put ourselves into the hands of God for it. It is this sense and conviction which brings us to him hungering and thirsting, and casts the soul upon him with all the strength of its desire, for that change when he alone can work in it. It is the knowledge and belief of this, which makes Gospel mercy and Gospel power so welcome and seasonable a relief to us. It is the hearty persuasion and inward feeling of our helpless state in sin, which constitutes the very life and spirit of prayer; and if it is not working at the bottom of all our prayers, they will be no better than a fruitless, dead formality, and can never work us one jot nearer to God, “Except ye be converted and become as little children, ye cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Little children are without strength and without knowledge, weak and ignorant, have every thing to learn, receive what is taught them with undisputing simplicity, and are incapable of thinking, acting for, and governing themselves. Just thus we should judge of ourselves. We are mere children in respect of any knowledge we have of our proper happiness, or ability to attain it. And this child-like, humble disposition is our necessary preparation for receiving the salvation of God—so called, because it is all his gift and his work. And neither the book of our own heart nor the book of Scripture has been opened to us, till we are brought to this conviction—“that we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works.” (Thomas Adam, Sermons)

Matthew 18:1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, 3 and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 “Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

For the Gospel of grace alone to be truly grace alone, it must be a pure grace (unmixed) from beginning to end and nothing but that pure grace. This Gospel of grace alone is grace alone regarding the humbling of the soul, to regeneration, and then of all aspects of the Gospel. The hungering for God is God’s work in the soul. The conviction of sin is God’s work in the soul. The recognition and then deep brokenness of heart over the inability of the soul is the work of God in the soul.

For some reason in our own day we think of God having provided some grace for us and the rest of the labor and work is up to us. Even if a person has a creed that states something different, people do not hear that their regeneration, their faith, and their repentance are the works of God and all of those works as well are by grace alone. In other words, people are taught to look to themselves for something because they are not told how helpless they are in sin and the extent that grace has to reach to save them.

When the Scriptures are so clear about these things it is hard to understand why people appear to make efforts at hiding these truths from people. It is almost like we are ashamed to go against the flow of Arminianism and Pelagianism and simply tell people that they are dead in sin with no ability at all in the spiritual realm and that the whole of salvation is by grace alone. We seem somewhat eager to tell people that they must repent and believe, but we are far from eager to tell them that a repentance and faith that comes from them is simply another way for them to work dead works. Unless the dead soul is enlivened with the life of God the soul simply exchanges the open sin of pride and self for the religious acts of pride and self.

It seems rare for us to take the words of Christ seriously and think that He gave His statement of the absolute need for a person to be converted and become like a child. Apart from a person becoming like a child that person cannot enter the kingdom. The word “cannot” is a word of ability (can) and strength. No one has the strength or ability to enter the kingdom in his own work and his own ability. This must come to the soul from the outside and the soul must look to Christ alone for this work. The text tells us what must happen (be converted and become like a child), but it does not tells us that we must do this work ourselves.

This very basic teaching has been virtually lost in the modern day. The proud heart is opposed by God rather than given grace. It is only by the grace of God that a heart is humbled to where it will see and long for grace. It is only the work of grace in the soul that will convert that soul and make it like a little child. It is only that soul that has been made to be like a little child that will look to grace alone rather than to something of self and grace to make up the lack that it can do rather than grace alone. The glory of the Gospel of grace alone is not something that can be understood by the intellect alone, it must be taught to sinners in the heart by God Himself.

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