Thursday, October 27, 2005

18th Century Theology with Thomas Boston 5

Thomas Boston was a Scottish preacher of genius. His writings are more readily available than ever before, in book form (including the ubiquitous Fourfold State of Man ), increasingly on the web (including bits of the ubiquitous Fourfold State of Man), on unsearchable CD rom and 0n searchable CD rom.

—•—The Spirit of Bondage—•—
Unbelievers are actuated by a spirit of bondage, suitable to their state of bondage under the covenant of works, Gal. 4:24, 25. A slavish fear and a servile hope are the weights hung upon them by that covenant, causing them to go: sin is avoided, duty performed, not out of love to God and holiness, but out of love to themselves. (Works VIII 572) A law-work cannot miss to be straitening to a sinner. Conviction of sin, of heart, lip, life, and nature, cannot but press sore; the spirit of bondage, girding the soul with the cords of death, and the curse of the broken law, makes a strait entry, Rom. 8:15. (Works X 318)

This fear of God is to be found in the unconverted; they have the spirit of bondage again to fear, (Works IX 77) Satan and our corrupt hearts are ready to drive forward this fear of God’s wrath to exceed all bounds: and no wonder, for when it has got over the boundaries, it makes fearful havoc in the soul’s case, like a consuming fire, deadening all good motions towards God, and quickening evil ones, to the dishonour of God, and one’s own torment; and no case out of hell is liker hell than this, both in respect of sin and misery. But when the Spirit of God has a saving work in view, he can easily make the spirit of bondage subservient to the spirit of adoption. (Works IX 80) The service he performed for you was hard service; the yoke he puts upon you is easy, and the burden light, Matt. 11:30. He served as a bond-servant for you; he requires you to serve him as a son serveth his father, Mal. 3:17. If his people make their own service harder, they owe it not to his Spirit, but to their own spirit, or a worse, Rom. 8:15, “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear.” (Works VII 540 cf. Works VII 333 n. l )

Question… But can saints have no such slavish fear of God? Answer: As all the graces of the Spirit are imperfect and mixed in the saints, so is their fear of God not without a mixture of that slavishness. Hence saith Jesus unto his disciples, Matt. 8:26, “Why are ye so fearful, O ye of little faith?” It is the same word as 2 Tim. 1:7. It is true, God never again gives them the spirit of bondage; but they may, through unbelief, take up a spirit of bondage again. But seeing they can never again lose the Spirit of adoption, neither can they lose that grace of filial reverential fear altogether: so that there is still as much difference betwixt them and hypocrites, as betwixt the malefactor fearing the judge, and a son’s fearing his father; who appears enraged against him, and about to put him out of his house; which yet will not kill natural affection. (Works IV 484f.)

Now, there is a twofold word to be believed by all those who would enter into the covenant of grace in a saving manner, namely, the word of the law, and the word of the gospel. The believing of the former is a faith of the law; and of the latter, a faith of the gospel. The faith of the law is the work of the Spirit of God, as well as the saving faith of the gospel, though wrought by him in a very different manner. The former he works by the law, as a Spirit of conviction and bondage, convincing of sin and misery, Rom. 8:15, with John 16:8. The latter he works by the gospel, as a quickening Spirit, a Spirit of saving illumination and adoption. (Works I 359f.)

Let those, who, by the power of the spirit of bondage, have had the law opened before them in its spirituality, for their conviction, speak and tell, if they found themselves able to incline their hearts toward it, in that case; nay, whether the more that light shone into their souls, they did not find their hearts more and more unable to comply with it. (Works VIII 57f.) They are of a slavish spirit who are under [the covenant of works]; whereas the saints are acted by a son-like spirit. For, says the apostle, Rom. 8:15, “ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” As the slave is moved with fear, not with love; so is it with them. (Works XI 273) Look at those whose soul exercises have issued in putting their case in the hands of a Physician of no value. There are many who, being awakened by a spirit of conviction, and are really exercised about their souls’ condition, put their case to Christ for healing. But not being able or willing to wait his time, till the wound be sufficiently searched, but being for peace at any rate, they are offended in him, and so put themselves in the hand of the law that wounded them. Thus they make themselves whole, not by the believing application of the blood of Christ, but by their prayers, tears, and external reformation. And so they settle down upon their lees, farther from Christ than ever. (Works III 72)

Consider the entertainment which [Christ] meets with when he comes to teach souls inwardly by his Spirit. Men do what they can to stop their ears, like the deaf adder, that they may not hear his voice. They “always resist the Holy Ghost:” “They desire not the knowledge of his ways;” and therefore bid him “depart from them.” The old calumny is often raised upon him on that occasion, John 10:20, “He is mad, why hear ye him?” Soul-exercise, raised by the spirit of bondage, is accounted, by many, nothing else but distraction, and melancholy fits; men thus blaspheming the Lord’s work, because they themselves are beside themselves, and cannot judge of those matters. (Works VIII 67) The spirit of bondage witnesseth the truth [that there is a sentence passed in the court of heaven, and standing, against ungodly men, evil-workers], convincing the sinner that he is a dead man, Rom. 7:9, and that he stands in need of a remission, chap. 3:19. This testimony is true; for it is the testimony of the Spirit of God, whereby he brings sinners to see their need of Christ. (Works VI 483)

The Spirit of the Lord speaks to the soul as it were out of the midst of the fire; but there is blackness, darkness, and tempest, mixed with this light. And here consider the [twofold] matter … of this conviction, … (1.) Sin, John 16:8, “He will reprove the world of sin.” The Spirit of the Lord convinces the man that he is a sinner, and sets his particular sins in order before him, Ps. 50:21. Then sins that are out of mind, as dead and buried, have a fearful resurrection, Rom. 7:9. The spirit of bondage leads his prisoner in chains, through the several parts and steps of this life, to his very birth; and shows him convincingly his sins in them: lets him see such ill in sin as he never saw before, how heinously God takes it, and that with the several aggravations thereof. (2.) Misery, John 16:8. The Spirit of the Lord convinces him, that he is lost and undone, Luke 15:17. Being convicted and found guilty, sentence passes on him within his own breast, whereby he sees himself doomed to eternal death. He is convinced, as if an angel from heaven should tell him, that he is under God’s wrath and curse, and that therefore, if he die in that case, he will perish for ever. He sees God to be his enemy; his word to speak no good of him, and all God’s creatures his enemies in some sort ready armed against him. (Works I 564f.)

The Lord, the Judge, sends out other messengers, and they apprehend the sinner, lay hands on him to carry him, whether he will or not, before the judgment-seat, and oblige him to abide his trial. And these are two: the Spirit of bondage, and an awakened conscience, John 16:8, 9; Prov. 20:27. These will catch the man, and hunt him till they find him out, when they have got their order, Jer. 2:27. They apprehended Paul when going to Damascus, and left him not till he appeared, and submitted himself. But it is not always so. Some that are apprehended get out of the messenger’s hands, and make their escape unhappily. When they are caught, they are unruly prisoners: they struggle and wrestle, and strive against the Spirit, and their own consciences, Acts 7:51; they go no farther with them than they are dragged. They get the mastery at length over their conscience, break its bonds, and stifle its convictions, and so grieve and quench the Spirit, that they get away to their own ruin; like Cain, Saul, Felix, &c. But none of God’s elect ever get away altogether. (Works I 583f.) Then the elect soul is infallibly sisted at length before the judgment-seat. The Spirit of bondage and the awakened conscience apprehend him afresh, and bring their prisoner in chains of guilt unto the bar trembling, and he can escape the trial no longer, before a holy God, Acts 16:29, 30. Then what fear, sorrow and anxiety, seize the prisoner’s soul, while he sees a just Judge on the throne, a strict and severe law laid before him, and he has a guilty conscience within! And he must undergo a trial for his life; not the life of the body only, but of soul and body for evermore. These things may seem idle tales to some; but if ye have not experienced the reality of them, ye shall do it, or dreadful shall the judgment after death be to you. (Works I 584 )

How hopeless is the case of many that have never yet been awakened by the Spirit of conviction! The forerunners of the effectual call are not yet come unto you. (Works I 566) Let us take a view of those who are lying dead upon their murdered convictions. Our Lord has taken some persons in hand to cure them, and by the Spirit of conviction, he has begun to let blood of the heart vein of their beloved lusts. But the pain of this operation hath made them disagree with the Physician, start up and break the lancet, and stifle their convictions. And now their wound is whole, their convictions are gone, and their conscience, which was so uneasy before, is now as dead as stone. Go where they please, they are not troubled. Darts are as stubble. (Works III 71) When the natural conscience is awakened by the Spirit of conviction, it will indeed rage and roar, and put the whole man in a dreadful consternation; awfully summon all the powers of the soul to help in a strait; make the stiff heart to tremble, and the knees to bow; set the eyes weeping, the tongue confessing; and oblige the man to cast out the goods into the sea, which he apprehends are likely to sink the ship of the soul, though the heart still goes after them. Yet it is an evil conscience which naturally leads to despair, and will do it effectually, as in Judas’ case; unless either lusts prevail over it, to lull it asleep, as in the case of Felix, Acts 24:25, or the blood of Christ prevail over it, sprinkling and purging it from dead works, as in the case of all true converts, Heb. 9:14, and 10:22. (Works VIII 81f.)

[B]y the Spirit of the Lord, acting as a spirit of bondage, there is a criminal court erected in the man’s breast; where he is arraigned, accused, and condemned for breaking the law of God, (Works VIII 190) [A] man believes … [t]hat he is a sinner, a breaker of the law’s commands, liable to divine vengeance. The law pronounces him a guilty man, and he believes the report of the law concerning himself in particular; and so, by this faith, his heavy and sorrowful heart echoes back to the voice of the law, guilty, guilty! Rom. 3:19. This faith is a divine faith, founded upon the testimony of God in his holy law; and rests not in the testimony of men, whether spoken or written. The Spirit of God as a Spirit of bondage, brings home the law to the man’s conscience, and persuades him, that that law is the voice of the eternal God, and the voice of that God to him in particular; and so convinces him of sin upon God’s own testimony. (Works I 360)

The means the Spirit makes use of is the word; hence we read of preaching repentance. And (1.) The law serves to break the hard heart, Jer. 23:29, “Is not my word like a fire? saith the Lord; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?” It is like the Baptist preparing the way for the Messiah’s coming. Hence it is called, “The Spirit of bondage,” Rom. 8:15. (2.) The gospel serves to melt the hard heart, like a fire, Jer. 23:29, forecited; and so bow and bend it from sin unto God. The soul is driven by the law, but drawn by the gospel. The Lord comes in the still small voice. (Works II 413) Time was when [the convicted sinner] could not think of parting from among [the world’s society]; but could get no rest among them; seeing every moment the city of destruction ready to be overthrown, and himself to be swallowed up in the ruins. This is a new sight that one gets, not by the sight of the eyes, but from the word, by the Spirit acting as a Spirit of bondage on the soul and conscience; awakening, convincing, and persuading into a firm belief of the report of the law, with application to one’s own particular case. (Works V 354)

[T]he Spirit of the Lord makes use of both parts of the word. … The law, to break the hard heart. Jer. 23:29, “Is not my word – like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces? saith the Lord.” It goes before like John Baptist to prepare the way of the Lord into the heart. And the Spirit of the Lord making use of it in a soul, is called “the Spirit of bondage,” Rom. 8:15. And here each part of the law has its proper use. (Works VI 386)

The work of the Spirit for persuading and enabling us to embrace Christ, is threefold: namely, conviction, saving illumination, and the renewing of the will. But conviction is not a work of the Spirit, of the same kind with the other two. Conviction is a work of the Spirit, acting as “a spirit of bondage” upon us, Rom. 8:15. The Spirit, acting as a Spirit of bondage, convinceth us of our sin and misery; John 16:8, “And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” Acts 2:37, “Now, when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter, and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Works VII 85)

[A man’s belief that he is a sinner] rests not on the testimony of man, whether spoken or written; but is a divine faith, founded upon the testimony of God, in his holy law, demonstrated by the Spirit of bondage, to be the voice of the eternal God, and the voice of that God to him in particular. (Works VIII 582f.) He can no more look upon the curse as some strange thing, belonging only to some monsters of wickedness, and not to him: for the Spirit of the Lord, as a Spirit of bondage, applies it closely to him; as if he said, thou art the man. (Works VIII 583)

Our Lord breaks his people’s hearts by his Spirit, and yet by the same Spirit binds them up again. In the first work he is the Spirit of bondage; and some may be long under his hand this way. Hence we read of some “who, through fear of death, were all their lifetime subject to bondage,” Heb. 2:15. (Works IX 560) [B]y his Spirit acting upon them, as a Spirit of bondage, he sets home on their consciences, the holy law in the commands and curse thereof, as of divine authority, and binding on them in particular. Hereby they are convinced of their sin and misery, seeing their sin as heinous in the sight of God, and his wrath due to them for their sin: they are filled with remorse, terror, and anxiety; are made to pant for relief, feel an absolute need of Christ and his righteousness, and despair of relief by any other way, Acts 2:37, and 16:29, 30. (Works VIII 551)

[T]he faith of the law is the work of the Spirit of God, as well as the saving faith of the gospel; though wrought in a different manner. The former he works as a Spirit of bondage, convincing of sin and misery, by the law, Rom. 8:15, with John 16:8. The latter he works as a quickening Spirit, enlightening the soul in the knowledge of Christ, by the gospel, 2 Cor. 3:17, 18. (Works VIII 582) The bonds laid on [the] consciences [of the person united to Christ] by the Spirit of God, acting as the Spirit of bondage, are taken off, never more to be laid on, Rom. 8:15, “For ye have not received the Spirit of bondage again to fear.” (Works VIII 206f.)

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