Everyone whom the Father gives me will come to me, and the one who comes to me I will never send away.
[John 6:37 NET]
Now, poor sinner, upon whose head the beams of a fiery law are darting; now, poor sinner, distressed in your mind, guilty in your conscience, plagued with a thousand temptations, beset by innumerable doubts and fears, can you not look up a little out of your gloom and sadness, and see that the eternal God is your refuge? Do you not cleave to him with the utmost of your power, as being beaten out of every other refuge? Have you not taken hold of his strength that you may make peace with him? Are you not looking to him? And does he not say, “Look unto me and be saved, all the ends of the earth?” He bids you look at him as Moses bade the Israelites look to the bronze serpent. Poor sinner, groaning under the weight of your transgression, he bids you look to him. Has the blessed Lord, he into whose lips grace was poured, not said, “Him that comes to me I will never cast out?” Why should you not look? Why should you not come to him? Will he cast you out? Do you not feel the secret drawings of his grace, movements upon your heart which make you come often with strong crying and tears, with groans and sighs, earnest, vehement, and continual supplications? What are these but the inward teachings of God, as our Lord said, “It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that has heard, and has learned of the Father, comes unto me.”
And do you not know that the Lord himself said, that no man can come to him except the Father who has sent him draws him? These comings, therefore, of your soul in earnest and vehement desire are, according to his own testimony, from the special teachings and gracious drawings of God in you. Having made his dear Son to be the refuge of your soul, he is now drawing you unto him that you may find pardon and peace in him.
But perhaps you will say, “I am so sinful, so guilty, I have been such a sinner, much worse than you can form any conception of; and it is this which sinks me so low.” Are you lower than brother Jonah when he was in the whale’s belly, and, in his own feelings, in the belly of hell? And yet what said he? “Yet will I look again toward your holy temple.” Can you not look again toward the holy temple? Is his mercy clean gone forever? So David felt and feared, but it was not so, for “his mercy endures forever;” and that is a long and strong word. Look and live, look and live!
To do this you must hold firmly to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck in regard to the faith.
[1 Tim 1:19 NET]
We find that, in the Apostle’s time, there were people who held faith, or rather what they called faith, and put away “good conscience.” He mentions by name, “Hymeneus and Alexander, whom he had delivered unto Satan,” that is, excommunicated them out of the Church, as heretics and blasphemers. But if to have put good conscience away, stamps a man as unfit for the visible Church of God, it behooves us to search whether we have this weapon at our side, and in our hand.
What does the Apostle, then, mean by “a good conscience?” I believe he means a conscience alive in God’s fear, a spiritual conscience, a tender conscience, what he calls, in another part, “a pure conscience;” “holding faith in a pure conscience,” that is, purified from ignorance, from guilt, from the power of sin, “a conscience void of offence toward God and men.” Wherever, then, there is living faith in the soul, there will be united with it “a good conscience.” The Lord never sends forth a soldier to fight his battles with the weapon of faith only; he puts faith in one hand and “a good conscience” in the other. And he that goes forth with what he thinks to be faith, and casts aside “a good conscience,” will manifest himself to be one of those characters, who, “concerning faith make shipwreck.”
But why is it called “a good conscience?” Because it comes down from God, who is the Author of all good, the Giver of “every good gift, and every perfect gift.” There is none good but he, and there is nothing good but what he himself implants and communicates. This weapon of a good conscience, that the Lord arms his soldiers with, works with faith, as well as proves the sincerity of faith, and tests its genuineness and reality. Faith, without a good conscience, is dead. It bears upon it the mark of nature, and however high it may rise in confidence, or however it may seem to abound in good works, it is not the faith of God’s elect, of which the end is the salvation of the soul.
But it may be asked, How does a good conscience work with faith? What is the connection between these two weapons, and how do they mutually support and strengthen each other? In this way. What faith believes, good conscience feels; what faith receives, good conscience holds; what faith embraces, good conscience rivets fast; when faith is weak, good conscience is feeble; and when faith is strong, good conscience is active. They grow and they wane together, and like two stems from one root together do they flourish and fade.
He then alone wars the good warfare, who goes forth with faith in the one hand, and “good conscience” in the other; faith strengthening conscience, and conscience strengthening faith; each doing their separate office, but still tending to one end; each accomplishing the work which the Lord has appointed, and yet each fighting the Lord’s battles, and bringing the soldier safe and victorious over his enemy.
Compete well for the faith and lay hold of that eternal life you were called for and made your good confession for in the presence of many witnesses.
[1 Tim 6:12 NET]
The main office of the hand is to take hold of and grasp an object. The human hand is a masterpiece of anatomy, the fingers and the strong matching thumb being expressly constructed by their Divine Craftsman to seize and retain objects; and therefore every muscle, artery, vein, and nerve conspire together to fulfill this destined office. Is there not in the office of faith something analogous to and corresponding with this? What says the Lord? “Let him take hold of my strength that he may make peace with me, and he shall make peace with me.” There is a taking hold, then, of God’s strength. Is not this by faith? Is there any other grace of the Spirit which takes hold of the Lord, as Jacob took hold of the wrestling angel, or as sinking Peter laid hold of the hand of Jesus? “Lay hold on eternal life,” is Paul’s charge to Timothy. But how is eternal life, and especially Jesus, “the Life,” laid hold of, except by faith? “He that believes on me,” says Jesus, “has everlasting life.” He has it by laying hold of it.
So we read also of “fleeing for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us” (Heb. 6:18). As the manslayer fled for refuge to the appointed city, and when his hand grasped the gates was safe, so guilty sinners flee for refuge to the Lord Jesus, and by faith lay hold upon the hope set before them in the gospel of the grace of God.
For there is one God and one intermediary between God and humanity, Christ Jesus, himself human,
[1 Tim 2:5 NET]
No sooner has living faith embraced the Person of Jesus (and that is the first object which faith lays hold of), than it embraces him as the divinely-appointed Mediator. And how sweet and suitable is such a Mediator to a poor, sinful, crawling reptile, a wretch defiled, morning, noon, and night, with everything foul and filthy, who has broken the law of God a million times, and cannot keep it a single moment! “How can I,” argues the soul, “so full of sin and depravity, how can I approach with acceptance the great, glorious, and holy Jehovah? I cannot, I dare not!”
But when it sees, by the eye of faith, a divinely-appointed Mediator, a glorious Intercessor, a great High Priest over the house of God—One that has shed his blood to put away sin; One who has righteousness to justify, and has a fullness of grace and glory to give to the poor, needy, and naked—as faith sees, as hope embraces, as love enjoys this, there is a coming to God through this divine Mediator; as the Apostle says, “Through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.” “Who by him do believe in God, who raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God.”
Our only access to God is through the Mediator whom he has appointed. All your prayers, tears, sighs, and groans; all your religious thoughts, acts, and words are worthless, utterly worthless, unless perfumed by the intercession of the only-begotten Son of God. See to this point; and I would, in all affection, charge it upon your conscience, that you look well how you approach the Father. Do you approach him through the Son of his love? Is there a solemn feeling in your heart, when you draw near to the throne, that you approach only through Jesus? Is there a believing reception of his atoning blood into your conscience as the only sacrifice that purges away sin, and of his justifying righteousness as the only robe of acceptance before God? See to it well, examine your conscience well upon the matter, for it is vital ground. See that you approach the Father through the Son of his love, and through him alone; for depend upon it, if you approach in any other way, you are but a presumptuous professor; there is no holy fire burning on the altar of your soul; nor will any answer come down but through this divinely-appointed way.