Some Words of Wisdom from James Haldane

Several years ago I posted this, and when we sang another Horatius Bonar hymn this past Sunday, for some reason this came to my mind. So, since I haven’t posted in a long while, I thought this would be a good way to get my feet wet once again. (In the next day or two I will give an update on Reed’s progress.)

The Gospel is very generally misunderstood by those who profess to believe. They view it as a scheme for making up their deficiencies through the merits of Christ; but this is ‘another gospel.’ The Gospel of Christ is addressed to those who are far from righteousness; who are poor and blind, and naked; who have no money to purchase salvation, no merit to recommend them to the favour of God. Christ came, not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. If we are not sinners we have nothing to do with the Gospel; and if we are sinners, let us not reject the counsel of God against ourselves, by vainly supposing that anything about us gives us a peculiar claim to his favour, or by imagining that our sins are too great to be forgiven. The righteousness of God is altogether irrespective of our obedience. The thief upon the cross was saved by faith in Jesus, and none shall enter heaven in any other way.”—James Haldane

I came across this quote of James Haldane, a 19th century Scottish pastor, on Monergism.com and it reminded me of two things that I already knew, but needed to have reinforced in my understanding of the Gospel. The first truth is that we must never forget that we, to use Haldane’s terminology, have no “peculiar claim to [God’s] favor.” We are not inherently good people who just need “a little help” to be in right standing with a holy, majestic God. We are sinners whose hearts are “deceitful above all things” (Side note: If there was ever a warning to never follow our own heart, this is it) and would never deserve to experience God’s mercy and grace no matter how diligently we worked at it. This is a very humbling truth in terms of how we see God and ourselves, and also should keep us from looking down our noses at others as we remember, “there but for the grace of God go I.”

However, Haldane also reminds us that we should never despair because we imagine “that our sins are too great to be forgiven.” As 1Peter 1:17-18 points out, we were “ransomed from the futile ways inherited from [our] forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” His perfect sacrifice on the cross “cleanses us from all sin,” no matter how dark or destructive. He simply requires that we look to Him in faith, with repentant hearts trusting not in what we have done, or will do; but totally trusting in what He has done on our behalf.

As another Scot, Horatius Bonar, has so wonderfully written:

Not what my hands have done can save my guilty soul;
Not what my toiling flesh has borne can make my spirit whole.
Not what I feel or do can give me peace with God;
Not all my prayers and sighs and tears can bear my awful load.

Your voice alone, O Lord, can speak to me of grace;
Your power alone, O Son of God, can all my sin erase.
No other work but Yours, no other blood will do;
No strength but that which is divine can bear me safely through.

Thy work alone, O Christ, can ease this weight of sin;
Thy blood alone, O Lamb of God, can give me peace within.
Thy love to me, O God, not mine, O Lord, to Thee,
Can rid me of this dark unrest, And set my spirit free.

I bless the Christ of God; I rest on love divine;
And with unfaltering lip and heart I call this Savior mine.
His cross dispels each doubt; I bury in His tomb
Each thought of unbelief and fear, each lingering shade of gloom.

I praise the God of grace; I trust His truth and might;
He calls me His, I call Him mine, My God, my joy and light.
’Tis He Who saveth me, and freely pardon gives;
I love because He loveth me, I live because He lives.

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