THE LAWFUL CAPTIVE DELIVERED
It is true indeed, that I when under this legal spirit, would sometimes find a sort of peace and quietude; but then it was but a mere sham, for it grew out of my own performances; and hence I say again, that this pharisaical spirit is contrary to the whole genius of the gospel. Also this legal spirit greatly deceives the soul at times; for although it will often disquiet the conscience and throw all things within out of order; yet it can and frequently does, produce a peace which is altogether spurious and contrary to the whole genius of the gospel. And I may safely say that there is much more danger in this pharisaical spirit than what most people are aware of for as it is contrary to the whole genius of the gospel, so it tries hard to exalt itself above the gospel and to take the place of Christ, and is a serious obstacle in the way of a sinner who wishes to come to the Lord of life and glory.
To a man in soul distress, that wishes to come to Christ for true peace and rest, which he feels such great need of this odious spirit says, “Take me, I can serve your turn very conveniently—take me therefore, I stand here handy to you, and I will attend to your case,” &c. And thus is this pharisaical spirit not only contrary to the whole genius of the gospel, but also to Christ and to the Holy Ghost. And this same evil spirit used to haunt me at a strange rate, and strove hard to keep my soul forever from Christ and from gospel liberty, and yet the Mighty God of Jacob would not suffer it so to be.
I may well wonder at the goodness of the Lord to me in bringing me out of so sad a condition as then I was in, as there was nothing in me that could have moved him so to act, and yet so he acted towards me; for in his own good time he dispelled from my mind that old covenant mist, and burst my pharisaical bands, and set the Lawful Captive free. Those bands would forever have kept my soul, in bondage, had not the Lord interfered in my behalf, for by them I was tied fast. Yes, I was so completely duped by this self-righteous spirit, that I really thought it was the spirit of the Lord directing me how, and in what way I should proceed so as to obtain peace and rest in this world, and in the end everlasting life: and doubtless this cheat would have proved my overthrow at last, had it not pleased God to break the snare and to direct me to his dear Son, who “is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth,” Rom. 10. 4.
But before the year of jubilee came on, I was suffered to sink low down, and inwardly to smart from a deep sense of the heinous nature of sin and the curse of a broken law, which holy law was sent home to my conscience, and like a lion it made a strange seizure of my legal spirit, and wrecked and tore my mind all to pieces; and under this operation I was a great sufferer, and many cries and tears it cost me before relief was administered to my wounded spirit. By this circumstance, I was made to see much more clearer than before, the dreadful turpitude of my corrupt nature, and to feel the guilt and burden of sin far more sensibly than I ever before felt it. Of a truth, I here saw myself undone and lost. Here the corrupt fountain of iniquity in my bosom was laid open to my view, and most dreadfully appalling I found the sight to be. I found my very nature was sin, and that “I was shapened in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me,” Psa. 51. 5.
But painful as this discovery was to my feelings, I have great cause to adore and magnify the Lord for thus dealing with me; because so deep a wound being opened in my heart, made the more room for the gospel seed to lodge and take a faster root. And hence I consider that this part of the dealings of the Lord with my soul to be very interesting and momentous, and must not on anywise be passed over by me in silence, but brought to view, that thereby it may be seen what a surprising effect a deep sense of sin will produce in the soul, and how vastly different it is from the working of a pharisaical spirit under slight conviction of sin. It also is highly necessary that I should be somewhat explicit in laying before my readers this part of the exercises of my mind, in order that the grace of God in delivering me from the depths of sin, may appear the more conspicuous.
Dark was the dominion in which grace at first found me—A sinner by nature and a rebel by practice—to evil prone and pleased with the service of Satan. And when I was convinced of sin, I was bent on cleaving to a covenant of works rather than to go directly to Christ for salvation, as I have already shown; but for this piece of folly I smarted severely; and I can truly say, that most wretched are the effects of a self-righteous spirit, for it robs God and proves detrimental to a newly awakened soul. But from legal workings, and from sad despair, the Lord of life and glory in his own good time, delivered my soul. I will here make an extract from a letter which I once sent to an esteemed friend and brother of mine, living in the city of Washington.
“As I am not fully able to express, so I am inclined to think that you cannot rightly conceive, how near you are to me in the gospel, and how highly I esteem you as a laborer in the vineyard of Christ. I often think of the delightful conversations we have had together, and of the divine glow which has attended the same. ‘The unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace’ is true in our case, and it will continue long—for ever. Great are the advantages arising from such friendship as exists between us. Indeed it is more than friendship—it is brotherhood—divine brotherhood—a unit—an heavenly tie. Yes, we are one—one in Christ—one in the truth—one in covenant—one in the gospel, and our life is hid with Christ in God. And hence if one is safe, so is the other—and if one be saved, eternally saved, so will the other.
“But although you and I are thus safe, yet in one sense of the word, we are poor and needy mortals, and we ought not to be backward in making our wants known to him who can help us, Should we prove defaulters here, it would be to our shame and great disadvantage, and also to the dishonor of God. And, dear sir, we ought not to dishonor him who hath done so much for us. I at least am obliged to confess that it is much, and very much, that the Lord hath wrought for, and in my soul, because it is what no other person could have done for me. And hence I am a debtor to grace, amazing grace! and I hope never to forget the rich bestowment of heaven to my soul. Mercy and grace made sweet melody in my breast, and effected a most surprising change in my mind throughout; for when I was in my natural state, my mind was as dark as midnight in regard to divine things; and my ignorance also was surprisingly great; but by the grace of God I was made light in the Lord, and wise to salvation.
“But ignorant as I was of divine things when in my natural state, yet I knew how to sin and how to insult my Maker. This was natural to me as a fallen sinner; and in sin I was born, and I grew up in sin, and I delighted in it, for it was sweet to my taste, and my whole nature was full of it. I was also exceedingly proud to think that I was what f was. Yea, so proud and haughty was my soul, that even when the Lord took me in hand and made a wound in my conscience, I wanted to heal it up myself, in order that I might have the glory of so noble a performance.
“Indeed it was a long time before I got so far cured of this haughtiness of heart, as to be willing to give myself up into the hands of the great Physician of souls, and to let him have all the praise of healing my wounded and burdened conscience. Nor do I think that I should have consented to it at all, but that I saw at last that no one could heal my deep wound but the heavenly Physician; and if he healed me every whit, he of course should and ought to have the praise and honor of effecting so great a cure. And to be sure, when I saw and felt that I was healed, I was willing and ready enough to ascribe glory, and honor, and praise, and power, to him who administered relief to my bleeding conscience. Yes, I fell down at his feet and thanked him for what he had done for my soul. And I also cheerfully told him that I was willing to serve him in the gospel, and to publish abroad his love, and mercy, and grace, and truth, and wisdom, and strength, and all his divine honors. All this was before I was twenty years of age; and it is even now pleasant to think of and to look back on. And as I some time ago was riding through North Carolina, and seriously thinking of the early exercises of my mind, and of the wonders wrought for me by the Saviour of sinners, I drew up an epitome of the same in verse, and I now present it to you; and I wish you may find as much sacred pleasure in reading, as I felt in composing it.
“In sin I was born and in sin I grew up,
My soul, I here call upon thee to pause for a moment, and duly to consider what the Mighty God of Israel bath in mercy wrought for thee. Thou wast once under the dominion of a pharisaical spirit, and fancied all would end well, when poor human nature had made what improvements it was capable of making. Sad mistake this, and yet under it thou didst labor, and perished too thou wouldst if nothing more had been done for thee than what this legal spirit performed, which at best, were but dead works, in which works, thou didst pride thyself to the great disparagement of the everlasting righteousness brought in by the Messiah, Dan. 9. 24; which wrong must be deemed an outrage on the honor of Deity.
A poor self-conceited mortal was I; and thought to be sure I could commend myself to the favor of heaven by toil of my Own.
O thou proud spirit, thou art an enemy to the Lord of hosts, and also a beguiler of the souls of men. Thy speeches and promises are fair, but all is a delusion and thou art a very cheat, for thou hast tried to rob God, and to deceive my soul; and for this thy religious villainy, thou art now apprehended and condemned, and from thy dominion I am mercifully delivered: and I now again call upon thee, my soul, to think soberly on the goodness of the Lord in interfering on thy behalf on this important occasion, and at a time when thou wast like to be ruined by this said evil spirit. Think I say again, think on this matter with pleasing surprise, “and give to God the glory.”
All the religion that some people possess is the product of this deceitful spirit, which spirit works by fraud and lies, and tries to usurp the Messiah’s throne; and under the influence of this usurper, I for a long time was held, and by the same I should have been holden unto this day, had not the Lord in mercy appeared for me, and delivered my soul from the dreadful snare. Render praise; render praise to God most high, O my soul, for interference on thy behalf so benign! Besides, the Lord dealeth not with all men after this manner; but for thee, my soul, he had a respect and “thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give thee an expected end,” Jer. 29. 11. And my soul, wilt thou not from this time cry unto the Lord and say, “my father, thou art the guide of my youth,” Jer. 3. 4.
The great care which the Lord hath taken of me from time to time, and his merciful dealings with my soul under various circumstances which I have been led, demand a song of high praise, and I wish I always felt a cheerful disposition of heart to render the same to my gracious benefactor.
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Elder James Osbourn--Part 2-continued