THE LAWFUL CAPTIVE DELIVERED

PART II--Continued.

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,
And sin mark’d the footsteps I trod
A stranger to peace and without a good hope,
I wander’d a rebel from God.

Though imminent danger beset me around,
And threatened my soul to destroy;
I still with transgressors was constantly found,
And with them partook of their joy.

My wind was as dark as the curtains of night,
My heart was as hard as a stone;
In sinful amusements I took a delight,
And greatly to vice I was prone.

And willing I was to continue a slave,
To Satan the father of lies;
And every deceivable lecture he gave,
I thought to be sure I must prize.

But early in life to my soul there was sent,
(What never before I had seen,)
An arrow from God, and I knew what it meant,
And to me ‘twas cutting and keen.

This wound in my conscience created a pain,
Attended with sorrow for sin;
Nor could I at seasons from weeping refrain,
So strange were my feelings within.

In pain and in sorrow I now lived alone,
And many and great were my fears;
I languish’d and pin’d and made pitiful moan,
And wet my couch often with tears.

Through desolate places I often would rove,
In hopes that my pain would abate;
But there I have been as forlorn as a dove,
When mourning the loss of its mate.

Yet still I imagin’d the cure of my wound,
was lodged in the hands of free-will;
And hence I continu’d to work, till I found
The wound was too deep for my skill.

Instead of improving, I grew worse and worse,
And great was the horror I felt;
And finding my soul was expos’d to the curse,
I sunk with the burden of guilt.

In this sad condition I fled for relief,
To him who expir’d on the tree;
And told him I was of all sinners the chief,
But begg’d he would yet pity me.

I told him how acid my feelings then were
And how much I suffer’d within;
And that I should end in eternal despair,
Unless he would pardon my sin.

And yet for the present relief was withheld,
Which added fresh gloom to my state;
And O with what pungent distress was I fill’d,
When duly I thought of my fate.

Yet in this sad hour of uncommon great need,
(My bosom surcharg’d with distress,)
With Jesus for help I continu’d to plead,
Though faint was my hope of success.

At length the dear Saviour of sinners appear’d,
With balm in his hand for my smart;
And from me he banish’d the evils I fear’d,
And bound up the wound in my heart.

And here I obtain’d a divorce from the law.
And freedom from terror and dread;
And in the clear light of the gospel I saw,
My soul unto Jesus was wed.

And to me this Jesus was lovely and sweet,
And brighter by far than the sun;
And gladly I bow’d myself down at his feet,
And thank’d him for what he had done.

And while I was there I discovered that grace,
Was then at my humble request;
For to me he said, with a smile in his face,
My bosom’s the place of thy rest.

‘And here thou in safety may take thy repose,
And feast on ineffable love;
Though this is a favor I grant but to those
Who’re born unto me from above.

‘But know, that thy voice I must frequently hear,
In strains of thanksgiving and praise;
My name those must also adore and revere,
For I’m the great Ancient of Days.’

I answered, Dear Saviour thy name I’ll extol,
And praise thee so long as I live;
Since what thou in mercy hath wrought for my soul,
Deserves all the praise I can give.

‘To sinners I also will try to unfold,
That deep and mysterious plan;
Which thou in the depth of thy counsel of old,
Contriv’d for the safety of man.

I’ll speak of thy love in its breadth and its length,
And publish thy honors abroad;
And tell of thy greatness, thy wisdom, and strength.
And call thee Immanuel God.
‘Thus while in thy bosom, I’ll lift up my voice,
And sonnets of love will I sing;
And in the great Ancient of Days I’ll rejoice.
And own him my Lord and my King.’”

REFLECTIONS.

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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