Foundations and Superstructures

From Thomas Charles’ work, Spiritual Counsels

 

The life of faith is so strange and mysterious,…it is so opposite to our
reason, and so contrary to every idea we have in our natural hearts, that
our progress in faith is very slow and almost imperceptible. When a man
can no longer depend upon his own works for his righteousness, yet he
still wants to possess something in himself, something on which to build
his hopes and confidence, and so will look to the work of the Spirit in
his heart, making what should be the superstructure, the foundation. But
we must well remember, that there neither is, nor ever will be, any other
foundation than the obedience and death of Christ only…. The building on
this foundation is true, vital holiness. But great care must be taken,
that the superstructure is not placed where the foundation should be, and
that we mix not with the foundation any part of those materials fit only
for the construction of the building.

Our mistake here is, I believe, frequent; and often very imperceptible,
but always distressing to the soul in its effects. It is more dangerous,
because it wears the appearance of sanctity, it pretends to have a high
esteem for holiness: but it is only Satan transformed into an angel of
light; and it is sure to weaken and distress the soul, if not quite ruin
it. Holiness and all its parts neither is, nor ever can be, in any degree,
the matter of our justification before God…. The confusing of the
foundation with the building will only dishonor the grace of Christ,
disturb our peace and weaken our strength for obedience.

It is comparatively easy to see with the understanding that these two
things are altogether different: but to bring the heart to that point, is
quite another thing. To act in the face of guilt and sin, as those who
practically believe this truth,-here is the difficulty. And the reason for
this difficulty, I am convinced, proceeds mostly from our deficiency in
the knowledge of the person of Christ and from the weakness of our faith
in his ability and sufficiency. For if we were convinced of this, why
would we look for anything else to build our hopes on? If you had a rich
friend and you were fully convinced that he had the ability and desire to
supply all your needs, would you not trust him completely and live
comfortably without any fear of poverty and distress? Of course you would.
And this is how you would treat Christ in regards to your spiritual needs
if you truly believed in his sufficiency… Be your needs what they may,
yet if he is able to supply them, the case is not desperate, there is no
room for despair.

But you will say, “How shall I obtain this knowledge of and belief in
Christ?” Why, make frequent tests of him. When your case is most
desperate, then go directly to him, and put his skill and ability to the
test. When you have nothing in view but ruin and misery, then call upon
him, “Lord, save me, or I perish.”…. How often had Paul experienced
God’s ability in working strange and unexpected deliverances for him? It
was because he had tested God’s skill and trusted his power a thousand
times before that he could say “I know in whom I have believed,” and, “I
am persuaded he is able.”

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