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Plumer on the Christian life

Here's an excellent chapter by William S. Plumer on "The Christian Life" from his work, The Christian, published in 1878. The work in full is found here.

When we speak of the Christian life, we may refer either to the gracious principle implanted in the heart of the regenerate, or to the ordinary methods of its manifestation. Let us look at both.

The life of God in the soul of a believer is a great mystery. In any case life is somewhat unknown to us. But the life of a child of God is very far removed from the cognizance of the careless. Believers themselves are God's hidden ones. They are fed and nourished by the hidden manna. The secret of the Lord is with them. He shows them His covenant. Their life is hid with Christ in God. True, when Christ, who is their life, shall appear, then shall they also appear with Him in glory. But now they are unknown to the world, except as their light shines in the darkness.

The Christian life is supernatural. It is something far above the powers of the carnal man. That the blind should see, the deaf hear, the lame man leap as a deer, and the dead live—can be accounted for only on the ground that it is the work of God. We are all dead in trespasses and sins, until Divine grace makes us new creatures. Over our mind, dense clouds of smoke and thick darkness from the bottomless pit have settled. We have eyes, but we see not. Our imaginations are vain. Our memories are polluted.

Our ingenuity devises mischief and foolish evasions and excuses. Our wills are perverse and stubborn. Our daring in sin is frightful. To think of our state might well make one to shudder. Our enmity to God is mortal. If such are changed from hatred to love, from sin to holiness—it must be by God's power, His mighty power.

This Christian life is the gift of the Holy Spirit, and no man knows the way of the Spirit. "The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound thereof, but cannot tell whence it comes nor where it goes; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit." It is but vanity and presumption for us poor worms to claim to comprehend the ways of God.

The Christian life is to the soul that experiences it, a new life. Old things have passed away. All things are become new. Like all new life, it is full of wonders. Everything pertaining to it is fresh and suited to rejoice the heart.

And so it is a happy life. The joy of the Lord has great strength in it. The buoyancy of the soul that is stayed on God is often amazing, and always mighty.

This life is also abiding. It is not always equally strong, but it is fed by new supplies of strength until the last.

Of course the Christian life is a great mercy. So says the apostle of the circumcision: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, according to His abundant mercy, has begotten us again unto a lively hope," etc. So says the apostle of the Gentiles: "God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, has quickened us together with Christ," etc. The Christian life manifests itself—

1. By healthful and regular pulsations. The child of God has a heart, and its throbbings are not spasmodic and occasional. Because Christ lives in them, the life of Christians is constant.

2. The Christian life manifests itself by cries—cries that enter the ears of the Lord Almighty. As soon as Paul was renewed, it was said of him, "Behold, he prays." No Christian lives without prayer.

3. The Christian life manifests itself by a relish for suitable food. Even the newborn babe desires the sincere milk of the Word that it may grow thereby. After a while, the strong meat of God's Word is required, and it is relished also.

4. Wondrously, too, does the child of grace enjoy the pure and heavenly atmosphere of the Church and ordinances of God's house, and the sweet moments of the communion of saints in prayer and praise, in supplication and thanksgiving.

5. Such Christians will grow—will grow up into more and more stability, heavenly-mindedness, constancy, courage, love, faith, and hope. Of some, Paul says their faith grew exceedingly.

6. The Christian life will show itself by activity. There will sooner or later be motion where there is life. In due time the renewed man will walk, and leap, and praise God. When one said to an ancient philosopher, "There is no such thing as motion," the sage said not a word, but arose and walked across the room. That was answer enough. So if any say there is no Christian life in the world, let us, by walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly, prove that they are mistaken.

There is a reality, there is a power in heartfelt piety. On this earth nothing is more powerful. But for true piety, the world would soon come to an end—the cries of its wickedness perpetually calling for vengeance. But as ten righteous men would have saved the cities of the plain, so for the elect's sakes the day of vengeance is shortened and the day of grace prolonged.


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