Saturday, December 03, 2005

Christ Precious - Book Review (Part II)

Part 2 of Fawcett’s work is entitled “The Evidence Believers Give That Christ Is Precious To Them”, and continues the exceptionally challenging nature of the book. “God has magnified His love, and set forth His grace towards us, in a manner which should effectually allure our hearts to Him,” Fawcett begins, outlining in beautiful language the ways in which God has show this love (I would emphasise again that the devotional quality of this book is far beyond the vast majority of what you would read today, and it is far more edifying than most modern Christian literature I have come across). In the next 50+ pages, Fawcett goes into detail on what the life of someone truly besotted with Christ, who truly finds Him precious (and remember from the review of the first section that such people are to Fawcett the only ones with true claims to a real Christian faith, for real Christianity is transformational).

First, Fawcett states the one who find’s Christ precious shall trust their everlasting concerns into his hands. Here he is contrasting the type of faith that trusts in itself and it’s own might to bring redemption, and the faith that rests wholly on Christ, realizing that we are incapable of adding in even the smallest way to our own salvation. “When the sinner understands and realizes what God says of the evil of sin, of the misery of fallen man, and of the appointed way of salvation by a glorious and all–sufficient Mediator, he, in consequence, flies for refuge to the hope set before him, and ventures the whole weight of his everlasting interests in His hands.” (p. 43) Christ, writes Fawcett, “is precious on account of all those glorious qualifications which render Him the fittest object of a sinner’s hope and trust,” (p.46) and the true believer recognizes this.

Next, Fawcett comments that true believers, those who find Christ precious, delight to hear, think and speak of Him. As every one is “best pleased with that intelligence, and that conversation in which the object of His dearest affections is the principal theme,” (p. 51), Fawcett clearly sees the one Who finds Christ precious should naturally find all discussion and meditation of Him sweet to the believer. A challenging thought is one that is almost a throwaway statement: “No sermons are so precious and so animating to him, as those in which the Redeemer’s Excellencies are most fully displayed.” (p. 51) I recall sometimes, when I lived in Scotland and used to have the breaking of bread every week (an hour long service), that on the odd occasion it seemed to drag (I was tired, or not in the mood) – that’s shameful, and this is very challenging. The true believer is also grateful for the benefits they receive from Christ. Fawcett points out the all too evident truth that “we are far more frequently more ready to ask favours at the hand of God, than to return thanks for those we receive from Him.” (p.52) At point I should perhaps say that while Fawcett is outlining the ways in which the true believer does act, He is not saying it is 100% always like that, for he also clearly acknowledges the reality of sin and failure in the Christian life, but this should in no way lessen the truth that the inclination of the believer’s heart is now Christward, and should be moving ever more in that direction. I like what he goes on to write in regard to our thankfulness: “The religion we profess is far from requiring us perpetually to put on a mournful countenance. On the other hand, it enjoins upon is cheerfulness, gratitude of heart, and joy in the Lord.” (p. 53) Amen!!

Next, we will prefer Christ to every other object, and give Him chief place in their affections: the love of the Christian for Christ “penetrates and possesses the heart.” (p.56) I like that a lot. Yes, says Fawcett, we should have a deep love for others, for friends, family and the people of God, but none should compare with that we have for Christ. If Christ is truly precious to us, “the bent of our souls will be towards Him…we shall choose Him above and beyond every other object.” (p. 61) Echoing Augustine, he writes, “the heart of a believer is restless till it finds its Saviour; till it obtain a solid hope and persuasion of his love, a growing conformity to Him, and sincere delight in Him.” (p.61) It is foolish in the extreme to run after other things. Further, the one to whom Christ is precious sincerely desires his presence, and longs to enjoy inner communion with Him. This is simply obvious, as it is “well known this is the tendency of a sincere attachment, whoever be the object of it.” (p.64)

One who has true faith is further concerned that others may know and love Christ. Calling heavily on Paul, and his repeated refrains that he desired the salvation of the lost (even to the point for his own brethren that he would wish himself accursed if it may save some), Fawcett outlines that real Christian faith desires other’s to know the preciousness of Christ. The one to Whom Christ is precious longs that others may likewise taste and see that the Lord is good. Such people are also grieved when Christ is dishonoured. Here (p. 71-73), Fawcett reveals something of himself, more so than in other places, discussing how he is personally grieved by the sin around him in his day, of the world, and of others professing to know Christ, but evidencing otherwise. The true Christian is hurt when others diminish, demean, reject and mock their Christ.

The true believer is ready to deny themselves for Christ. Here’s a challenging one for us in the comfortable West, and our often sanitized Christianity. This denial is something considered, after a “deliberate counting of the cost, [choosing] the religion of Jesus, with all that appertains to is; [choosing] it as attended with all its difficulties.” (p.74) Again, Fawcett is no fan of easy-believism…Christianity when embraced should be done so with a true realization not only of the benefits, but the trials that will follow. Christians are distressed by their want of conformity to His Blessed Image and Holy Will: “In proportion as He is precious to us, will be our aversion to sin and all unholiness.” (p.77) Again, all I can say is that this is exceptionally challenging. Fawcett realizes that believers are in different stages of their walk with Christ, that we do battle with sin, but no true believer (and I say that, with Fawcett, unapologetically) does not feel some measure of discontent and dis-ease with their lack of purity and holiness. God has changed our hearts, and we cannot be content in the grips of sin. “From love to Jesus Christ will arise, hatred of those things which are contrary to His will, and which oppose and hinder us in our endeavours after conformity to Him.” (p. 78) The one who finds Christ precious will fail, but will hate it, and will strive to grow more like the Saviour they love.

The believer shall adhere to Christ in all conditions: when the hard times come, those who find Christ precious keep walking with Him anyway. And they shall also seek to glorify Christ in all they do. With Paul in Philippi, we will magnify God whether in life or in death. The purpose of God in redemption was His own glory, and while this “will be our delightful employ through the revolutions of a blissful eternity.” (p. 88, I like that too!), it will equally be our goal here in our lives on earth. And finally, the one who finds Christ precious will long to be with Him. It is simply common sense, but perhaps harder in our day when there is so much here that battles to keep our hearts tied to things below. Yet with saints of old, we will cry, “Even so, Lord, com quickly” – “we shall not only entertain joyful hopes of a future felicity, but we shall live, in expectation of the promised inheritance. We shall feel, at certain seasons, ardent desires of seeing Him upon the throne of glory, to whose humiliation, agonies and death, we are indebted for all our salvation” (p.89) Every true believer has experienced those seasons. Life here, lived as a Christian, has its hardships, and is a battle, and the one who finds Christ precious understands the desire of Fawcett, longing “with increasing desire, that indulgent Heaven would sign [our] release, and speedily dismiss [us] from this scene of combat.” (p.95)

So Fawcett’s work continues to be encouraging, edifying and challenging. It is a welcome antidote to much of the light and all to often trite writing that comes out of Christian publishing houses today, and I wonder how easily modern ears and eyes will take to this book, devoid of the accompanying stories and feel-good emphases of a great deal of modern Christian literature. But the reality is that we need to read things like this. We need to be challenged. “Christ Precious” is a welcome antidote to much of what labels itself Christianity today. For me personally, the twelve evidences of one who finds Christ precious have been exceptionally challenging, and have spurred me on to walk more consistently and closely with my Saviour. I hope that many other find the same.

A review of the third section will arrive in a week or so…


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