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Hugh Binning (1627–1653) on John 3:16

March 5, 2009

Binning:

1) There is nothing, I know, more powerful to persuade us of the reality of God’s invitations and promises to us than this. We are still seeking signs and tokens of God’s love, something to warrant us to come to God in Christ, and to persuade us that we shall be welcome; and many Christians puddle themselves in the mire of their own darkness and discouragement, because they cannot find any thing in themselves that can give but the least probable conjecture, that he will admit and welcome them to come to him, or that such precious promises, and sweet invitations, can belong to such sinners as they conceive themselves to be. Truly, my beloved, I think, while we exercise ourselves thus, we are seeking the sun with a candle, making that which is in itself as bright as the light to be more dark. The evidence of Gods reality in offering life to you in Christ, and his willingness to receive you, is not without the compass of his invitation, and yet you seek it where it is least to be found, that is, in yourselves. But indeed, his invitations in the gospel carry the evidence in their bosom,–that which is above all other signs and evidences, that he did even send his own Son in the flesh for this purpose. Is there any thing besides this, either greater or clearer? I think we are like those who, when they had seen many signs and wonders done by Christ, which did bear testimony to all the world of his divine nature, yet they would not he satisfied, but sought out another sign, tempting him, Matt.. xvi. 1. And truly, he might return this us, ‘O wicked and adulterous generation, that seeketh after a sign, there shall no sign be given to thee, but the sign of the prophet Jonas.’ The greatest testimony that can be imagined, is given already,–that the Father should send his only-begotten am I well-beloved Son into the state of a servant for man. If this do not satisfy, I know not ‘what will. I see not how any work of his Spirit in us, can make so much evidence of his reality and faithfulness in the gospel, and of his willingness to welcome sinners. All the works of the creation, all the works of grace, are nothing to this, to manifest his love to men; and therefore there is a singular note upon it. ‘God so loved the world, that he gave his Son,’ John iii. 16. And in this was his love manifested, that he sent his Son, 1 John iv. 9. If men and angels had set themselves to devise and find out a pledge or confirmation of the love of God, they would have fallen upon some revelation unto, Of some operation upon their spirit.” But, alas this is infinitely above that. His own express image, and the brightness of his glory, is come down to hear witness of his love; nay, he who is equal with himself in glory, is given as a gift to men; and is not he infinitely more than created gifts or graces, who is the very spring and fountain of them all? ‘God so loved the world,’ that truly he gave no such gift. besides, to testify such a love. Therefore, when all that he hath done in this kind cannot satisfy thy scrupulous mind, but thou wilt still go on, to seek more confirmation of his readiness to receive thee, I think it is a tempting of the Holy One, which may draw such an answer from him, o wicked and adulterous person, there shall no sign be given thee, but that which is darker than the former, that which thou shalt understand less. Thou mayest get what thou seekest. perhaps some more satisfaction in thy own condition, but it shall plunge thee more in the issue. Thou shalt always be unsettled. and ‘unconstant as water, thou shalt not excel.’ I confess indeed, if we speak of the manifestation of one’s particular interest in these promises, and of an evidence of the love of God to thee, in particular, then there must needs be something wrought by the Holy Spirit on thy soul, to draw down the general testimony of God’s love to mankind into a particular application to thyself. But that I do not speak of now. because that is the sealing of the Spirit after believing; and because you are always unsettled in the first and main point, of flying unto the Son, and waiting- on him for life, therefore have you so much in evidence and weakness in that which follows. That which I now speak of is. that if this were cordially believed. and seriously considered, that God sent his own Son in the flesh, to save sinners, you could not readily have any doubt, but that your coming to him for salvation would be welcome. You could not say, that such precious invitations could not belong to sinners, or that he could not love the like of you. Truly, I think, if the general were laid to heart, that God hath so loved mankind, that he gave such a gift unto them, there is none could make any more question of his reality, when that gift is tendered to any in particular. Nay, I think it is the inconsideration of this general evidence and manifestation of love to the world, that makes you so perplexed in particulars. Could you have so much difficultly to believe his love to you, if you indeed believe that he hath loved the world, that is, so many thousands like you? Is there so much distance, I pray you, between you and another, as between him and all? If, then, he loves so many miserable sinners, is there any impossibility in it, but he may love you? For what is in them that might conciliate his love? I tell you, why I think the right apprehension of the general truths of the gospel would be able, like the sun in its strength, to scatter all the clouds and mists of our particular interest-debates; because I find, that those very grounds, upon which you call in question your own particular interest, if you did consider them, you would find they go a further length, to conclude against all others; and either they have no strength in your case, or they will be of equal force to batter down the confidence of all the saints, and the certainty of all the promises. What is it that troubles you, but that you are sinners, and such sinners, so vile and loathsome? From whence you do conclude, not only that you have no present assurance of his love, but that he cannot love such a one as you are. Now. I say, if this hold good, in reference to you, take heed that you condemn not yourselves in that which you approve,–that is, that you do not. dispute against the interest of all the saints, who were such as you are, and the truth of those fundamental positions of the gospel, ‘God so loved the world,’ &c. And so you do not only wrong yourselves, but all others; and not only so, but you offer t
he greatest indignity to him that out of love sent his Son, and to him who, out of love, came and laid down his life. O consider how you indignify and set at nought that great manifestation of God’s love, ‘God manifested in the flesh;’ how you despise his love-pledge to sinners, a greater than which he could not give you, because as great as himself! O that you could see the consequence of your anxious and perplexing doubts,–that they do not only an injury to your own souls, but that they are of a more bloody nature! If they held good, they would cut off the life and salvation of all believers, and, which is worse, they would, by an unavoidable consequence, conclude an antichristian point, that Christ is not come in the flesh. I beseech you, unbowel your evils, that yon may abhor them. High Binning, “The Sinner’s Sanctuary,” in The Works of the Rev. Hugh Binning (Ligonier, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1992), Sermon 12, 170-171.

2) Now, the working of this Spirit of adoption, I conceive to be threefold, beside that of intercession expressed in the verse. The first work of the Spirit of adoption, that wherein a father’s affection seems to break first from under ground, is, the revealing to the heart the love and mercy of God to sinners. I do not say, to such a soul in particular, for that application is neither first, nor universal. But herein the Spirit of adoption first appears from under the cloud of fear; and this is the first opening of the prison of bondage, wherein a soul was shut, when the plain way of reconciliation to God in Christ, and delivery frm the bondage of sin and wrath, is holden out; when such a word as this comes into the soul, and is received with some gladness, ‘God so loved the world that he gave his Son,’ &c. ‘This is a true and faithful saying,’ &c. ‘Come, ye that labor and are weary, and I will give rest to your souls.’ When a soul is made to bear the glad tiding of liberty preached to captives, of light to the blind, of joy to the heavy in spirit, of life to the dead, though he cannot come that length as to see his own particular interest, yet the very receiving affectionately and greedily such a general report as good and true, gives some ease and relaxation to the heart. To see delivery possible, is some door of hope to a desperate sinner. But to see it, and espy more than a possibility, even great probability, though he cannot reach a certainty, that will be as the breaking open of a window of light in a dark dungeon. It will be as the taking off of some of the hardest fetters. and the worst chains, which makes a man almost to think himself at liberty. Now this is the great office of the Spirit of the Father, to beget in us good thoughts of him. to incline us to charitable and favorable constructions of him, and make us ready to think well of him, to beget a good understanding in us and him, and correct our jealous misapprehensions of him. For certainly we are naturally suspicious of God, that he deals not in sad earnest with us. Whenever we see the height of our provocation, and weight of deserved indignation. we think him like ourselves, and can hardly receive without suspicion the gospel that lays open his love in Christ to the world. High Binning, “The Sinner’s Sanctuary,” in The Works of the Rev. Hugh Binning (Ligonier, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1992), Sermon 38, 259-260

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