If you’re looking for something to read/reflect on this Thanksgiving, why not read something by the tradition that produced the holiday in the first place?
Ralph Erksine preached on Romans 8:28 on a Thanksgiving Day in 1747. He begins:
“This chapter [Romans 8] is like a string of pearls, every one of them more precious than another; if we might loose the string, and single out this one from among the rest, to take a particular view thereof, we may find an immense worth and preciousness in it. The whole of this chapter is consolatory; and holds forth some special grounds of consolation for supporting justified and sanctified ones against all evil whatsoever. We may take up the substance of the chapter in four heads.
1. We have comfort against the condemning sentence of the law, in the beginning of the chapter, to the fifth verse. Such as have union with Christ, have no reason to fear the dreadful sentence of the threatening part of the law.
2. We have comfort against indwelling sin that adheres even to them that are justified and sanctified; for, it shall never hinder the indwelling of the Spirit here, nor the glorious resurrection of the body at the last day, nor the eternal happiness of both soul and body; from the fifth to the seventeenth verse.
3. There is comfort against all afflictions, crosses, and tribulations in this world; from verse seventeenth to the thirty-third.
4. Not only comfort against all adversity, but against all adversaries whatsoever, and against all charges and challenges, insomuch that believers are brought in triumphing in the God that justifies, so as none can lay anything to their charge.”
That’s the intro. In his lengthy conclusion, Erskine asks some rhetorical questions:
“No sinner can love God who hath not seen him in Christ; “He that hath seen me, says Christ, hath seen the Father.” He that hath not seen Christ hath not seen God; and so hath not seen the true object of love. For a sinner to pretend that he loves God, and yet hath not got a view of him in Christ, is the grossest ignorance imaginable; because, out of Christ, he is a consuming fire to sinners, a sin-revenging God. If you know the God whom you think you love, you would love him no otherwise, out of Christ, than as you do the fire that would consume you to ashes. But God in Christ is a God of love; for, in him his law is magnified, his justice satisfied, his wrath appeased; and therefore, if you truly love God, or love the true God, your mind has been enlightened to apprehend him in his glory in Christ. Has then the God that commanded light to shine out of darkness, shined in your heart, to give you the light of the knowledge of his glory, in the face of Jesus Christ? 2 Cor. 4:6. Have you discerned him in the light of the gospel, wherein Christ is held forth? Have you discerned him in the light of the Spirit, accompanying the word powerfully? For, it is a light of God’s commanding and creating. Have you discerned him in a light that shined into your heart, and not into your head only? Have you discerned him in a light that gave you the knowledge of his glory; the glory of his wisdom and power, the glory of his holiness, and justice, and truth, as well as, at the same time, the glory of his mercy, love, and pity; the glory of all his excellencies? And have you discerned this glory in the face of Christ, or in the person of Christ, as the brightness of the Father’s glory, and the express image of his person? Heb. 1:3. Have you discerned this glory of God shining in him as a JESUS, and as a CHRIST; that is, as he is a Saviour, and anointed of God to be so; sent and sealed of God to save by his blood and righteousness, meritoriously; and by his Spirit and grace, efficaciously? In this wonderful work of redemption and salvation through Christ, have you seen such marvellous devices, as become the infinite wisdom of God, and answer all the ends of the glory of God’s perfections, as well as of the salvation of the sinner? In this case, your love is a true love, terminating on the right object; if, at the same time, your view of God this way has been attended with so much application of faith, and persuasion of the love of God to you in particular, as at least to create in you kindly thoughts of God. Though you see him infinitely just and holy, and yourself a sinful guilty creature; yet apprehending the atonement and propitiation in the blood of Jesus, all harsh thoughts of God, as an enemy, have been removed, and kindly thoughts of him, as a friend, declaring his good-will, through Christ, in the word of grace. The persuasion of faith is here included, whether you have seen it or not.”
Dr. Coyle Neal is co-host of the City of Man Podcast and an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, MO.