James Wood.

The gospel fountain or, The anxious youth made happy online

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" In that day there shall be a fountain opened."
" Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells
of salvation."






Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1859, by


in the Clerk's OflBice of the District Court for the Eastern District

of Pennsylvania.





The following attempt of the author to furnish
familiar instructions to the young, on the Doctrines
of Grace, was undertaken at the request of a valued
friend. The mode of illustration by anecdotes was
also suggested by him. The task has been a
pleasing one, though performed by gas-light, and
occupying many successive evenings, after the
close of official duties which required his attention
during the day.

His aim has been to state, prove, and illustrate,
in a brief, plain, and scriptural form, some of the
great doctrines of the gospel, as embodied more
fully in the Standards of the Presbyterian church.
In order to avoid making " the book too large," as
requested by his friend, two topics have been for
the most part omitted, which would otherwise
have been discussed. One is repentance^ which is
inculcated in the gospel, in connection with faith.
The other is adoptioii, which is one of the benefits
of efi"ectual calling, and is especially important in
its being a guaranty of the saints' perseverance.



But as these two doctrines are not, as to their
nature, matters of controversy between Calvinists
and Arminians, they are merely explained inci-
dentally and in few words, without appropriating
to their discussion separate conversations.

The anecdotes have been selected from persons
of all countries, complexions, and conditions in
life; in order to show that depraved human nature
and the effects of divine grace, are substantially
alike in the whole human family — the high and
low, the learned and ignorant, the refined and un-

The author's design in quoting so much sacred
poetry has been to make it apparent that the
favourite songs of praise employed by millions of
God's people, contain the substance of those doc-
trines usually styled by Calvinists, the doctrines
of grace; and hence that those doctrines are in
harmony with the devotional feelings of the re-
newed heart.

The work is respectfully dedicated to the
Youth of the Presbyterian Church;
with the author's earnest prayer for their conver-
sion to Christ, and their pious and efficient co-
operation in doing good.




The Gospel Plan of Grace stated, and a notice of
our fallen condition, 7

Concerning Christ our Redeemer, . . 42

Justification by Faith, 83


Our moral Impotence, and the necessity of the Holy
Spirit to renew the heart, in order to the exercise
of faith in Christ, 119


Sanctification, 161

1 * ( 5 )



Good works, 206

The Perseverance of the Saints, .... 241
Conclusion, 293






One Sabbath evening, a sensible and se-
rious-minded youtb, whom we will call
Henry James, said to his father, a minister
of the gospel : What is meant by the word
grace f And what by the phrase, doctrines of
grace f You employed the term grace seve-
ral times in your discourse this morning,
and once or twice, the phrase, doctrines of



grace ; but you gave no particular explana-
tion, thinking, no doubt, that all the con-
gregation would understand your meaning.

Father. I am glad, my son, to hear you
ask these questions. But what did I say,
that attracted your special notice ?

Son. You said, father, that the grace of
God is a fountain of hope and joy to lost sin-
ners; that this fountain is opened in the gos-
pel, and that sinners are invited to take of
the water of life freely. You also spoke in a
similar manner concerning the doctrines of
grace. I think your language was that the
doctrines of grace are wells of salvation, out
of which anxious souls may draw an ample
supply of peace and comfort.

Mr. James responded : Yes, Henry, you
have quoted correctly my ideas, and very
nearly my words. It will afford me much
pleasure to give you instruction on this
momentous subject.


And first, the word grace. The term


grace, as used in the Scriptures, is the oppo-
site of cleht. It is favour bestowed on the
receiver as a gratuity, without his having
rendered any service to place the donor un-
der obligation to him. A coloured candi-
date for the ministry, in one of the southern
States, when under examination for licen-
sure, was asked by the examiner : What is
grace ? He replied, " Grace is what I call
receiving something for nothing."

This is a capital answer as far as it goes.
But to render the definition complete, it re-
quires the further idea, that the receiver is
positively unwortliy of such regard. In
common language, indeed, we sometimes
employ the word grace without connecting
with it the idea of unworthiness or demerit.
But the grace of God towards us, always in-
cludes the idea, not only of favour bestowed
gratuitously, i. e., without his receiving any
compensation in return, but bestowed on
those who are guilty and under his wrath,
because this is the condition of all mankind
in their present fallen state. In the full


gospel sense of the term, therefore, grace
includes pardon and salvation, bestowed on
wicked and hell-deserving sinners. Hence
the gospel is called " the grace of God that
bringeth salvation."

The doctrines of grace, continued Mr.
James, relate to the method by which God
bestows his pardoning and saving mercy
upon sinners, through the Lord Jesus Christ.
A brief statement of the most important of
these doctrines is given by the apostle Paul
in Eph. i. 7, and ii. 8 — 10. " In whom we
have redemption through his blood, the for-
giveness of sins, according to the riches of
his grace. For by grace are ye saved,
through faith, and that not of yourselves: it
is the gift of God : not of works, lest any
man should boast. For we are his work-
manship, created in Christ Jesus unto good
works, which God hath before ordained that
we should walk in them." These passages
contain those great and glorious truths which
lie at the foundation of all human hope. I
will state them in detail.



These passages, and many other texts, as-
suming that we are in a fallen and ruined
condition, teach,

1. That a Saviour has been provided for
us in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ.

2. That we obtain salvation, not by the
deeds of the law, but by faith in Christ.

3. That our union with Christ by faith is
not produced by our own strength, but by
the power of God, who renews our hearts by
his Spirit^ and persuades and enables us to
embrace Christ as our only Redeemer.

4. That true faith will purify and sanctify
the soul.

5. That inward holiness, or sanctification,
will be manifested by corresponding good
works ; though good works, like sanctifica-
tion, have their root in faith.

6. That if we are genuine believers in
Christ, and adopted into his family, we shall
receive daily supplies of divine grace to per-


severe in holiness, until our salvation is com-
plete, and we are received into heaven.

7. That all these acts of grace and mercy
towards us, as thus manifested in our own
complete redemption, are, from first to last,
the result of God's benevolent and sovereign
purpose, ordaining us to salvation, through
these several preparatory means.

All these great doctrines are distinctly ex-
pressed or implied in the few verses just
quoted from the epistle to the Ephesians.
They are also taught in many other parts of
the Scripture. Indeed, they pervade the
whole Bible. They constitute the essence
of Christianity. And I assure you that all
which I asserted concerning their character
and tendency to inspire hope and impart hap-
piness, has been verified by the experience
of God's people ; and further, that whatever
may be your own views and feelings con-
cerning them now, if you shall truly under-
stand and appreciate them, and be led to em-
brace Christ who is the centre and substance


of these doctrines, you will find them to be
unfailing sources of spiritual comfort.

Henry listened to his father's statement
and remarks with fixed attention, and then
said : I have not proposed these questions,
father, merely for general information, but
for my own personal benefit. I feel unhap-
py, and am anxious to obtain relief. When
the hymn was sung to-day, beginning with
the words,

" There is a fountain filled with blood,
Drawn from Immanuel's veins ;"

I thought I would have given the whole
world, if I could have adopted as my own,
the latter part of that hymn, closing with
the lines,

" Then in a nobler, sweeter song,
I'll sing thy power to save,
"When this poor lisping, stammering tongue
Lies silent in the grave."

If the grace of God is a fountain of joy,
I desire to know what it is, and also what
those doctrines of grace are which consti-
tute the divine plan of salvation. I have


felt thus, in some degree, for some time past;
but more to-day, than ever before.

Mr. James replied: I sympathize with
you, Henry, in your distress of mind, and
shall be glad to relieve you. But I wish
you to understand that I regard the single
object of your obtaining relief from mental
anxiety to be far less important than your
obtaining forgiveness of sin, and that you
ought to feel so too. It is not wrong for
you to desire strongly to be more happy ;
but you should have a still stronger desire
to become holy. Sin is an oflfence against
God, and your first anxiety should be to
obtain his mercy and grace. Sin also de-
files the soul, and in connection with your
desire to be delivered from its guilt and
condemnation, you ought to feel a deep con-
cern to be cleansed from its pollution- If
you turn to Zechariah xiii. 1. you will per-
ceive that the gospel " fountain is opened
for sin and uncleanness." By coming to this
fountain, and partaking of the grace of
Christ, which is signified thereby, you will


experience joj, and hence, I properly called
the grace of God a fountain of joy. Yet
your first and chief motive should not be
comfort of mind, but deliverance from sin.
This, too, is the onl}^ path to true happiness.
" There is no peace, saith my God, to the

I wish, therefore, to direct your thoughts
to the serious consideration of your fallen
and ruined state as a sinner. I will say
something also, about the peace and joy of
religion. But the great matter which con-
cerns you above all others, is to learn that
the gospel fountain is opened, as I said be-
fore, for sin and uncleanness, and, in order to
appreciate its sanctifying and saving bene-
fits, you must feel sensible of the sinfulness
and corruption of your moral nature; never
till then will you come to this fountain,
even though it be opened ever so plainly
before you. Penitent and believing sinners,
and they alone, are made partakers of gos-
pel grace. Such and such only, in the
words of Isaiah, " with joy will draw water


oat of the wells of salvation." Isaiah xii. 3.
Let me then ask you a few questions con-
cerning your own views and feelings on this
important subject.


Henry James appeared very serious dur-
ing his father's remarks. I am willing,
father, said he, to answer any questions you
may think proper to ask ; but I desire to
state beforehand, that you have received an
incorrect impression from my language, if
you suppose I meant to express nothing
more than a wish for relief, regardless of its
nature. Though I do not feel as deep a con-
viction of my sins as I ought, yet I know
that I am a sinner, and my anxiety of mind
proceeds, I think, in a great measure, from
this cause. But my mind is perplexed with
some difficulties on this subject, which I shall
esteem it a great favour to have solved.

Mr. James remarked : One of the ques-
tions I intended to ask you, was, whether


you feel convinced of your guilt and ruin
as a sinner. This fy^ou have just answered.
And, as the difiiculties to which you allude
may relate to some, or all of the other points
on which I designed to question you, T will
modify my proposal, and instead of asking
questions, I will first hear and answer those
difficulties which occupy and disturb your
mind. But I will remark further, before
you proceed, that you cannot appreciate the
grace of God as revealed in the gospel, or
clearly understand and heartily approve the
doctrines of grace, unless you are inwardly
convinced of 5^our sinfulness, and your ab-
solute need of a better righteousness than
your own. The very idea of grace supposes
unworthiness in the object, and this unwor-
thiness must be perceived and felt by us, in
order to make us the willing and grateful
recipients of divine mercy. " They that are
whole, says our Saviour, need not a physi-
cian, but they that are sick. I am not come
to call the righteous, but sinners, to repent-
ance" Our Lord's meaning is, that the case


of a sinner in seeking salvation, is like a
diseased man. When h« discovers that he is
really and dangerously ill, he will apply
suitable remedies, and not before.

It is very important therefore, as a pre-
liminary to our conversations on the doc-
trines of grace, to settle fully in your mind
the truth of God's word concerning our race,
that "they are all gone aside, they are all to-
gether become filthy, there is none that doeth
good, no, not one." And while you consent to
this general proposition, you must also per-
ceive and feel the truth of this description in
its application to yourself. I will illustrate
this by an anecdote.


A negro on the western coast of Africa,
once addressed the Rev. Mr. Johnson at Re-
gent's Town, thus : The anecdote is pecu-
liar, and. the language broken, but it expresses
forcibly the idea I wish to convey : " Tester-
day morning, when you preach, you show


me that the law be our schoolmaster to bring
us to Christ. You talk about the ten com-
mandments. You begin at the first, and me
say to myself, ' Me guilty !' the second, ' Me
guilty!' the third, 'Me guilty!' the fourth,
'Me guilty!' the fifth, 'Me guilty!' Then
you say the sixth, Thou shalt not kill ; me
say, 'Ah! me no guilty! me never kill
some person.' You say, I suppose plenty
people live here, who say, ' Me no guilty of
that !' Me say again in my heart, ' Ah ! me
no guilty !" Then you say^ ' Did you never
hate any person ? Did you never wish that
such a person, such a man, or such a woman
was dead!' Massa, you talk plenty about
that ; and what I feel that time I can't tell
you. I talk in my heart, and say, ' Me the
same person !' My heart begin to beat, me
want to cry, my heart heave so much me
don't know what to do. Massa, me think
me kill ten people before breakfast ! I never
think I so bad. Afterward you talk about
the Lord Jesus, how he take off our sin. I
think I stand the same like a person that


have a big stone upon him head, and can't
walk — want to fall down. O massa, I have
trouble too much ; I no sleep all night. (He
wept much.) I hope the Lord Jesus Christ
will take my sins from me. Suppose he no
save me, I shall go to hell for ever."

Henry James remarked, I have perceived
and felt in my own heart, similar convic-
tions to those expressed by that heathen.
My difficulties, father, do not relate to my
actual sins, either of thought, word, or deed,
but to original sin.


My difficulties concerning original sin,
said Henry, are the following : Though my
conscience tells me, as well as God's word,
that I am a sinner ; I am often tempted to
excuse myself from blame, or at least to pal-
liate my sins, by saying inwardly, that I
cannot help sinning, because I was born with
a sinful nature ; and from this unholy nature
all my actual sins proceed. I cannot fully
perceive the justice of God in bringing me


into the world in a state of sin and condem-
nation, while as yet I had committed no ac-
tual transgression. For how, I ask myself,
can it be just to condemn me for having a
sinful nature ; since my sinful nature was
inherited from my parents, and so back to
Adam, whose first transgression brought sin
into the world ?

Mr. James replied, I might dismiss this
subject with a single remark of Newton's.
"Many, says he, have puzzled themselves
about the origin of evil, but I observe there
is evil, and that there is a way to escape it,
and with this I begin and end." I will not
however dispose of the question in this sum-
mary manner, but will endeavour to do what
I can to relieve you of your diflSculty. Ac-
cording to your own statement, you do not
think it unjust for God to condemn you for
your sinful words, actions, feelings, and
thoughts ; do you ?

Henry. Oh, no, father; I know it is just to
punish me for actual sin, whether it consists
in wicked words and actions, or iu evil


thoughts and desires. What I say and do,
and also what I think and feel, are my own,
and for these I am of course accountable to

Father. Suppose, Henry, you should
speak or act wickedly, or should have wicked
feelings or thoughts, through the influence
of some other person tempting you to sin.
Would you not in this case be guilty, and
deserving of punishment ?

Henry. Yes, sir. The person who tempted
me, would commit sin in tempting me ; but
this would not free me from blame.

Father. You are correct, my son, and
this illustrates the sin of our first parents.
Satan tempted Eve, and Eve tempted Adam.
But when Adam cast the blame on the
woman, and the woman on the serpent, that is,
on Satan, God would not receive their ex-
cuses as sufficient, but condemned and pun-
ished them.

Thus far, said Henry, I can understand ;
but did not God condemn their posterity


also? Please, father, explain the justice of

Mr. James requested him to repeat the an-
swer in the catechism, to the question, " Did
all mankind fall in Adam's first transgres-
sion ?"

Henry repeated it as follows : " The cove-
nant being made with Adam, not only for
himself, but for his posterity, all mankind
descending from him by ordinary generation,
sinned in him, and fell with him in his first

Mr. James remarked, I have not requested
you to repeat this answer in the catechism,
as authority ; but as expressing in accurate
terms the scripture doctrine on this subject.
This catechism contains the most excellent
summary of christian doctrine in the world.
Yet I do not desire you to receive any doc-
trine as true, unless you find it taught in the

* As the catechism will be often quoted, it may be in-
teresting to the young reader to learn, that it was com-
posed by a committee of the Assembly of Divines, com-


The apostle Paul's language is, " Where-
fore, as by one man sin entered into the world,
and death by sin, and so death passed upon

monly styled the Westminster Assembly, and having
been reported to that body, it received their solemn
sanction. That Assembly consisted of one hundred and
twenty-one divines, and thirty laymen, from England ;
and of five commissioners from Scotland. It convened
iu 1643, by order of the British Parliament, in a part of
the celebrated Westminster Abbey. It was composed
of Episcopalians, Independents, or Congregationalists, and
Presbyterians, the three principal denominations in Great
Britain at that time. The Assembly was engaged more
than five years and a half in preparing, discussing, and
adopting the Confession of Faith, the larger and shorter
Catechisms, Directory for Worship, and the Form of
Church Government ; which with a few alterations, per-
taining to civil government, now form *' The Constitu-
tion of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of
America." The distinguished Richard Baxter, who was
personally acquainted with most of the members, but
was not himself one of them, says, " The divines there
congregated, were men of eminent learning, godliness,

ministerial abilities, and fidelity." " As far as

I am able to judge, by all history of that kind, and by
any other evidence left us, the christian world, since the
days of the apostles, had never a Synod of more excel-


all men, for that all have sinned." Again,
" By one man's disobedience many were
made sinners." These words you perceive
are very similar to those in the catechism,
and the sense, as I understand them, is the
same. The word covenant is not used, but
they involve a covenant transaction, usually
called the covenant of works ; and the term
covenant is employed by one of the proph-
ets, (Hosea vi. 7,) by way of allusion to
Adam ; showing that the word itself is scrip-

Paul's language teaches that Adam, acting
by divine appointment, as the federal or cov-
enant head of mankind, fell into sin, and that

lent divines than this, and the Synod of Dort." The
standards thus framed by that Assembly, were approved
by the House of Commons in 1647 ; and in 1648, they
were adopted by the General Assembly of the Church
of Scotland. The Episcopal and Independent churches
of England did not adopt them ; but their dissent did not
relate to scripture doctrines, but to church government ;
and also with regard to Episcopalians, to the directory
for worship. The Calvinistic creed was at that time the
common faith of the Protestant, christian world.


in his fall they were brought under condem-
nation. The covenant of works was an ex-
pression of divine condescension and good-
ness, the effect of which would have been, if
it had been kept by Adam, to bring his pos-
terity into a still more intimate and perma-
nent fellowship with God ; changing their
relation from that of subjects under law, to
one of sons and heirs of eternal life. But as
Adam failed to keep that covenant, those
high privileges were forfeited, and both him-
self and his posterity were involved judi-
cially in sin and misery. Yet they were
not condemned solely on account of Adam's
sin, without regard to the moral effect which
his sin would have on them ; but as includ-
ing such effect, viz : that they would all be
born with corrupt natures. This is stated
in the catechism thus ; in answer to the ques-
tion, " Wherein consists the sinfulness of
that estate whereinto man fell ?" " The sinful-
ness of that estate whereinto man fell, consists
in the guilt of Adam's first sin, the want of
original righteousness, and the corruption


of Lis whole nature, whicli is commonly
called original sin ; together with all actual
transgressions which proceed from it."

The corruption of our whole nature is
distinctly asserted in the Bible: "Behold
I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my
mother conceive me." "And were by nature?
children of wrath ; even as others. If chil-
dren of wrath by nature, then sinners by na-
ture; because sin alone exposes to wrath. All
actual transgressions are traceable to our
corrupt nature. "Out of the heart," says our
Lord, " proceed evil thoughts, murders, adul-
teries, fornications, thefts, false witness,
blasphemies." If the heart (which is the
same as our moral nature) were not de-
praved, evil thoughts and desires, and the
wicked words and acts which flow from
them would not occur. This corruption of
our nature is commonly called " original or
birth sin."

Henry now said: May I interrupt you,

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Online LibraryJames WoodThe gospel fountain or, The anxious youth made happy → online text (page 1 of 12)