Cross-Centered Puritans: Stephen Charnock

The Cross as the ‘spring of our happiness’
by Stephen Charnock (1628-1680)

Let us delight in the knowledge of Christ crucified, and be often in the thoughts and study of him. Study Christ, not only as living but dying, not as breathing in our air, butcrosscenteredpuritans.jpg suffering in our stead; know him as a victim, which is the way to know him as a Conqueror. Christ as crucified is the great object of faith. All the passages of his life, from his nativity to his death, are passed over in the creed without reciting, because, though they are things to be believed, yet the belief of them is not sufficient without the belief of the Cross; in that alone was our redemption wrought. Had he only lived, he would have not been a Savior. If our faith stops in his life, and does not fasten upon his blood, it will not be a justifying faith. His miracles, which prepared the world for his doctrine, and his holiness, which fitted himself for his suffering, would have been insufficient for us without the addition of the Cross. Without this, we had been under the demerit of our crimes, the venom of our natures, the slavery of our sins, and the tyranny of the devil; without this, we should forever have had God for our enemy, and Satan for our executioner; without this, we had lain groaning under the punishment of our transgressions, and despaired of any smile from heaven. It was this death as a sacrifice that appeased God and as a price redeemed us. Nothing is so strong to encourage us; nothing so powerful to purify us; how can we be without thinking of it? …

This will be the foundation of all our comforts. What comfort can be wanting, when we can look upon Christ crucified as our surety, and look upon ourselves as crucified in him, when we can consider our sins as punished in him, and ourselves accepted by virtue of his Cross? It was not an angel which was crucified for us, but the Son of God; one of an equal dignity with the Father; one that shed blood enough to blot out the demerit of our crimes, were they more than could be numbered by all the angels of heaven, if all were made known to them. He was not crucified for a few, but for all sorts of offenses. When we shall see judgment in the world, what comfort can we take without a knowledge and sense of a crucified Christ? What a horror is it for a condemned man to see the preparation of the gibbets, halters and executioners? But when he shall see a propitiation made for him, the anger of the Prince atoned, the Law some other way satisfied, and his condemnation changed into remission; all his former terrors vanish, and a sweet and pleasing calm possesses him… When we tremble under a sense of our sins, the terrors of the Judge and the curses of the Law, let us look upon a crucified Christ, the remedy to all our miseries. His Cross has procured a crown. His passion [death] has expiated our transgressions. His death has disarmed the Law. His blood has washed a believers soul. This death is the destruction of our enemies, the spring of our happiness, the eternal testimony of divine love. We have good reason, as well as the apostle Paul, to determine with ourselves to know nothing but Jesus Christ, and especially him crucified.

-Transcribed from “A Discourse of the Knowledge of Christ Crucified,” taken from the 2 volume Works of Stephen Charnock (London: 1684) pp. 844-845

Confess your sins to one another (part 4)

In a church, the sign that the wall of superficiality has been broken to pieces is when fellow Christians come together in humble confession (a goal that may take several years in some churches). Once the wall is broken down, another danger takes its place – the tendency to be blinded by personal sin.

Once we honestly look at our own hearts, we can quickly become overwhelmed in the dark cloud of our own remaining sin. The flesh and the spirit war on.

For some reason we naturally think that — while we are saved through no merits of our own — God’s acceptance of us as Christians is dependent upon our successes. And so under this legalism, the condemnation of our accuser and our own hearts becomes crippling.

In our repentance, Puritan Stephen Charnock reminds us to look beyond our sin to our Advocate in heaven (1 John 2:1). While we hate personal sin, and long for the moment we look Christ in the eye (1 John 3:2), “let us not be so dejected by them [sins], as cheered by the advocacy of our Savior.”

He writes,

“Hence arises comfort against
all the attempts and accusations of Satan
and the Rebellion of our own corruptions.

He [Christ] foresees all the ambushes of Satan,
searches into his intention,
understands his strategies,
and is as ready to speak to the Father for us,
as He was to turn back and look Peter into a recovery at the crowing of the cock.

The Devil accuses us when we fall,
but he has not so much on his side as we have.

All his strength lies in our sinful acts,
but the strength of our Advocate lies in His own infinite merit.

Satan has no merit of his own to enter as plea for vengeance.

When he pleads against us with our sins,
Christ pleads for us by His sufferings,
and if our adversary never ceases to accuse us,
our Advocate never ceases to defend us.

How comfortable it is to have One,
day and night,
before the throne to
control the charge of our enemy,
and the despondencies of our souls,
that Satan can no sooner open his mouth,
but He has one to stop and rebuke him,
Who has more favor in the Court than that malicious spirit,
and employs all His life and glory for our spiritual advantage,
Who will not upon such occasions want [lack] a good word for us!

And as to our corruptions,
He is in Heaven to make up all breaches.

His blood has the same design in His plea,
that it had in the sacrifice,
which was to purify us (Titus 2:4).

The difficulty of the cause does not discourage Him,
but honors both His skill in bringing us off,
and the merit of His blood which is the cause of our restoration.

Upon every occasion He steps in
to plead with the holiness of God
and pacify the justice of God
for our greater as well as lighter crimes.

While therefore we feelingly groan under our spiritual burdens,
let us not be so dejected by them,
as cheered by the advocacy of our Savior.”

- Stephen Charnock
A Discourse of Christ’s Intercession
Works of Stephen Charnock [1684 ed.] pp. 2:1152-1153

It’s in this fog of self-condemnation that we help our brothers and sisters press closer to the Cross, and be “cheered by the advocacy of our Savior.”